Article and Photography by Kat Aviles
This hidden gem is farther south than any other place on Earth, and is highly underrated as an amazing vacation spot. If you ever have the opportunity to travel all the way down to Antarctica, I would recommend it one-thousand times over. It is a long journey to reach such a magical location, but it is completely worth it. My family and I took the trip back in 2010 when I was 11 years old, and my brother was 9. The adventure began by making our way to South America to reach the southernmost tip called Ushuaia. It was there that we found the most breathtaking sunsets. The color was so vibrant it enveloped all the highlights and shadows that surrounded us the moment we stepped outside.
Once there, your only option is to board a cruise ship and make the two day journey to reach the Antarctic Peninsula. *Warning: Two days of travel include rough seas of 15+ foot waves and ours got up to 9 stories high! Although the travel may be very difficult for many to endure, the reward is far greater than any sea sickness you will ever experience. My family and I traveled on The World Residences at Sea, where we were among great scientists who studied global warming and special types of species that lived on this very barren continent. It was extremely educational to listen to all the scientists’ seminars and discoveries.
Each day consisted of taking small zodiacs ashore to walk among the mass number of penguins and ice glaciers. Each stop had a different variety of penguin and yet they all lived in a similar style and patterns. We all wanted to take a penguin home with us as a pet. They were THAT adorable! Although the penguins are by far one of the cutest mammals to ever walk the planet, beware of the brutal stench they give off. It can be smelled from miles away, AND they NEVER stop talking!
One of the most exciting activities we got to do was the legendary “Polar Plunge”. This was borderline crazy for many people, and even required signing a waiver! In this daring activity we were able to jump into the Antarctic Ocean, and pretend we were swimming with the penguins. The water was below freezing, literally! At 28°F, my dad, brother, and I all jumped into the freezing water. As soon as you hit the water, your entire breathe was taken from you, leaving you in shock, and immediately wanting to get out of the water! It was not painful because of the adrenaline running throughout your body, but the boiling Jacuzzi on deck was screaming your name from the moment you landed in the water. Because my brother was so young at the time, a life jacket was placed on him and was attached to the boat, and since it was so cold they pulled him out right away. It was definitely a once in a lifetime experience and I would recommend it to anyone who would want this type of experience!
From amazing landscapes, to smelly penguins, lounging sea lions and a few birds, the extreme temperatures were worth it. This trip will never be forgotten, and is by far one the most magical places I have ever traveled to, because you can feel truly alone in this white dissonance, and yet so connected to nature.
You can read about more of my globe-trotting adventures by clicking here0