The traveler’s se7en: checking off the continental bucket list
It’s a common pursuit among serious travelers to visit all seven continents. And 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 the seven continents sometimes has more to do with completing a checklist (i.e., bucket list) than truly experiencing the regions for themselves, the experience side of things gets a lot more enriching when you add Antarctica into the mix.
If you’ve already been to Antarctica, you know what we mean. If you haven’t, allow us to clue you in until you can see for yourself the features that separate the White Continent from those six others.
In this entry we’ll cover a few of those bucket-list features, from exotic Antarctic wildlife to immersive Antarctic activities to the amazing Antarctic landscape. By the end, it will be apparent that saving Antarctica for your seventh continent is indeed saving the best for last.
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 a bucket list in itself.
Photo by Peter Tadin
And then there are seals, of which Antarctica is home to six different species.
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 trip you take.
But to get back to seabirds, there are four core Antarctic penguin species that live on the Antarctica Continent, in addition to the hundreds of other bird species.
Emperor penguins are among the most popular, but just as charming are Antarctica’s population of Adélies, gentoos, and chinstrap penguins. The other seabirds are too various to name, but they include several species of petrel, skua, and albatross.
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, although kayaking, snowshoeing, mountaineering, and camping are great in the Alps, Andes, and Pacific Northwest, doing any of these things in Antarctica is like adding another layer of delicious icing to an already mouth-watering adventure cake.
You know what we mean, right?
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 and bivouac camping within walking distance of a penguin breeding colony?
Or how about snowshoeing the shores of the Antarctic Peninsula, or taking a helicopter flight above the Weddell Sea, or kayaking around numerous ice-jeweled 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 Antarctica. Even when Antarctica is added to a seven-continents bucket list, we respectfully feel that the White Continent refuses to fit into such stale numeric plans, if any continent really does.
Our point is, the numbers don’t really matter. In fact, bucket-list numbers might even obscure the real value of visiting Antarctica, which is what you feel when you finally plant your boots in the snow.
Because what you feel will likely be nothing less than awe, regardless of your bucket list.
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 expedition cruise for yourself, whether part of your own seven-continents bucket-list challenge, or better yet, just to see it.
We have a feeling you’ll come back every bit as amazed as we have.