Luxury Expedition Ship
National Geographic Explorer
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Like many people, I keep a list of things I want to do in my lifetime. It's not filled with your run-of-the-mill-new-years-resolution-type things; rather, it captures my lifelong goals. The Big Dreams. And for as long as I can remember seeing penguins in their natural habitat has been at the top of that list!
I never imagined that traveling to Antarctica could be so accessible to non-scientific and non-explorer types, though. When my mother and I decided to plan a special trip together, I spent hours scouring the Internet for information and pouring over brochures. Researching our trip fueled my excitement, yet it left me a bit overwhelmed. To be quite honest, as an independent-minded traveler, I wasn't sure I would enjoy a cruise! Finding ExpeditionTrips.com -- as a client at that time -- made it so much easier to pick the ship and trip that would be the best fit for our mother-daughter adventure. It was wonderful to talk to someone who had been there and could give first-hand information about the small-ship experience.
The Endeavour turned out to be an excellent choice. She's a wonderfully comfortable, inviting vessel with an amazingly knowledgeable and personable staff and crew. From the moment we embarked, we felt completely at ease and safe in their capable hands. Their naturalists were absolutely top-notch, and they were attentive and approachable both on shore and on the ship. Two other special treats were the Endeavour's "open bridge" policy and the presence of Oceanites' Antarctic Site Inventory researchers. The onboard experience was a pleasure in and of itself.
Our program was wonderfully flexible, which both my mother and I appreciated. While I hopped on the Zodiac boats for almost every shore landing and iceberg cruise, which averaged about twice each day on the Peninsula, my mom chose to forgo some of those excursions for the chance to watch the world go by from her favorite perch just outside of the bridge. Hiking was offered at some landing sites. Kayaking was offered at others. Our level of activity was completely at our discretion.
And then, there were the penguins! Penguins EVERYWHERE! Penguins were porpoising around the ship. Massive penguin colonies, raucous and teeming with life, blanketed the hillsides. Best of all, they would wobble along just feet away from us, not phased at all by of the red-coated strangers who had joined their colony for a time. I could sit and watch their antics for hours -- stone-stealing, neighborly quarrels, hungry chicks chasing their tireless parents, sneezing, and even biting at snowflakes! Not to be outdone by their boisterous yet well-dressed neighbors, many other species of seabirds, whales, and seals also made frequent appearances throughout our journey.
Navigating Antarctica's ice-choked passages and the immense pleasure of witnessing such an abundance of life on The Ice was the thrill of a lifetime, but don't think I've crossed it off my Life List just yet. There are countless other penguins to see! And there is a curious, nature-loving young girl, my daughter, who I plan to introduce them to someday. If you dream of seeing penguins, exploring Antarctica, or even if you simply crave unique travel experiences, make sure to go. It's an experience you'll never forget.