Ivory Station

Cocktails made of 100,000-year-old ice, yoga in -89 degree Celsius, what luxury travel in Antarctica looks like

Luxury travel in Antarctica

Cocktails made of 100,000-year-old ice, yoga in -89 degree Celsius, what luxury travel in Antarctica looks like

The new-age travel is about living experiences that, sometimes, even all the money in the world can’t make happen for you. Like spotting the elusive snow leopard or seeing the northern lights and, right on top of it all, travelling to Antarctica, the least visited continent in the world, which records extreme temperatures of -89 degrees Celsius.

Luxury travel in Antarctica

In this unadulterated, wild, wild white continent, an enterprising, adventurous couple, Patrick and Robyn Woodhead, has made it possible for travellers to sip cocktails made from 100,000-year-old ice, visit the emperor penguins and the Geographic South Pole, land on a blue ice runway in a private jet at Queen Maud Land, go trekking and do yoga at their White Desert Luxury Adventure’s camps, Echo (2002) Wolf’s Fang Explorer (2021) and Whichaway (2005).

And now comes our favourite bit, the entire experience is run on strict ecological guidelines and all emissions are offset by the carbon-neutral company, even their private jet service. In a landmark first for any Antarctic operator, they are delivering the first test quantity of 40,000 litres of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) to Antarctica.

“We do so much to minimise our impact in Antarctica, from building specially-designed camps to remove all waste each season, but the one area we couldn’t reduce was the fuel we were burning in our planes. All we could do was off-set,” says CEO Patrick “With the advent of SAF fuels, suddenly all this has changed, and we’re delighted to invest in what is undoubtedly the future of aviation.”

Luxury travel in Antarctica

White Desert Luxury Adventure’s private jet on Wolf’s Fang Runway

SAF will be used for all flights within Antarctica to transport tourists to White Desert’s luxury camps and scientists to their research stations.

SAF is produced from waste oils and fats through an innovative process that significantly reduces lifecycle carbon emissions, creating an 80 per cent smaller carbon footprint compared to traditional Jet A-1 fuel. SAF combustion also produces fewer particulates and sulphur oxides (SOx), thereby greatly reducing the quantity of soot particles emitted. This is particularly significant in Antarctica as the black colour of the soot absorbs the heat of the sun, exacerbating snowmelt.

There’s more. Initiated in Antarctica as explorers and adventure seekers, Patrick and Robyn have also launched a jewellery line.

In an e-mail interview with Ivorystation.com, Patrick tells us what it’s like to be a business couple, operating in the remotest location in the world, post-Covid business recovery and the best compliment he has gotten from a guest.

Patrick and Robyn Woodhead, Founders of White Desert Luxury Adventures

What would you say is the greatest entrepreneurship lesson you have learnt?
Tenacity. All the cliches you hear about success being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration have been true for me. You have to have the tenacity to keep banging your head against the wall in front of you, whilst keeping your dreams strong. You must have A heart full of dreams and a head for logistics.

What are the biggest challenges in running luxury camps in Antarctica and hosting high-profile clients?
Antarctica is the most remote continent on Earth, where we have no control over the wind/weather, and operations require enormously complex logistics, sometimes, planned a year in advance. In this environment, throwing money at a problem can’t always solve it, and that’s not something HNWI (High net worth individuals) are used to.

luxury travel in Antarctica

The Echo Camp (2022)

Echo camp exteriors

Echo camp bedroom

How much does a night at your camp cost?
Our camps are sold on a per-trip basis, with the shortest trip being around 6 days and costing $62,500 per person. This includes their private jet charter to Antarctica from Cape Town, fully hosted accommodation, meals, drinks and activities on ice as well as a 5-hour round trip flight within Antarctica to see the 28,000 strong Emperor Penguin colony

Have you had any Indian guests and how was it hosting them?
We have hosted a number of Indian guests over the years. The main request, we have, which is different from our other clients is around food. Our chefs are well versed in catering for all sorts of culinary preferences. As long as we have enough advanced warning, we can pretty much cover anything from making sure we have plenty of fresh chili to vegetarian or vegan requests.

luxury travel in Antarctica

Food served at White Desert camps

How was your business affected by Covid lockdowns and how are things looking now? Are guests coming back to the camp?
Like everyone in the tourism industry, COVID had a profound impact on our business. We were unable to run our 2020/21 season, but we did send a team to Antarctica to ensure maintenance and care of all the equipment on the ice. Fortunately, despite a few last-minute cancellations due to government lockdowns over Omicron, we ran a full season in 2021/22, our most successful ever. We opened our brand new camp Wolf’s Fang and flew 9 groups to the South Pole and 16 to the Emperor Penguin colony on the coast. The year ahead is already almost fully booked at Whichaway and we have launched Echo, our new space inspired camp, which is seeing a lot of interest from exclusive groups and high-profile clients.

What are the different experiences you offer at the camp and which is your favourite?
I’m an amateur pilot and love flying in our modernised Basler aircraft in the interior of Antarctica. The landscape offers so much variety from the white expanse, to spire rock formations jutting out of the ground and frozen lakes – it really is the closest to feeling like you’re on another planet without leaving Earth.

Travel to Antartica

Adventure activities offered by White Desert Luxury Adventures

What is the best compliment you have gotten from a guest?
We’ve had a number of guests who’ve genuinely wanted to invest in the business. It’s a pretty great compliment to know that what they’ve experienced with us and by just being in Antarctica has left a profound enough impact on them to want to continue this by investing in the future. We’ve hosted a couple of astronauts and when someone who’s seen other planets pays you a compliment about the beauty of the landscape surrounding your campsites you know it’s real.

What future projects are you working on currently?
Launching our newest camp, Echo. I’m excited by this as it is a boyhood dream come true – inspired by watching Star Wars and creating our version of the Millennium Falcon in a boutique retreat. Something I’m most excited about is our use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) for all our intra-Continental Antarctic flights moving forward. SAF could be a huge step forward in the aviation industry.

You re-mortgaged your home for starting White Desert Camp and Covid hasn’t been easy for anyone. What are the three most important pieces of entrepreneurship, you would like to give to new and aspiring businessmen and women?
Be realistic with your business plan and timescales, but keep your dreams big. What I’m saying is to think you’ll be a millionaire after year 3 is a little unrealistic, a business grows and matures almost like a human and takes as much nurturing, investment and commitment. And always be genuinely interested. As Friedrich von Schiller (German playwright, poet and philosopher) said, “Keep true to the dreams of thy youth.”

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