From Cape Town to the White Desert and back, in 24 hours.
By Helmut Dostal
To complement its one-of-a-kind Benguela Diamond on the specially prepared ice runway amidst the Wolf Fang Safari, the Ellerman House concierge team has pulled together a series of elite White Desert Excursions—making them the only company in the world to fly into the interior of Antarctica in a private jet.
The adventure starts after a few relaxing days in one of the new Villas at Cape Town’s exclusive Ellerman House Hotel in Bantry Bay, where sweeping views of the Atlantic help to set the stage. Identified by their polar clothing and ruck- sacks, the explorers are soon primed, pumped and ready for the action as they set off to begin their ‘Greatest Day’— a 24hr round trip to Antarctica or, for the boldest of the bold adventurers—a four– or eight-day grand experience.
Each intrepid group will depart into the African night on a private gulfstream jet. It’s a quick, comfortable 5.5hr flight with, Wagyu beef, sushi and one-of-a kind cocktails made with 1000-year-old glacial ice. Now that’s hard to beat!
The pilot’s routing takes passengers over thousands of stunning icebergs until, at what could be called daybreak, the jet enters into the continuous sunshine. After landing mountain range, day-trippers are transferred by 4x4s for the journey to the magnificent Schirmacher Oasis. A rare stretch of terra firma, Schirmacher is surrounded by the ice cap of Antarctica. The area is full of awesome cliffs, 100 freshwater lakes and a nearby science base where guests are invited for close up visits and explorations throughout the day.
With eight hours on the ground and expert guides on hand to escort their guests every step of the way, activity options include completely gentle hikes, walk-through tunnels of an ice grotto, and activities that are more adrenaline-fuelled if you wish. The polar day culminates with a spectacular gourmet Champagne dinner, in celebration of the spectacular setting and the camaraderie of the outing.
If you don’t think 24hrs is enough to satisfy your thirst for white desert adventures, then we’d suggest either the 4-day Ice and Mountain Experience or the 8-day Emperor and South Pole Excursions.
On the mountain experience, you’ll have extra time amongst kilometre-high monoliths of rock, as well as the unique chance to stay at Whichaway—the only camp of its kind in the world. Overnighting here will be in one of six heated sleeping pods. Gourmet meals are in a separate dining room and talks are in the lounge. Activities range from painting the beautiful vistas to learning how to rock climb on a nearby ‘Nunatak’ mountain and exploring Schirmacher Oasis. There’s also a once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit a nearby science base to learn more about the ground-breaking research being done. On the last day, after a hearty breakfast, you board your final flight across the Drygalski Mountains to the Wolf’s Fang runway. A final Champagne celebration will salute your unforgettable trip to the last great wilderness on earth.
Emperor Penguins and South Pole
This luxe 8-day adventure takes you into the heart of Antarctica for a visit with the Emperor Penguins and on to the lowest point on earth—the South Pole.
Whichaway Camp is your headquarters for the first few days with the other teams, but what sets this adventure apart is Day-3’s two hour flight across Antarctica to the Atka Bay. Here, you will be landing at the Emperor Penguin colony. Ellerman’s guests will be the only people to get up close and personal with these real-life stars of March of the Penguins.
Day-4 marks the halfway point of your adventure and a chance to test your mettle by exploring the ice waves beneath the camp. With your guides for direction, you’ll be delving into the series of ice-tunnels that are as surreal as they are beautiful, and end the day at the nearby Russian science base to learn more about their work—followed by a sauna.
Day-5 is the much-anticipated South Pole visit. Starting in the early morning, your guides will lead you to a DC3 Bassler Turbo prop plane so you can fly through stunning mountain ranges before landing at 83 degrees South to refuel. During this pilot’s pit stop there’s an opportunity to walk around on the incredible high polar plateau before continuing on to the pole. At the South Pole itself, there’s plenty of time for photos and a tour around the base before camping down for the night. One thing’s for certain, this version of trekking to the South Pole is much more comfortable than Norwegian Roald Amundsen’s 1911 expedition.
After a flight back to Whichaway for a celebration dinner, it’s more talks and prep for the return journey. With bucket list tales to tell and memories to share, you’ll be back in Cape Town before you know it. And, as you nestle into the crisp white sheets of your Ellerman House bed, you might even pinch yourself to prove it wasn’t a dream.