Can you vacation in Antarctica?

Antarctica Penguin Viewing and More

A tourist gets a closer look at Antarctica's penguins.
A tourist gets a closer look at Antarctica's penguins.
Michel Setboun/Getty Images

For optimum penguin viewing, visit the Dawson-Lambton Glacier. Emperor penguins live here in colonies, incubating eggs and raising chicks. Some companies offer photo safari tours, where tourists can camp in sealed tents (to hold in the heat) and enjoy a few days of photographing these Antarctic birds. The nice thing is that penguins aren't afraid of humans and simply ignore them, so a person can get very close to a penguin to take a good look or snap a shot. Penguins aren't afraid of humans because they evolved without us as threats or predators. Naturalists do warn, though -- the simple act of viewing an animal can cause it stress, which could affect its chick-rearing abilities [source: Lovgren].

Adventure travel operators offer many activities for those who enjoy the outdoors (and the cold!). Experienced mountaineers can climb Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica. The climb to the summit is approximately 4.5 miles (7 kilometers) and is for serious climbers only.

Cross-country skiers can ski to the South Pole in a two- to three-week trip, camping along the way. Some cruise ships offer kayaking expeditions, where you can kayak among the glaciers and see the sights up close. What about swimming? In summer, the sea "warms up" to 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero degrees Celsius). Temperatures this cold can cause cardiac arrest or other bodily injury. But if you want, you can give it a try.

What happens if you're injured or become sick while visiting Antarctica? Cruise ships likely have medical facilities, as do some of the Antarctic research bases. Tour operators also employ medical professionals on staff. However, these professionals can really only meet very basic medical needs. In the case of a serious accident or illness, patients must go back to Chile or Argentina. Weather conditions can sometimes make this trip long and arduous, and it's at the patient's expense. Speaking of expense, trips to Antarctica aren't cheap. The more intense vacations can cost up to $10,000.

An Antarctic vacation certainly sounds breathtaking and unique. Before you book a trip, though, you might read the following page regarding the environmental and safety concerns of Antarctic tourism.