Amelya Grey, AE Expeditions BDM, on why her recent Antarctic Explorer voyage was an expedition like no other.
Antarctica – the white continent, it was absolutely spectacular and exceeded all my expectations from the amazing landscapes and curious wildlife to the amazing onboard experience.
I have been in the expedition industry for some time now and every expedition I have been lucky enough to do has always been different and has always left a special feeling when returning home. This time was like no other!!
Boarding our aircraft which so happened to be painted as a chin strap penguin set the mood straight away for our adventure to Antarctica. Flying from Punta Arenas to King George Island the time has finally arrived, the last leg of travel to reach Antarctica! You could feel the excitement as we landed on the gravel runway. From enjoying a glass of bubbles onboard, walking through a base camp to putting on our muck boots to walk to join our Zodiac.
Rite of Passage
Years of selling Antarctica I’ve always heard of the mighty Drake! Well Mother Nature didn’t disappoint, we experienced the true Antarctic but the Greg Mortimer handled the conditions amazingly. With the new technology of the Ulstein X-BOW®, this made for a comfortable ride. The Greg Mortimer only accommodates 130-140 guests with well-appointed spacious cabins offering over 85% balcony accommodation. The attention to detail within the cabin was greatly appreciated – USBs next to the bed, heated flooring in the bathroom and access to the daily program on the TV. Our crew onboard were from all over the world, very friendly and always available to offer assistance or to share their stories.
The many options AE Expeditions offers to explore Antarctica – sail/fly, fly/sail, sail/sail or completely miss the Drake and opt for fly/fly.
Wildlife in their own domain
We were very spoilt on Day 1 in Antarctica with the most amazing wildlife interactions:
- Sighted a lonely emperor penguin. When our expedition leader, Ashley, heard that over the radio, she was shocked! Yes, happy feet was here, plump and posing for photos.
- An amorous leopard seal that our zodiac named Joey!! Wow just wow – never before had the expedition team seen interaction of this type from a juvenile. He was playful with his loving big brown eyes and shared his love with all us in the area
- An incredible humpback whale breaching in the distance
And, this all happened before lunch!
Kayaking through an icy wonderland! The silence, calmness and the opportunity to take in the captivating scenery was surreal. We had penguins porpoising around us along with the glances from onlooking fur & leopard seals who were not fazed by our presence as they lifted their heads and waved a lazy hello. AE Expeditions offers the most comprehensive activities including snorkelling, diving and hiking. The spacious mudroom made it easy to dress for the day and our guides were world class with outstanding knowledge and contagious enthusiasm.
Time to revitalize the body! When it comes to age – well age is definitely just a number, we had one of our youngest travellers at 20 join our most mature traveller of 83 years old take the plunge together. Was amazing to see! Nearly half the ship opted to plunge into the icy waters which later we were told was a cool zero degrees. The cheers of encouragement from fellow travellers as each of us took the leap. A quick exit from the largest ice bath in hunt for the hot tub or sauna!
Just add ice
We saw the most spectacular icebergs in all shapes and sizes. The magical icy crystal blue, we could endlessly listen to the crackle and pop.
Could watch these little characters all day. Approaching Neko Harbour by Zodiac we could hear them chirping away and I was definitely unprepared for the smell once landed, although luckily that quickly went away and I was obsessed with watching them waddling down the penguin highways pecking at each other (it made me think of being that annoying little sister who didn’t stop talking). A number of chicks were still wearing their fur coats and others looked like messy teenagers half dressed.