Q&A: Polar regions
VISITING the outer reaches of our globe is something on many travellers’ bucketlists. We talked to polar experts David Smyth and Rose Toohey from Travellers Choice agency Forward Travel to get the scoop on selling these unique regions.
Is there much interest among Australians for travel to the polar regions?
There has always been lots of interest from Australians, in fact Australians are the second largest source market for Antarctica, making up 11% of all travellers (behind the USA at 35%).
Is the Arctic or Antarctic more popular?
Antarctica is by far and away the most popular, probably due to the perceived closeness of it, its ‘bucket list’ status and the lure of ticking off the final continent for many travellers. The Arctic is becoming more popular though, with many people liking to ‘top and tail’ the world.
What sort of travellers are visiting the polar regions?
Most polar travellers are interested in nature, wilderness, wildlife and going beyond the tourist trail to really experience a place. Travellers to polar regions tend to be older — usually over 50 — as it costs a lot to go there.
When is the best time to travel to the Arctic and Antarctic?
Summer is the only time visitors can get to the poles as there is too much ice at other times. For the Arctic this means the northern summer between June and September. The Norwegian Arctic opens in June for cruises around The Svalbard archipelago. It’s a wildlife haven as animals are protected, so you have a great chance to see lots of birds, marine mammals and polar bears. The Canadian Arctic seems like another world, with history, mystery and abundant wildlife. You can visit rarely-seen ancient ruins and take extended hikes exploring the scenery. The Northwest Passage is a huge part of world exploration and most trips will take you through parts of it.
Antarctic travel is from October to March, with three distinct seasons. October/November is when it’s starting to thaw and the landscape is pristine — as we say, “before the penguins make a mess!” There’s a lot of wildlife mating, and activities such skiing and trekking are options. December/January is the peak of summer with daylight extending to 24 hours. You can reach further south to cross the Antarctic Circle and camping is more likely. Penguin chicks are hatching, making it a very popular time. February/March is the best time for wildlife. Penguin chicks are active and being trained to fish by their parents, and the leopard seals and orcas are prowling the waters. Whales also abound.