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If you've always wanted to experience the far-flung frontiers of icy Antarctica, Intrepid Travel is offering a significant discount on its new trips to the glacier-covered continent if you book your trip by the end of September.
The outfitter, which has carved out a nice niche for itself in sustainable travel with carbon offsets for flights and a strong network of local vendors, announced in June its Antarctica trips. The current discount provides 20 to 25 percent off trips beginning in November, which start at $5260 per person, based on a triple occupancy room. Trips run from 10 to 19 days, departing from Ushuaia, Argentina; all meals (except liquor) and activities on board are included.
Two more ways you'll get extra bang for your buck: The ship is the 100-passenger M/V Polar Star, which is smaller than many of the tour boats and cruise ships to Antarctica – and therefore, has a rudder up on getting into narrow harbors and fjords that bigger ships can't. In addition, you'll be banking yourself some environmental karma, because for every passenger who books on the 2010/2011 season, Intrepid will adopt an Adelie penguin. Proceeds go toward the World Wildlife Fund New Zealand's conservation work in the region.
Also called the "White Continent" or the "Vanishing Continent," Antarctica's icy, mysterious landscapes are an increasing draw for adventure travelers in recent years. It boasts one of the greatest concentrations of wildlife in the world, from penguins to puffins to humpback whales, which you can see up-close from one of the ship's Zodiacs. Plus, just getting there – starting with a flight to the southernmost tip of South America, and a crossing of the tumultuous Southern Ocean – is an adventure in itself, dependent on weather and ice conditions.
Once there, you'll explore one of the last true wilderness areas left on earth, largely intact since early explorers and whalers first landed on its shores less than two centuries ago. Weather permitting, itineraries also include a stop at the collapsed volcanic cone of Deception Island and Whalers Bay, where you'll see the rusted remains of boilers and tanks that once processed whale oil.
My advice? Let the Intrepid team work out the inevitable kinks of a new destination in the first few trips and book later, perhaps for December or January (but even better if you can book by the end of September to snag that big discount from Intrepid). And please let me know about your trip to the Great White Continent – it's been on my wish list for years.
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