Come on in, the waters freezing!

Come on in, the waters freezing!

‘Why isn’t everyone doing this?’ a friend once exclaimed, agog, after her first-ever snorkelling experience on the island of Koh Lanta. Well, quite. The difference a mask makes! Between swimming – trespassing into an unseen, sometimes menacing place – and revealing that underwater wonderworld.

The latest extreme-snorkelling experience may lack the tropical appeal of Thailand’s islands, but it is mind-blowing in another way. Way down south, at the bottom of the globe, polar snorkelling around the ice caps of Antarctica opens up an extraordinary marinescape that few have had the chance to see.

The waters around the South Pole are incredibly clean and clear, so visibility is fantastic, and what lies beneath is completely different to the sights in more familiar seas.

Rather than coral reefs, the landscape is made from the otherworldly shapes of sculpted icebergs. Penguins bomb into the water from the icebergs; fur seals and leopard seals pop up to blink hello. Huge, benign marine mammals – minkes, humpbacks, sperm whales and blue wales – cruise serenely out of the depths, like curious submarines. (And less-benign orcas, too, though there’s a boat hovering nearby to ensure snorkellers don’t come face-to-face, and trips stick to the neighbourhoods where orcas rarely swim.)

In the Crystal Sound area – in the channel between Adelaide Island and the Antarctic mainland – there are sheltered bays, shipwrecks and tiny islands to explore. And OK, if you’re wondering about the mind-and-body-numbing temperatures, it’s not wetsuits that are worn but waterproof drysuits (total coverage with gloves, hood, etc), to keep snorkellers relatively dry and warm.

No killer whales, no hyperthermia, no frostbite – what kind of death-defying adventure is this?

Expeditions set sail from the southern tip of South America aboard the ‘Polar Pioneer’ in February and March 2014, last 9-11 days, and cost from around ?4,500 per person. Polar snorkeling trips cost around ?600. For more information or to book contact Aurora Expeditions (+61 2 9252 1033;

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