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What to Expect on Your First Trip to Antarctica

Learn why the world’s coldest continent is our hottest ultimate destination.

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An otherworldly landscape of icy waters reflecting towering icebergs is found in Arbourg Bay, Antarctica.

"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. 

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A ship navigates the Grandidier Channel.

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. Traveler tracked down Sven-Olof Lindblad, the founder’s son, to learn why the world’s coldest continent is our hottest ultimate destination.

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An emperor penguin chick rests near the floe edge at Cape Washington on the frozen Ross Sea.

What always impresses first-time travelers 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 travelers 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 colors 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.

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A frozen crown of an iceberg rides the polar waters around the Gerlache Strait.

Why is Antarctica the ultimate trip for those in their seventh decade?

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

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National Geographic Expeditions route to Antarctica


What camera gear should travelers 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 National Geographic photographers—to help everyone maximize their equipment.

Name one of your favorite Antarctic experiences.

I love watching the goings-on in penguin colonies: their courtships, how they raise their young, 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 travelers—and do it safely. 


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