When thinking about Antarctica a great place to visit is the naturally the Shetland Islands, they offer the stunning beauty, scenery and wildlife that Antarctica has to offer. These are the perfect base to discover the extreme beauty of Antarctica and even travel a bit further to step on the continent itself. Here is my guide to the South Shetland Islands.
Where are they
The South Shetland islands are located about 120 kilometres away from mainland Antarctica. They are not owned by any country and fall under the Antarctic Treaty. They are easily accessible from South America and there are many cruise ships travelling from Ushuaia through the Drake Passage to Antarctica.
Why should you visit
There are so many possibilities in these amazing islands when it comes to nature and wildlife. There are some truly unique things that you will not experience anywhere else in the world. For the animal lover there are whales, seals, kestrels, many species of penguins and much much more. For the nature love there are icebergs, endless ice and glaciers to see.
When to visit
The peak tourist season is between November and March, but after this time temperatures drop significantly and can reach negative 70 degrees Celsius. Of course it really isn’t possible to visit during this time, unless you are working in one of the many research bases of course. In contrast the summer can be quite pleasant, with temperatures even reaching as high as 16 degrees Celsius, but it can be as low as negative 15 degrees Celsius. There is also 18 or more hours of sunlight in a day during this time, allowing you to maximise everything that you see.
If you are interested in birds and penguins, the ideal time to go is of course in December or January, when the mating season has finished and the new young are born. Whale watching differs and is usually best during February and March.
Islands to visit
This is my favourite of all the islands and it is even possible to swim here, as crazy as that may sound. The island has an active volcano lurking underneath it and this is acts to warm the water in certain parts of the island, therefore swimming is possible and not as bad as you may have thought when you read the first sentence. There is also a lot of history associated with the island and was the site of many sealing and whaling operations, the buildings of which have now been abandoned and still remain today.
For me this is the perfect island when it comes to history, this is the site of Shackleton’s dramatic stranding in 1915, when he attempted to make it to the South Pole. He had to endure a treacherous trip to seek help in South Georgia Island. As well as the history this island is blessed with stunning scenery and wildlife, in particular the huge penguin colonies.