How do I get there
Contact the specialist tour companies or travel agents listed below. Diving expeditions depart by cruise ship or expedition vessel from South America as well as Australia and New Zealand. From the UK, fly to Buenos Aires in Argentina, and transfer to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego with Aerolineas Argentina.

Do I need a visa
Visitors to Argentina must have a passport with 90-day validity. British, US and Canadian citizens do not need a visa for visits up to 90 days. Passports are collected on the boats and used when visiting research stations in Antarctica.

Am I qualified to dive
Tour companies normally require those taking part in dives to have advanced diving qualifications and experience with drysuit diving. A check-out dive is conducted before arrival to ensure that the diver is competent in the water and that his or her equipment is working satisfactorily. There is normally no opportunity for technical ice-diving for holiday-makers, however.

When is the best time to go
The cruise season runs from November to March, the austral summer, and thats the only time its possible to visit Antarctica. Diving conditions vary, but the best visibility occurs early in the season before the plankton blooms of late summer.

Can I stand the cold
In the Antarctic summer, air temperatures can range from 0 to 4°C. Daylight hours extend from around 4am to 10pm, with even longer days in the peak summer months of December and early January. Sudden snow squalls, windy conditions and temperature drops are common. The air is very dry, so youll need to drink lots of water and use skin moisturiser. Also, the sun is very strong, so sunblock is essential. The seas rarely fall below a toasty -1.8°C, so drysuits are the only option.

What should I bring
Divers are responsible for bringing all their own equipment, apart from tanks and weightbelts. This includes two sets of regulators with freeze-protected first and second stages.

Are there restrictions on diving
Dives are often limited in depth and time to minimise the risk of decompression illness, normally to 15-18m for 30, perhaps 40 minutes. Dive sites are chosen for accessibility, water clarity, underwater attractions and safety.

Any site with high concentrations of sea ice is generally avoided. Drift-dives and diving in drifting pack ice are also avoided. Icebergs chosen as dive sites are usually either hard aground or well clear of brash or loose ice.

Diving takes place at a reasonable distance from penguin colonies and no interference with benthic marine life (starfish, anemones etc) is permitted.

How dangerous is it
The most significant risk is the remoteness and isolation of Antarctica. Medical emergencies, including diving accidents, often require an air evacuation back to South America, either to Chile or Argentina. Otherwise the stormy ocean conditions of the Drake Passage can test the best seasickness medicines, but shipboard doctors can provide assistance.

Is language an issue
English is widely spoken on ships exploring Antarctica.

Who should I contact
Check out the websites of these companies that offer diving in Antarctica:

Operators
Aurora Expeditions, Australia (www.auroraexpeditions.com.au, 0061 29252 1033)
Oceanwide Expeditions, USA (www.ocnwide.com, 001 800 453 7245)
Quark Expeditions, UK (www.quarkexpeditions.com, 01494 464080)

Agents
Adventure Associates, Australia (www.adventureassociates.com, 0061 29389 7466)
Big Animals Photography Expeditions, USA (www.biganimals.com, 001 415 923 9865)
Discover the World, UK (www.discover-the-world.co.uk 01737 214250)
Dive Worldwide, UK (www.diveworldwide.com, 01794 389372)
WILD WINGS, UK (www.wildwings.co.uk)
World Expeditions, UK (www.worldexpeditions.co.uk, 020 8870 2600)

How much will it cost
Your fare to Argentina, Australia or New Zealand, the normal cruise cost (anything from £2300 upwards) plus an additional £300 for diving.

Check out
The British Antarctic Survey website, www.antarctica.ac.uk