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Why November and December is a Great Time to Visit Antarctica

It’s one of the most common questions asked by potential travellers: When is the best time to go to Antarctica? 

The short answer is that the entire Antarctic season, which runs from November - March, offers absolutely incredible opportunities for wildlife, landscapes, and icebergs. The long answer is that it depends on many factors, including your schedule, budget, and preferences. However, we’re here to talk about one of our favourite times to visit, which many travellers don’t always consider  - the early season!

Here’s why November and December is a great time to visit Antarctica. 

 

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Admire the incredible beauty of Antarctica on a landing site or zodiac cruise. 

 

When Is the Antarctic Early Season?

The Antarctic early season is in the Southern Hemisphere spring, from October through early December. However, the Antarctic cruising season generally doesn’t begin until early November, so the early season is November through early December.

Why We Love Early Season Antarctic Cruises

In Antarctic spring, the continent and its inhabitants are slowly waking up after a long, dark winter. Imagine how you feel on the first warm, sunny day after months of cold winter days  - you’re probably happy, excited, and can’t wait to get active outside! The flowers are in bloom, wildlife is active, and the longer days boost everyone’s mood.

Well, Antarctica is no exception - this amazing destination gets as excited for spring as we do! Here are some of the reasons to consider the early season for your trip.

1. Pristine Snow and Ice

One of the best reasons to visit Antarctica in the early season is the immaculate landscapes. If you’re on one of the first cruises of the season, you’ll enjoy scenery that has yet to be touched by other cruise passengers, or perhaps even by wildlife.

Free from footprints (and penguin guano!), the early season is the only time of year to observe or photograph a completely pristine snowy environment in Antarctica. 

 

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You'll see huge icebergs in the Antarctic early season, in incredible, sculptural formations. 

2. Huge Icebergs

Hoping to see gigantic, sculptural icebergs? If so, you’ll love early season Antarctica. Sure, you can see gorgeous icebergs all season long, especially if you travel into the Weddell Sea, but they are their largest in November.

This is because Antarctic winter has just ended, and as summer brings warmer temperatures, icebergs begin to crack or break into smaller pieces.

You’ll also see lots of beautiful brash ice, which sparkles in the sun and is so special to watch, especially if you’re lucky enough to go kayaking. 

 

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Active wildlife and amazing natural light makes Antarctic spring ideal for photography. 

 

3. Ideal Conditions for Photography

Many people are drawn to Antarctica for photography, excited to capture magical wildlife and landscape images. As every photographer knows, the right lighting makes all the difference in photography - which is where Antarctic spring really shines!

In peak Antarctic season, days last almost 24 hours, meaning you won’t get to enjoy the changing sunrise and sunset. While the early season still brings long days (more on that below!), travellers will also experience the soft, golden light of sunrise and sunset, which adds richness and emotion to your Antarctic landscape photography.

Or, if your cruise includes time in the sub-Antarctic islands or the Falkland Islands, spring is wildflower season, offering pops of vibrant colour to your photography.

4. Better Availability and Competitive Pricing

In Antarctic tourism, peak season is generally mid-December through January. If you’re able to travel before then, you might be pleasantly surprised to find more ship and cabin availability, making it easier to snag your preferred room type. 

Popular cabin types fill up fast, so consider the early season if you have your heart set on a balcony or a particular suite.

By travelling earlier, you may also benefit from more affordable fares to South America, avoiding the peak pricing around Christmas and New Year’s. 

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A gentoo penguin on its nest, made from stones and pebbles. 

5. Observe Incredible Wildlife Activity

We’ve left the best until (almost) last! One of our favourite things about spring in Antarctica is the wildlife viewing opportunities. Imagine you’ve just stepped outside after a long winter, the sun is shining - you probably can’t wait to be active, move around, and enjoy the weather.

Well, animals feel the same! Springtime also always brings animal courtship and mating, and Antarctica is no exception.

When you visit in spring, you’ll see penguins building their nests in large rookeries (they bring their mate a pebble or rock to add to the nest, so romantic are penguin gents!), which is such a special experience to see. On the Antarctic Peninsula, chinstrap, Adelie, and gentoo penguins are most common, so expect landing sites to be bustling with activity when you visit.

You’ll also see seals, especially elephant seals, if you visit South Georgia, display their epic courtship behaviours, including males fighting one another and loud barking. The large proboscis (nose) of the male elephant seals also increases in size during this time to help them attract a potential mate.

6. Longer Days Mean More Time for Antarctic Excursions

As the days grow longer in November and December, this provides a great benefit to the traveller  - more time for off-ship excursions! When the sun isn’t setting until 10 or 11pm, you can have more time for wildlife watching on the back deck or watching the light change into a soft, golden hue.

Longer days also provide more buffer time in case of weather delays. For example, if heavy winds mean a planned landing site is no longer feasible, the ship may need to change course and visit a different area. However, with plenty of daylight, late afternoon or even after dinner can still be a great time for a shore landing, kayak, or zodiac ride, ensuring passengers can maximise their time off the ship.

7. You'll Be Just as Excited as Your Antarctic Expedition Crew

At the start of the season, your Antarctic expedition crew and staff are so excited to get down to the great white continent! For some, it will be their first time visiting, while others are seasoned pros who have spent many seasons on the ice. But either way, the crew are fresh, jubilant with excitement, and so eager, espeically on the first few voyages of the seasons. Of course, the crew deliver an exceptional experience, no matter when you visit, but there's something about the early season that just feels so magical, full of anticipation and enthusiasm. 

Ready to start planning your early season Antarctic cruise? Our friendly, experienced team is always here to help, so please reach out. Or, feel free to browse our latest Antarctic special deals.  

We also have lots of special deals on early season Antarctic departures running throughout June, so now is the ideal time to lock in your springtime adventure in Antarctica! View all deals here or give us a call to find out more. 

 

Written By Katie
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