Your Guide to Ice Diving: Why it's Worth Getting Cold for

Ice diving in Antarctica or the Arctic is ideal for adventurous divers looking for a challenge and exceptional marine life at true wilderness areas. You can spot numerous whales, penguins, seals and polar bear, plus swim with orcas. All whilst diving in areas few other people ever get to see. Read on for our guide to ice diving and why you don’t want to miss it.


Why visit Antarctica

Antarctica is one of the world’s most remote and fascinating destinations, offering exceptional wildlife watching and diverse diving, including ice diving, zodiac diving, shore and wall diving. Go Antarctica liveaboard diving and you can explore iconic destinations such as the Falkland Islands, South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula. South Georgia liveaboard diving offers the opportunity to experience ice diving in areas that have never been dived before by other people.

Ice Diving highlights

There is an abundance of marine life in the waters surrounding Antarctica, including seals, penguins, and around 15 species of whales. At this biodiversity hotspot you have the chance to see sea lions whilst diving and possibly even swim with leopard seals, fur seals and penguins. There are plenty of fish to find whilst exploring sea caves and bright blue underwater ice-formations, plus starfish, giant isopods, and jellyfish.

Other Antarctica highlights

  • The remote Falkland Islands offer excellent bird watching, where you can see albatross, shearwaters, petrels and numerous penguins.
  • Explore hot springs, an old whaling station and a Chinstrap Penguin rookery at the South Shetland Islands.
  • Walk on the glacier and snow-covered Antarctica Peninsular and visit huge icebergs.
  • Meet tens of thousands of South Georgia’s King penguins.
  • Pay your respects at Ernest Shackleton’s grave and immerse in history at South Georgia’s whaling museum.

How cold is the water?

The water temperature when ice diving is typically 0°C (32 °F).

When to go:

  • November to March is peak season for ice diving.
  • December and January are popular for warmer water and sunlight.
  • Visit in December and January to see young penguins and seals.
  • February or March is ideal for whale watching fans.
  • Water visibility is at is best towards the end of the diving season.

Experience needed

A minimum of 30 logged dives, plus experience in cold water diving and dry suit diving.


The ice-class Plancius and Ortelius both offer Antarctica liveaboard diving safaris.


Why visit the Arctic

Arctic liveaboard diving will take you to remote areas in search of polar bears, whales, reindeers and more. All whilst experiencing the majesty and colours of the Northern Lights. Most Arctic diving occurs around Spitsbergen, in the northern islands of Norway, where you can go ice diving, boat-based diving and wreck diving. A Scoresby Sund liveaboard in Greenland provides the chance to dive the world’s largest fjord system, covering 38,000 square kilometers and reaching depths of up to 1,450 meters. You can even go freediving or snorkelling with orcas off Tromsø in Norway.

Ice Diving highlights

Spitsbergen has plenty of small marine life to find but the larger species are the real highlight. You can swim with sea lions and cruise the wildlife-rich Hinlopen Strait, where you can spot bearded seals, walruses, reindeer, Arctic foxes and an array of bird species. Spitsbergen’s waters are regularly visited by minke, fin, humpback and blue whales. Scoresby Sund is rich in birdlife and Arctic fish such as char, Greenland halibut, wolf fish, sea scorpions and greenland sharks. This fjord is also home to ringed, hooded, harbour, bearded, and harp seals. Walrus, narwhals, polar bears, and beluga whales can also be seen in the area. It’s safe to say you want to take your camera with you wherever you choose to cruise and dive in the Arctic.

Other Arctic highlights:

  • Witness the flowing bright greens and pinks of the Northern Lights
  • Visit Longyearbyen; an old mining town with a polar museum
  • Experience the enormous Monaco glacier up close
  • Cruise Hornsund’s spectacular fjords

How cold is the water?

Arctic waters range from 5°C (41 °F) to 0°C (32 °F), with Scoresby Sund dropping to -1°C (30.2°F).

When to go:

  • July and August offer the best conditions for ice diving in the Arctic.
  • April is great for fresh snow-covered vistas and humpback whales.
  • Narwhals, sea birds and caribou are more common later in the season.
  • Polar bear sightings are more common close to shore in July.
  • You can freedive or snorkel with orcas from October to January at Tromsø, Norway

Experience needed

For Arctic diving, a minimum of 30 logged dives, plus experience in cold water diving and dry suit diving. You can snorkel with orcas at Tromsø without any prior dive experience.


The Plancius offers Arctic liveaboard diving, plus Scoresby Sund visits during certain Arctic itineraries. The Sula offers Tromsø diving safaris dedicated to swimming with orcas.

Top tips for polar liveaboard travel

  • Choose woollen base layers for under your drysuit and clothes, preferably merino. Wool performs much better than synthetic materials.
  • Take multiple base layers and socks so you can keep warm and adjust your layers to fit your outer clothes or dry suit.
  • A pair of snow boats will keep your feet warm and cleats will make walking on icy surfaces easier when you explore on land.
  • Take a torch for exploring when you dock at night and go in search of the Northern Lights. You’ll want a light source for the dark journey home.
  • Camera batteries drain very fast in cold polar air temperatures. Take spares and charge them regularly.
  • Eat well and keep hydrated to combat the cold.
This article was written by divers and writers at Ice Diving - around 15 species of whales can you see Ice Diving - You can see penguins during a dive Ice Diving - A great winter wonderland Ice Diving - Be part of the nature