Camping in Antarctica has historically been limited to only the most intrepid travellers, those who brave punishing temperatures and whipping wind from the confines of a tiny, translucent tent. But that has all changed with White Desert, the company behind “Antarctica’s first and only luxury camp.”
Co-founder and CEO Patrick Woodhead tells Wired, “we realised that no one was doing tourism in the Antarctic with any sense of luxury, it was all really grueling, tough trips.”
The idea for White Desert was born in 2006 when Woodhead and three companions were waiting out a storm in a tent while crossing the continent. They thought more people should be able to see the interior of Antarctica, but re-imagined the accommodations as “comfortable and heated, more akin to the old-world luxury of the early Victorian explorers.”
That vision comes close to the present reality, (if not less “early Victorian era” and more “envy-inducing apartment of your most design-obsessed friend”) with the camp home to six sleeping pods, 23 feet in diameter, all warm and outfitted with beds, bathrooms and desks. Solar panels are used for electricity and to produce hot showers, and there’s no need to pack tasteless protein bars either, as the experience includes meals from an award winning chef. (Enjoyed at what they playfully call the “Game of Thrones Antarctic dining room,” the moniker understood with one glance of the candlelit table and fur-covered chairs.)
Field guides tailor daily outings for guests, from the simple ice cave treks, visits to a local science base and picnics, to the more intense rock climbing and kite-skiing. Included is also a once-in-a-lifetime visit (via two-hour flight from the main camp) to see a colony of 6,000 Emperor penguins.
If camping in Antarctica has been reserved for only the most adventurous until White Desert came along, now it’s reserved for only the wealthiest. Eight-day packages cost around $45,000 and the eleven-day package, which includes an extra excursion to the South Pole, runs at a staggering $70,000. With trips only running in the continent’s warmest months of November and December, there’s still a little time left to empty your bank account and book one.