Camp with penguins in Antarctica
With its constant sub-zero temperatures and uninhabited glacier terrain, Antarctica is not usually thought of as a luxury locale. But tour operator White Desert is determined to change that. Offering a few expeditions a year to their upscale, well-furnished camp, the group affords a few hundred travellers the chance to experience the inner part of the icy continent with (almost) all the comforts of home.
White Desert founder Patrick Woodhead, who led the very first east-to-west traverse of Antarctica in 2002, envisioned the camp on one of his many expeditions. While waiting out a storm in the bitter cold, he and his fellow travellers imagined a more inclusive polar experience complete with luxury transportation and accommodation.
Today travellers get to experience that dream when they book one of the bespoke itineraries or organised trips that are offered during the continent’s late spring and summer (November and December). The trips all start with a five-hour private flight from Cape Town to an ice runway perched atop a 50m-tall frozen waterfall located within the Dronning Maud Land region in eastern Antarctica.
Guests then get cosy at the eco-friendly Whichaway camp, which is completely solar- and wind-powered. The tented refuge includes a living area furnished with a central warming stove, fur rugs, a library and maps of the South Pole in tribute to early Victorian explorers. Six sleeping pods are made of fibreglass panels that resist Antarctica’s notoriously strong winds and keep the interior quiet and warm. The pods – measuring 6m in diameter – include a double bed, a writing desk and a private bathroom.
Meals are also served in style, prepared by a professional South African chef. A full English breakfast is followed by a light lunch, with all the stops pulled out for a three-course dinner, which might include barbequed steak, salmon served with wasabi and plenty of Champagne.
While at the camp, guests can participate in a variety of activities, including exploring ice caves, visiting a nearby science base, kite-skiing or touring a colony of Emperor penguins, where more than 6,000 of the flightless birds nest and raise their chicks.
As part of its commitment to have zero environmental impact, the entire camp is dismantled at the end of each season, leaving behind no trace of human touch among the vast glacier landscape.
Book online at white-desert.com. The eight- to 10-day tours only accommodate 12 people, so spots fill up quickly. Per person cost ranges from 18,000 euros to 57,000 euros depending on the length of the tour and the activities involved. Guests must provide their own polar-ready clothing, though White Desert does offer items for purchase before the trip.