Questions & Answers
Below are some frequently asked questions that apply to all of our Experiences. Experience-specific FAQ's can be found on each Experience page.
Please contact us if you don't find the answers to your questions here.
Why Choose ANI?
Quite simply we are the most experienced operator in our business, we have the greatest logistic capability and our safety record is second to none.
ANI organized our first expedition to Mount Vinson in 1985 and we now offer experiences for every kind of Antarctic adventure - from comfortable to extreme. We have supported virtually every private expedition that has skied, flown or driven across Antarctica. We have helped more than 1000 climbers reach the summit of Mount Vinson and flown more than 500 adventurers to the South Pole. We pioneered wheeled landings of DC-4, DC-6 and Hercules L-382 landings on glacier ice runways and have safely completed hundreds of return flights to our camp in the interior of Antartica.
There are many tour operators offering cruises to the Antarctic Peninsula, but ANI fly you all the way into the interior of the continent to destinations such as Mount Vinson, the South Pole, Emperor penguin rookeries and Mount Sidley, Antarctica's highest volcano. This is travel on a different scale to a destination like no other. You will experience the enormity of Antarctica, a desert of snow and ice, vast plains and majestic peaks.
Who Can Go?
Our fly-in adventures are very do-able for anyone with average fitness and good health. You do not require any special skills, previous cold weather or camping experience. However, you should expect to walk on uneven, sometimes slippery snow and ice surfaces. Reasonable mobility helps you step up and over tent doorways, climb steps into ski aircraft and move about when wearing bulky clothing layers.
Ski and climbing expeditions are more strenuous and require a minimum level of fitness and experience.
Activity level guidelines are provided for each Experience.
Our guests typically range in age from early 30’s to late 70’s, with the majority from 40 to 70 years old. They come from around the world, are well traveled and adventurous and have a strong interest in remote regions. Our ski and climbing expeditions attract guests seeking physical challenge in spectacular surroundings.
We do not generally accept guests under 16 years old because of the harsh and remote Antarctic environment in which we operate.
Physically challenged adventurers have climbed Mount Vinson, skied to the South Pole and fulfilled their dreams in Antarctica. If you have special needs, please Contact Us to discuss an adapted or custom itinerary. See: Michael McGrath website.
Getting to Antarctica
All of our trips start in Punta Arenas, Chile at the southern tip of mainland South America.
We fly by private transport jet from Punta Arenas, Chile to ANI's main camp on Union Glacier, Antarctica. The distance is 1870 miles (3010 km)and the flight takes about 4 ¼ hours. ANI maintains a glacier ice runway for landing wheeled aircraft at Union Glacier. Travel beyond our main camp is by twin engine, ski equipped aircraft.
Weather and Environment
All of our journeys take place in the Antarctic summer (November through January) when the weather is at its best. We advise on suitable clothing so that you can enjoy your trip to the fullest.
The interior of Antarctica has a cold, dry, windy climate. Average mid-season temperatures at our base camp range from 10F to 25F (-12C to -4C ). On a sunny windless day it can feel quite warm but, when the wind blows, you will be glad of warm layers and a wind jacket. Temperatures can drop as low as -22F (-30C) in early November.
- At the South Pole temperatures rarely climb above -13F (-25C) with light winds and wind chill of -40F (-40C).
- Weather at the Emperor rookery is highly variable and influenced by coastal systems. Temperatures range from
-22F (-30C) to near 32F (0C) with sunny and overcast skies and the possibility of heavy snowstorms.
- Mount Vinson climbers and skiers heading to the South Pole should prepare for extreme temperatures -40F (-40C) and severe storms.
Our main Antarctic camp on Union Glacier is at 2,297 ft (700m) above sea level. Local peaks are around 6,500 ft (2000m), not high enough to experience any altitude-related issues. Altitude is a consideration on higher peaks, on the polar plateau and at the South Pole, especially if arriving by aircraft with no acclimatization. Also, because of reduced atmospheric pressure at the Pole, the physiological altitude (how it feels) will be higher.
South Pole elevation is 9,300 ft (2835m). Physiological altitude is approximately 11,000 ft (3350m)
The summit of Mount Vinson is 16,050 ft (4892m). Physiological altitude is approximately 18,000 ft (5486m). You will spend several days above 10,000 ft (3048m) while climbing the mountain.
Antarctica is the highest continent on Earth, with a mean elevation of 7,198 ft (2194m). Dome A, the highest point on the ice cap, is at an elevation of 13,430 ft (4093m). Antarctica's highest peak is Mount Vinson 16,050 ft (4892m).
The snow around Union Glacier Camp is generally firm and fine for walking. The same is true at the South Pole, Emperor penguin rookery and other fly-in destinations. We have skis for recreational use, but you do not have to ski.
We do not usually use skis to ascend Mount Vinson. The snow is generally quite firm and well-suited to cramponing. Experienced skier mountaineers may contact us to discuss the option of a ski ascent. (See Can I ski Mount Vinson)
Other climbing Experiences may involve skiing to speed up travel on the glaciers. We normally use Alpine Touring (AT) ski equipment. You don’t have to be a good skier, as skiing on flat terrain with AT gear is akin to walking, but those who have some Nordic or downhill experience will obviously find it easier. Guidelines are provided for each Experience.
Most people find they are not bothered by the 24-hour daylight and have no difficulty sleeping. However, you may wish to bring an eyeshade such as those provided on airlines.
ANI offers Emperor penguin safaris on the south coast of the Weddell Sea. Emperor penguins, Weddell seals and seabirds surround you as you immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of an Emperor penguin rookery.
Our other trips are in the interior of Antarctica, an icy desert, majestic in its proportions and devoid of vegetation necessary to support wildlife. Several nematode species are the only life forms capable of surviving in this extreme environment.
Accommodation and Facilities
In a word, delicious. Our guests always compliment us on the meals prepared by our experienced international chefs at Union Glacier Camp. We regularly fly in fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and fish from Chile and maintain an ample stock of pastas, grains and other staples in our ice cave. Dinners are accompanied by wine and beer.
Climbing and ski expedition foods must be light-weight, quick to prepare, and have high energy content. We use frozen pre-cooked stews, dried foods and high energy snacks.
Please let us know if you have any dietary restrictions. At Union Glacier Camp we offer a variety of foods at each meal including a non-meat option. Due to our remote location and the limitations of our kitchen and dining facilities, we regret we are unable to cater to people who have severe food allergies or require strict separation of foods for other reasons.
Sleeping tents are passively warmed by the sun. Temperatures will vary depending on the time of day, weather and the type of the tent.
Larger “clam” tents can warm to between 60F and 68F (15C and 20C) during the daytime, a comfortable temperature when wearing thermal and fleece layers. Temperatures are cooler on cloudy, stormy days and and may drop to near freezing at 'night', when the sun is less intense. You will sleep snugly in your polar-rated sleeping bag whatever the temperature.
Small, mountain tents used in field camps can be 80F (25C) on a sunny, windless day - almost too warm to be inside! Again, inside temperatures are cooler on cloudy, stormy days, when the ambient air temperature is very low, or when the sun drops behind a mountain ridge (e.g. at Mount Vinson).
We are able to offer limited solar charging to our guests at Union Glacier Camp. To use the system you will need a 12V DC-DC charger capable of plugging in to a “female” cigarette lighter socket or a North American-style 100V 3-pin charger. Please be aware that solar power is limited and communications needs must always take priority. Please bring spare batteries with you and ensure all batteries are fully charged before leaving Chile. Leave unnecessary electronic devices at home and please speak to us in advance if you will need to charge more than an occasional camera battery.
You can make outgoing phone calls from Union Glacier Camp and Vinson Base Camp using our Iridium satellite phones. Pre-paid phone cards can be purchased at either camp at a cost of $US40 for 20 minutes (or other amounts). Some guests choose to bring their own Iridium satellite phone and charging system. Regular cell phones and other satellite phones (e.g. Globalstar) do not work at these high latitudes.
We try to minimize the amount of residue (grey) water we generate in Antarctica, in keeping with our mission to set the highest possible environmental standards, and we believe our guests, like our staff, are willing to work with us to achieve this goal.
- Anti-bacterial hand-gel is available for hand cleaning
- Many guests bring pre-moistened towellettes for a quick freshen-up
- There is a shower for Guests’ use. Availability of showers is limited to conserve water, fuel for snow melt and to reduce grey water
- Sponge bathing with a small quantity of water is also possible
All human waste is removed from Antarctica for disposal in Chile. Our systems are designed to facilitate waste handling and proper waste disposal. Union Glacier Camp has men's and women's toilets housed in solid structures. They are basic but clean. Field toilets are more basic and may include a 'loo with a view' (an outdoor toilet with privacy wall) or a toilet tent.
Safety, Medical and Insurance
Travel to remote and undeveloped regions poses inherent risks and Antarctica is no exception. We have a long-term track record of responsible operations and effective emergency response that is looked upon favorably by National Antarctic Operators. Our careful and considered approach, based on years of experience, ensures that risks are minimized. More about Safety and Medical Support
All ANI guests are required to provide cover for medical evacuation, due to the high cost of evacuation from Antarctica.
We also strongly recommend that you consider Trip Cancellation and Interruption insurance, to protect you in case you need to cancel for any reason. ANI Experiences are non-refundable within 90 days of departure.
Find more information and links to purchase travel insurance on our Travel Insurance pages.
Schedule and Itinerary
Our itineraries are meant as a guide, to give you an idea of the kinds of activities and the flow of each Experience. However no two trips are exactly the same - and that is part of the excitement and adventure of Antarctic travel. Your unique itinerary will be tailored to your interests and abilities, weather conditions and coordination with other groups on the ice. Flight schedules are flexible and you should expect delays due to the unpredictable nature of Antarctic weather, runway conditions and other logistics.
Poor weather days at Union Glacier Camp provide opportunities for talks and skills sessions on Antarctic themes such as navigation, crevasse rescue, cold weather injury, communications and meteorology. Ad hoc talks by visiting scientists, expedition teams and other guest-experts are always popular. Games, jigsaw puzzles and DVD's provide diversion. Or you can delve into our library of Antarctic books and light novels.
For most Experiences we ask that you arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile at least two full days (48 hours) before your scheduled departure. This allows time for clothing and equipment checks and provides a buffer in case you should miss a flight connection or have lost luggage. We will collect your luggage and load the aircraft one day prior to departure, ready for an early flight the following day. That evening you are invited to a welcome briefing at our office.
Guests on longer ski traverses should arrive at least five full days prior to departure. We will spend the additional three days getting to know the team, reviewing expedition plans, making any last minute adjustments to equipment and finally packing our sleds ready for departure.
Please note that we cannot hold Antarctic flights for guests who are delayed arriving or who have lost luggage. We recommend that you give yourself plenty of time to enjoy your trip, without the stress of tight timelines.
Delays are a normal part of travel to Antarctica. We cannot stress this strongly enough. Do not plan any important meetings or other commitments for at least one week after your anticipated return.
All visitors to Antarctica must have clearance from a relevant authority. Our Antarctic operations are authorized by the US Government and are carried out to meet the requirements of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty. As a participant on an ANI Experience you are covered by our permits.
A number of requirements apply to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)/drones in Antarctica, due to concerns about privacy, interference with scientific work, use in controlled airspace, and potential impacts if lost. ANI has developed UAV Guidelines to help our guests comply. Tell us if you plan to bring a UAV and be sure to review our UAV Guidelines.
Clothing and Equipment
We provide detailed clothing and equipment lists for all of our Experiences. If you still have questions after reading our equipment lists and overview just drop us a line and we will be more than happy to help.
Guests on non-technical Experiences have the option to rent custom-designed Antarctic parka and windpants, boots and polar sleeping bag from us. This may be the most practical option if you think you will not use these specialized items again. Please let us know well in advance if you would like to rent any items, as we have limited stocks and items are available on a first-come first-served basis. Our rental clothing is not suitable for technical climbing and ski expeditions.
The clothing rental form appears on the Requirements & Forms tab for each Experience where clothing rental is an option.
Booking and Payment Information
Please email or call our office to confirm availablity on your chosen Experience and departure. We will ask you to fill out a medical form (and resume of experience for climbing and ski expeditions). Please fill these forms out completely and honestly. If we have any questions or concerns, we will work with you to resolve them. Once these have been approved, we will ask you send a deposit of $US 5000 to confirm your reservation.
Deposits and other payments can be made by $US dollar check drawn on a US bank account. Or by wire transfer.
Your final payment is due 90 days prior to departure.
ALL ANI Experiences include:
- Transfers to and from Punta Arenas airport, Chile
- Briefing with refreshments in Punta Arenas one day prior to departure
- Round trip flights from Punta Arenas to Antarctica
- All flights within Antarctica as shown in your itinerary
- Meals and accommodation while in Antarctica
- Expedition Guide(s) (and naturalist or lecturer on some Experiences)
- Use of recreational equipment at Union Glacier Camp
- Official and personalised ANI Certificate of Achievement
- A Baggage allowance of up to 55lbs (25kg) on Punta Arenas-Union Glacier flight
(Baggage allowance of 66lb (30kg) for Emperor Penguins, Emperors & Explorers, Ski South Pole Hercules Inlet, Messner and Footsteps of Amundsen Expeditions)
SOME Experiences include:
- Group camping equipment (when travelling beyond Union Glacier Camp)
- Group climbing equipment (climbing expeditions)
- Sled, harness, ski pole pogies (all ski expeditions)
- Skis, ski skins, ski poles (Ski Last Degree)
Experiences DO NOT include:
- Commercial flights to and from Punta Arenas
- Flights within Antarctica, other than those shown in itinerary
- Meals and accommodation in Punta Arenas
- Airport transfers other than in Punta Arenas
- Personal equipment and clothing (polar clothing is available for rent from ANI for some Experiences)
- Expenses incurred in Punta Arenas due to delays
- Any excess baggage costs over confirmed baggage allowance
- Cost for the use of satellite phone whilst in Antarctica
- Insurance coverage – personal, medical, evacuation or otherwise
Most of our guests are staggered by the complexity of our operations once they have seen them first hand. Enormous distances, lack of services, and extreme conditions combine to make Antarctica a logistically challenging and expensive destination.
From the tip of South America to our main Antarctic camp is further than London to St. Petersburg or Los Angeles to Chicago. We charter a large transport aircraft, the size of a Boeing 767, capable of covering this distance and suited to off-strip landings for the duration of our Antarctic season. Even within Antarctica distances are enormous, requiring air travel and fuel caching. Two or more twin engine ski aircraft are chartered for the season, for flights beyond our main camp.
There are no inherent facilities in Antarctica so we are entirely self-supporting. We use specialized equipment and technology suited to Antarctic conditions and build in contigency plans for when the unexpected occurs. All of the equipment, fuel, and food for our operations is transported from South America to Antarctica on our own flights. We pre-place fuel caches at strategic locations and maintain full camp infrastructure, including accommodations, communications and meteorological equipment, and heavy machinery to support our programs.
Cancellation Policy & Terms
If you need to cancel your reservation for any reason, please notify us in writing. At the time that we receive your written cancellation, the following penalities will apply:
- More than 90 days prior to departure payments are refundable, less a $US1000 processing fee.
- Less than 90 days prior to departure the full trip cost is non-refundable.
- If cancellation occurs within the 90 day period and full payment has not been received, the full payment will still apply and unpaid monies are due immediately.
- If payments are not received by the dates specified in the ‘Payment Schedule’, ANI reserves the right to cancel your booking and withhold return of all payments received unless a change in your payment schedule has been agreed in writing by an Officer of ANI.
For more information, please see our Terms and Conditions which you can find on our Forms page.