WHEN PLANNING A VOYAGE TO ANTARCTICA, it’s important to know that no journey is the same and that you cannot plan an exact itinerary – flexibility is the key to success here.
Antarctica is accessible from Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Chile. The best option for superyachts is to cross from Ushuaia (Argentina) or Puerto Williams (Chile), as the crossing over the Drake Passage from these locations is just over 500 nautical miles to the King George Islands.
The gateway to Antarctica is the Chilean Antarctic Base Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva on King George Islands, where the only commercial flights arrive from Punta Arenas with a flight time of just under two hours.
Departing from King George Island, vessels can visit Penguin Island and Deception Island.
The yachts then cruise south of the South Shetland Islands along the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, sailing along ice-filled fjords and among spectacular icebergs, while enjoying the company of sea birds, penguins, seals, and whales.
On the Antarctic Peninsula, the main sights are the Gerlache Strait, Portal Point, Cuverville Island, Danco Island, Neko Harbour, Paradise Bay, Port Lockroy, Palmer Station, Lemaire Channel, Pleneau Island, Petermann Island, Vernadsky Base, Fish Island, and Detaille Island.
For the truly adventurous, it is possible to push further south into Marguerite Bay. Each day, visitors can disembark by Zodiac and explore the landscape.
Superyachts visiting Antarctica are also required to have an Antarctic Permit, which takes about six months to process, so advance planning is important.
It is also highly recommended that yachts use the services of an expert polar guide and of an Antarctic pilot, who will help advise on vessel choice and modification, apply for and manage your Antarctic permit, and guarantee a safe voyage under the ever-changing weather and ice conditions.
The best cruising months in Antarctica are December through the first half of February.
Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting
1,000 in winter to 4,000 in summer; no permanent residents (est. 2018)
Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents.
Since there is little precipitation except at the coasts, the interior of the continent is technically the largest desert in the world.
Since no country owns Antarctica, no visa is necessary. However, visitor permits are required and are generally obtained through tour operators.
No maritime services exist in Antarctica. Some research bases are equipped with ice and gravel runways.
International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators
+1 401 272 2152
USA +1 801 390 7025
UK +44 7989 512 136
High Latitudes (Polar Sailing and Yachting)
+44 7494 226 194
Puerto Williams (530)
Punta Arenas (780)
Cape Horn (450)
There is a small runway at Chile’s Frei Station on King George Island which is used by scientists and tourists. However, private aircraft are not licensed to fly in and service is effectively limited to private charter only.
The Antarctic pilot
The mariner’s handbook
The Admiralty manual of seamanship, Volume 3: Antarctica, 3rd Edition (Lonely Planet)
Australian Geographic book of Antarctica