More than 100,000 tourists will flock to the ice as the Southern Hemisphere first experiences summer. They will endure the two-day voyage via the notoriously choppy Drake Passage below Patagonia on one of more than 50 cruise ships in search of the frozen continent of Antarctica.
There were just 15 vacationers that travelled to Antarctica on two yachts during the COVID summer of 2020–21. But today, tourism is greater than ever and back. The number of visitors this season is higher than the highest pre-pandemic year by more than 40%.
How did polar travel become popular?
In order to resupply research bases on the South Shetland Islands, Chilean and Argentinean naval ships headed south in the 1950s carried the first tourists who boarded them. Devoted icebreaker expedition ships started travelling even further south starting in the late 1960s. The market started to grow in the early 1990s as ex-Soviet icebreakers became accessible; at that time, roughly a dozen companies conducted tours. More than 10,000 people visited the ice continent every year by the turn of the century, marking the mainstreaming of Antarctic tourism.
How does it appear right now?
Small “expedition-style” ships are often used by most visitors visiting Antarctica. They usually travel to the reasonably accessible Antarctic Peninsula. Once there, they can go on shore excursions to see penguin or seal colonies or take a zodiac boat trip for a closer look at the wildlife and icebergs. Visitors can kayak, paddleboard, and even take the necessary quick dip into arctic waters known as the “polar plunge.”
The majority of tourists are accommodated, fed, and given other services aboard ship. More than one-third of travellers never set foot on the continent.
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