How White Desert all started…
In 2006, we were stuck in a little tent waiting out a storm. Myself and three teammates were in the midst of a 1,850km traverse of the continent and all of us were feeling a little defeated. For four days the storm had raged outside. We were getting low on supplies and, even worse – starting to tell the same stories.
Despite the cold and confinement, we wondered why only scientists and the odd polar explorer ever got to see the real Antarctica – by that we meant the interior of the continent. We knew that thousands of people went on the cruise ships that patrolled the periphery, but the interior was almost untouched. We had already found it to be such a surreal and exciting place – surely others should be able to do the same?
In that little tent, we planned out a new kind of camp. One that would be comfortable and heated, more akin to the old-world luxury of the early Victorian explorers – with brass fittings, leather chairs and picnic hampers. There would be a great chef – in the current situation, food was of real significance – and we would have genuine polar explorers as the guides. We wanted it to be small, with only limited numbers of clients experiencing the continent at their own pace.
The other aspect was that it had to be environmentally sound. With 24hrs of sunshine and the intensity of the wind we had already experienced, we knew that the camp’s energy had to come from Antarctica’s abundant natural resources. It was just so obvious to us that wind and solar were the only way to go.
Now, White Desert is a reality. We have now taken hundreds of clients to experience this forbidding and rarely seen interior. And despite all the challenges, each year, it remains an incredible privilege to be there!
Did You Know?
• Antarctica is one of the best places to find meteorites and the ANSMET program was established in 1976 to do just that. Meteorites show up against the brilliant white snow instead of being concealed by vegetation as they are in other areas of the planet. Also, due to the flow of ice and its passage over mountain ranges, meteorites can accumulate, providing concentrated groups that make collection much easier for the scientists.
• The conditions in the “Dry Valleys” west of McMurdo Sound so closely resemble the planet Mars that NASA used them for testing their equipment for the Viking programme. Despite being one of the world’s most extreme deserts with ferocious katabatic winds, anaerobic bacteria were still found to be living there, sheltering in the relative moisture inside rocks.
• During the feeding season in Antarctica, a fully grown blue whale can eat up to 4 million krill in a single day. That is about 4 tonnes everyday for the sixth months they spend feeding.
White Desert understands and respects that Antarctica is a highly sensitive wilderness.
As such, we operate in strict accordance with the environmental tourism guidelines laid out in the Antarctic Treaty. We also go further and operate our own zero impact policy.
To achieve this, all human waste is transported out of Antarctica on regular flights and disposed of responsibly in South Africa.
The entire camp is powered by renewable energy, using photovoltaic solar panels for electrical supply and solar water heaters for the shower system.
In addition to this, White Desert is an accredited CarbonNeutral® company and offsets all emissions through a portfolio of Carbon projects for our flights to Antarctica and the associated logistics once there.
ZERO environmental print means…
• A TEMPORARY CAMP
• ALL WASTE REMOVED
• RENEWABLE POWER
…and CarbonNeutral® for the entire experience.
Did You Know?
• When the Antarctic sea-ice reforms at the beginning of winter, it advances by around 40,000 square miles (100,000 square kilometres) per day. This eventually doubles the size of Antarctica, adding up to an extra 20 million square kilometres of ice around the land mass. To give it some perspective, that is one and a half Americas, two of Australia, or 50 times the size of the UK that forms, then breaks up and melts each year.
• The Antarctic ice cap has roughly 29 million cubic kilometres of ice. This accounts for 90% of all ice on the planet and between 60 and 70% of all the world’s fresh water. Only about 0.4% of Antarctica is not covered by ice.
• The Antarctic Treaty came into effect on 23rd June 1961 after ratification by twelve nations that were then active on the continent. It confirmed that Antarctica was not to be owned by any single nation, nor would it be opened to commercial exploitation. The continent was to be preserved for science and peace. The terms of this treaty expire in 2041.
“In December 2013, White Desert hosted the destination wedding of our dreams. They did a fantastic job in making sure our special day turned out to be an amazing experience that we will cherish forever.”
Mark and Julia McDowell,
“Shoma and I had a fantastic time with White Desert. Every time we see the photos, we are reminded of how fortunate we were to experience Antarctica. Several people have asked us how we took the trip and we've pointed them your way.”
Prasad & Shoma Setty, USA
“Antarctica is truly unique unlike anywhere else on the planet. White Desert team took good care of us, with good food and comfortable accommodations. It is real luxury in such a remote place. Seeing emperor penguins and visiting ice cave were both unforgettable experiences. Highly recommended for anyone who want a sense of adventure without roughing it. Thank you!”
Joseph Huang, Taiwan
“This is a must. It certainly was a life highlight and an experience I think about in some form almost daily. I would do it again like a shot. While the environment will be a statement in itself (and blow you away) the people involved bring it all together and make it just so enjoyable. Many thanks to Patrick and the team.”
Bruce Mellor, New Zealand
“This trip and event changed my life and I couldn’t have done it without the White Desert team getting me there, looking after me and giving ongoing support and enthusiasm. I loved it and I will do it again and again if I can! ”
Ram Barkai, South Africa
“For sheer opulence and luxury in one of the most hostile and awe-inspiring environments, there is no other company that I would travel with. White Desert have brought the sophisticated demands of five star living to the most remote place on earth with an extraordinary attention to detail.”
Gilo Cardozo, UK
“I would like to thank you for arranging the incredible trip down to Antarctica. It exceeded my expectations in so many ways. The landscape is simply awesome and quite breathtaking. It is certainly the last of the great Wilderness areas and something I have always wanted to do.”
Frank Raimondo, South Africa
“White Desert is creating a permanent memory of somewhere that is totally alien to 99.9% of the human population. Trust me, you wont forget that place. Ever.”
James McRoberts, Canada
“White Desert runs a highly professional set up, making everyone extremely welcome and always going the extra mile to accommodate your wishes. I certainly recommend the journey to all who have an interest in adventure, five star style!”
Dave Pearce, UK
“Being able to see Emperor penguins was a dream come true thanks to White Desert. The WD team is highly experienced, as well as very helpful and patient with individual travellers. It was a once in a life time journey which if I can, I would definitely like to experience again.”
Dr Teresa Nel, South Africa
“The whole experience was quite incredible. The weather was stunning and the trip to the mountains stunning. I heartily recommend this to anyone looking for a unique travel experience in, what can only be described as, a breath taking environment.”
Rick Garratt, UK
“Yes, I have now got the polar "bug"! It is no exaggeration to say that the whole experience has changed my life and the field guides' expertise, knowledge, patience and good humour were just part of what made the whole journey so memorable. Highlights are too numerous to recount, but shall anyone ever seek affirmation on whether they should undertake this adventure, simply have them call me.”
Farzin Pourmokhtar, USA
“A dream to set foot on every continent was fulfilled with an expedition organized by White Desert. Additional feats followed with little effort thanks to White Desert's willingness to customize its expeditions to accomplish your desires. I was able to fly my hot-air balloon over Dronning Maud Land, Antarctica and this flight marked the 1st solo free flight of a balloon in Antarctica. All this was done amidst an atmosphere of complete luxury and expertise provided by premiere Antarctica guides. ”
Eric Burhans, USA
“This is as close to 'Out of this World' as you can get - Seeing is believing and you leave humbled and with a great respect for the White Desert - and the White Desert team. ”
Richard and Suzanne Mason, UK
“A very humbling experience. Imagination cannot prepare you for the reality of Antarctica. It is a true wilderness of the world, introduced by the passionate, professional and friendly White Desert team. ”
Matthew Watson, UK
“This was probably one of the most exciting and invigorating experiences of my life – in the run up to our trip I almost felt as if I was on my way up to space. This is one to add to your “bucket list” of things to do before you die – its one I’d like to return to. ”
Paul Gardiner, South Africa
“I can't tell you how much I enjoyed it. More than any other holiday I have ever been on before. Every second of the trip has been imprinted on my memory! Every day was completely different and held surprises that I could have only dreamed of.”
Cathy MacKenzie, South Africa
“You haven't experienced life completely until you have listened to the silence of the vast white desert at the foot of the Ulvetanna Mountains.”
Ms Kirsten Jensen, South Africa
“The whole trip consisted of a series of adventures, amazing hikes, divine drink from the snow bar, delicious food and the warm hospitality I received from everyone involved. I am already looking forward to my next trip.”
Lynn Angel, South Africa
“We had a wonderful experience and I want to thank you for living out your dream which created a great adventure for Gail & I and all of the others who have been guest at your camp. For your passion, we will be forever grateful! ”
Everett Nissly, USA
“I loved the experience from start to finish. The guides were excellent and made me feel I could do anything I wanted too. White Desert camp was just perfect, relaxed, homely and cosy. I think about Antarctica every day and find it so hard to explain to my friends and family what it is like out there. For me, Antarctica was the most amazing and beautiful experience and I can't imagine any place or thing will ever match it. ”
Denise Eva, Ireland
“In a world where its getting almost impossible to escape, Antarctica is one of the last and most spectacular places left. White Desert took me on a journey I'll never forget and possibly never equal. ”
Julian Hayward, Albani, Australia
“When I look at the photographs taken on that sparkling day, I do it in silence and solitude. It does not take me long to be back into that out-of-body sense that I experienced in Antarctica. There is nothing like it in the whole circumference of earth. ”
Naas Husemeyer, Holland
“Antarctica – there is so little there, but so much to experience! It is a place where you can find your own true voice, away from the distractions of the outside world. It is where you find the true meaning of travelling. ”
Alan Chen, Taiwan
“Antarctica was an entry into something that was beyond my imagination. None of the trip's numerous highlights could have possibly come true without the guide and expertise of the White Desert team. I thank them all deeply. ”
Fahd Munir, Saudi Arabia
“The highlight was our visit to the mountains, and the breath taking beauty, pristine nature and immense scale of this forbidding but wonderful place. The daily activities at camp were well organized, energetic and challenging. ”
Ken Vere Nicoll, UK
“White Desert provided me a unique opportunity to witness the remote, captivating, almost alien beauty that is Antarctica in a classic and stylish fashion. I'm planning to go back again next year. ”
Jonathan Carter-Meggs, UK
“Every minute of our trip was an adventure and I will never forget it. Thanks for the trip of a life time.”
Gail Bongiovanni, USA
“One of the greatest adventure holidays of my life! Two weeks of kiting, skiing, rock-climbing and glacier-walking. Cherry Apsley-Garrard was right when he called it ‘the most beautiful continent in the world’!”
Nigel Johnson-Hill, UK
“Every minute of our trip was an adventure and I will never forget it. Thanks for the trip of a life time.”