After recovering from back-to-back health scares – a heart attack and then thyroid cancer – Leslie Latchman, 60, suddenly started talking about bucket lists. With family ties in Jamaica and India, he’s no stranger to travel, but in recent years his travel plans have gotten bigger and taken him further. Topping his list: Antarctica.
Leslie’s travel-savvy son Les, 29, was game to join him. His wife of 38 years, Kamla, was less enthusiastic. She’d much rather go somewhere hot. But they booked three spots on an 11-day Best of Antarctica adventure aboard Intrepid’s Ocean Endeavour, and, true to form, Kamla started organising.
‘My mum was really not that keen to go, to be honest,’ says Les. ‘She hates the cold. But if the last few years have taught our family anything, it’s that life is short. My parents are now on a mission to make the most of their time together and see the world while they’re still physically able.’
The adventure begins
So in November 2022, they set sail. From their base off the coast of the icy continent, Les and his parents would often split up to explore and join activities – kayaking between icebergs, whale-watching from a Zodiac, waddling among penguin colonies.
‘I did the polar plunge – that was wicked,’ says Les. We sailed into the crater of a collapsed volcano, called Deception Island, to do it. It was freezing, obviously. And afterwards we all had a vodka shot as the spectators cheered; that was a highlight for me.’
At the end of each day, they’d meet up for dinner and share their tales from the day. Five days in, Les asked his parents how things were going. ‘My dad said, “it’s amazing, beyond expectations,”’ Les recounts. ‘I asked my mum, and she was looking at the menu. She slowly brought it up to cover her face and just started crying.’
It’s like that when you’re out there, he says. It’s just overwhelming emotion. In tears, Kamla told him it was unlike anything she’d ever seen before.
Expect the unexpected
Even for experienced traveller Les, surprises lay at every turn. ‘I’d assumed Antarctica would be quite desolate. Very beautiful, quiet and serene,’ he says. ‘But in reality it’s teeming with wildlife. From albatrosses tracking the ship, to whales breaching constantly, penguins launching themselves out of the water to avoid being caught by hunting seals – there’s so much action’
‘And the landscape isn’t a flat, white sheet – it’s incredibly mountainous, with peaks over 3000 metres jutting out of the sea like daggers. It’s all so dramatic and our expectations were blown out of the water.
A shift in perspective
‘Someone came up to me one day and said, “I can’t believe you’re travelling with your parents,”’ Les says. ‘And then they said, “I wish I could experience Antarctica with my parents.” I realised then that I’d probably taken the whole thing for granted. For us to have made this trip happen for my dad really was incredible.
‘I’ve done a lot of solo travelling in my life, because I’m quite single-minded at times, and I’m not going to wait for anybody… But travelling by yourself can be quite lonely, and I don’t think it’s as enriching as when you travel with people. Dad has his sights on the Arctic now, so who knows, maybe we’ll go together. Making more memories with people that I love, that’s number one on my bucket list now.’
Itching to go (with your parents or otherwise)? Check out Intrepid’s Antarctica expeditions for 2023 and beyond.