5 myths about traveling to Antarctica


“Is it just like snow and stuff?” Sigh, so many myths about traveling to Antarctica.

Yes, that is a direct quote I heard more than once when I told people that it was my dream to visit Antarctica. The last continent. The Great White South. The land of penguins NOT polar bears.

Nothing can compare to the wild and untamed grandeur that is Antarctica. Here vast white mountains drop down to the sea, icebergs the size of islands slowly drift pass your ship and the wind is so strong it can knock you over.

There’s actually a lot to see in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula — where the majority of tourists go — is a continuation of the Andes Mountains from South America, meaning it’s quite mountainous. Peaks often rise out of the ocean, interspersed by enormous glaciers. It’s one of the most pristine places on Earth, in no small part because it’s mostly untouched by humans.

And yes, you can go on holiday to Antarctica, and yes it’s pretty freaking awesome. And there is more than just snow and stuff. Listen up and let me break down some myths about traveling to Antarctica.

25 photos that will inspire you to visit Antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

Because Antarctica is one of those ultimate adventures, you likely won’t find too many people who have journeyed the very bottom of the world before. Yeah yeah yeah, I can already hear the ones going “well I know so-and-so.” But seriously, most people haven’t been. It’s not Disneyland or Paris. There’s no Tripadvisor here.

It’s never been easier to get the elusive golden ticket down to Antarctica, but that doesn’t mean that myths surrounding this mysterious land aren’t abundant, because they are. And in fact, even down there you’ll hear them repeated a lot. Crack a book, people. Read a blog.

There are no polar bears in Antarctica. Wrong hemisphere. I repeat, there are NO POLAR BEARS IN ANTARCTICA.

So let me take this opportunity to clear up some of the most common misgivings and half-truths I’ve heard and bust some of these myths about traveling to Antarctica. Enjoy!

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

1. It’s too expensive to visit Antarctica

Perhaps one of the biggest myths about going to Antarctica is that it can be mind-blowingly expensive, but there are still ways to make the trip more affordable too.

Alert the press – it’s not as expensive as you think it is. Most trips I’ve seen run for less than $10,000 USD for around two weeks with Intrepid Travel or Peregrine Adventures. And if you’re smart, you can get it a lot cheaper. Whether you’re a penguin fanatic like me, or you want to set eyes on the raw and beautiful landscapes, there’s an Antarctic expedition to suit you.

Yes, that isn’t cheap, I know. But it’s also not unachievable either. And remember that’s all-inclusive – activities, accommodation, food, heaps of adventure. Just not alcohol or any extras.

Because there has been a lot of growth in the tourism industry in Antarctica, prices have come down quite a bit and just with like most travel; there’s quite a bit in between budget and luxury. On my first trip down, I was huddled down in with three other girls in a little bunkbed while a friend who was on another chartered ship had her own suite with a king-size bed and bath! It varies widely.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

If you can be flexible on timing, there are bargains to be had to get a spot on an Antarctica trip, so sign up for emails from a few tour operators and keep an eye out for any specials.

Most trips are released a few years in advance, and often there are sales early. The cheapest tours run for about ten days while longer ones are almost a month-long, like my trip with Intrepid that also included subantarctic islands. If you want my opinion, spend all the money you can on a journey that includes going to South Georgia. 

Your best bet for saving money is to book at least a year in advance, going early or late season. If you have a couple of friends who want to do the trip, a triple-share or quad cabin aboard a research-style vessel can make things a lot cheaper too.

You can also hang around Ushuaia during the summer in Argentina, the port city where most of the Antarctic ships depart from, and often there are deeply discounted last-minute sales to fill the few remaining beds, where you can book in less than a week before for a couple of thousand dollars, even on the priciest trips.

Because it’s so expensive to operate these trips, companies often make sure there are no empty spaces on board.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

2. Antarctica is only for explorers and scientists

Protected by the Antarctic Treaty, since the Cold War Antarctica is preserved as a scientific reserve with freedom of scientific investigation with no military activity permitted on the continent. That’s why most of us only know of Antarctica from the scientific research conducted down there on the various scientific bases.

And it’s true that there are boatloads of scientists and researchers spending extended periods in Antarctica – just under 4,000 in the summer months, dropping to 1200 during the harsh winter months.

But the frozen wonderland and its wildlife is also a huge tourist drawcard, bringing in more than 50,000 visitors each year. But don’t freak out (yet). All reputable operators are members of IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, which was founded in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic.

This means that tourism is HIGHLY regulated there in order to protect and preserve this magnificent place.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

3. It’s way too cold

Before I went to Antarctica in 2018, I fully expected the cold to be unbearable. Sadly, that’s not true. This is another one of those myths about traveling to Antarctica.

While it’s true Antarctica is the coldest place in the world, with the lowest-ever temperature recorded at -89.4ºC, NASA reports. But the tourism cruising season takes place during the Southern Hemisphere summer, between November and March when the sea ice has melted enough to allow landings and access from ships there.

With long hours of daylight during mid-summer, the temperatures can range between a more bearable -2ºC and 8ºC.

On my first day there I was amazed I didn’t even need a parka. It was sunny and warm hiking around on the snow. I had been way colder in Canada in winter. But of course, Antarctica is home to the wildest weather on earth, and sometimes it was so windy it could blow you over, and it snowed often. It varies!

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

4. It’s dangerous to visit the white continent

Antarctica’s harsh environment certainly makes travel to the area more challenging, so it’s essential to choose an experienced operator who is a member of IAATO, but in terms of danger, the companies are experts and super skilled to make sure nothing terrible happens. 

Crossing the stretch of ocean between Cape Horn and Antarctica, known as the Drake Passage, can be rough, so if you’re prone to seasickness, prepare yourself. There are even some options to fly across the Drake. I would imagine most accidents on the ships happen from people falling over in rough seas. 

Even though you don’t have to be super-fit to go on a guided Antarctic expedition, but it’s essential to have a right level of mobility. This means being able to remain stable on your feet on sometimes slippery decks and gangways, as well as getting in and out of Zodiacs if you’re going ashore.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

You’re required to have a very high level of travel insurance (I recommend SCTI, and it’s what I use) to go to Antarctica because if a severe accident happens, you’re up a shit creek and the whole trip gets canceled as the ship returns to shore. That’s gonna cost a fortune, so your insurance needs to usually have a medical evacuation cover of over $500,000 dollars. There aren’t any hospitals or rescue choppers for you here.

As for the wildlife, the penguins are harmless but make sure you don’t slip in their abundant poo. Orca and leopard seals are top predators (one even killed a scientist once) but because the ships maintain safe distances from the wildlife and is super on guard, I was never worried even when a few rogue seals chased me, though you definitely don’t want to get bitten by a seal, their mouths are full of bacteria.

And while crime is nonexistent, there are some very fascinating stories of people going batshit crazy; like an Argentinian doctor who once burnt his entire science base down as to not have to stay another winter.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

5. You’re mostly on the ship

Because you can only visit Antarctica on boats (for the most part) and you’re required to sleep and stay on the ship, some people think that it’s more like a cruise or that you’re stuck on board the whole time, which isn’t the case at all. There are no hotels or places to stay in Antarctica apart from the few science bases, but tourists aren’t allowed to stay there. A few companies have the option to let you camp for a night on the ice.

Size matters when it comes to choosing an Antarctic trip, as the number of passengers on your ship will determine how often you get on to terra firma. Choose a smaller vessel for the best experience. Bigger ships aren’t allowed to make landings in Antarctica.

No more than 100 passengers should go ashore at one site at the same time. In some places that is even more restricted. With smaller ships (up to 100 passengers), getting on and off the boat and into Zodiacs or on land is quick and efficient, giving you more time to explore.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

Antarctica is a place that can and will change your life. The myths about traveling to Antarctica have got to go!

Wild and remote where the weather is in charge and nature is at its most abundant, Antarctica is an incredible place. It is worth every penny spent on a voyage there. It can have a profound impact on you and inspire.

And remember, Antarctica is so much more than just snow and stuff. And there aren’t any polar bears.

Any myths you’ve heard about Antarctica? Is this the kind of trip you’d splurge on? Spill!

myths about traveling to antarctica

Many thanks to Intrepid Travel for hosting me in Antarctica – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you can expect less from me!

The post 5 myths about traveling to Antarctica appeared first on Young Adventuress.



Source link

5 myths about traveling to Antarctica


“Is it just like snow and stuff?” Sigh, so many myths about traveling to Antarctica.

Yes, that is a direct quote I heard more than once when I told people that it was my dream to visit Antarctica. The last continent. The Great White South. The land of penguins NOT polar bears.

Nothing can compare to the wild and untamed grandeur that is Antarctica. Here vast white mountains drop down to the sea, icebergs the size of islands slowly drift pass your ship and the wind is so strong it can knock you over.

There’s actually a lot to see in Antarctica. The Antarctic Peninsula — where the majority of tourists go — is a continuation of the Andes Mountains from South America, meaning it’s quite mountainous. Peaks often rise out of the ocean, interspersed by enormous glaciers. It’s one of the most pristine places on Earth, in no small part because it’s mostly untouched by humans.

And yes, you can go on holiday to Antarctica, and yes it’s pretty freaking awesome. And there is more than just snow and stuff. Listen up and let me break down some myths about traveling to Antarctica.

25 photos that will inspire you to visit Antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

Because Antarctica is one of those ultimate adventures, you likely won’t find too many people who have journeyed the very bottom of the world before. Yeah yeah yeah, I can already hear the ones going “well I know so-and-so.” But seriously, most people haven’t been. It’s not Disneyland or Paris. There’s no Tripadvisor here.

It’s never been easier to get the elusive golden ticket down to Antarctica, but that doesn’t mean that myths surrounding this mysterious land aren’t abundant, because they are. And in fact, even down there you’ll hear them repeated a lot. Crack a book, people. Read a blog.

There are no polar bears in Antarctica. Wrong hemisphere. I repeat, there are NO POLAR BEARS IN ANTARCTICA.

So let me take this opportunity to clear up some of the most common misgivings and half-truths I’ve heard and bust some of these myths about traveling to Antarctica. Enjoy!

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

1. It’s too expensive to visit Antarctica

Perhaps one of the biggest myths about going to Antarctica is that it can be mind-blowingly expensive, but there are still ways to make the trip more affordable too.

Alert the press – it’s not as expensive as you think it is. Most trips I’ve seen run for less than $10,000 USD for around two weeks with Intrepid Travel or Peregrine Adventures. And if you’re smart, you can get it a lot cheaper. Whether you’re a penguin fanatic like me, or you want to set eyes on the raw and beautiful landscapes, there’s an Antarctic expedition to suit you.

Yes, that isn’t cheap, I know. But it’s also not unachievable either. And remember that’s all-inclusive – activities, accommodation, food, heaps of adventure. Just not alcohol or any extras.

Because there has been a lot of growth in the tourism industry in Antarctica, prices have come down quite a bit and just with like most travel; there’s quite a bit in between budget and luxury. On my first trip down, I was huddled down in with three other girls in a little bunkbed while a friend who was on another chartered ship had her own suite with a king-size bed and bath! It varies widely.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

If you can be flexible on timing, there are bargains to be had to get a spot on an Antarctica trip, so sign up for emails from a few tour operators and keep an eye out for any specials.

Most trips are released a few years in advance, and often there are sales early. The cheapest tours run for about ten days while longer ones are almost a month-long, like my trip with Intrepid that also included subantarctic islands. If you want my opinion, spend all the money you can on a journey that includes going to South Georgia. 

Your best bet for saving money is to book at least a year in advance, going early or late season. If you have a couple of friends who want to do the trip, a triple-share or quad cabin aboard a research-style vessel can make things a lot cheaper too.

You can also hang around Ushuaia during the summer in Argentina, the port city where most of the Antarctic ships depart from, and often there are deeply discounted last-minute sales to fill the few remaining beds, where you can book in less than a week before for a couple of thousand dollars, even on the priciest trips.

Because it’s so expensive to operate these trips, companies often make sure there are no empty spaces on board.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

2. Antarctica is only for explorers and scientists

Protected by the Antarctic Treaty, since the Cold War Antarctica is preserved as a scientific reserve with freedom of scientific investigation with no military activity permitted on the continent. That’s why most of us only know of Antarctica from the scientific research conducted down there on the various scientific bases.

And it’s true that there are boatloads of scientists and researchers spending extended periods in Antarctica – just under 4,000 in the summer months, dropping to 1200 during the harsh winter months.

But the frozen wonderland and its wildlife is also a huge tourist drawcard, bringing in more than 50,000 visitors each year. But don’t freak out (yet). All reputable operators are members of IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, which was founded in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to the Antarctic.

This means that tourism is HIGHLY regulated there in order to protect and preserve this magnificent place.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

3. It’s way too cold

Before I went to Antarctica in 2018, I fully expected the cold to be unbearable. Sadly, that’s not true. This is another one of those myths about traveling to Antarctica.

While it’s true Antarctica is the coldest place in the world, with the lowest-ever temperature recorded at -89.4ºC, NASA reports. But the tourism cruising season takes place during the Southern Hemisphere summer, between November and March when the sea ice has melted enough to allow landings and access from ships there.

With long hours of daylight during mid-summer, the temperatures can range between a more bearable -2ºC and 8ºC.

On my first day there I was amazed I didn’t even need a parka. It was sunny and warm hiking around on the snow. I had been way colder in Canada in winter. But of course, Antarctica is home to the wildest weather on earth, and sometimes it was so windy it could blow you over, and it snowed often. It varies!

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

4. It’s dangerous to visit the white continent

Antarctica’s harsh environment certainly makes travel to the area more challenging, so it’s essential to choose an experienced operator who is a member of IAATO, but in terms of danger, the companies are experts and super skilled to make sure nothing terrible happens. 

Crossing the stretch of ocean between Cape Horn and Antarctica, known as the Drake Passage, can be rough, so if you’re prone to seasickness, prepare yourself. There are even some options to fly across the Drake. I would imagine most accidents on the ships happen from people falling over in rough seas. 

Even though you don’t have to be super-fit to go on a guided Antarctic expedition, but it’s essential to have a right level of mobility. This means being able to remain stable on your feet on sometimes slippery decks and gangways, as well as getting in and out of Zodiacs if you’re going ashore.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

You’re required to have a very high level of travel insurance (I recommend SCTI, and it’s what I use) to go to Antarctica because if a severe accident happens, you’re up a shit creek and the whole trip gets canceled as the ship returns to shore. That’s gonna cost a fortune, so your insurance needs to usually have a medical evacuation cover of over $500,000 dollars. There aren’t any hospitals or rescue choppers for you here.

As for the wildlife, the penguins are harmless but make sure you don’t slip in their abundant poo. Orca and leopard seals are top predators (one even killed a scientist once) but because the ships maintain safe distances from the wildlife and is super on guard, I was never worried even when a few rogue seals chased me, though you definitely don’t want to get bitten by a seal, their mouths are full of bacteria.

And while crime is nonexistent, there are some very fascinating stories of people going batshit crazy; like an Argentinian doctor who once burnt his entire science base down as to not have to stay another winter.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

5. You’re mostly on the ship

Because you can only visit Antarctica on boats (for the most part) and you’re required to sleep and stay on the ship, some people think that it’s more like a cruise or that you’re stuck on board the whole time, which isn’t the case at all. There are no hotels or places to stay in Antarctica apart from the few science bases, but tourists aren’t allowed to stay there. A few companies have the option to let you camp for a night on the ice.

Size matters when it comes to choosing an Antarctic trip, as the number of passengers on your ship will determine how often you get on to terra firma. Choose a smaller vessel for the best experience. Bigger ships aren’t allowed to make landings in Antarctica.

No more than 100 passengers should go ashore at one site at the same time. In some places that is even more restricted. With smaller ships (up to 100 passengers), getting on and off the boat and into Zodiacs or on land is quick and efficient, giving you more time to explore.

myths about traveling to antarctica

myths about traveling to antarctica

Antarctica is a place that can and will change your life. The myths about traveling to Antarctica have got to go!

Wild and remote where the weather is in charge and nature is at its most abundant, Antarctica is an incredible place. It is worth every penny spent on a voyage there. It can have a profound impact on you and inspire.

And remember, Antarctica is so much more than just snow and stuff. And there aren’t any polar bears.

Any myths you’ve heard about Antarctica? Is this the kind of trip you’d splurge on? Spill!

myths about traveling to antarctica

Many thanks to Intrepid Travel for hosting me in Antarctica – like always I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you can expect less from me!

The post 5 myths about traveling to Antarctica appeared first on Young Adventuress.



Source link

Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise


Have you ever wondered what you might find if you headed south of New Zealand? I had wanted to visit Macquarie Island for just about forever.

Well, even if you have the slightest knowledge of geography, you’ll know that you won’t fall off the edge of the map but rather you’ll eventually reach Antarctica and the very bottom of the world.

But what about what’s in the middle? Open ocean? Atlantis?

Few know about the smatterings of islands that exist here, in between New Zealand and Antarctica, and let me tell you, they will blow your mind. New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands are uninhabited and redefine remote, few every visit, but those who do, become totally enamored.

An introduction to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Wild and remote islands are kinda my thing. Give me a rocky windswept beach covered in seals over a white sandy tropical beach. And guys, I totally mean it.

Sure, I love a good relaxing holiday in the sun as much as anyone, but where my heart truly soars is at sea and empty, forgotten lands, usually accessible only by ship.

Here you won’t find a wifi signal or see another person, and birds often outnumber humans by the tens of thousands.

Expedition voyages are now one of my favorite new travel adventures, and when the opportunity presented itself to voyage to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands earlier this year with Heritage Expeditions, I couldn’t stuff my duffel bag fast enough.


Specializing in expedition travel to remote areas and based out of Christchurch, near where I live here in New Zealand, Heritage Expeditions are leaders in my kind of travel.

Heritage Expeditions was founded in 1985 by Rodney Russ (a kiwi biologist working for the wildlife service), as a way of increasing awareness and conservation of the natural world through responsible expedition travel.

After spending years dedicating his life to work protecting endangered species like kākāpō and the Black Robin and working down in the subantarctic, Rodney learned that by sharing these special wilderness areas with others, they might become “ambassadors” advocating and supporting conservation efforts.

He has long held the view that conservation and responsible travel are partners, that together can achieve what might otherwise be unachievable. Totally agree, Rodney! Thanks for leading the way.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Over Christmas last year I spent several weeks at sea deep in the Southern Ocean with Heritage Expeditions exploring the subantarctic, and one of the biggest highlights had to be stopping at Macquarie Island.

Roughly 1500 kilometers south of Tasmania, it takes about 3 days sailing to get here in fine weather.

Unfortunately, the weather down here is never fine.

Past the Roaring Forties and deep into the Furious Fifties en route to the Shrieking Sixties, the prevailing weather in the Subantarctic can only be described as Windy As and on Macquarie Island is no exception.

“the most wretched place of involuntary and slavish exilium that can possibly be conceived; nothing could warrant any civilised creature living on such a spot.” Captain Douglass in 1822 

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Part of the Subantarctic Group of Islands, Macquarie Island is home to a research base and it is looked after by the Australian Antarctic Division. Lovingly dubbed “Macca,” it’s small, only 34 kilometers long and 5 km long at it’s widest point on the main island, and it’s positively teeming with wildlife; a real bucketlist spot for my fellow bird nerds, everyone on board was fizzing for our arrival.

Also I reckon everyone was equally excited for some sheltered bays, land and not the wild southern ocean seas that had many spewing in buckets.

I was fine and couldn’t wait to land and explore!

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

For any geology nerds out there, Macquarie Island is also extremely special because it’s the only place on earth where rocks from the earth’s mantle are actually exposed about sea level.

Recap from middle school science class: the mantle is normally 6 kilometers below the ocean floor and therefore not something we ever see except in that dissected and well-labeled globe from school, showing it to be the thick layer of molten rock between the crust and the core of the earth.

Macquarie Island is actually the exposed crest of the undersea Macquarie Ridge, raised to its present position where the Indo-Australian tectonic plate meets the Pacific plate. This one of a kind feature nabbed Macquarie Island a world heritage status over 20 years ago.

Also it’s a place of both outstanding natural beauty and wildlife. And a fuck ton of penguins.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

The history of Macquarie is a fascinating one, thought to be first discovered in 1810 by Captain Frederick Hasselborough on a trip from Sydney by accident on an commercial expedition looking for seals to slaughter for skins and blubber.

Perhaps early Polynesians visited long before because he reported seeing a shipwreck of an “ancient design” on the island – oh my! My historical nerdy brain is a aquiver with that!

And he was in luck, as there were probably close to half a million seals around Macquarie before they were decimated over the next decade. Even now you can see the remnants of the sealing industry on Macquarie with rusted bits of machinery used in the industry still decorating the beaches.

A grim reminder of a terrible past. Only now are the seal populations recovered. And in a beautiful piece of irony, often these historical sites are covered with enormous elephant seals, happily tooting and roaring at us as we scrambled past them.

visit Macquarie island

Though perhaps what drew me the most to Macquarie Island were the enormous bird colonies here. Home to more than 3.5 million seabirds, this wild little island stinks of glorious poo, and I love it!

It’s covered in birds! I knew it would be similar to South Georgia, which is one of my favorite places on earth.

For example there are around 850,000 pairs of Royal Penguins on Macquarie Island, which is enormous! Millions of birds visit Macquarie Island every year.

There used to be heaps more but they were hunted for decades for their oil after the sealers made their way through the seal populations.

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lucking out with the weather we were able to make multiple landings and zodiac cruises around Macquarie Island with Heritage Expeditions.

We got to visit the base at the Isthmus on the island and visit the researchers and scientists working on Macquarie and learn about what life is like on a place that is windy and rainy pretty much every day, and hazards include being chased by elephant seals.

Only just a few years ago after seven years of pest eradication, was Macquarie Island finally free from invasive species like rats, rabbits, mice and feral cats which had been brought over by humans and were quickly destroying the bird populations.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lusitania Bay is home to upwards of 150,000 pairs of king penguins, the second largest penguins in the world and some of my favorites.

We lucked out big time with the weather and spent a long and beautiful afternoon in the sunshine at Sandy Bay. I’d die to visit Macquarie Island again.

Still and beautiful and warm enough to peel off some layers, we spent hours exploring the beaches and walks around Sandy Bay, taking in all the different bird and seal colonies and enjoying being in the presence of abundant, care-free wildlife.

It truly was an experience I’ll never forget.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Even now I can close my eyes and immediately be transported back to that magical day at Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island. I can hear the calls of the penguin colonies, recall the smell of the seals and the sounds of the ways. Even remembering to watch where I walked to make sure I didn’t squish a penguin by accident.

How many places are like that in the world that we have the chance to experience firsthand? Visit Macquarie Island, and you won’t be disappointed.

Have you heard of Macquarie Island? Are you a wild beach lover too? Is this the kind of place you dream of visiting too? Spill!

Macquarie Island Expedition: Galapagos of the Southern Ocean

visit Macquarie island

Many thanks to Heritage Expeditions for taking me to the Subantarctic Islands – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me!

The post Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise appeared first on Young Adventuress.



Source link

Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise


Have you ever wondered what you might find if you headed south of New Zealand? I had wanted to visit Macquarie Island for just about forever.

Well, even if you have the slightest knowledge of geography, you’ll know that you won’t fall off the edge of the map but rather you’ll eventually reach Antarctica and the very bottom of the world.

But what about what’s in the middle? Open ocean? Atlantis?

Few know about the smatterings of islands that exist here, in between New Zealand and Antarctica, and let me tell you, they will blow your mind. New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands are uninhabited and redefine remote, few every visit, but those who do, become totally enamored.

An introduction to New Zealand’s subantarctic islands

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Wild and remote islands are kinda my thing. Give me a rocky windswept beach covered in seals over a white sandy tropical beach. And guys, I totally mean it.

Sure, I love a good relaxing holiday in the sun as much as anyone, but where my heart truly soars is at sea and empty, forgotten lands, usually accessible only by ship.

Here you won’t find a wifi signal or see another person, and birds often outnumber humans by the tens of thousands.

Expedition voyages are now one of my favorite new travel adventures, and when the opportunity presented itself to voyage to New Zealand’s Subantarctic Islands earlier this year with Heritage Expeditions, I couldn’t stuff my duffel bag fast enough.


Specializing in expedition travel to remote areas and based out of Christchurch, near where I live here in New Zealand, Heritage Expeditions are leaders in my kind of travel.

Heritage Expeditions was founded in 1985 by Rodney Russ (a kiwi biologist working for the wildlife service), as a way of increasing awareness and conservation of the natural world through responsible expedition travel.

After spending years dedicating his life to work protecting endangered species like kākāpō and the Black Robin and working down in the subantarctic, Rodney learned that by sharing these special wilderness areas with others, they might become “ambassadors” advocating and supporting conservation efforts.

He has long held the view that conservation and responsible travel are partners, that together can achieve what might otherwise be unachievable. Totally agree, Rodney! Thanks for leading the way.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Over Christmas last year I spent several weeks at sea deep in the Southern Ocean with Heritage Expeditions exploring the subantarctic, and one of the biggest highlights had to be stopping at Macquarie Island.

Roughly 1500 kilometers south of Tasmania, it takes about 3 days sailing to get here in fine weather.

Unfortunately, the weather down here is never fine.

Past the Roaring Forties and deep into the Furious Fifties en route to the Shrieking Sixties, the prevailing weather in the Subantarctic can only be described as Windy As and on Macquarie Island is no exception.

“the most wretched place of involuntary and slavish exilium that can possibly be conceived; nothing could warrant any civilised creature living on such a spot.” Captain Douglass in 1822 

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Part of the Subantarctic Group of Islands, Macquarie Island is home to a research base and it is looked after by the Australian Antarctic Division. Lovingly dubbed “Macca,” it’s small, only 34 kilometers long and 5 km long at it’s widest point on the main island, and it’s positively teeming with wildlife; a real bucketlist spot for my fellow bird nerds, everyone on board was fizzing for our arrival.

Also I reckon everyone was equally excited for some sheltered bays, land and not the wild southern ocean seas that had many spewing in buckets.

I was fine and couldn’t wait to land and explore!

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

For any geology nerds out there, Macquarie Island is also extremely special because it’s the only place on earth where rocks from the earth’s mantle are actually exposed about sea level.

Recap from middle school science class: the mantle is normally 6 kilometers below the ocean floor and therefore not something we ever see except in that dissected and well-labeled globe from school, showing it to be the thick layer of molten rock between the crust and the core of the earth.

Macquarie Island is actually the exposed crest of the undersea Macquarie Ridge, raised to its present position where the Indo-Australian tectonic plate meets the Pacific plate. This one of a kind feature nabbed Macquarie Island a world heritage status over 20 years ago.

Also it’s a place of both outstanding natural beauty and wildlife. And a fuck ton of penguins.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

The history of Macquarie is a fascinating one, thought to be first discovered in 1810 by Captain Frederick Hasselborough on a trip from Sydney by accident on an commercial expedition looking for seals to slaughter for skins and blubber.

Perhaps early Polynesians visited long before because he reported seeing a shipwreck of an “ancient design” on the island – oh my! My historical nerdy brain is a aquiver with that!

And he was in luck, as there were probably close to half a million seals around Macquarie before they were decimated over the next decade. Even now you can see the remnants of the sealing industry on Macquarie with rusted bits of machinery used in the industry still decorating the beaches.

A grim reminder of a terrible past. Only now are the seal populations recovered. And in a beautiful piece of irony, often these historical sites are covered with enormous elephant seals, happily tooting and roaring at us as we scrambled past them.

visit Macquarie island

Though perhaps what drew me the most to Macquarie Island were the enormous bird colonies here. Home to more than 3.5 million seabirds, this wild little island stinks of glorious poo, and I love it!

It’s covered in birds! I knew it would be similar to South Georgia, which is one of my favorite places on earth.

For example there are around 850,000 pairs of Royal Penguins on Macquarie Island, which is enormous! Millions of birds visit Macquarie Island every year.

There used to be heaps more but they were hunted for decades for their oil after the sealers made their way through the seal populations.

What to pack for a trip to Antarctica

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lucking out with the weather we were able to make multiple landings and zodiac cruises around Macquarie Island with Heritage Expeditions.

We got to visit the base at the Isthmus on the island and visit the researchers and scientists working on Macquarie and learn about what life is like on a place that is windy and rainy pretty much every day, and hazards include being chased by elephant seals.

Only just a few years ago after seven years of pest eradication, was Macquarie Island finally free from invasive species like rats, rabbits, mice and feral cats which had been brought over by humans and were quickly destroying the bird populations.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Lusitania Bay is home to upwards of 150,000 pairs of king penguins, the second largest penguins in the world and some of my favorites.

We lucked out big time with the weather and spent a long and beautiful afternoon in the sunshine at Sandy Bay. I’d die to visit Macquarie Island again.

Still and beautiful and warm enough to peel off some layers, we spent hours exploring the beaches and walks around Sandy Bay, taking in all the different bird and seal colonies and enjoying being in the presence of abundant, care-free wildlife.

It truly was an experience I’ll never forget.

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

visit Macquarie island

Even now I can close my eyes and immediately be transported back to that magical day at Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island. I can hear the calls of the penguin colonies, recall the smell of the seals and the sounds of the ways. Even remembering to watch where I walked to make sure I didn’t squish a penguin by accident.

How many places are like that in the world that we have the chance to experience firsthand? Visit Macquarie Island, and you won’t be disappointed.

Have you heard of Macquarie Island? Are you a wild beach lover too? Is this the kind of place you dream of visiting too? Spill!

Macquarie Island Expedition: Galapagos of the Southern Ocean

visit Macquarie island

Many thanks to Heritage Expeditions for taking me to the Subantarctic Islands – like always, I’m keeping it real – all opinions are my own – like you could expect less from me!

The post Macquarie Island is a wildlife paradise appeared first on Young Adventuress.



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