When we want to do something life-changing or adventurous, we travel to the unexplored and uninhabited, rugged corners of our world to find those experiences. If we feel like spending time in the lap of luxury, we travel to places which provide access to the best amenities, are well-connected and offer a range of relaxing but unique things to do. Or do we?
The moment you see pictures of the White Desert camp in Antarctica you may wonder how luxury has actually reached the remotest part of this earth. White desert camp started when Patrick Woodhead, an Antarctic explorer who was part of the youngest (and fastest team) to reach the South Pole in 2002 and three team members, got stuck in a tent due to a huge storm while they were in the interior of the continent. As they waited the storm out, they felt that Antarctica had too much natural beauty for it to remain isolated or hidden from the rest of the world. Such a place needed to be shared with more people who could understand its serene calm and sudden storms. It needed to be seen by a wider world of individuals, who were fearless of such a terrain, open to the idea of living under such volatile weather conditions and yet rising above all those elements to see its stark gorgeousness. That incident led to the thought of creating a camp. Robyn, his wife is the Co-Founder of the camp that took shape in 2006. The camp was set up keeping in mind the treacherous environment and also the need to protect the content, but to provide the guests with a luxury experience. There are six fibre-glass domes which are filled with comfortable furnishings and heating. There are separate pods to house the dining rooms, lounge and kitchen. The primary focus when they went about setting up the camp was to ensure that it was eco-friendly, given the need to preserve the natural environment of the Antarctic.
That is how the camp came into being – it has hosted many privileged guests, since it is priced at a premium. But the kind of experience it offers has attracted many others to explore this climatically challenging and extremely isolated part of the planet. The camp has limited stay options and only a few guests can stay as a certain point in time. Guests stay in igloo-shaped cabins which have internal heating. These cabins are beautifully furnished, and each suite has its own washing area and toilet. The culinary experience, with fresh produce, food options and wines flown in from South Africa regularly is truly targeted towards being exemplary, with an experienced Head Chef, Justine Lindsay, who has studied at the Institute of Culinary Arts in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and worked with Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Formula One team. The dining room is beautifully designed with wooden table and chairs, with fur rugs to add a touch of class. The branded toiletries stocked in all bathrooms are by Lost Explorer, the lifestyle brand of David de Rothschild.
Apart from the luxury experience that it is known for, the camp is also known for its focus on achieving a balance of renewable natural energy sources (wind and solar primarily) available within Antarctica and sustaining the environment, by being Carbon-neutral. This kind of a feat to keep the natural environment safe and have “zero-impact” on it has been managed by ensuring several things. But one of the key aspects of that is that White Desert has a great logistics process. All food is brought in typically by flights from Cape Town and the waste, human and others, are also transported back to the mainland by air.
The other side of this luxury camp of well-designed cottages and gourmet meals, is the adventure it offers; whether it is exploring the wildlife in the region such as the Emperor Penguins, trekking to the blue ice caves or mountain climbing. These are ways in which the guests can absorb the breath-taking and yet extremely harsh landscape of Antarctica. Not only that, it offers them a chance to push their own limits physically by adapting to this climate while being a part of the polar safari. The safari consists of a flight trip to the South Pole, the opportunity to watch the Emperor penguins and a chance to participate in ski races at sub-zero temperatures should one choose to do that!
Safety is also a top-priority for the camp owners and they are rigorous with their rules on the same. The weather conditions do not permit all kinds of planes to travel to this area. Snowstorms are a regular feature. The camp is fairly cut-off from civilization so the dependencies are high when it comes to those running and managing it. Nor can those with specific health related issues make this trip. Even so, the camp’s positioning and service have ensured that they receive advance client bookings year on year.
So while the camp is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for anyone who decides to visit, it is not for the faint-hearted, despite being a luxury camp. That is what sets it apart as a wholesome experience It juxtaposes luxury with adventure in a smooth way and the unpredictability of the living conditions with a comfortable stay. It also brings the best of two worlds together in a unique way those who visit the camp are sure to come back changed.