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Antarctica: What To Do When Traveling Aboard An Expedition Ship

The most popular way to travel to Antarctica is on a polar expedition ship, also known as an ice breaker, which is specially designed to navigate through icy waters. A lot of your trip will be spent at sea — in fact, probably about half the voyage — so you’ll have to be prepared to embrace activities on the ship itself to benefit fully from your trip.

While visiting penguin colonies and adventuring off the ship is sure to be a highlight of your holiday (often with stops in South Georgia and the Falklands), there are an abundance of things you can do onboard. Don’t expect cruise ship facilities, but you can definitely expect to find cabins, a communal lounge, a dining hall, and a library. Here’s how to make the most of every single moment on this adventure.


Whale watching

With ample deck space, you’re sure to want to spend as much time as possible on deck — after all, how often are you going to have the opportunity to spot whales? There are eight species of whales in Antarctic waters: blue, fin, humpback, minke, orca, sei, southern right, and sperm. Do your research, bring along a wildlife guide, and see how many different species you can identify. You’re bound to be joined by marine and wildlife experts or scientists, so make friends with the other passengers on the expedition ship, and find out everything you can. That brings us nicely to…


You’ll be confined to a relatively small space for over a week, joined by a variety of explorers. Take your time to get to know the fellow passengers, dine with travelers outside your group, and share your travel experiences. This is the time to widen your connections and bond with more adventurous travelers like yourself!



Learn about the environment and ecosystem from on-board lecturers and specialists. If there’s a library, be sure to check out the selection of books — you’re bound to find something about geography, wildlife, and even history! After all, traveling to this corner of the world was an extremely perilous journey just a few decades ago, and those early expeditions paved the way for more accessible exploration now.

Bird watching

Observation is key to profiting from this experience. Hit the observation deck with a pair of binoculars and search the skies for a chance of spotting the magnificent albatross (there are several commonly witnessed species, known for their incredibly large wingspan), as well as various species of petrels.


Taking photographs

Whether you're an amateur photographer or a professional, you will want to document this trip! Capture the wildlife if you’re quick enough, or take snapshots of the stunning landscapes, with the unique Antarctic light offering an ethereal glow. After all, the likelihood is that your friends and family back home will not have seen Antarctica, and sharing photos of your incredible experience is a must.

Then, when you’re having a relaxed moment indoors, you can use that time to edit any photos, ready to post on your social media when you have access to reliable Wi-Fi. Antarctic expeditions frequently draw interest from experienced photographers hoping to capture the beauty of this frozen world, so get tips from them and use this time to develop your own skills.


So, if you are considering getting on an expedition ship and embarking for Antarctica (and you absolutely should be!), be prepared to fill the time between your excursions to mainland. In short, be present, enjoy the company you keep on board, treat the time journeying as an opportunity to learn, and take in the beauty of the towering icebergs. You’re in for a treat!

Ready to book the trip of a lifetime? Acanela’s here to help!

Written by Jade Touron, follow her adventures on Instagram.