“Peak bagging” is a well-known psychological phenomenon — or, depending on your position, “disease” — among hikers. It’s the concept of conquering peaks with related features (e.g. all the 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, the seven tallest summits on all seven continents, etc.). It’s no surprise that the concept exists likewise among travelers. So, it seems fitting that one company has figured out a way to help “continent baggers” nab the most elusive continent of all: Antarctica.
Time was when only hearty sailors and borderline-crazy explorers would attempt to venture to Antarctica. Since around 2000, however, the journey has been open to anyone with a reasonably adventurous spirit and sufficient time and money. Those are all still prerequisites. But, Natural World Safaris is looking to substantially minimize the time required to allow a day trip to Antarctica, particularly for time-strapped vacationers.
Most cruises to Antarctica depart from Ushuaia, Argentina, at the extreme southern tip of South America. However, the company’s newly debuted day trip will instead depart from South Africa and provide travelers with just 12 hours on the continent. The trip is five-star travel all the way, including a lunch on the ice with Champagne, exploration of icy grottos, and hiking amid thousands of Adelie penguins. Travelers also base out at a luxury polar camp that includes a sauna.
Antarctica’s pristine “last natural frontier” image has helped fuel a decade or more of conservation-minded travelers rushing to visit the continent before it changes for the worse. Ironically, the disaster tourism niche has only accelerated the demise of already threatened destinations (see also: The Great Barrier Reef). Scientists and legit conservationists worry that this sort of tourism — all of which is currently made possible by fossil fuels — can only do more harm than good. Natural World Safaris is quick to point out that their day trip is guaranteed to be carbon neutral and will be eco-friendly in other ways. For example, it’s offering travelers the opportunity to fly with scientists on already-booked research flights, instead of hopping a private jet. Their adherence to the Antarctic Treaty which includes a zero-impact policy means that all waste will be transported off the continent, their camp is solar-powered, and their air transportation partner is a certified Carbon Neutral Company to offset all emissions.
While weeks-long budget Antarctic cruises can be found for less than $4,000 (USD), Natural World Safaris’ day trips to the continent will run a cool £7,750 (more than $10,000 USD), not including the required flights to Cape Town. But, at least you can say you’ve been there, right?
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