Destination: French Antarctica

By David Langan

Born in Dublin, Ireland, David Langan fell in love with travel and culture through stamp collecting as a child. There is no post office too remote for him to travel to, having visited over 300 TCC destinations. This is part of a continuing series of some of our most challenging places to get to.

Image courtesy of: StampWorldHistory.com

Why is it so difficult?
You now need to speak French to make a booking. This is because the announcements
on the ship are all in French including any safety information. Trips are about two to three times a year. Book six months in advance. Gives you plenty of time to learn French!!

How to do it
Go to the taaf.fr website and make an enquiry. The ship starts in Reunion. The Marion Dufresne takes approximately about four weeks to visit all the islands. In my case, a company based in the States arranged the trip. They specialize in wildlife trips. So a group of 24 were booked. We started in Reunion. It does help to speak French dealing with the crew on the ship. Alternatively, you can try to privately charter a boat in Madagascar and land on one of the “Scattered Islands” (Iles Eparses)—Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, Bassas da India, Europa Island, and Tromelin Island. They constitute the fifth district of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

What to do and see
There’s plenty of wildlife—penguins, seals, albatross, and birds and more birds—to keep you busy. Visit the three islands (Kerguelan, Ile Amsterdam, and Crozet). We spent two days on most islands. You can visit the scientific stations. A landing by helicopter is possible. On one of the islands you can stay overnight in a small house. It’s a fantastic experience. And obviously because the ship is French, the food is excellent. And you can send a postcard! There is a post office on each main island in the group. Visiting post offices and sending mail is very popular, and on one day the passengers assist with the mail on the ship.

 

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