Adventurers are driven to explore remote regions and vast bodies of water where they’re likely to encounter unfamiliar climates and weather conditions. It’s one of the aspects that makes outdoor polar expeditions so appealing, the fact that any type of weather can be experienced over the course of your journey. It’s a reminder of the challenges that must have faced the explorers of the past.
Among the bodies of water most prone to powerful forces of weather is the Drake Passage, which is influenced by the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern oceans. It’s a unique distinction for the Drake Passage as a channel that flows into three of the world’s most powerful oceans, providing opportunities to experience fierce weather and dramatic ocean conditions (think extremely powerful waves) all within the comfort of an impressive vessel built to navigate such waters.
A Quark Expeditions ship crosses the Drake Passage en route to Antarctica. Photo: David Merron
For many adventurers, the opportunity to join a Drake Passage cruise can’t be passed up. To learn more about what awaits you on an amazing journey through the Drake Passage, just keep reading.
The Drake Passage (sometimes called the Drake Shake) viewed through a cabin window. Photo: Quark Expeditions
Where is the Drake Passage?
The Drake Passage is a 1,000-km wide body of water that functions as the de facto gateway to the Antarctic peninsula. It separates the mainland of Antarctica from the southern reaches of South America.
Within the Drake Passage are a series of enchanting islands and photogenic icebergs that glisten with radiant light. Sailing between each of these destinations during the middle of a sunny day is one of the best things about a voyage through this remote area of the world. While the scenery is incredible and ripe with photogenic moments, it’s important to prepare yourself for unexpected weather conditions that could occur throughout your journey.
What is the best way to experience the Drake Passage?
Given the strength and unpredictability of the weather, what exactly is the best way to experience the Drake Passage? Many travelers will choose a Drake Passage cruise while others prefer to fly over the fabled channel in favor of a less seafaring adventure.
For those who prefer calmer waters, Quark Expeditions offers the amazing Antarctic Express: Fly The Drake expedition. This is an 8-day adventure that begins with a departure from Punta Arenas in Chile that allows you to, as the name implies, fly over the Drake Passage and disembark at King George Island in the Antarctic peninsula. At King George Island, you’ll board your vessel and travel towards the Lemaire Channel along the Antarctic coast.
One of the best things about flying over the Drake Passage is the amount of time saved reaching King George Island. This gives you more time to explore the vast and breathtaking views of the Antarctic peninsula so that you can create a lifetime of memories throughout your adventure. It’s ideal for travelers who are short on vacation time or simply prefer not to cross by vessel.
What to expect on a Drake Passage cruise
For those of you who prefer oceanic adventures, what are some of the things you should expect on your Drake Passage cruise? For starters, you have the benefit of traveling with an operator with a full slate of onboard polar experts. This team of experts leads presentations throughout the crossing that will help prepare you for your polar immersion once you land in Antarctica.
A tabular iceberg stands out in the Drake Passage. Photo: Michelle Sole
You’ll be able to use the knowledge and insights shared by our team of experts to get the most out of your voyage. These experts include penguinologists, climatologists, biologists, and whale experts, all of whom can prepare you for the landscapes, wildlife, and experiences that await you in the Antarctic peninsula.
Bird-watching is one of the many on-ship activities guests enjoy while on the Drake Passage crossing. Photo: Nicky Souness
Depending on the voyage, you could very well travel on Quark Expeditions’ new polar vessel, Ultramarine. Aboard the ship, you’ll have access to a wide array of amenities to make the experience more fulfilling. These include amenities such as a sauna with floor-to-ceiling windows that look out onto the polar landscape, a panoramic theater, and even the Tundra spa. While the wilderness of the Southern Ocean is the main attraction of this journey, relaxing onboard and enjoying some of the finer amenities (a massage, perhaps) add a different dimension to the polar expedition.
How to make the most of a Drake Passage cruise
The Drake Passage is the gateway to the Antarctic Circle, meaning you get the best experiences of both the Drake Passage itself and the southern continent that waits on the other side. You can also enjoy experiences made possible by such itineraries as Antarctic Express: Crossing The Circle.
This 11-day journey also gives you the option to fly over the Drake Passage. Once you arrive on King George Island, you’ll embark on your adventure as you sail across the Antarctic mainland, witnessing the glistening beauty of ice-covered mountains shining in the sun along with playful wildlife roaming across the shoreline. Best of all is that you’ll get to cross the Antarctic Circle itself and explore areas of the world that have rarely been exposed to human eyes. If you want a story to pass down with loved ones over generations, you can’t get a better story to tell than one summarizing your adventures into the most southern parts of the world!
Not only will you get to witness so many incredible natural sights from your cruise ship, but you can book several excursions to get a more on-the-ground experience across much of the Antarctic. Polar plunges are especially popular for those brave souls willing to take a deep dive into the Southern Ocean. For those less bold but still adventurous, you can join a Zodiac cruise to explore the vicinity of icebergs and small inlets that few humans have reached. Crossing the Drake Passage, however you choose, promises an experience of a lifetime.