Stories from Antarctica: Nothing Compares to This Family Vacation

Antarctica Family Zodiac

As told by A&K guest David Jacobson

Jacobson Family in AntarcticaWhen our boys were seven and nine, my wife and I took them on a seven-month trip around the world and visited 21 countries and six different continents. Antarctica was the only one we didn’t hit. We recently got back from A&K’s Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands with our now 13- and 16-year old boys and consider it one of our best trips ever — in the top two to three for sure.

The driving force to go wasn’t really about Antarctica being our seventh continent, but more about the chance to experience the novelty and uniqueness of this place that we imagined in our minds — and that proved to be true. Antarctica is so different than anywhere else we’ve been. None of us had seen an iceberg or a penguin up close. And then we went and saw penguins, and realized the experience is so much richer than that. It reminded me of the plains of Africa in that it’s one of those places that make you feel like you’ve punched through to an alternate reality.

Whale Sighting from Zodiac

One of the best moments happened on New Year’s Day, when we were approaching the Antarctic Peninsula on a Zodiac and came across five or six humpback whales. They were bubble-net feeding and, I mean, just right there in front of us. Our naturalist driver turned off the motor so we could watch and listen as they blew bubbles and jumped up. It was a bright sunny day, so we could see them clearly, plus we could hear everything. It was an amazing, full-sensory experience.

There were some really special highlights for us as parents, too. On South Georgia, we sat down on the beach and seals came right up to us and sniffed us with their whiskers. We walked a little further down the beach and sat down to be surrounded by penguins that were just as curious about us as we were about them. Our big thing is that we want to give our kids experiences that help them appreciate the world we live in. Watching them light up and smile, and be engaged and in awe, just as we were — those shared experiences are so salient. Children grow up fast and the days can feel like they’re running together with car pools, homework and such. But none of us will forget standing on South Georgia and looking out over 200,000 mating pairs of king penguins. That’s the stuff that sticks.

Swimming on New Year's Eve

The added bonus we didn’t anticipate was meeting new people. When you’re on a ship like that with a small group, you’re already likeminded to some extent. You share a certain mindset, sense of adventure and love for travel. We got to sit down to long dinners with these other families, and had so many conversations and more relaxed time with them than we usually get with people that we’ve known for many years. We actually just came back from New York where we stayed with another family that we met on our A&K cruise; I’m sure we’ll be lifelong friends.

Our ship ‘Le Boreal’ was phenomenal as was the experience of cruising somewhere so far away. We absolutely wanted a balcony, and every room on ‘Le Boreal’ has a balcony. We weren’t on a tour bus jumping on and off or running from airport to airport, but unpacked once and got to see a lot of really remote places. Though Wi-Fi was available, we didn’t indulge our boys with it and I loved the fact that they were offline. Walking into the common area and seeing all the kids playing cards and board games, participating in hanging out, and laughing — actually interacting and making their own new friends — was great.

Penguins in South Georgia on Family Vacation

At the end of the day, though, it still comes back to the uniqueness of Antarctica as a family destination. To be in this place with A&K staff who make you feel safe and taken care of, and just possess this tremendous amount of experience, and then cruising in a Zodiac around icebergs one moment or exploring the inside of a volcanic caldera on Deception Island or seeing animals you can’t see anywhere else on the planet in their natural environment. It’s truly amazing and in contrast to anything else we’ve ever known. I have no doubt my kids will remember it for the rest of their lives.

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The Top Five Reasons to Visit South Georgia

Top Five Reasons to Visit South Georgia

From unique scenic beauty to a wealth of biological diversity, South Georgia is a can’t-miss stop on any Antarctic journey, and a compelling destination all its own.

It's the land of a millions kings

1. It’s the land of a million kings

King penguins are the largest penguin species apart from emperors, and just one of these colorful, three-foot-tall birds is a memorable sight. Imagine, then, setting food amid a colony of hundreds of thousands of king penguins gathered at Salisbury Plain or Gold Harbor, their cries audible for miles around.


You'll see a cornucopia of species

2. You’ll see a cornucopia of species

When people think of wildlife in the Antarctic region, they usually think penguins and not much else. South Georgia is actually one of the most biodiverse places on earth, a result of its large size and isolation from the mainland, and visitors can count on seeing a tremendous variety of mammals and birdlife, including the nesting wandering albatross.


Visit "the Alps of the Southern Ocean"

3. Visit “the Alps of the Southern Ocean”

Known as one of the most remote islands in the world, South Georgia is actually a partially submerged extension of the Andes mountain range, and so boasts peaks topping 11,000 feet. Visitors often liken their first sight of South Georgia to seeing the Swiss Alps rising from the sea, and it makes for one of the journey’s indelible highlights.


Discover a surprising history of exploration

4. Discover a surprising history of exploration.

South Georgia looms large in the history of the Antarctic region. It was the center of the whaling industry in the Southern Ocean, and visitors can tour the remnants of an old supply station used by the whaling ships. Legendary adventurer Ernest Shackleton is also buried here, and visiting groups pause at his grave to drink a traditional toast to “The Boss.”


Cruise through one of the region's most scenic stretches

5. Cruise through one of the region’s most scenic stretches

South Georgia’s coast is a treasure trove of glaciers and fjords that make for spectacular cruising, and Drygalski Fjord is probably the most scenic of them all, with its combination of towering cliffs and impossibly blue glaciers; this is also one of the best points in the expedition to witness glaciers calving, an amazing natural wonder.

See South Georgia on Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands Cruise.

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Why Your Kids Will Love Antarctica

Artboard 1

A Lot of ‘Wow’ Moments Sailing the Southern Ocean

By Eileen Ogintz from ‘Taking the Kids’

“Wow!” exclaimed ‘Le Boreal’ Captain Etienne Garcia when he’d get on the loudspeaker to alert the passengers that they should grab their cameras and head on deck.

“Wow,” there are humpback whales right next to the ship!

“Wow! A lone Emperor penguin! I haven’t seen one in three years,” he declared.

The 34 kids and teens on board the 200-passenger ‘Le Boreal’ for Abercrombie & Kent’s family holiday trip to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands had many wow moments during the 17-day trip:

Walking on “fast” floating sea ice 3-feet thick on New Year’s Day. The kids were served juice while their parents had champagne. “I’ll always remember this,” declared Olivia Gembarovski, 10, from Melbourne, Australia. “You don’t see people walking on ice in the middle of the ocean every day.”


NekoSnowSlide

Sliding down a slushy hill on their backsides, no sleds needed, at the bottom of the world in Neko Harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula, and trudging back up in the sunshine to do it all again.  “The best day of my life and that’s only a little exaggeration,” said Conrad Kistler, 12, from Orange County, California.


WilhelminaBayWhales

Seeing whales pop up all around them as they rode in Zodiacs in Wilhelmina Bay, which is a feeding ground for whales who were so busy eating they ignored the humans. “I didn’t think I’d get to see them so close,” said Kyra Servoss, 12, from Boca Raton, FL.


NewYearsEveSwimming

 A New Year’s Eve when it never got dark. It was as light at midnight as in the late afternoon. “We went swimming at 2 a.m.,” said Sean Jacobson, 15, from San Diego, CA


SoManyPenguins

Seeing so many penguins—and so many different species, “because penguins are my favorite animal,” explained Kevin Taylor, 12, from suburban Chicago.


FalklandFirehouseVisit

Putting out a fire with the Falkland Island firefighters at their station in Stanley (population 2,500) and then driving to the ship in a fire truck, sirens blaring. “Riding shotgun in a fire truck… how cool is that?!” said Charlie Brountas, 15, from New York City.


LearningToDriveAZodiac

Learning how to drive a Zodiac with the Young Explorers program. “That was my favorite Young Explorer activity,” said Lena Sundin, 12, from San Mateo, CA adding that all the friends she made from around the world was a high point too.  


SomethingNew

“It’s impossible to choose the best moment,” said Sergei Svertilova, 17, from Moscow. “Every day we saw something new!” 

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Stories from Antarctica: A Birder’s Paradise

King Penguins

As told by A&K Naturalist Guide and ornithology buff, Brent HoustonBrent Houston

Some of my favorite animals on earth are easily seen in Antarctica, especially if you visit the very beautiful and remote island of South Georgia and the warmer, wildlife-packed Falkland Islands. From the bright-white snow petrel that is unmistakable among the pack ice, to the predatory brown and south polar skuas — those marauders of the penguin colonies — the flying seabirds we encounter as we cross the Drake Passage rival the more popular show-stopping penguins of Antarctica for their beauty, grace and adaptability.

Speaking of penguins, the Adélie is my absolute favorite, because what they lack in colorful plumage, they make up for in comical displays, vocalizations and general goofiness. The funniest thing is to watch them gathering pebbles for their nests, especially when they steal each other’s pebbles at the same time. This goes on throughout the breeding season and is a source of endless entertainment.

Adelie Penguins

Adélies are also fun to watch when entering the water. One or two by themselves do not want to go in for fear of a leopard seal, which can eat up to ten penguins a day. So, they wait until there is a group and then they start calling in a frenzy, pushing each other from behind and — all at once — go tumbling into the sea. I always say it takes ten Adélie penguins to make a decision.

The other spectacular penguin that is a treat to see is the brightly colored and always-busy king penguin. Unlike most penguins, they lay one large egg that they must balance on their feet to incubate for 55 days, and then later protect the chick, which then takes nine months to fledge. The brightly colored auricular patch on their necks, along with their pinkish to purplish beaks provide photographers with incredible opportunities, especially when they are trumpeting and courting. But the most incredible thing to see is the sheer magnitude of the big breeding colonies, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands. It is a magical display of the animal kingdom, something A&K guests to South Georgia get to see.

Wandering Albatross Continue Reading ›

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Stories From Antarctica: Sensory Overload on the Southern Ocean

Sensory Overload on the Southern Ocean

As told by Scott M., A&K Guest

I’m a visual person, so before I went to Antarctica, I was always drawn to the colors and all the crazy blues I had seen in photos, how sculptural the icebergs and mountains were, and how these landscapes didn’t look like anything else. Now that I’ve just returned from Antarctica, South Georgia & the Falkland Islands, these incredible landscapes — that exceeded every expectation — are also what stay with me the most.

Part of that is just the sheer size of it all. On our luxury expedition cruise, we experienced landscapes like a crescendo that went from small to big. The Falklands are definitely hilly, but the slopes are gentle with rocky outcroppings. South Georgia Island is a full-on mountain range with these 7,000 to 8,000 feet peaks — they’re not small! — that seem to pop up from the ocean as if out of nowhere. Contrast that with Antarctica, which is made up almost entirely of glaciers (95 percent) and even more extreme and impressive with its ice.

antarctica-landscape-3

For me, though, nothing tops the small bay of Gold Harbour, which is situated at the east end of South Georgia. The island itself is full of these amazing glaciers. You see them coming out to the ocean, up on hills, retreating back up the mountain and even transforming the landscape with newly formed hills. Continue Reading ›

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Antarctica: From a Kid’s Perspective

Antarctica, South Georgia the Falkland Islands
antarctica-family-cruise

Eileen Ogintz, family travel writer from takingthekids.com, joins us on our Family Antarctica departure this year. She is sharing the kids’ perspectives on what an A&K cruise to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands is all about. Take a look at her day-by-day experience and why this is the perfect destination to inspire all ages.

 

On a Cruise to Antarctica – 34 Kids and a Whole Lot of Enthusiasm

December 21, 2016 –  By Eileen Ogintz

“Heaps of Albatross,” reports Thomas, 13, from Melbourne, Australia.

“Rockhopper penguins were jumping,” adds Marcos, 12, from Montclair, NJ.

“Two whale spouts,” declares Ryan, 13, San Diego, CA.

And it’s just the first day aboard ‘Le Boreal’ heading on two-week adventure cruise from Southern Argentina to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Islands and Antarctica. Even more amazing than the wildlife, perhaps, is that these Young Explorers, part of the group of 34 kids on board — a record number for this Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) — trip, are already such fast friends.

They hadn’t even met until this morning; by lunchtime, after a get-to-know-you game (TRUTH or LIE: “I’ve petted a cheetah!” “I’ve broken both wrists!” “I’ve been on the Great Wall of China!” “I have four cats!”) and a scavenger hunt around the ship organized by the two experienced Young Explorer leaders on board, Jeff Manker and Kristin Wornson, a gaggle of them had commandeered a table together for lunch and were chattering as if they ate lunch together everyday.

Read more on takingthekids.com.

December 22 – Who knew? A trip to the Fire Station in the Falkland Islands

December 23 – On the Southern Ocean, dissecting a squid is what you do

December 24 – Whales and Christmas Carole on the high Southern Seas

December 25 – Christmas morning on South Georgia Island – Tens of thousands of penguins

December 27 – Day two on South Georgia Island – A visit to the old Whaling Station

December 28 – Last day on South Georgia Island – Learning animal behavior

December 29 – Kids learn about sailing the most difficult waters on Earth aboard ‘Le Boreal’

December 30 – Watch for whales, seabirds and penguins on icebergs in the Antarctic

December 31 – Day one in Antarctica: Kids try a spin in the zodiacs

January 1 – Snow fun in the sun in Antarctica on New Year’s Eve!

January 2 – New Year’s Day to remember: On the ice and with the whales in Antarctica

January 3 – Memories for a lifetime: Kids on an expedition to the Antarctic

 

 

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