THE SEVENTH CONTINENT, ON THE EARTH’S SOUTHERN TIP, WAS FIRST DESCRIBED IN HUMAN IMAGINATION BEFORE BEING INSCRIBED INTO KNOWLEDGE. Long before Captain Cook’s ship made first contact with the final frontier in 1773, humans believed in the existence of a continent far south to counterbalance the land masses of northern Europe.
Today, the Far South continues to captivate our imagination. Unparalleled in its exoticism, its extreme climate makes it the coldest, driest and windiest continent. This harsh triad deters wildlife and civilisation, but has also sculpted one of the most breath-taking landscapes on our Earth. The cruel weather conditions have kept the average tourist at bay, and for a long time, those who wished to behold the winter desert could only do so through the lens of an adventurous photographer.
Now, there are options for those who seek a little luxury and comfort in the midst of the unforgiving landscape. White Desert, a team of seasoned Arctic explorers and travel connoisseurs, flies up to 12 travellers on its own private air fleet from Cape Town to Antarctica. The team hosts four or five trips each year in November and December. Its base camp consists of six sleeping pods that are essentially heated fibreglass domes, furnished with pelt rugs atop lightwood. The interiors are heated and well lit, powered by energy harnessed from the region’s strong winds and abundant sunshine.
With brass fittings, leather chairs and picnic hampers, the dining room and lodge exude the charm of the Age of Exploration. Here, travellers can share a meal — prepared by an in-house chef with fresh ingredients flown in from Cape Town — after witnessing a colony of Emperor penguins, one of the few inhabitants of the barren terrain. One can navigate the wilderness as much or as little as wanted. Guests choose their own adventure, deciding whether to explore a blue ice cave, trek to a massive ice wave, tread a 200-feet cliff, or go kite skiing through the chalky-white vastness. The options are wide enough to accommodate varying levels of fitness.
The guides are genuine explorers — one of them once led a barefoot expedition to the summit of Kilimanjaro, while another holds records for first and second ascents of tough peaks. CEO Patrick Woodhead himself was part of the youngest and fastest team to ever reach the South Pole in 2002. Inevitably, some of the landscape needs to be traversed via air, especially if you want to reach the geographical South Pole, the southernmost point of the entire globe. But flying here is never tedious as the landscape of the seventh continent unfurls beneath. After all, in Antarctica, nature can do so much magic with so little.