12 hours in the shoes (or muck boots) of a traveller visiting Antarctica  

written by Anela Malik March 13, 2024

Follow along on the trip of a lifetime as Anela shows you what it’s like to spend a day in the Great White Continent.   

‘This can’t be real life,’ I thought. It was my last day in Antarctica. The bright sunshine was beaming down on me, sitting in a Zodiac in the Antarctic Ocean, smiling from ear to ear. 

The small, inflatable boat bobbed up and down in the waves as it ferried a small group of guests back to the Ocean Endeavour – the ship that had brought us to Antarctica.  

We were puttering along slowly, hoping to see the whales that many of the other groups on Zodiacs had reported seeing in the waters around the ship in the last hour. Our expedition guide scanned the dark waters. 

And after a few minutes, at least three humpback whales surfaced nearby, to the left, right and behind our little Zodiac. The driver cut the motor and we watched them in silence for about an hour. The sound of their breath, as they expelled air as they surfaced, filled the silence and reminded us of just how small we were in comparison.  

Just when we thought it was time to head back to the ship, a pod of humpbacks surfaced right next to us, so close a few of us whispered and shouted excitedly as we could almost reach out and touch them.  

No day in Antarctica is the same, and many don’t go exactly as planned. You have to account for unexpected weather, sea ice and more. The flexibility is well worth it, though. That’s how you get moments like unexpected whales surfacing and penguins jumping off of icebergs right in front of you.  

Though it’s impossible to share an exact day-by-day itinerary, here’s what a typical day in Antarctica may look like.  

7:30 am: Wakeup and breakfast  

There’s no need to set an alarm in Antarctica. Your gentle morning wakeup call and announcements about the ship’s location and weather are broadcast throughout the ship’s intercom.  

I’m very much not a morning person, so a typical morning for me involves listening to the announcements in bed, laying there as long as possible, before hurriedly splashing some water on my face in my cabin’s ensuite bathroom, throwing on some clothes and shuffling to the Polaris Restaurant – the ship’s dining lounge – for breakfast.  

It’s lined with windows that overlook the water and views of mountains and icebergs – and maybe even some wildlife. Breakfast includes a pretty expansive spread including eggs, toast, cereals, bacon, sausage and more. The combination of bright sunlight, a cup of tea and a solid hot meal is what really wakes me up. After breakfast, I head back to my cabin to collect my filming equipment and anything else I may need. 

9 am: Gear up for a morning activity

Ship wide announcements sound to notify everyone when it’s time assemble for their morning adventure. Passengers are divided into groups for different activities and called to the mudroom to get ready and depart with staggered timing. While some folks set off for kayaking or day paddling and others head out for landings, this morning, I’ll be exploring in a Zodiac. 

When my group is called, I make the quick walk to the mudroom where most of our outdoor gear is stored when we’re not using it, and I start piling on the layers of clothing I need to stay warm and dry in Antarctica. Base layers go on under mid-layers, all stuffed inside a warm, thermal jacket and thick muck boots, and then I’m ready to go. Thankfully, by the time we get to Antarctica, we’ve had multiple briefings on gear and safely getting in and out of the Zodiacs, so it’s relatively straightforward for me to get in and to go explore.  

9:30 am: Zodiac excursion 

I personally love Zodiac excursions as someone who really enjoys being on the water. One expedition guide and about ten people in a Zodiac, zipping around the water while the wind whips our faces. I think the landscape is just as stunning and otherworldly when viewed from the Zodiac. It’s peaceful to sit and take in the icebergs floating around us. I got to see penguins jumping in and out of the water, seals napping and whales surfacing.  

11:30 am: Return to the ship for lunch 

By midday, it’s time to head back to the ship. My first stop is the mudroom to hang up my outdoor gear to dry out and strip down to my comfy base layers. From there, I head up to the lounge, where there’s a tea and coffee station and cookies set out. There’s something about having a hot mug of tea and a couple of cookies while I sit by the windows and process everything I’ve seen so far. It’s one of my favourite times of the day in Antarctica.  

There’s also time to explore the Ocean Endeavour. There’s an on-board gift shop that has everything from additional SD cards to cute postcards. The ship has an open bridge, so on clear days, I would go up and look from there. There’s a spa and a gym, and yoga classes are offered periodically. There’s plenty to fill my downtime if I’m looking for it.  

Then, around 1 pm, I head off for lunch. Mealtimes are a cheerful and really vibrant experience. People are excited and happy to chat about what they did or saw that morning. I chat with friends I’ve made on this trip, and we show each other the photos and videos we’ve taken, trading stories as each group’s experience is a little different.  


2:30 pm: Afternoon landing 

After lunch, it’s time for the afternoon excursion or activity. Announcements call us to the mud room again in the same groups at the morning. This afternoon we’re heading to make a landing. We’ll have time to explore the snow on marked routes so that we don’t disturb local wildlife or wander where we’re not supposed to. 

We get geared up, and then we’ll head out, stopping to dip our boots in a decontamination solution before we go so as to not bring unwanted pests or disease into the local environment. We take similar measures on the way back to the ship.  

Landing days are always fun, and it’s wild to see how beautiful and, at times, harsh the Antarctic landscape is up close. On my landing excursions, I saw seals up close, just napping away while we watched, as well as penguins nesting, making quite the ruckus as they sit on their eggs.  

4 pm: Return to the ship 

It’s time to head back to the ship for a bit of a break. After hanging up my gear, I spend some time in my cabin sorting through photos and video clips, reading, and napping. The excitement of the day can be quite a lot, so downtime in my cabin was essential for recharging.  

6 pm: Evening briefing and dinner 

After my break, I headed upstairs to one of the lounges for the evening briefing. I know the word briefing brings up imagery of boring and dry meetings, but these briefings are the opposite. The crowd is energized and excited about what we did that day. The crew tells funny stories and shares more information about what we saw that day and its importance.  

We also get the plan for the following day, and the crew emphasizes that plans may change (that’s part of the adventure). We go over where we’ll be headed and the history behind it, what we might hope to see and the timings for the excursions.  

Then it’s time for dinner. Some nights there’s a fixed muti-course menu with various options to choose from and other times a buffet. There are always plenty of vegetarian and vegan options and desserts as well. I spent most mealtimes getting to know new friends I made and it was such a cool experience. Some of those friends I’ve already visited back home, just a few weeks after the trip wrapped. And when people ask how we met, we get to say we met on a ship in Antarctica. How cool is that? 

8 pm onwards: Rest 

After dinner, we can enjoy some evening entertainment like trivia or open mic night or take time to relax and rest up so that we can be ready to do it all again tomorrow. I always make sure to plug in my phone, camera and batteries in the evening so that by the following day, they’re ready. And one final pro tip: the ship offers laundry services for a fee, so evenings are a good time to sort any laundry you may need to be done!

Discover Antarctica on a small group adventure in your own shoes.

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