With its constant sub-zero
temperatures and uninhabited glacier terrain, Antarctica is not usually
thought of as a luxury locale. But tour operator White Desert
is determined to change that. Offering a few expeditions a year to
their upscale, well-furnished camp, the group affords a few hundred
travellers the chance to experience the inner part of the icy continent
with (almost) all the comforts of home.
White Desert founder Patrick Woodhead, who led the very first
east-to-west traverse of Antarctica in 2002, envisioned the camp on one
of his many expeditions. While waiting out a storm in the bitter cold,
he and his fellow travellers imagined a more inclusive polar experience
complete with luxury transportation and accommodation.
travellers get to experience that dream when they book one of the
bespoke itineraries or organised trips that are offered during the
continent’s late spring and summer (November and December). The trips
all start with a five-hour private flight from Cape Town to an ice
runway perched atop a 50m-tall frozen waterfall located within the
Dronning Maud Land region in eastern Antarctica.
Guests then get cosy at the eco-friendly Whichaway camp,
which is completely solar- and wind-powered. The tented refuge includes
a living area furnished with a central warming stove, fur rugs, a
library and maps of the South Pole in tribute to early Victorian
explorers. Six sleeping pods are made of fibreglass panels that resist
Antarctica’s notoriously strong winds and keep the interior quiet and
warm. The pods – measuring 6m in diameter – include a double bed, a
writing desk and a private bathroom.
Meals are also served in
style, prepared by a professional South African chef. A full English
breakfast is followed by a light lunch, with all the stops pulled out
for a three-course dinner, which might include barbequed steak, salmon
served with wasabi and plenty of Champagne.
While at the camp,
guests can participate in a variety of activities, including exploring
ice caves, visiting a nearby science base, kite-skiing or touring a
colony of Emperor penguins, where more than 6,000 of the flightless
birds nest and raise their chicks.
As part of its commitment to
have zero environmental impact, the entire camp is dismantled at the end
of each season, leaving behind no trace of human touch among the vast
Practicalities Book online at white-desert.com.
The eight- to 10-day tours only accommodate 12 people, so spots fill up
quickly. Per person cost ranges from 18,000 euros to 57,000 euros
depending on the length of the tour and the activities involved. Guests
must provide their own polar-ready clothing, though White Desert does
offer items for purchase before the trip.