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Zodiac Cruising in the Polar Regions

From zigzagging between icebergs to quietly floating near a polar bear to landing on penguin-filled terrain, zodiac boat excursions are a magical way to navigate icy waters and spot wildlife. You'll experience how exhilarating a ride on these dynamic vessels can be on polar cruises across Antarctica, the Arctic and Greenland
 

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What is a zodiac landing craft?

Zodiac landing crafts are a ton of fun—one minute you're zipping around icy bays, and the next you're slowly drifting to admire the glittering icebergs and observe an enormous whale fin protruding from the water. They are also known as zodiac boats, or simply zodiacs. Regardless of which name you use, it's the same vessel: a sturdy inflatable boat ideal for navigating around icebergs and landing on the shore during Antarctica, Greenland, Svalbard and North Pole cruises
Each zodiac boat can fit around 10 to 16 passengers, enabling you to reach places inaccessible by larger ships. The rubber crafts are very safe—each boat contains several air compartments so if one compartment deflates, there are plenty of others to keep you afloat. They also have a minimal impact on the delicate environment and wildlife.

What's it like to cruise in a zodiac and experience shore landings?

Zodiac excursions in Antarctica and the Arctic include cruising around icy waters in inflatable boats and shore landings on the frozen tundra. 

Zodiac cruises
Zodiac boat excursions enable you to get up close to seals, whales and other wildlife—what you'll see depends on if you're in the North or South Pole. In the North Pole (the Arctic), you might have the chance to witness a polar bear or walrus, and on South Pole (Antarctica) cruises, waddling penguins are an entertaining sight. Zodiacs also allow you to manoeuvre through narrow passages and float side-by-side with icebergs. 

Shore landings: wet or dry?
Shore landings are either wet or dry. On wet landings you'll wade through shallow water when you arrive to reach dry land or ice. If a wet landing is on the agenda, special boots will usually be provided by the tour operator. On dry landings you'll disembark on a dock or another dry surface.

Zodiac excursion logistics

  • There are usually two zodiac excursions per day. As with all Antarctica and Arctic activities, the excursions are weather-dependent.
  • Only 100 passengers from the same ship are allowed on land at the same time. Groups will take turns (one group will cruise around in the zodiac while the other group is on land, and then they switch). 

Penguins on the shore
Penguins on the shore

FAQ

  • Is zodiac cruising included in the price?

    Yes, zodiac excursions are included in the price and are optional. 
  • Does zodiac cruising require any special skills?

    No, getting in and out of the zodiac is fairly easy and the crew will assist you.
  • Is zodiac cruising safe?

    Yes, zodiac cruises in the polar regions are allowed only when the weather conditions are right. Zodiacs are operated by the qualified crew and all passengers go through safety training before embarking on an excursion. Everyone in the boats will be provided with a safety vest.
  • Are boots for wet landings provided?

    Usually yes, but check with your tour operator to make sure. 
  • How often will I go on a zodiac excursion?

    Zodiac excursions are organised as often as possible. They'll generally occur twice a day if the weather conditions are right. Due to conservation policies, only 100 passengers from one ship can be on land at the same time, so passengers will be divided into groups.

How should I prepare for zodiac cruising?

You don't need to train for a zodiac cruise excursion, but be sure to keep the following in mind: 

  • Follow the zodiac cruising instructions communicated by the crew.
  • Wear a safety vest.
  • Allow the crew to help you get in and out of the boat.
  • Smoking is not allowed on board.

What to bring
  • Waterproof bag / small drybag to protect cameras, etc.
  • Backpack to hold your items together.

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