A photographer’s story by Anais Afrika Rekus
What It’s Like to Operate Small Ships in Antarctica
With Nicolás Gildemeister Budge, Antarctica21’s Director of Operations and Product
Originally hailing from Santiago de Chile — the capital of the world’s thinnest, longest country and the home of Antarctica21’s corporate offices — Nicolás Gildemeister Budge has been working in the Last Continent since 2014. First beginning as an Expedition Guide and Media Coordinator and working his way up to Antarctica21’s Director of Operations and Product, Nicolás enjoys facing the challenges of organizing expeditions to Antarctica and meeting them with clarity and precision to deliver incredible experiences to all Antarctica21 guests.
“Exploration is my passion,” says Nicolás. “And there’s nothing that compares to exploring Antarctica via small ship.”
When it comes to creating once-in-a-lifetime expeditions for A21 travelers, Nicolás and his team thrives. Their main focus is always you, the guest, and the overall experience, beginning from your first call with one of Antarctica21’s sales agents then to eventually meeting the expedition team when you board one of our small ships in Punta Arenas or Ushuaia. “Our experiences have less than 100 guests, and we have one of the highest ratios of expedition guides per passenger in Antarctica,” says Nicolás.
“We always keep safety first and create an experience that shows the Last Continent in a unique and personal way. With this type of approach, it’s always a rewarding experience for both our team and our guests.”
However, Operating in Antarctica does come with challenges, but Nicolás is up for the task. “It’s part of the beauty,” he says. “Every trip is different and comes with its own set of challenges. Adapting and reacting accordingly and being proactive with decisions is one of my favorite aspects of the job.”
By far, one of his favorite ways to arrive in Antarctica is by flight. One of the unique advantages of traveling with Antarctica21 is being able to skip the Drake Passage and arrive directly to Antarctica by a quick, two-hour flight. Then, from the moment you arrive to the continent, you’re comfortable in one of our boutique small ships, your base for experiencing Antarctica in the most intimate manner available. “The advantage of our small group size allows you to spend more time exploring the continent and less time waiting for your turn, and always guided by professional guides with deep polar experience,” says Nicolás, as ships with more than 100 passengers must explore the continent in shifts due to regulations of how many passengers can be on the continent at once. “It’s a treat to be able to participate in all Zodiac cruises or landings without having to do turns with other guests.”
Then, back on the vessel, Nicolás loves how passengers become fast friends and how they interact with the expedition and operations team like family. This takes place during casual conversations and during the many talks led by the education team, ranging from topics like glaciology to the importance of preserving Antarctica now and for years to come.
“We get the chance to spend a lot of time with passengers, which is so fun for us,” says Nicolas. “We enjoy sharing our knowledge of Antarctica with everyone who travels with us. It’s our passion, after all!”
While the thought of capturing the continent’s stunning icebergs and sparkling fjords first led him to the Last Continent, Nicolás, a professional photographer, notes how his relationship with Antarctica and photographing the continent has changed over the years. For him, it’s about much more than simply capturing or showing the continent’s magnificence, it’s ultimately about creating experiences for travelers to more deeply understand Antarctica and its importance to the world.
“I work in Antarctica and with Antarctica21 because of the possibility this continent holds,” says Nicolás. “To be able to show the many elements of Antarctica to our guests, to the world through photography, to be able to teach people the importance of Antarctica, is a gift.”
To see even more of Nicolás’s photography and adventures, follow him on Instagram: @ngbphoto!