How to See the World in a Lifetime: Antarctica

Think you’ve seen it all? Head south—far south—to the ultimate continent.  
Gentoo penguins, Antarctica
Gentoo penguins charmed photographer Jim Richardson during one of his National Geographic Expeditions trips to the Antarctic region. Photo: Jim Richardson

“Towering mountains rise straight out of ice-clogged seas, icebergs gleam the radiant blue that only ancient ice attains, wildlife congregates in multitudes. In Antarctica, you see things clearly,” says photographer Jim Richardson, whose decades of travel have taken him twice to the white continent. If Antarctica is a destination for clear visions, its tourism visionary was Lars-Eric Lindblad, who pioneered travel to this icy realm 50 years ago. In 1966, the Swede brought 57 goose-down-bundled passengers on a dream cruise to the ends of the Earth. In the years since, Lindblad Expeditions has pioneered sustainable Antarctic journeys, often in partnership with National Geographic (; 14 days, between Nov-Feb; from $13,360/₹8,84,830 per person; excluding flights). We tracked down Sven-Olof Lindblad, the founder’s son, to learn why the world’s coldest continent is our hottest ultimate destination.

Why is Antarctica the ultimate trip?

Antarctica simply can’t be missed by any traveller driven by curiosity and attracted to 21st-century exploration. This is the wildest, most dramatic place on Earth. Be prepared for constant surprise.

iceberg in antarctica

A frozen crown of an iceberg rides the polar waters around Antarctica. Photo: Joshua Holko

What always impresses first-time travellers on your Antarctica expeditions?

The endless beauty and wonder of ice—enormous glaciers, icebergs, ice sheets. Also, the constantly changing light as it illuminates the vastness of this place.

What should travellers expect?

Antarctica is dramatic and nuanced at the same time. At first it’s overwhelming, but as days progress, the nuances come into play; the shapes and colours of icebergs, the antics of penguins, the pods of whales.

Share with us some of your impressions of Antarctica.

Its palette of whites, blues, and blacks. How nature dictates everything there and human influence is so minor. The miles and miles of ice; on my first visit, I didn’t sleep for two days, I was so mesmerized as we crashed through sea ice.

How has travel to Antarctica changed since your father inaugurated trips to the ultimate continent?

When my father began bringing people to Antarctica, no one went there. Now, many people go, on all manner of ships. In terms of the guest experience, it’s better now because of advanced technologies to predict weather and ice conditions. In our case, we have hydrophones and ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles). We also have “undersea specialists,” who take videos of underwater life during the trip for guests to enjoy.

The ship National Geographic Explorer

The flagship of the National Geographic fleet, the National Geographic Explorer, is considered one of the best expedition ships in the world. It can navigate some of the globe’s roughest waters, accommodate about 148 guests, and is equipped with the latest tools of exploration. Photo: Michael S. Nolan/Age Fotostock/Dinodia

What camera gear should travellers bring to make the most of their Antarctic experience?

Whatever camera is comfortable, but understand the camera you choose. Of course, on our ships we have photo instructors—including Nat Geo photographers—to help everyone maximize their equipment.

Name one of your favourite Antarctic experiences.

I love watching the goings-on in penguin colonies: their courtships, how they raise their young ones, their strategies to avoid leopard seals.

What do you expect for Antarctic travel in the coming decades?

A continued growth in interest, with one possible challenge: how to offer a remarkable Antarctic experience to more and more travellers—and do it safely.

What do you want travellers to return from Antarctica with?

Above all, I want them to have unforgettable, knock-your-socks-off experiences that enhance their respect for wild places—and for the importance of these places to life on Earth.

Appeared in the June 2016 issue as “Antarctica: Trip of a Lifetime”.

For other stories in our collection of Journeys for a Lifetime, go here.

  • Jayne Wise is senior editor at National Geographic Traveler (U.S.).

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