Help Quark Expeditions Select The ‘Polar Big 5’

Big game hunters once coined the term “Big 5” in reference to the five toughest animals to hunt on foot in Africa. Today, visitors to that continent still keep their eyes peeled for those iconic creatures, although these days they are more likely to shoot them with their cameras. The animals that make up the Big 5 include lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos and buffaloes, which are amongst the most fearsome creatures found on our planet.

As a salute to the African Big 5, adventure travel company Quark Expeditions, which specializes in excursions to the Arctic and Antarctic, has asked us to help them select the “Polar Big 5.” They’ve narrowed down the selection to nine contenders, each of which inhabit the colder regions of the world. The nominees include the king penguin, walrus, polar bear, reindeer, elephant seal, leopard seal, musk ox, humpback whale and albatross. Quark has even set up a page for us to cast our votes to help bestow this honor on the five eventual recipients.

To entice us all into voting, the company is also giving away a ten-day voyage to the Antarctic, a dream destination for many. One lucky person who submits their vote for the Polar Big 5 will be selected to receive a fantastic trip to the bottom of the world that takes place in November 2013. For more details on the prize, click here.

The Polar Big 5 contest runs through November 30 of this year. To enter, simply head over to and make your selections. Any entry that doesn’t include the polar bear should be invalidated automatically.

[Photo credit: Alan Wilson via Wikimedia]

Partial solar eclipse highlights the 2011 Antarctic travel season

A visit to Antarctica is high on the list of “must see” places for travelers looking to get off the beaten path. It is the highest, coldest, driest continent on the planet, and yet it still holds an undeniable allure for many adventure seekers. They come to kayak amongst the massive ice flows, visit penguin colonies, and to step foot in a place that few people ever get to see. This year, a few lucky visitors will also get the opportunity to witness a solar eclipse.

On November 25th, a partial solar eclipse will take place in the southernmost regions of the planet, making it only visible in New Zealand and the Antarctic. While the kiwis will have just 20% of the sun obscured from view, the Antarctic Peninsula will see nearly 90% of our star blocked from sight as the moon passes in front of it. Anyone traveling through the region on that day is sure to have a once in a lifetime experience.

Adventure travel specialists Quark Expeditions is not only preparing for the impending Antarctic cruise season, which begins in November, they’re currently offering a 15% discounts on all of their cruises scheduled to take place during the eclipse. The company has two different itineraries available and four separate cruises that will be in the Antarctic when the celestial event takes place.

It isn’t often that you know that a travel experience is going to be truly unique and special before you even go. But I’d say witnessing a solar eclipse over the Antarctic Peninsula ranks as an unforgettable sight.

[Photo credit: sancho_panza via WikiMedia]

Blog Your Way To The North Pole

Travelers with an adventurous side have a great opportunity to score the trip of a lifetime thanks to a new contest from Quark Expeditions, who invite you to Blog Your Way To The North Pole. The contest, which runs until February 15th, 2011, will award one lucky winner a trip for two to the top of the world that is valued at more than $54,000.

Much like Quark’s Blog Your Way To Antarctica contest, which ran last year, contestants are asked to write a short (200-400 word) blog entry explaining why they are the perfect person to be named Quark’s Official Blogger to the North Pole. Entrants are also asked to include interesting travel experiences or places that they’ve been to in the past, as well as a recent photo. Once your blog post has been put on the contest website it will be available for others to read, comment and vote on. Those votes will be a crucial element to winning the contest, as they will help narrow the entries down to five finalists in February. After the deadline for the contest has passed, a panel of judges consisting of a professional travel blogger, Quark’s President, a member of Quark’s Expedition team and a member of the Marketing team, will select the winner from those five finalists to go on the trip.

And what a trip it will be. In June of 2011, the winning blogger, along with their guest, will be flown to Europe for an evening in Helsinki, Finland. From there, it’s on to Murmansk, Russia, where they’ll board the Russian ice-breaker 50 Years of Victory to begin their voyage to the North Pole. That journey can take anywhere from 4 to 8 days depending on the condition of the pack ice, and upon reaching the North Pole itself, they’ll disembark from the ship for a champagne toast and lunch on the ice cap. On the return voyage to port, the ship will swing by Franz Josef Land, a very remote and uninhabited island that is home to polar bears and walruses.

So, if this sounds like your kind of adventure, head on over to the contest website and fill out your entry. Then fire up your Twitter and Facebook accounts, call your friends and family, and start rallying the troops to get the vote out. Who knows, perhaps next summer you’ll be taking an adventurous cruise to the top of the world.