Antarctica is the place of the moment. I find myself asked constantly about cruises to the Great White Continent. And the Andrew Harper Travel Office is deluged with inquiries. I assume this is partly because Antarctica is so far removed from the world’s troubles. Ironically, a place with the world’s most extreme climate is now perceived to be safe.
I first sailed to Antarctica in 1981 on the pioneering MS Lindblad Explorer. Recently, I decided to journey aboard the successor ship, the 148-passenger National Geographic Explorer. Although there are other attractive high-end cruise options — which I describe in this issue — the Explorer is a true expedition ship, with the highest possible ice rating, capable of cutting through ice almost three feet thick. Unlike virtually everywhere else I have visited in my wandering life, Antarctica has remained exactly the same. With its soaring peaks, teeming wildlife and colossal icebergs, the continent is just as strange, remote and hauntingly beautiful as it was 35 years ago. A cruise to the Antarctic is one of the most overwhelming travel experiences. At times, amid its vast pristine emptiness, you feel that you have taken a trip to another world entirely.
In complete contrast, this issue also contains an account of my recent visit to Belize, a tiny tropical country that has long been one of my favorite destinations in Central America. With the world’s second-longest barrier reef, dense forest, astonishing birdlife and romantic, ruined Mayan cities, few places contain so much variety within so small a space. Although my attempts to find new hideaways were only partially successful, my previously recommended beach resorts and jungle lodges remain as alluring as ever.