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Antarctic Peninsula

Paul Hopp

Luxury Expedition Ship
L'Austral Antarctica

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Antarctic Peninsula

Paul Hopp

It’s a long way to the bottom of the earth. Nearly two full days of flying, followed by two days at sea. Worth every second.

Describing the complex variety of emotions Antarctica prompted within me is impossible. White snowflakes began to fall as we first arrived to the South Shetland Islands, softening our arrival, yet it felt like an exotic land beyond the reach of humans. I wonder if that’s what the early explorers like Shackleton felt when they arrived, and perhaps similar to what Neil Armstrong sensed on those first few lunar strides.

My initial footsteps on Devil Island were greeted by thousands of inquisitive Adelie penguins. Some watched us carefully while laying on their treasured nests, while others waddled around for no apparent reason other than to provide us with endless comedy.

The next couple days were brilliantly clear, as welcoming sunshine gave new perspective to our spectacular surroundings. The magnificent glowing icebergs and still-blue waters left me in awe.

As the sun began to set late into the night, the ever-present blue and white turned to rich oranges and yellows that were mirrored in the clouds and glassy water. A dozen humpback whales circled our ship and began to feed on the bountiful krill using bubbles as nets to trap them.

Massive icebergs were everywhere, each exceptional and some acting as penguin rest stops. The water was so clear that you could see the extraordinary deep blues of icebergs below the surface.

I traveled aboard the stunning L’Austral, an elegant and supremely comfortable ship. Spacious common areas with generous windows were perfect for passing the free time. The food was exceptional, and the near 1:1 ratio of passengers to crew meant spectacular yet unobtrusive service. The adventurous captain and expedition team provided exciting Zodiac safaris and landings, including safely pulling alongside the sea ice. Standing on the sparkling white desert on top of the Weddell Sea was something I will never forget. 

Even with the highest of expectations, Antarctica blew me away. It was the trip of a lifetime and I’ve come back feeling overjoyed, grateful, and inspired. I cannot recommend enough a trip to this one-of-a-kind destination. Don’t miss it!

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