Top 7 things to do… in the Arctic and Antarctica
Cruising in the Arctic or Antarctica is, for many, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Given the seemingly inhospitable landscape, the variety of wildlife and birdlife that lives among icebergs and fjords is remarkable. Find out our top polar experience that will make your trip even more memorable, whether it’s camping out on the ice, taking a plunge into freezing waters, or tracking polar bears.
Camping doesn’t get more peaceful than a night on the ice in Antarctica. Experiencing the sub-zero temperatures – albeit from a thermal sleeping bag – will make you understand how harsh the environment is for the polar wildlife you’ll be sharing your adventure with. Make sure you pack your thermals! From the warmth of your sleeping bag, you can look up to the celestial skies bursting with stars and free of any light pollution: the clear skies offer amazing opportunities for stargazing. As spaces are limited we recommend requesting this at the time of booking.
Track polar bears
In the Canadian Arctic, you can go in search of the world’s largest carnivore, the polar bear, in Tundra Buggy. These vehicles are specially built for the harsh terrain and the nearly-2 metre-high wheels help ensure passengers are safe from the bears. These creatures are under serious threat from climate change. As the ice caps melt at a rapid rate their habitat is shrinking. Native to the Arctic, they are often elusive despite their large size. A male polar bear can be up to 3 metres when standing on its hind legs and can weigh as much as 10 men! You can also look out for these majestic animals from the Arctic cruise ships or the zodiac boats that can access the inlets and smaller channels.
There is no better way to experience the sheer size of the icebergs and spot marine wildlife up close than in a kayak. Rather than looking at the ice masses from your cruise ship, you can paddle between them, always on the lookout for birdlife and animals. Whatever you do, don’t rock the kayak as you may be in for a rather cold swim!
Are you brave enough to take the plunge? Once per sailing, guests on cruise ships are given the chance to show their courage by jumping into the icy ocean water. Apparently cold-water swimming has a number of positive health benefits, including boosting your immune system and circulation.
Marvel at the northern lights
During the winter months in the Arctic Circle the chances of seeing the magnificent aurora borealis – the northern lights – are increased. The natural phenomenon that lights up the sky with waves of luminescent greens, yellows and pinks is created when highly charged particles from the sun hit gas atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere around the magnetic pole. This causes the atoms to become energised and shine across the night sky, often in spectacular fashion.
Northern lights over Tromso
Meet the Inuit communities
The Inuit communities of Arctic Canada and Greenland hunt and fish to gather food for their families, whether that’s by dogsled, boat or kayak. In some cases, they risk their lives foraging for mussels under the sea-ice when the tide is out. In addition to providing for their family and being completely self-sufficient, they create traditional artwork, carvings and crafts that you can buy when you visit their settlements.
An Inuit lady smiling
Spot Antarctic wildlife
Each year, millions of birds migrate to Antarctica in the summer: terns amazingly fly all the way from Greenland to Antarctica. Although the most popular birds to spot are penguins – gentoo, Adélie, chinstrap and emperor species are easily seen waddling over the ice – the vast variety of other birdlife provides outstanding bird watching opportunities: albatrosses, petrels and fulmars, blue-eyed shags, skuas and sheathbills are among some of the other species you can see. As seals bask on the ice, keep an eye out at sea for orca, minke, humpback and blue whales that swim around the Southern Ocean.
A seal basking