The Sub-Antarctic region holds incredibly unchartered abundance and diversity
While most of us are very familiar (and some even luckier to have been) to the Antarctic, the Sub-Antarctic is a little less familiar and far less touristed. Located in the southern hemisphere, immediately north of the Antarctic region, the Sub-Antarctic includes many islands in the very southern parts of the Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean.
The Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia are the ultimate in eco-tourism and have UNESCO World Heritage status, with some of the best-preserved and protected nature reserves in the world! These islands are so pristine and remote, and enjoy some of the most abundant and often endemic wildlife, with rare plants, birds and other animals. Fortunately, the isolation and harsh weather of the region are partially responsible for having kept tourists at bay and the New Zealand Government strictly controls shore visits.
Visitors are treated so sightings of fur, leopard and elephant seals, along with giant petrels, Auckland shags and Campbell Island teals, one of the rarest flightless birds in the world. 10 of the world’s 24 species of albatross breed in these islands, with five being endemic to the region. Campbell Island has six species, including the largest breeding population of southern royal albatrosses, the largest albatross in the world.
10 species of penguins inhabit the islands, two of them endemic (the Snares crested and erect-crested penguins), as well as king, royal and yellow-eyed penguins. Not uncommon are sightings of southern right, humpback and sperm whales, particularly around and in the harbours of Campbell Island.
The history of this region is fascinating and disturbing. Over the centuries, particularly in the 1800s, mankind wreaked havoc on the region, destroying much in its wake including a great deal of seal and whale slaughtering, even sea lions were hunted to extinction on the mainland (they are still critically endangered and confined mostly to the Sub-Antarctic).
Not surprisingly, there were a significant amount of shipwrecks in the area in the 1800s. What seemed like a good idea at the time, was to provide provisions for survivors, so ‘castaway’ depots were created on land including Campbell Island. As technological advances in shipping meant the different trade routes by steam were embraced, these depots were abandoned. Unbelievably, these abandoned pigs, rabbits, goats, and rats annihilated vegetation, feral cats wiped out many native birds and sheep even developed self-dropping fleeces!
The introduction of invasive species including rats, rabbits, feral cats and farm animals was also catastrophic. While it is an ongoing issue for many of the islands, there is slow progress and in some areas, painstaking eradication programs have been successful, enabling many islands to flourish again.
Fortunately, a great deal of work has been done in preservation and conservation for many decades and for those preferring to travel to an uncrowded, immersive and unique destination, the Sub-Antarctic is the ultimate destination.
To find out more about how you can visit this remarkable destination click here.
Why We Love Expedition Cruising in Antarctica
It wasn’t that long ago that Antarctica was accessible only to explorers, researchers and scientists. Fortunately, this mostly untouched southernmost frozen continent with its rich wildlife is now accessible to almost everyone.
There are a number of ways to reach this inhospitable and remote destination depending on your needs. The options vary to suit either intrepid explorers, luxury cruisers with more time, or those who have limited time and prefer to fly directly, or even just fly over for a day.
Despite all the options, our absolute favourite way to see Antarctica will always be on smaller expedition-style ships. While we appreciate this may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, we’ve outlined below just a few reasons why it is so incredibly awesome.
Absolute and intimate
Without all the bells and whistles of big ship shows, discos, casinos and shopping, expedition cruising is all about immersion and education.
Expedition ships, taking between 50 and 200 passengers, offer a more personal style of service. They are able to travel through smaller waterways, and the Zodiacs (rigid inflatable boats) take small groups of passengers right onto the shores. Tourist guidelines limit landings to 100 people at a time so with fewer passengers onboard an expedition ship everyone will ultimately have more visits and more time onshore. Immersing yourself in the pristine beauty of Antarctica on smaller expedition ships, allows you to get up close and personal with a parade of wildlife, including seals, penguins, pods of whales, and so much more.
Depending on the size of a larger cruise ship, they may not be able to send passengers ashore at all, or you may only have a few hours on your allocated day to ensure everyone onboard ‘gets a go’.
The luxurious PONANT line of ships including Le Lyrial and L’Austral, have onboard experts for each destination. They are available to you throughout your journey and can include naturalists, botanists, marine biologists, historians and geologists.
Why expedition cruising?
Many expedition cruise ships suit travellers who are there to immerse themselves in education and the experience, preferring to do whatever it takes to really get out amongst it all. This can be challenging but at the end of the day, you are able to come back to luxury and comfort.
While expedition ships upfront seems more expensive, the benefit is that almost everything is included. There are no hidden surprise charges such as shore excursions and activities, with drinks (excluding top shelf) and gratuities usually also included (check with your Travel Specialist).
Whichever way you decide to visit Antarctica, it is important to do your research, particularly when choosing the right time to visit. The tourist season lasts only about five months – typically from November to March.
During each of these months, something unique happens ranging from pack ice starting to break up, mating, breeding and hatching seasons for penguins and other birds, to when it’s the best time to spot whales.
Often mistaken for Emperor Penguins, the slightly smaller but almost identical King Penguin colonies can be found in vast numbers in South Georgia and the Crozet Islands, as well as the Falkland Islands and have even been spotted in Patagonia.
For lovers of nature and all things wildlife including penguins, this journey is for you!
Going one step further
For the super-fit and ultra-adventurous, some cruises also offer kayaking, scuba diving, cross-country skiing, hiking, helicopter rides or camping, just ask your Travel Specialist at Cruise Express and they’ll find a perfect trip to suit you.
For more information on booking the trip that dreams are made of, contact us at Cruise Express on 1300 766 537.
Expedition Cruising Specialist, Joanna Schuetz
Joa has over 15 years of experience in expedition cruising. Having travelled across all continents on many forms of cruise ships, Jo has a particular passion for and specialises in polar expeditions having been to the Arctic and Antarctica on numerous occasions.
Email Jo today on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1300 766 537.