As Black travelers, we all have our dream destinations, bucket list items, or things we’re hoping to see in our lifetime. And, because we aren’t a monolith, those travel goals can look completely different from person to person. For me, that was officially touching Antarctica — my 7th and final continent.

I can’t tell you exactly when or where the bug to visit the world’s arctic desert came, but it was somewhere between seeing Australia and living in Asia for a year. It was something about those two destinations that let me know, there was still so much more for me to see and do as it relates to travel.

Like most people, especially younger travelers, the price point hindered me and made me feel like accomplishing my goal was far-fetched. After manifesting what I considered the trip of a lifetime, the opportunity finally came. I was going to check off that final bullet point on my ultimate travel bucket list.

I decided to travel with Hurtigruten Expeditions. What many people don’t realize is that while there is an option to fly to the continent, once there, you would still need to get on a boat to move from island to island, site to site. So, I decided to do the full cruise experience.

Hurtigruten has been leading Antarctica expeditions for decades, so I knew that the experience they provided would bring everything I was looking for— and more.

Photo by DeAnna Taylor

I flew from my homebase of Charlotte, NC to Santiago, Chile in South America. With Chile’s strict COVID-19 rules, I had to take several PCR tests and then an antigen test to even be cleared to board the ship. From Santiago, those of us taking the cruise, had to take a 3.5 hour charter flight to Punta Arenas— one of Chile’s southernmost port towns.

Looking around the charter flight, I realized I was blessed to be experiencing this at such a young age. My fellow shipmates— from all over the world— were mostly over the age of fifty and white. Here I was, a young Black woman, getting ready to touch my 7th continent before the age of 40.

DeAnna Taylor

Antarctica expedition cruising

If you’ve ever been on a general Caribbean cruise, think Royal Caribbean or Carnival, then let me be the first to say, this ain’t that. Expedition cruising is different in that the boat is slightly smaller due to regulations as far as entering the different waters across Antarctica. And, on board, you typically won’t get cruise shows/ entertainment, and your excursions are more adventure based (think kayaking, hiking, etc.). But, also, Antarctica isn’t a turn up spot.

There are no hotels or permanent residents on the continent, except for the wildlife, so the ship is your home for the duration of your adventure. I appreciated my Hurtigruten ship, the MS Roald Amundsen, because it was a fairly new boat, and it was a hybrid— which is better for the environment. Shoutout to sustainability.

When we weren’t stopped at the different landing sites, there were science lectures, scavenger hunts, and of course food to keep us entertained. But, I found that just being able to disconnect and dive into a good book was all I needed most days.

Courtesy of DeAnna Taylor

Officially checking off the 7th continent

From the moment I stepped off the boat to the first landing site, the emotions hit me. I literally kept saying to myself, ‘wow, thank you, Jesus.’ There were days that I would look out into the landscape and audibly ask, ‘is this even real?’ I felt like I was walking through a real life version of a National Geographic show or magazine.

I would wake up in the mornings to see the glacier covered mountains out my window, as wild orca whales bobbed for their morning meal within meters of my balcony. I was waiting for that ‘Free Willy’ moment, and while it never officially happened, I was able to hear the whales call out to each other in the waters.

On the landings, I would be up close with wild gentoo and chinstrap penguins. Which, if you’ve ever watched any type of penguin videos, you know they are some of the most hilarious animals on the planet. I would literally just watch them in their natural habitat for nearly an hour at a time.

Photo by DeAnna Taylor

The thing I enjoyed most about Antarctica was how untouched the land truly is. Because of the international treaty that protects the continent, we as travelers had a lot of rules to follow— and I was fine with that. We couldn’t come within a certain distance of or touch the wildlife, we couldn’t take anything from the sites at all, no more than 100 people could be on any landing at any given time, and my favorite— we had to leave each place looking as if no human had ever arrived.

All in all, I’m proud to say I’m one of the few Black women who have been able to accomplish such a major feat in the travel space. If seeing Antarctica has ever crossed your mind— even if for a millisecond— I highly suggest planning the trip in your lifetime. Photos and videos literally don’t do justice to what you’ll see in person— trust me, I know.

For more photos and videos, you can check out my Instagram: @brokeandabroadlife.