My first attempt to fly to Antarctica, to avoid cruising there over some of the most famously turbulent water in the world, was ten years ago on a prop plane that flew from Chile for a day long excursion. The trip fell through and I’m probably glad that it did. Starting in November and extending through January, though, a far more elite experience departing from South Africa and offered by organizer White Desert in conjunction with with Cape Town hotel Ellerman House will blend adventure with much more in the way of creature comfort. It will also be offered in a 24 hour arrangement in a private charter for a maximum of 12 for those who just want a glimpse of the White Continent. There are also longer itineraries for those who want to stay on.
Courtesy of White Desert
A special experience of the 24 hour trip is a walk through tunnels in an ice grotto.
You start with a few days at the recently renovated, luxurious Ellerman House, a refined, Cape Edwardian, art filled mansion overlooking the Indian Ocean in Bantry Bay just outside of the city. Then you and your 11 other chosen companions take off at night in White Desert’s Gulfstream G550 for the 5 ½ hour flight during which there’s a meal of Wagyu beef and sushi and one of a kind cocktails utilizing 1000 year old glacial Antarctica ice. The jet lands on the blue ice Wolf’s Fang runway flanked by the towering mountain of the same name after which you’re transported to the Schirmacher Oasis on the continent’s northern coast, a 15.6 mile plateau with 100 freshwater lakes. Over the next six hours, guests can trek through the frozen countryside, explore the natural ice tunnels in the glaciers, rock climb or just hang out and enjoy the views. After dinner, the jet heads back to Cape Town.
Courtesy of White Desert
For those who can spend four or eight days in Antarctica, a visit to the Emperor Penguins in Atka Bay is included.
Travelers who want a fuller experience and have more time can extend to four days in the company’s Ice & Mountains trip during which you base at the company’s Whichaway Camp deeper in the interior which contains six heated sleeping pods, a reception area, lounge and dining room. Led by guides, guests can trek, visit science bases, ice climb, zipline over a frozen lake, do day trips in 4X4s. For the ultimate experience, the eight day Emperors & South Pole, visitors can go on from the four day itinerary to the Atka Bay colony of 6000 Emperor Penguins, a two hour flight away in a DC3 Basler. A six hour flight away is the ultimate destination, the South Pole, the lowest point on earth and a truly memorable end to the journey.