The Ultimate Experience in Yachting Today
Every summer, just a handful of yachts venture down to the edge of Earth. Last summer the first SeaXplorer to pass the 60th parallel spent two months cruising the frozen continent. Her exclusive charter guests experienced magic that surpasses every adjective – next level, remarkable, mesmerizing, sensory overload. The expedition experts from EYOS were brought on board to prepare and manage the Antarctic season. Here they share what you need to know before you head to Antarctica.
Coastal exploration and wildlife
A regular visitor for 15 years, Ben Lyons of EYOS Expeditions has still not lost the initial feeling of wonder. “There is simply nowhere else in the world quite like Antarctica,” he says. “Of course, there is the remoteness – the sense of just being at the very end of the Earth – and you know you are somewhere absolutely wild and pristine. Anyone traveling there should expect just sensory overload—incredible scenery and just astounding amounts of wildlife.”
It’s a feeling expressed by everyone who has been to Antarctica, and yet it remains an exceptional destination for yacht owners and charterers. However, that is changing as a growing number of luxury travellers head to the ice and come back with amazing stories to share, as Tim Soper, co-founder of EYOS Expeditions, confirms. “Our charter clients consistently tell us that their Antarctic expedition is probably the favourite trip they have ever done.”
In Antarctica there is no end of things to keep people busy, often unexpected and unplanned, he continues. Whale-watching, submersible dives, cruising through ice and visiting penguin colonies or research bases – it works for all age groups. “Kids love the wildlife!”
Top wildlife spotting
- Gentoo penguins
- Humpback whales
- Orca (killer whales)
- Wandering albatross
“Antarctica just has an effect on people. It leaves people fundamentally changed. I simply can’t fathom anyone not going to Antarctica and coming away thinking it was anything but one of their most spectacular experiences in their whole lives.”
Ben Lyons, CEO of EYOS, an ice pilot and Antarctic regular
Unique ice formations and unseen depths
There is so much that is magical about Antarctica,” Ben says. “The abundance of whales, the comical antics of thousands of penguins in one landing, the dramatic mountains covered with snow plunging straight into the sea. But for me, it is the ice that draws me back year after year.
”You’ll begin to see ice in a different way. It comes in such a variety of shapes and colours and textures – endlessly fascinating and mesmerizing. You’ll see tabular icebergs that stretch for over 10 miles to small brilliant pieces of ice that shimmer like jewels. The ice also creates spectacular underwater scenes that can be enjoyed from the comfort and warmth of a submersible. For the adventurous, the depths also provide opportunities for genuine discoveries.
“Take a submarine hundreds of metres below the surface of the water,” Ben says. “When you are in a sub, you are often exploring somewhere that may never have been seen before by man!”
“Two helicopters allows us to offer heli-skiing directly from the yacht – something that was simply not possible from any one yacht before.”
Tim Soper, EYOS co-founder and expedition leader
Sports and heli-skiing
For sports-lovers and action-seekers, Antarctica doesn’t disappoint. From ice-diving to mountain hikes, the thrills are all around. Toys like snowmobiles and helicopters open up the interior for high-powered exploration, landings high up in the mountains and extraordinary sightseeing trips. Helicopters are crucial for Antarctic skiing and snowboarding, Tim explains.
“I think that may have been the best experience for many – the skiing in Antarctica may not be the absolute best runs in the world, but the overall totality of the experience certainly makes it one for the books! How many other places can you land on top of a mountain, see whales surfacing below you, and then ski straight down to the water’s edge?”
Heli-skiing in Antarctica is a rare treat for fans, because the logistics of operating two aircraft in such a remote location is beyond the means of most yachts. The twin helicopter deck as well as twin helicopter hangars menas the aircraft are safely stowed every day, well protected against any inclement weather. It’s illustrative of the design philosophy behind the SeaXplorer range of yachts.
Back in 2015 when the original SeaXplorer design team was creating the concept, they turned to EYOS for operational expedition expertise. Voyages to Antarctica were part of the brief back then, so managing the first SeaXplorer’s Antarctic season was a special experience for Tim Soper. “To be on board when she first came into view of the South Shetland islands – signalling that she had finally arrived in Antarctica proper – was just a wonderful moment.
I have to admit I felt proud to have played a role in bringing this incredible yacht to reality, and to have it sail into my favourite place in the world – it was simply a wonderful moment.”
Key places to visit
Island located in the South Shetland Islands close to the Antarctic Peninsula with a large and safe natural harbour. Although, it looks like an island, actually it is the caldera of an active volcano.
Narrow passage between Kyiv Peninsula, in the mainland’s Graham Land and Booth Islands. Towering peaks, tumbling glaciers, glistening icebergs
Have your cameras ready to shoot iconic tabular icebergs and retrace the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton, where he and his ENDURANCE crew miraculously survived a harsh winter.
See thousands of King Penguins flocking to a single beach, and the largest congregation of Antarctic Fur Seals.
When to go to Antarctica
- Early December to mid February – the right combination of daylight, ice and wildlife.
- Antarctica’s summer is not nearly as cold as people might think. Days are almost 24 hours, and temperatures generally hover between 0 and 5C.
How to get to Antarctica
Cross the Drake Passage – a potentially rough 36-hour passage. Or skip the Drake and fly in 90 minutes from Chile.
“This is not the Med – flights are entirely weather dependent, delays do happen. The weather is still in charge in Antarctica!” Ben Lyons
Nowhere else requires such self reliance and preparation, but nowhere else is so rewarding, either.
Antarctica has no infrastructure, of course. You can’t take on food there, you can’t take on fuel there – you have to be self sufficient.
Keeping Antarctica pristine
Visiting Antarctica is a privilege- and both EYOS and all the countries that are signatories of the Antarctic Treaty are committed to keeping it as pristine as possible. In order to visit Antarctica legally, you will need a permit from the applicable government (EYOS gets its permit from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office).
Ice navigation with top crew and expedition team
As part of that permit, you have to specify operational details and SOPs, including having ice pilots and expedition guides that have significant Antarctic experience. They are there to not only guide the yacht’s crew and guests in proper etiquette ashore, but also ensure safety of all involved and ensure everyone gets the most out of their Antarctic experience. That includes working with the Captain on deciding where to go, making plans on what to do on a daily basis, knowing where to find the wildlife, how to read the local weather conditions etc. And lastly, as an ice pilot myself, I believe nothing compares to the thrill of watching your vessel navigate through the ice.
“Her crew has been just outstanding,” Tim says. “They had a great attitude and delivered superb service. Every charter guest this season raved about how great the crew was!“
As part of that permit, you have to specify operational details and SOPs, including having ice pilots and expedition guides that have significant Antarctic experience. They are there to not only guide the yacht’s crew and guests in proper etiquette ashore, but also ensure the safety of all involved and ensure everyone gets the most out of their Antarctic experience. That includes working with the Captain on deciding where to go, making plans on what to do on a daily basis, knowing where to find the wildlife, and how to read the local weather conditions. Visiting Antarctica demands a lot from the crew. You’ll need a great team working at the top of their game – which is exactly what Tim Soper experienced on the first SeaXplorer expedition.