Brutal, yet fragile, pristine but perilous, capable of wild fury and yet an oasis of silence and serenity, Antarctica is one of the most contradictory and unique places on earth. A vast frozen landscape, despite notoriously inhospitable conditions, it is home to abundant wildlife, spectacular scenery and natural wonder. Time in Antarctica will leave you forever changed. Here are several ways to experience the seventh continent
LIGHT UP THE SKY
Southern Lights by Flight
Aurora Hunters know the thrill of witnessing this dazzling astronomical phenomenon. Eerie neon light appears to avalanche out of nowhere and land on nothingness, as an interplay of solar flares and the Earth's magnetic field create a dynamic light show considered to be one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
The further south you go, the better your chances of seeing Aurora Australis, making Antarctica the ultimate viewing location. Weather can obscure the view, however; but it's a problem solved if your viewing platform is a plane. Departing from Christchurch, Southern Lights By Flight, a privately chartered Air New Zealand Dreamliner, takes you down to Antarctica, away from light pollution and above the clouds and weather systems to create a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be literally in the sky with the southern lights.
Flight time is around 10 hours and includes live commentary from astronomer Dr Ian Griffin, Director of Otago Museum, on-board guidance from professional photographers for capturing your best shots, and a pre-flight "Astronomy Over Antarctica" information session and tour at the International Antarctica Centre with Nasa-trained aerospace engineer Miranda Satterthwaite.
2022 Travel Dates: March 26-27; April 2-3; Sept 24-25
Prices: Start from $1468
In the Wake of Scott and Shackleton
Impenetrable pack ice means the Ross Sea region is only accessible for around two months each summer, making it a destination that is both incredibly remote and rarely visited. As the world's largest marine reserve, it is brimming with life, natural beauty and rich history.
Departing from Bluff on February 8, on the ice-strengthened Spirit of Enderby, which takes only 50 passengers, Heritage Expeditions' In The Wake of Scott and Shackleton 30-day cruise explores wildlife havens of New Zealand and Australia's Subantarctic Islands en route to the white wonderland. The tour includes visits to McMurdo Station, Scott Base and the historic huts of Shackleton and Scott, plus getting out on the ice to observe the abundant wildlife in its natural habitat.
2022 dates: February 8-March 9
Prices: From US$23,880
HIGH ROLLING ON THE HIGH SEAS
Unexplored Antarctic between two continents
With their brand new expedition ship Le Commandant Charcot, Ponant will take you south in the lap of high-end luxury. Their Unexplored Antarctic between Two Continents voyage is a semi-circumnavigation linking the southern end of the American continent to New Zealand.
Departing Ushuaia in Argentina on January 15 2023 and returning to Dunedin 30 days later, you'll travel through the ice fields of the Bellingshausen, Amundsen and Ross seas.
The From Dumont d'Urville to Mawson: retracing Heroic Age expeditions itinerary does it in reverse, departing from Dunedin on February 13, 2023, and finishing in Ushuaia, exploring Adelie Land, Victoria Land, Marie Byrd Land and Macquarie Island, classified a Unesco World Heritage Site for its extraordinary biodiversity, over the 28-day trip.
Prices: From $60,244
POLAR DIP FROM NEW SHIP
Named The World's Leading Polar Expedition Operator 2020 by the World Travel Awards and celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, Aurora Expeditions offer seven different itineraries, ranging from 10 to 23 days.
You'll need to get yourself to either Punta Arenas, Chile or Ushuaia, Argentina first, but once on board the purpose-built Greg Mortimer or the brand new Sylvia Earle, both of which take around 130 passengers, you will have plenty of ways to enjoy a visceral experience of Antarctica.
There's included activities, such as Zodiac cruises, guided hikes, on-board lectures and the opportunity to polar plunge, while the more adventurous can pick from optional activities such a sea kayaking, scuba diving, snorkelling and skiing or snowboarding alpine bowls and crevassed glaciers. There's even the opportunity to camp overnight on the ice to really make some memories.
2022 dates: Departures on January 8; March 6, November 4, November 27
Prices: From US$9260
DO IT IN A DAY
Great Southern Flights
Want to see the frozen continent but don't want to get cold? Or seasick? Don't have the time to sail seven-plus days to get there? A cost-effective and time-efficient way to get a birds-eye view of this spectacular region is on a day trip. Viva Expeditions have several options for scenic flights in a privately chartered Qantas Dreamliner. Departing from Melbourne, and returning via Hobart as part of the Australian Antarctica Festival, the Antarctica Flight on August 25 will have you spotting your first iceberg after about three hours and then spending four hours gliding over the icy mountains and glaciers of the continent.
If you want your scenery with a side-serving of history, the South Pole Discovery is a 16-hour flight departing Melbourne on November 27 that aims to follow Captain Robert Falcon Scott's route to the South Pole and return via Roald Amundsen's path, taking in Ross Ice Shelf, Transantarctic mountains, the Polar Plateau and the South Pole Station. Or, if you're wanting a truly unique way to see out the year, they also have a special New Year's Eve flight on December 31, 2022.
Prices: From AU$1195
CLOSER TO HOME
International Antarctic Centre
Open every day of the year and offering a range of all-ages interactive encounters, the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch allows you to experience a polar storm in their Storm Dome. Far safer than trudging across the ice, but just as gelid, the room is chilled to -8 degrees Celsius, then buffeted by a -18 Celsius wind chill machine.
2022 dates: Open every day
Prices: From $29
Scott Base Webcam
With the New Zealand Government's recent announcement of $344 million funding to redevelop Scott Base, New Zealand's research station at the southern end of Ross Island, you can keep an eye on it all from the comfort of home via the four webcams they have set up down there.