Megan and I escorted a group of itravel clients on this exciting journey! We met the itravel group super early at McDonald Jones Stadium, to join our chauffer driven mini bus transfer to Sydney Domestic Airport. Our trip to Sydney was traffic free so we arrived relaxed with enough time for a coffee pre boarding. There is no check in required so we head straight through security to the departure gate where we were met by a playful ‘human sized’ Penguin, plus the wonderful team of Antarctica Flight staff who were handing out boarding passes to very excited travellers.
Antarctica Flights charter a Qantas 747 to operate this flight- which was sold out. The flight is fully serviced by Qantas Staff, who along with the rest of us enjoyed the opportunity to be photographed with the penguin! Boarding was quick and painless as there is very little cabin luggage. Our flight south was smooth, with breakfast served soon after take-off by the Qantas staff, (many seeing Antarctica for the first time also), so there was a lot of excited banter about our special day!
An hour or so into the journey Antarctica Flights ran some documentaries on Antarctica which were really interesting and reinforced the unpredictability and remoteness of this icy wilderness. As we got closer to Antarctica we were introduced to the guest speakers for the day an Honorary Research Professor on Antarctica, and Antarctica Documentary Producer and Director. Both have extensive and interesting knowledge on Antarctica and loved to share it! From the sighting of our very first iceberg these gentleman gave non-stop commentary on what we were seeing, how it was formed, who had been there and all sorts of interesting facts.
Antarctica is actually twice the size of Australia and we only saw a very small part of the great white continent, but it was truly an extraordinary experience, and one of the most beautiful and magical sights I have ever seen. I couldn’t even count the breathtaking moments or wow factors….there were simply too many. I took loads of photographs with both my SLR camera and my iphone and both turned out brilliantly! So, don’t think you need fancy camera equipment to capture the beauty. The variety of terrain astounded me, from flat plains of pure white ice, to stunning snow covered mountain ranges, thousands of years old glaciers and then a dry valley of no ice at all- simply amazing! We were shown Stations belonging to various countries and heard about the hardships experienced by those manning the stations through an Antarctic winter. We were blessed with perfect weather for our flight so viewing was crystal clear which added to the magic of the experience.
As this is not your usual flight everyone was allowed out of their seats, and was up walking around the aircraft to grab that special photo- regardless of which side it was on! Half way through the flight the Captain announces that it is time to move to the seat listed on your second boarding pass. This ensures that everyone gets a chance at a window or ‘next to window seat’ to make viewing opportunities fair for everyone. Business and First Class passengers remain in their same seat for the whole flight though. The flight home travels over a similar path so the ‘new’ window seat passengers see the same variety of scenery. The whole flight was about 13 hours but did not seem that long at all!
You spend about 4 hours actually flying over Antarctica, this time passes so quickly with the excitement of the scenery, capturing photos and chatting with fellow passengers. Either side of this the first 4 hours were breakfast, relaxing and documentaries on Antarctica, and the 4-5 hour trip home was elation from the wonderful sights, dinner, drinks, some fun auctions for Antarctica memorabilia, a movie or two and snooze!
Every single one of our clients said it was an absolutely wonderful experience regardless of the seating class they were in. We had passengers in Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class. Personally I would recommend a minimum of Premium Economy to get the most out of your flight. There are fewer people allowed in this section of the aircraft, so less faces and cameras to share windows! However, if your budget allows definitely do Business or First Class- it is beautiful way to enjoy this special experience from the comfort of your seat, with massage rollers while sipping champagne! Yes, really!
Antarctica Flights only operate about 3-4 of these charter flights a year and only one departure from Sydney! The best seats sell out very quickly, so if you would like to pre-register for this amazing experience in 2018 or 2019 we are taking names now. It really is a bucket list journey and the most amazing flight you will ever take!