Our expedition ended this morning with the Vavilov docked in Stanley – the capital of the Falkland Islands. We had about an hour to wander around the town, which was more than enough time given it is pretty small and nothing opened until 10am (we were there at 8:30am). Very British though, including red telephone boxes and post boxes, and it’s a definite stronghold for Land Rover – didn’t see any other type of car!
Then it was an hour-long bus trip to the airport. We had a guide on the bus who told us lots of bits and pieces about the Falklands to keep us entertained, and with a quintessentially British sense of humour.
The airport is actually inside of a military base and it took us over an hour to get through all the different security there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such strict security in all my travels! The number of times things got scanned, things got written down and I had to sign things was truly incredible!
And so, the Antarctic adventure ends…
Summary of trip
So, you may be wondering what my overall thoughts are on the trip. Words really can’t do it justice, it was incredible! I’m sure this was aided enormously by the fact that:
- We had only ½ the usual number of people on the ship and it was a young crowd (the crew said that they’d never had a crowd this young before) so it was a lot of fun
- The One Ocean crew were great and really interacted with the guests a lot
- We had incredible weather that allowed us to do all the planned excursions plus some bonus extras, including the excursion around the southern side of Cape Lookout, and Point Wild on Elephant Island
- We got to see 7 of the 8 species of penguins (apparently, this is very rare) plus some other truly incredible wildlife experiences, such as the whale bonanza on Day 6
Being on a ship for 11 days was, in itself, an experience – and one that was very easy to get used to. That being said, I’m glad I don’t get seasick – a lot of people had a very hard time on the days we spent crossing the Drake Passage! You certainly don’t go hungry on this expedition!
Antarctica itself was absolutely beautiful. To be able to visit such a pristine environment where the animals are totally not fussed about you is incredible. The only other place I’ve been like this is the Galapagos.
To be able to experience the harsh environment (but with the comfort of polar clothing and with the assurance of a hot shower, tea and coffee afterwards) makes you really question the sanity of the early Antarctic explorers: Shackleton, Amundsen, Scott, Mawson etc. Even more so since we had great weather, and it wasn’t as cold as it could have been, given there was nary a blizzard in sight.
And although tourism in the Antarctic continues to grow (40,000 visitors in 2015-2016 season), we only saw 1 other ship with passengers, 2 yachts and 1 “mystery” ship in all of our time there. We were the only group at each of our landings so essentially had the place to ourselves. Very special. Very glad I went with the spur-of-the-moment decision to go!
I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend a One Ocean trip to Antarctica. The Vavilov is very comfortable (there is also a sister ship the Ioffe), the crew are incredible and it is an amazing experience. I booked through Freestyle Adventure Travel in Ushuaia who are also really awesome – very, very responsive and incredibly friendly bunch.
Note that regulations limit the number of people who can land at a site in Antarctica to 100 at a time. So keep that in mind when you are choosing your ship. You can see a lot more if you choose a ship with <100 people on board!