Antarctica: the best part of visiting all seven continents
It’s a common pursuit among some travelers to visit all seven continents. Indeed, the term “bucket list,” which became popular (if not overused) since the 2007 movie, fits naturally with this goal.
But even though traveling to all seven continents for some people has more to do with completing a checklist than truly experiencing each continent for itself, the experience gets a lot more enriching when you add Antarctica into the mix.
If you’ve already been on an Antarctica trip, you know what we mean: exotic wildlife, adventurous activities, and stunning landscapes that seem like something out of science fiction. But if you haven’t been there, allow us to elaborate on the many sublime features that separate the White Continent from those six others.
Bucket-list feature #1: Antarctic wildlife
We could probably just say “penguins” and leave it at that. Even so, the species that distinguish Antarctica’s wildlife from that of the rest of the planet hardly ends there.
For instance, whales: Antarctic cruises can introduce you to all manner of cetaceans, including but not limited to humpback whales, fins, minkes, orcas (killer whales), and seis. Each of these species justifies its own bucket list. If you want to travel to all seven continents, make sure not to overlook these Antarctic residents.
Photo by Peter Tadin
Then there are the six seal species that populate Antarctica. We most often see fur seals, southern elephant seals, and crabeater seals, but you may also see Ross seals, Weddell seals, and the much-coveted leopard seals, depending on which Antarctica cruise you take. No plan to visit all seven continents is complete without seeing at least one of these wonderful animals.
But getting back to seabirds, there are four main Antarctic penguin species that live on the Antarctica Continent: emperor penguins, which are among the most popular, Adélies, gentoos, and chinstrap penguins. The other Antarctic seabirds are too various to name, but they include several species of petrel, skua, and albatross.
You can find a more detailed list of these birds in our Birds of the South article, a must-read for any bird lover who wants to travel to all seven continents.
Bucket-list feature #2: Antarctic activities
Naturally, all the bucket-list activities available in Antarctica are also available elsewhere. But elsewhere isn’t Antarctica, and that makes all the difference.
In other words, though kayaking, snowshoeing, mountaineering, and camping are great in the Alps, Andes, and the Pacific Northwest, doing any of these things in Antarctica increases the adventure exponentially. And if you are planning to visit all seven continents, we assume adventure is part of your goal.
Take camping for an example. Pitching your tent in the woods outside Jasper, Alberta is undeniably incredible, but how much more adventurous is digging a snow dugout in Antarctica and bivouac camping within walking distance of a penguin colony?
And what about scuba diving under the icebergs near Deception Island?
Or how about snowshoeing the shores of the Antarctic Peninsula, or taking a helicopter flight above the Weddell Sea, or kayaking around glistening ice-studded bays? These are all activities made so much better by the surreal environment of Antarctica. Which leads conveniently to our final bucket-list topic...
Bucket-list feature #3: Antarctica itself
The best reason to visit Antarctica is always Antarctica.
Even when Antarctica is added to your plan to travel to all seven continents, we respectfully feel that the White Continent refuses to fit into such stale numeric plans - if any continent really does.
Our point is, numbers don’t really matter. In fact, being too attached to a bucket list, bragging rights, or social media photos will most definitely drain richness out of the real reason you or anyone else should visit Antarctica: how you feel when you’re there.
What you feel will probably be nothing less than awe, regardless of where Antarctica fell in your aim to visit all seven continents. And yet, everyone is different. Not all travelers respond so overwhelmingly to Antarctica, not even all polar enthusiasts. And there are also weather and wildlife conditions that don’t always cooperate.
But even in the worst-case scenario, it takes a lot to minimize the experience of cruising a berg-filled Antarctic bay or walking coastlines so snowy and mountainous they look like they belong to another planet - or an earlier version of this one.
Don’t just take our word for it, though. Embark on an Antarctica voyage for yourself, whether part of your own seven-continents plan or (better yet) just to see it. We have a feeling you’ll come back as amazed as we are every time we go.