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Paradise Bay: Five Facts You Should Know

If you like frozen landscapes, you'll find paradise in Antarctica’s Paradise Bay — a harbour near Lemaire and Bryde Islands on the Antarctic Peninsula’s west coast. Home to huge whales and fluffy penguins, Paradise Bay is a must-see for your Antarctica trip. Here are five facts about this ice-covered land.

It's paradise on ice.

Many of the reasons whalers considered Paradise Bay to be so idyllic nearly a century ago still apply today. In fact, little has changed in terms of the scenery and wildlife — you’ll witness big swimming whales (though perhaps not many), and penguins diving off ice floes. You’ll glimpse jagged, rock-like chunks of ice overlooking the placid bay. Now’s as good a time as any to experience Antarctica in all its serene, otherworldly glory.

The name comes from whalers.

The name “Paradise Harbor” was coined by whalers in the early 1920s, but the site is mostly referred to as Paradise Bay. The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, although some countries oppose the ban. Take your camera to Paradise Bay and you may catch a sleeping humpback whale lounging on an ice floe or a minke whale leaping out of the water.

It’s the location of two scientific research bases.

Argentina’s Almirante Brown Antarctic Base has been in operation since 1951 (although only open in summer since 1984). It sits on top of a rocky perch, providing a great bay view. The other base — Chile’s González Videla Antarctic Base — was active from 1951 to 1958, and briefly in the 1980s. This Chilean base is notable for a nearby shelter that was designated a Historic Site.

It’s one of two mainland harbours used as a stop for cruises.

Apart from Neko Harbor, Paradise Bay is the only Antarctica harbour used as a stop for cruise ships. The glaciated mountains and gentoo penguins make it crystal clear why it’s such a popular cruise destination. In fact, cruise ships are the only way to get there.

It’s part of the coldest and windiest place on earth.

Temperatures remain below freezing all year in Antarctica’s Paradise Bay. While the extreme cold in Antarctica explains the lack of shops and restaurants, it also adds to the surroundings’ quiet beauty. You’ll feel as if you and your fellow travellers are the last people on earth, taking in the pristine surroundings without distractions or intrusions from modern civilisation.

You can check out the ice floes in a “zodiac” boat.

The lightweight inflatable boats that ferry tourists around Antarctica are known as “zodiacs.” Taking a zodiac tour around Paradise Bay is a great way to see the icebergs and ice floes that come in every shade of blue. You can also check out the seals and penguins, and maybe even a whale if you’re lucky. Zodiacs can also reach smaller channels that are inaccessible to bigger boats.

MS Roald Amundsen anchored off Snowhill Island, Antarctica. Credit: Espen Mills.

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Penguins perched on the ice of Cuverville Island, Antarctica. Credit: Espen Mills / HX Hurtigruten Expeditions

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