Antarctica cruises leaving South American must cross the Drake Passage. The crossing typically takes 48 hours in good conditions, but the weather in the Drake is notoriously unpredictable. Some days the conditions can be relatively calm, but it is best to come prepared for rough seas. Wildlife is plentiful along the Drake Passage; travelers often enjoy sightings of dolphins, whales, and seabirds.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Drake Passage is infamous for its rough seas; packing seasickness medications is highly recommended.
- Bring a camera with a telephoto lens to capture wildlife along the Drake Passage.
- The Drake Passage can be avoided altogether by flying directly to Antarctica and boarding a cruise ship there.
How to Get There
The Drake Passage extends about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) between Cape Horn in Argentina and the South Shetland Islands. The only way to traverse the Drake Passage is via expedition or cruise ship from South America. There is no perfect time to traverse the Drake, weather is equally unpredictable throughout the season.
When to Get There
Antarctica can only be visited from November through March. Warmer weather and the best chances of seeing penguin chicks makes December and January the most popular times to visit. Temperatures are still pretty cold in November, but you’ll find the best iceberg viewing then. February and March are prime whale-watching season.
The History of the Drake Passage The Drake Passage gets its name from the 16th-century British sea captain Sir Francis Drake, who was blown off course while circumnavigating South America through the Strait of Magellan. Although named after Drake, the passage wasn’t traversed until 1616 by a Flemish captain, Willem Schouten.