5 reasons to scuba dive in Antarctica

  • Tick the world's southernmost diving destination off your bucket list. Where else can you get up close and personal with the blue-tinged underbellies of icebergs?
  • Interact with curious wildlife – many polar divers have come face to face with seals, penguins and even humpback whales
  • Explore a wonderful variety of Antarctic dive sites, whether you're navigating shallow ice formations from a zodiac or the starfish-clad seafloor off the beach
  • Spot diverse and distinctive marine species, half of which you can’t see anywhere else on the planet. Think insect-like isopods and cloud-white sea slugs 
  • Boost your dive log with between 1 to 2 exciting underwater sessions per day, depending on the ever-changing weather and ice conditions

How does scuba diving in Antarctica work?

Scuba diving in Antarctica

You don’t need to be a qualified ice diver to scuba dive in Antarctica, but you'll need to prove extensive cold-water dive experience (10°C / 50°F or below) and have used a dry suit.

Specifically, you must have at least 30 dry suit dives under your belt. You should have completed 10 dives – in any water temperature – within the 12 months prior to your trip, with five of these at a minimum being in a dry suit.

Divers are expected to be knowledgeable enough to read their compass and depth gauges, as well as look after each other while underwater. You’ll need to be able to prepare your equipment before each excursion and strong enough to carry it in and out of the zodiac or up and down the gangway.

Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

Not qualified to dive but still love the idea of swimming with penguins and icebergs? Consider polar snorkelling. It’s a lot less technical but still fun. 

The diving proof you need

Before departure, you’ll need to show proof of: 

  • An internationally accepted diving certificate (such as the Advanced PADI Open Water)
  • A diver's logbook
  • A statement from your doctor (usually no older than six months) stating that you’re physically healthy enough to practise scuba diving

This may seem excessive, but so far from a proper hospital and medical care, safety is the top priority. 

Polar scuba divers see a whale in Antarctica

What to expect on each dive

Polar diving in Antarctica

Your voyage will start with a check dive, so everyone taking part can get used to the cold water – temperatures can be as chilly as -1˚C/30˚F – and try out their equipment and the number of weights they need. 

Your guides will aim to take you out in the water between one to two times a day, typically once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Before each dive, you'll have a briefing about the site location, weather and ice conditions, and the procedure. 

Excursions never go beyond a depth of 20 metres (65ft) and most last roughly one to two hours. 

The dives will be done on a 'buddy system' basis. For safety, your guide will stay on the surface and they’ll check you “out” and "in" after each session. 

While you're diving, other ship passengers will be out on landings and zodiac excursions. If you’d like to skip any dives and take part in these instead, that’s no problem. This gives you time to explore above the water as well as under it, creating a more balanced overall experience.

Typical dive conditions and weather

Antarctic dive sites range from shallow ice diving to deep water. Generally speaking, you’ll board a zodiac with all your equipment and journey 10 to 15 minutes to a location chosen by your guides. Occasionally, you’ll dive directly from the beach. 

Ice conditions and visibility change daily, so what you experience can be a lottery. You might get clear water or haziness – nothing is guaranteed – but that just adds to the excitement. When it comes to Antarctic marine life, you may see spider crabs, sea butterflies, dogfish, giant kelp walls and more.

As with all excursions and activities on the Great White Continent, the mercurial weather means it's better to embrace an expedition mindset and go with the flow leads to have a fantastic time. 

A starfish on the Antarctic seafloor
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Alex says

​​The combination of sunlight and extraordinary ice formations creates an ever-changing spectrum of colours – an experience no diver will ever forget.​

Alex Mudd Head of Swoop Antarctica

Antarctic voyages with scuba diving

Special Offers:Swoop has access to the widest range of offers and can help you find the right trip, cabin, & price.

Onto the Antarctic Ice

With three medium-sized expedition ships to pick from and regular departure dates throughout the season, this well-priced voyage is a popular option. Across striking landscapes and icy seas, your company includes penguins, seals, whales and skuas. For the adventurous, optional…

  • 10-13 Days
  • $10,050
South of the Antarctic Circle

By including optional kayaking and diving, these late season voyages offer the chance to maximise your polar crossing experience by exploring Antarctica both on and under the water. Travelling at that time provides excellent photographic and whale watching conditions, alongside…

  • 12, 13 or 14 Days
  • $10,000
Falklands, South Georgia & Antarctic Adventure

With a good choice of departure dates through the season across three medium-sized ships, this 19-22 day trip stands out for its value for money and the broad range of cabin categories available, including Quads, which are…

  • 19-22 Days
  • $13,550
Crossing the Antarctic Circle

Spend 6 full days exploring Antarctica with the Polar Circle at 66 degrees south as your most southerly objective, on board one of the most exciting new vessels. A maximum of just 132 passengers, with spacious cabins, state-of-the-art technology and…

  • 13-14 Days
  • $16,195
Antarctic Peninsula Explorer

Explore the White Continent aboard one of the newest additions to the polar fleet, a state-of-the-art expedition vessel combining adventure with comfort. As well as being limited to only 132 passengers, there’s also a wide range of optional activities on…

  • 12-15 Days
  • $12,795

Planning your Antarctic scuba diving trip

When to go

Diving is offered from mid-December to mid-February because this is when temperatures are at their warmest and there's less danger from ice. 

How much it costs 

Expect to pay between USD $600 and $1,500 to scuba dive in Antarctica, depending on your choice of ship and voyage length. 

This immersive activity costs extra as it involves experienced dive guides and specialist equipment. 

Scuba divers in an iceberg in Antarctica
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Customer Tips

Swoop Customer - Erika, Australia

Be prepared to dive in very cold water. I suggest dry gloves or mitts (not five-fingered gloves). Practice diving in full Antarctic dive kit before going – allowing for weight, being able to undo clips with thick gloves – and be fit.

Erika, Australia Customer

What to pack for Antarctic scuba diving

You’ll receive a full kit list after you book, but you'll usually need to bring: 

  • Dry suit, hood and thick dry gloves
  • Warm clothing for under your dry suit
  • Two separate freeze-protected regulators
  • Submersible pressure gauge
  • Stabilising jacket or some kind of BC with quick release and low pressure
  • Depth gauge, watch or computer
  • Mask, fins, a snorkel and weight belt 
  • Compass, knife and torch
  • Quick release weight system (weights will be provided)
  • Surface marker buoy and a spool or reel
  • Surface audible signalling device (whistle or air horn)

You'll also be expected to pack spare parts for your regulators and dry suit in case of leakage or damage. A compressor, scuba tanks and weights will be available for you on board.

If you’d rather not pay for excess baggage on your flight, you might be able to rent some equipment. Talk to us for details. 

How to book 

To go scuba diving in Antarctica, you'll need to book this activity in advance with one of our polar experts at Swoop when you secure a cabin on the vessel of your choice. Feel free to get in touch with us to talk this through.

When to book

Diving is offered on just a handful of ships and numbers are capped at between 15 and 24 participants for each voyage. As it’s such a popular activity with limited capacity, we recommend booking at least a year in advance. Getting your Antarctic scuba diving trip locked in far enough ahead of travel means you'll have time to plan the required dry suit dives and complete all the other necessary admin. 

A person scuba dives in Antarctica

More Adventure Activities in Antarctica

Kayaking in Antarctica

Kayaking in Antarctica

Imagine the swish of water as it passes your hull or the clack of brash ice against your paddle blade. Skim past penguin rookeries and seals sleeping on passing ice floes.

Discover More

Scuba Diving in Antarctica: FAQs


Antarctic Adventure Activities

Simply getting to Antarctica is a big enough adventure for many, but for those who really want to maximise their Antarctic experience there are some outstanding adventure activities to consider. Many of the Antarctic voyages we offer provide these as optional adventure add-ons.

More about Adventure Activities

Ready to plan your Antarctic adventure?

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We'll spend some time listening to your aspirations, then discuss the kind of experience that might suit you.

2
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Next we'll discuss the options, shortlist the best trips for you and present you our impartial recommendations.

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We'll place a 24 hour hold on your preferred option - without obligation - whilst we talk through the details.

With over 100 years of Antarctic experience between us, we can help guide you to exactly the right trip for you.

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