Bev & Owain’s Polar Circle Experience

Bev & Owain recently returned from their Polar Circle voyage aboard the Akademik Ioffe.  Here they reflect on their experience which included getting extraordinarily close to a humpback whale.

What was the highlight of your trip?  What was your most memorable wildlife moment? Favourite landing site/ zodiac excursion?

The highlight was the whale-watching excursions.  We were very lucky, some of the guides said they had never been that close before!  A humpback actually swam right underneath our Zodiac!

Humpback whale spotting!
Humpback whale spotting!

All the landings were great …can’t pick out a favourite, sometimes we went to stations like Vernadsky and Port Lockroy, other times to penguin colonies, and other times just cruising among the icebergs, spotting seals. The one day we spent below the Polar Circle was quite magical; we were blessed with a cloudless sky and no wind, and we just cruised the icebergs.

It really is a beautifully alien glacial landscape...
It really is a beautifully alien glacial landscape…

How did you find the vessel, cabins, food and service on board?

The service on board the Ioffe was excellent, cabin very comfortable, and food too good (I’ve started my diet today!).

In particular, the open bridge policy was great.

How was your expedition leader and the team? Did the zodiac excursions offer the experience you were hoping for?

Boris, the leader, and all the team were very friendly, efficient, and highly knowledgeable in their various subjects.

Seals love lazing on the floating ice...
Seals love lazing on the floating ice…

Did you take part in any of the additional activities like kayaking or camping?

Owain did the camping out and thoroughly enjoyed it…….I preferred my cosy cabin!

Quite a view to wake up to!
Quite a view to wake up to!

How well did Swoop Antarctica do in helping you plan your holiday, and choosing the right voyage, vessel and cabin?

Luke was very helpful (and patient!) during the initial stages of booking – from very early on I felt I could trust him, which is important when such large sums of money are involved.  I cannot fault Swoop, especially after hearing some of the horror tales from other passengers regarding their tour operators!

Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened at all?

My only complaint concerns timings. We arrived early morning in Buenos Aires and our driver was waiting to take us to our hotel.  But we couldn’t have our room until 1:00pm, so we just had to sit and wait in Reception when all we wanted to do was relax and recover from the flight.  They did, however, provide coffee and our room was ready by 12:30.

And again, at the end, the driver was waiting to take us from the boat at 8:30, but he wanted to take us straight to the airport …our flight wasn’t until 4:00pm. So he dropped us at The Albatross and said he would return at 2:00.  We were directed to the office of Destiny Travel who were holding the luggage of other people on our flight and they agreed to hold ours, too.

All the drivers were very polite and punctual, and the tour of Buenos Aires with the guide (have forgotten his name!) was excellent.

The Mouth of a glacier
The mouth of a glacier

Do you have any tips for people planning a trip to Antarctica?

As for tips, I think Luke had it pretty well covered – we were well prepared in every way.

The only thing is with regard to currency: he said we would only need US dollars, but we did need Argentine currency …coffee and ice-cream vendors wouldn’t accept dollars! (Of course, we did eventually manage to find an ATM).

[for Swoop’s advice re: USD in Argentina, please see here.]

I think that about covers it …a trip of a lifetime, thanks in no small way to Swoop. My only problem now is where to find a captive audience for my one and a half hour slideshow!

Many thanks to all at Swoop!

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Luke Errington

Swoop founder & MD

Luke founded Swoop Antarctica in 2010, following a career in strategy consultancy and digital marketing.

At home in Bristol he's a dad of three, and a keen trail runner and adventure racer.