Travel to Antarctica for the day? It sounds like a bonkers idea, like something that could only happen on The Bachelor. But thankfully, you don’t need to be on reality TV to explore the icy tip of the Earth’s southern pole for a couple of hours. Cape Town’s swanky Ellerman House hotel recently teamed up with White Desert, Antarctica’s first and only luxury camp, to offer a day trip from the southern tip of Africa to the southernmost continent. The experience is (unsurprisingly) called the “Greatest Day” and gives guests the incredible opportunity to spend an afternoon in one of the world’s most untouched places.
How is a quick trip to such a remote and inaccessible place even possible? It’s a feasible question given that the most common way to reach the continent is by cruise ship. But when you consider that the flight time from South Africa to Antarctica’s shore is under six hours, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable after all. Even better, you don’t need a visa and White Desert will take care of securing the permits you do need.
The Ellerman House can arrange for a Gulfstream private jet for up to 14 people ($210,000 for the entire plane). The flight is five-and-a-half hours of unadulterated luxury, complete with an in-flight meal of sushi and wagyu beef tartare and cocktails prepared with thousand-year-old glacial ice from Antarctica—because regular ice just won’t do. Once the plane touches down on a specially prepared Novo ice runway near the White Desert camp, guests have five hours to explore as much of Antarctica as they can.
Whichever way you choose to get there, once you hit the ground, there are myriad activities on offer: treks through mazes of iridescent blue ice grottoes, visits to frosty lakes and cliffs, or highlining—the extreme version of tightrope walking—between two ice peaks. Never tried highlining? Expert polar explorers are available to guide you through your ultimate extreme sport experience.
Those more interested in simply soaking up the unfamiliar landscape can visit Adelie penguins, follow a walking trail, explore in a 4×4 vehicle, or visit the nearby research stations. No matter what you do, the day culminates in a champagne dinner prepared by White Desert’s resident chef, followed by a flight back to Cape Town. Before you can say “I went to Antarctica for the day!” you’ll be sitting on a terrace at Ellerman House, gazing over the Atlantic Ocean, thinking, did that just happen?
If a day trip experience doesn’t seem like enough of an adventure, White Desert offers longer journeys that go deeper into Antarctica to see emperor penguin colonies and ice tunnels. Guests stay in cozy, heated, fiberglass sleeping pods kitted out with beds, desks, and private bathrooms, in the carbon-neutral camp, which operates on a zero-impact policy. If ever there was a time to explore the Earth’s most far-flung icy regions, it would be now, because in a matter of time, there may be no more icy regions to explore.
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Mary Holland Mary Holland is South African writer based in New York. She has written for WSJ Magazine, the Financial Times, HTSI, GQ, Condé Nast Traveler, and W Magazine. She is the New York correspondent for Monocle Magazine.