At it’s annual meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) – a member organisation that advocates and promotes safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic – released its tourism figures for the 2016-2017 Antarctic season.
In the report, the home of the South Pole saw a 15% increase in inbound tourist numbers compared with the previous period, with this expected to rise by another 5% in the 2017-18 season to 46 265 visitors.
While Americans still account for the biggest visitor contribution of 33%, 1% of the inbound traffic to Antarctica was made up of South African travellers, which resulted in an impressive 10% increase compared with the previous season.
Here are five reasons you should consider visiting the rather chilly southernmost continent;
If it’s something different to a tropical or Saharan landscape you’re looking for, Antarctica boasts glaciers that are majestic as they are abundant. Union Glacier Camp is a full-service private camp that offers guest accommodation and private expeditions during the Antarctic summer from November to January, so you can fully explore their beauty and nestle in their stillness.
The Gamburtsev Mountains
Not everything in Antarctica is made of ice. Situated in the eastern part of the continent, the mysterious Gamburstsev Mountains are described by Live Science as being roughly the size of the European Alps, and are a mountain range preserved impeccably by the region’s ice sheet, reaching peaks of around 2 700m. In recent years, scientists and engineers have embarked on expeditions to learn more about the them and how they came to be.
Wildlife unique to the region
From leopard, crab eater and southern elephant seals to emperor penguins and migrating birds, Antarctica boasts wildlife that is unique to the region in all the glory of their natural habitat.
An opportunity to walk in the steps of famous explorers
Between 1910 and 1913, Robert Falcon Scott led the historic British Antarctic Expedition. His hut, known as Scott’s Hut, still stands as it did then, with all its furnishings intact. Many other lesser-known huts that were once occupied by other explorers can also be viewed and explored, transporting travellers to the eras of the unknown, treacherous conditions and above all, great discoveries.
A peaceful retreat
With travel becoming increasingly accessible, global destinations that offer the right amount of solitude and untouched terrain are becoming hard to find. The Antarctic remains one such destination and can be enjoyed without the intrusion of crowds at any given time.