Having led passengers on more than 60 voyages to the Antarctic, Cheli is a seasoned veteran when it comes exploring the rich, breathtaking nature and animal life of this ever changing environment. Cheli got her first taste of polar adventure leaving her native New Zealand for the Russian Far East and continued leading expeditions to both well-known and “secret gem” locations across Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Svalbard, the North Pole, South Georgia, South Sandwich Islands and the White Continent. Her passion for the Antarctic’s nature and wildlife has roots in a career spent on and in the water. Cheli started in the ski industry and went on to become a PADI Master Instructor® with more than 6000 dives to her credit. One of Cheli’s most memorable animal preservation initiatives was to tag and monitor the breading habits of sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef. A bit closer to home, Cheli worked to identify New Zealand’s resident Orca population, rescue a pod of 100 stranded long finned pilot whales and was part of the team funded by the Discovery Channel that witnessed the 2nd ever known sighting of Antarctic orca in New Zealand waters. She also is a Commercial Launchmaster, so while she is qualified to “drive the ship” she leaves that to the Captain and focuses her talents, her New Zealand sense of humor and contagious excitement for all that the Antarctic has to offer on ensuring that she and the Expedition Team work together to make the most of every opportunity. Cheli’s one piece of advice to make the very most of your Antarctic expedition is to remember to put down your camera down and let it all soak in. ‘Life isn’t not measured by the number of breathes we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.’
What keeps you returning season after season?
"Antarctica is one of those rare places that is protected. We can see how things can be if left alone, which is the reason I encourage everyone to visit. It is not just the icebergs, the history, the penguins and the whales...It is the whole package. An experience to which no words can do justice! To be able to share this special place with people from all around the world is why I keep coming back."
If you could time travel, which historic expedition would you join, and why?
"As a New Zealander, I would join Shackleton's 1914-1916 British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. This would be primarily to be part of a team headed by Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose leadership qualities are second to none and something to aspire to. As an added bonus, I would be able to witness Captain Frank Worsley (a New Zealander) sail the James Caird from Elephant Island to South Georgia. His navigational skills were exceptional. That would be the icing on the cake."
Cheli's advice for Polar Travelers
"Quark has the largest number of vessels of any company operating in Antarctica. So it is important you decide in advance what you want from your Antarctic experience. It might be visiting the historic huts in the Ross Sea, seeing the most species of penguins, or kayaking amongst icebergs. Whatever your motivation - do it once, and do it right."