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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.