Rob and his wife Jill fulfilled their dream of exploring Antarctica. And not surprisingly, it was so much more than they ever dreamed it would be.
Rob and his wife Jill knew the time had come for them to fulfil a long-held dream of visiting Antarctica when National Geographic Orion, a ship that they’d cruised on previously from Darwin to Broome, launched the Antarctica expeditions sailings with specialist explorers and scientists on board.
“It all started with Jill’s passion for Antarctica, and because we knew the crew of the Orion,” says Rob. “It was the right time to take the trip of a lifetime.”
The couple have known Caroline for over a decade, and so went straight to her to organise everything. “She understands how we travel and makes things so easy for us. We can simply enjoy our adventures when she’s in charge,” says Rob.
One of the initial highlights of the trip was crossing The Drake Passage, reputed to be the roughest sea-passage in the world and the stuff of legends. The ice-strengthened Orion expedition ship was cast upon the infamous sea of rolling waves, following the path of explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton. To make it even more memorable, the journey was also to commemorate the centenary of Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition.
“It was everything we thought it would be and more,” says Rob. “We couldn’t get enough of the place. It’s so remote, and so different to what most people are accustomed to, but you’re kitted up for it, so you feel prepared for being in such a remarkable wilderness. We climbed bluffs, trekked over incredible landscapes, and there was an endless stream of animals to see.”
The couple saw Humpback, Minke and Sperm whales, right next to them as they sat quietly in their kayaks. “The whales are right there in front of you, and you are in such a remote, pristine location. It’s simply extraordinary.”
The couple had been forewarned about the foul scent emanating from the gigantic penguin colonies they visited, but they were so engrossed by the awesome spectacle of tens of thousands of penguins, some diving off icebergs and tummy surfing down icy expanses, that they wanted to stay longer. They were also witness to colonies of the majestic albatross (some with 11-foot wingspans) nesting and feeding their chicks.
The National Geographic photographers on board, caught many a unique moment on film, and happily gave guests handy photos tips. Scientists were also on hand to explain some of the issues that the wildlife in Antarctica is facing. “We learnt so much every day from the Nat Geo experts,” says Rob. “It made the trip even more special. One morning we woke at 4am to be on shore before 6am, to photograph thousands of penguins coming ashore. You don’t get that kind of opportunity anywhere else.”
The last leg of Rob and Jill’s journey was cruising back into South Georgia, which has no permanent human population, and an enormous rookery of King Penguins. After spending time observing these regal characters, the ship sailed back to mainland Argentina.
“When you’ve just spent a few weeks in one of the most remote parts of the world, coming back to civilisation is quite a shock.” says Rob. “And hearing many experts talking about what humans have done to the world, to the environment and wildlife there, it makes you really appreciate the importance of what you’ve seen and done. It’s a good message to hear, and more people need to hear it.”
Five Fast Facts about Antarctica
The National Geographic Orion
No two ships are the same, so Caroline spends a lot of time researching the space, amenities and activities to suit a client’s needs. The National Geographic Orion is a state-of-the-art expedition ship that carries 102 guests in 53 cabins, nine of them with balconies. It’s also equipped with a veteran expedition team and a full complement of tools to explore the environment, such as kayaks, Zodiacs and an ROV. The size and nimbleness of the ship grant it the liberty to voyage untrammelled locations, where the larger expedition ships can’t go.