Amundsen and Scott drive Antarctica tourism rebound

Fri Apr 20, 2012 1:08pm EDT
 
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By Victoria Bryan

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Sweeping landscapes, an untouched coastline, whales and penguins galore and the thrill of walking in the footsteps of famous explorers.

After a drop in tourist numbers in recent years, Antarctica is gaining in popularity this year thanks to the recent centenary of the South Pole expeditions and as people start to feel more comfortable shelling out for a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

British university lecturer Andrew Murray, 34, said a long-held fascination with explorers, mountains and remote landscapes had inspired him to spend around 3,600 pounds ($5,800) on a 10-day Christmas trip to Antarctica. He paid for flights to Argentina separately.

"When I booked it, I thought what have I done? It is a lot of money," he told Reuters.

He said it was worth it though, with highlights including camping on the ice, seeing almost 50 humpback whales feeding in the Drake Passage and getting up close and personal with Gentoo penguins on a pebble beach.

"It's a place that has such an impact on you," he said. "But a lot of people seem to put out of mind that it is possible to do it."

Earth's only continent without a permanent human population welcomes most travelers from the United States, Australia, Germany and the UK, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO).

Around 25,320 people travelled to the continent during the 2011/2012 season, a drop of 25 percent on the previous year as the global recession hurt bookings.   Continued...