There is probably no bigger and more passionate fan of all things Quark Expeditions than our CEO Hans Lagerweij. Fresh from his first experience aboard one of our Antarctic Express voyages, we sat down to chat with Hans about the fly-cruise program and hear him tell the tale of another Quark “first” achievement in Antarctica!
Name: Hans Lagerweij
Job title: CEO (Chief “Experience” Officer)
Trip Name: Antarctica Express fly-cruise
Pre-post night city: Punta Arenas
Ship name: Sea Adventurer
Date of Travel : February 2013
Thanks for taking the time to do this little interview Hans. First off, how would you describe the type of traveler best-suited for Quark's fly-cruise voyages?
Definitely you're an adventurous and active traveler. We have great optional activities on offer such as sea-kayaking and camping, that any active traveler would enjoy. It's a unique way to get up close and personal with the 7th continent.
What makes the fly-cruise program distinct from other Quark voyages?
If you're pressed for time and still want to experience all the best highlights of the Antarctic Peninsula, these trips are fantastic as they can get across the Drake Passage and be in Antarctica in only two hours. Mind you, the flying is more sensitive to weather conditions (make sure you buy travel interruption insurance!). Unlike our regular expedition trips where embarkation/disembarkation is at the pier, for Express trips we do this in Antarctica, and then transfer you by Zodiac to/from the ship just off King George Island.
For all those aviation buffs, you may be interested to know that we use a British Aerospace 146 jet plane, which has four engines, STOL capabilities – short take off and landing –and can land on gravel. All great attributes for this type of voyage! [Editor's Note: You can watch a video of the airplane landing on King George Island right here.]
Did anything interesting happen during your journey to the destination?
There's never a dull moment in expedition travel! Trying to make our way down to King George Island from Punta Arenas, it was foggy on the day we were supposed to fly, so we were delayed for 8 hours, making it evening when we were finally cleared to fly. So, as it turns out, this was the very first passenger night flight that our airline partner DAP had ever done in Antarctica, and was thus a new achievement in the history of tourism in Antarctica!
It was a really great night. The last passengers arrived on the ship at 2 a.m., where they were welcomed and served food with a smile by the hotel staff who had already put in more than 20 hours that day.
What are some of the highlights of your trip?
On my flight from Santiago de Chile to Punta Arenas, we had amazing views over Torres del Paine: probably one of the most spectacular views from an airplane that I have ever seen. Make sure you get a window seat on the left side of the airplane when you fly down, and right side when flying up, and have your camera ready!
Another memorable moment was when Expedition Leader Laurie Dexter gave his lecture about the failed Scott expedition to the South Pole; he is such a skilled storyteller and he recounted this historical event with such emotion that guests had tears in their eyes.
Top 3 things you did or experienced on your Polar expedition :
(1) Camping on the continent!
(2) Sea kayaking among the ice
(3) The polar barbeque on the outer deck – always a fun highlight, both for passengers and staff
You've seen all the iconic Antarctic wildlife before on your many trips to the region. Any unique encounters on this trip?
At Hannah Point, we observed a large number of penguin chicks “irritating” the huge elephant seals. They climbed on top of them and walked on their heads until the seals reacted by raising their bulbous heads and letting a big loud seal roar which had all the penguins scattering…only to regroup and begin their show minutes later. Truly hilarious!
What would you say to anyone who is considering travelling to the Polar Regions?
I highly recommend that you take advantage of the good advice from our passionate and experienced Polar Travel Advisers. Study all your options for the different ships and itineraries we have, and decide what suits you best. As the leader in Polar expeditions, we offer the largest choices to enjoy these regions, so please consider all the possibilities.
And one last thing, if you find that one of our fly-cruise voyages is for you, please note that the baggage limitation for the fly-cruise is 15kg per passenger. So pack smartly and remember that Quark has an informal atmosphere on board, so you don't have to pack any fancy clothes – just those that keep you warm!
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Hans!