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  • Writer's pictureDawnelle Salant

Upon arriving in El Calafate, I am immediately reminded of my hometown of Fernie, B.C., and Banff in the Canadian Rockies. It is a tourist town - shops, hotels and restaurants line the streets and I hear about 4 different languages as we walk around looking for a place to eat. I pass three cars parked together and each has a different license plate - Argentina, Chile and Paraguay. 

On our first full day we are happy to take it slow; it’s been awhile since we had nothing pressing to do and it’s wonderful. We have a tasty lunch at a restuarant designed to look like a library. The steps leading up are painted to look like you are walking on giant books. It's genius. Our big plan for the day involves a walk around Laguna Nimez, a reserve that borders Lago Argentina. The glacier fed lake is stunning - I think it is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen, the blue is practically indescribable, so I will let my photographs do the talking here. The wetland is home to almost 100 species of birds and we see plenty, but my main objective here is to see flamingos in the wild. I have seen one or two before, in the Galapagos, but they were so far away that they hardly count. Luckily there is a huge group of them in the lagoon as soon as we enter. They are so pink that they are almost fluorescent. I watch them for a while and to my delight, they start flying. They don’t fly far, but capturing birds in flight is my favourite thing to do. They look different from the flamingos I’ve seen in zoos before, these are Chilean Flamingos and their wings are lined with black. They are gorgeous. We spend a few hours wandering around the lagoon and make our way back to the town centre for a tasty Argentinian steak and some red wine. #elcalafate #dawnellesalantphotography #lagoargentina #lagunanimez

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  • Writer's pictureDawnelle Salant

When I get ready for our last excursion, I have to choke back tears. I can’t believe that this once in a lifetime journey is coming to a close. As we ride in the zodiac to land on Half Moon Island, it begins to snow. The sun is out, and as snowflakes fall, I feel like Antarctica is saying goodbye. On land there are hundreds of chinstrap penguins and I spend some time just watching them and revelling in their presence. I have enough photos and it’s important to just be present when you are in a place such as this. The remains of a wooden life boat sit on the shore and our guide tells us that it was left here from tourist excursions in the 60’s, Everyone survived, but the boat is still there to tell their story. As I make my way to the other side of the island, I hear that the one last animal that I wanted to see is down the point. An elephant seal. It’s the only animal I hadn’t seen yet that I really wanted to see. Antarctica seems to always pull through. Two cubs lounge by the shore, while a large female tries to make her way to the water. The guides aren’t sure if the female is their mother, as the cubs are at an age and size where they would have been weaned by now. 

Watching the large elephant seal make her way to the water is more than amusing - it’s hilarious. She is huge - and awkward. She pulls herself over huge boulders and flops down in exhaustion. She takes long breaks in between each attempt to get herself closer to water. When she finally reaches her destination, she collapses in the water to rest before finally pulling herself off the shallow shore. Once she reaches the deeper water, she transforms into a much more agile creature. Once she is gone, there is nothing left to do but return to the zodiacs. I have had the most incredible journey and it more than exceeded my expectations. I can’t believe it is over and I have to blink back tears once more. I definitely left a piece of my heart in Antarctica, but my soul is overflowing.

Our return journey through the Drake is much rougher than our journey there, but it is still not as bad as it could be. During dinner, the ships rocks from side to side, plates and drinks slide across tables and one stand holding cutlery crashes to the floor. One of the guides tells us that we are still relatively lucky. He remembers one journey where the guests were confined to their cabins, and they were laying on their stomachs making sandwiches and delivering them to the guests in backpacks on their hands and knees. I’m glad we only had to deal with 5-6 meter waves instead of 15. I'm also glad that we got to experience a little of the Drake Shake. It would seem like cheating if we didn’t. I probably shouldn’t tell you how I cried the last night on the ship - like ugly cried when the staff said their good-byes and the crew came up to sing Leaving on a Jet Plane. These was without a doubt THE MOST INCREDIBLE 10 days of my life. Not just the location, but the experience. New friends, new stories, 1000’s of new photos. I felt a physical pain in my heart when it was time to leave. I know I said this was a once in a lifetime journey, but I have to go back, somehow, one day. Just before dinner on the last night, as we were getting closer to Ushuaia, a rainbow was spotted behind the ship. It both warmed my heart, and yes, you guessed it, made me cry - again!

If you have ever dreamed of going to Antarctica, I will tell you that it is even more majestic than you could imagine. It was everything I expected and more. Antarctica is honestly the most fabulous place on this planet. The wildlife, landscape and adventure will never be beat. Antarctica takes a hold of your heart and never lets go. The last true wilderness does not disappoint. 

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  • Writer's pictureDawnelle Salant

Our first excursion of our last day in Antarctica takes place on Deception Island at Whalers’ Bay. This is a completely different landscape than we have been seeing. Huge, rusted fuel storage tanks dominate the black sand beach, and although they are an eyesore, it makes for an interesting scene. They are the remains of a Norwegian whaling station. We are inside a caldera, a collapsed volcano, and the beach is littered with rocks and black sand. Several collapsed wooden shacks give the bay an eerie feel, and guides are posted along the beach to share the history of the site. There is an aircraft hanger, and they point out where the runways used to be. As we walk towards the viewpoint hike, we see evidence that we are in an active volcano. Steam is rolling across the flat land that borders the beach. It swirls around huge whalebones that are scattered on the land. It’s almost spooky. At the far end of the beach, a leopard seal lounges near the water. He yawns - a slow, exaggerated yawn, that allows us to to get a good look at his teeth. Four chinstrap penguins clamber out of the water in front of him and stand there squawking at each other. The seal pays them no attention and I walk into the water to get a better vantage point for photos. I have to stop and pinch myself - I am meters away from penguins and a leopard seal in an active volcano in Antarctica. It is hard to believe that I am one of the privileged few who gets to experience this. 

I do one last climb to the vantage point they call Neptune’s Mouth. Huge pillars of land drop straight down to the ocean below. I am so high above the water that it almost makes me dizzy. The view from up here is unbelievable - the dark beach stretches off into the distance and I can see the entire bay. It’s a different sight than we are used to, but an incredible view nonetheless. 

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Hi there! I'm Dawnelle - travel photographer, adventure seeker and digital nomad currently exploring  South America. 

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