Picnics of yesteryear conjure up images of romantic languor, enjoyed by those who had the luxury of time. Today a sandwich, a flask of tea and a checkered blanket are all that’s needed, however, you can choose to enjoy more sumptuous fare in picturesque settings like wine estates and safari lodges. Luxury Antarctic tour company White Desert has elevated the picnic to even greater heights by laying out a spread in one of Earth’s most dramatic settings, as part of a day trip from Cape Town to the continent and back.
The intrigue of visiting the Antarctic interior is far more compelling than the food that you’ll enjoy, but if you’re going to have a lavish picnic, Queen Maud Land is a stellar choice. On White Desert’s ‘The Greatest Day’ you’ll get to experience an international flight across the Southern Ocean, extraordinary aerial views as you jet over sheets of moving ice and mountain ranges that boggle the mind. You’ll land on Wolf’s Fang Runway and set foot on the seventh continent – a place visited by very few hardened explorers, scientists and fortunate travellers.
The roundtrip costs $14,500 (about R250,000), which is the equivalent, or less, of some of the world’s most pricey dishes – think beluga caviar entwined with other rare delicacies. However, on ‘The Greatest Day’, you get far more than a meal.
Mindy Roberts, White Desert’s Chief Marketing Officer, describes her first impression after one of the private jets that the company operates touched down on the blue ice runaway, flanked by monolithic spires of rock.
‘The clarity of air as I stepped outside took me by surprise, but what struck me most was the purity and agelessness of the landscape. I’ve travelled extensively, but it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced. And then the squeak and crackle of walking on the ice through the mountains. Oh, the mountains!’
After landing in Antarctica, one of the company’s experienced high mountain guides will explain how to move carefully across the ice, before you are led to the base of a nunatak where the picnic is staged. The menu is prepared by White Desert’s in-house chef, Antony Dubber, whose culinary skills have taken him from the heights of Everest and Kilimanjaro Base Camp to the isolated landscapes of Elbrus Base Camp, Russia and Tromso, Arctic Norway.
The food includes a carefully crafted charcuterie board, crudités, dips, crackers and cheese, served with bread freshly baked at White Desert’s seasonal base camp in Antarctica. There are fruit platters and sweet treats, champagne and warm drinks.
You’ll get to spend three to four hours in the interior of Antarctica, with time to fat bike in the snow if you desire. Before departing, you’ll also have the option of enjoying a unique cocktail. The ice used is not standard blocks spewed out by a twenty-first-century refrigerator. It comes shaved from glacial ice that’s over 10,000 years old.
Those that have visited this vast wilderness have remarked on how it stirs a curiosity within you. There’s a desire to know what’s over the next snowy ridge or what lies behind mountain ranges. Despite the clear hunger for more, Greatest Day guests have pointed out that even if they never return to the raw beauty of Antarctica, their souls have been enriched by the window of time they got to spend here capturing vibrant, otherwordly memories.
‘The Greatest Day’ is a chance for you to experience the real interior of Antarctica in a single day – something not many people on Earth have the chance to do. It’s a bucket list adventure if ever there was one.