Antarctica is Open! Should You Go Now?
Due to the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in the countries ships’ passengers use to travel to Antarctica, some trip operators are going forward with their 2021/2022 Antarctica seasons. Woo Hoo! And some travelers suffering from severe wanderlust and cabin fever are eager to head down to the white continent right away. The dazzling light, tobogganing penguins, and pristine landscapes of this otherworldly destination are singing a siren’s song to many of us who are completely fed up with takeout and Netflix. A trip to Antarctica now could be a fantastic respite from all this Covid malaise, yet is now the right time to take this monumental bucket list trip?
Wild Nectar’s founder, Joy Martinello, a true polar travel expert, has sent over 1000 travelers to Antarctica and has also designed polar expeditions for a world-class luxury operator. She weighs in here about the pros and cons of traveling to Antarctica under today’s current Covid-19 conditions:
“Let’s look first at why now might be the perfect time to go, and then I’ll cover the drawbacks so you can make the decision that’s right for you.
The first reason why this might be an excellent time to go to Antarctica is that very few ships will be in the region this November through February, so you’ll probably never see another ship. You’ll have this sparkling polar paradise all to yourself: silent, majestic and untouched as nature intended. When I visited Antarctica in 2004, it occurred to me that this glorious, vibrant, pristine beauty is what the whole earth would look like without people. By 2019, more and more ships filled with people were heading to Antarctica. Those ships will probably be back for the 2022/2023 season, paralleling your itinerary and crowding the hotels and docks in the popular embarkation port, Ushuaia, Argentina. It might be a great idea to go now, during this Covid-interim year to see the place empty, in its natural state.
The second reason why now might be the best time to go has everything to do with your predictions about Covid. I think Covid-19 is something we’ll be living with in some form into the future. I think we’ll get used to protocols like masks and distancing like we did with routine changes when the TSA was introduced. If that does turn out to be the case, traveling now on small ships with fewer people onboard, with operators who will be extremely vigilant, and with itineraries shifted for maximum safety could turn out to be a wise decision. Some of this vigilance might diminish in future seasons.
The National Geographic Endurance, National Geographic Resolution, and the National Geographic Explorer have changed their itineraries to include what they call “Bubble Travel”. These trips will include direct flights from Miami to Ushuaia with no pre-hotel night so you will be effectively transported without staying anywhere in Argentina or Chile. The operator of the Silver Cloud is routing all their itineraries through Chile which has very strict protocols. These trips will require that you complete an online form 45 days pre-travel. Then you’ll need a PCR test both 48 hours pre-travel and on arrival. Ask us about protocols for the other ships traveling this season.
Flexible cancellation policies on these ships will also help with your peace of mind when booking a trip for this season and those might end for 2022/2023. Just so you know, there are ships traveling this season that I, as someone who helped design these trips, wouldn’t recommend. Please contact me for more information about them and why.
Now the cons. You may decide not to travel now in favor of waiting for more people around the world to be vaccinated. As of Oct 22, 2021 according to Google, Chile is 76.1% vaccinated compared to Argentina’s 55.6% and the US at 57.8%. Even with Chile’s high numbers, you may not want to be in airports with people from countries with low vaccination rates. Flying on some airlines that don’t include buffer seats may add to the risk. You may have vulnerable family members at home who cause you to think twice about traveling now. Also, the info above is subject to change if a new surge happens, and you may be uncomfortable with changing conditions.
No matter what you decide, social distancing, mask-wearing, PCR tests, and making sure you have a solid travel insurance plan will probably be part of your Antarctica experience whether you travel now or within the next couple of years. If you decide to wait until 2024 or after, you might find that the destination will have changed dramatically as more and more ships come into the region. My recommendation is that you travel now or plan for the 2022/2023 season. Here’s an article about why you should book your 2022/2023 trip now as many trips are already full.
If you’re ready to head down to the bottom of the world for this extraordinary, life-changing experience, here’s a comprehensive guide I created to help you determine which itinerary is right for you and what kind of ship would be perfect for you. It also includes info about when to go, wildlife behaviors and much more. Whether you go this year or next, we at Wild Nectar are here to help with all your travel details including selecting the perfect ship, Covid-19 protocols, and flexible cancellation policies--all at no extra cost to you.I hope you get to experience the powerful grandeur of the Great Blue Ice for yourself. I’ve traveled all over the world and Antarctica is still my all-time favorite trip!”