Feb 26, 2019 - National Geographic Orion
Given the abundance of wildlife and the sweeping vistas of the Antarctic expanse in this region, nearly any day at South Georgia is going to be mind-blowing by default, and today was nothing less than that.
Following an early breakfast, we got to shore by Zodiac, where we were greeted by king penguins and an adorable troupe of baby fur seals. You could have sat at the landing site for hours, just photographing and watching the antics of these penguins and seal pups, which some were sure to do. For those of us who ventured further afield, a one-mile stroll led us along a rocky beach of penguins flopping into the water and rocketing out with the surf. There were even a couple of gentoo and chinstrap penguins, giving us no less than three species to view side by side. Here the king penguins dominated, however. The local colony is home to several thousand individuals.
These birds show no lack of outward elegance, tall and regal as they waddle ahead with purpose, clearly aware of their bearing among the lesser chinstrap and gentoo populations. Those of us who sat down were often joined by a companionable penguin or two (or three, or five). Walking beyond the main colony led us through a meadow of fur seals, mostly pups but also some older individuals. Here the pups tested our resolve for cuteness by attempting to nip at our ankles.
The penguin colony was an incredible experience with thousands of birds standing together in various stages of courtship, incubation, molting, and chicks. The din of ongoing penguin babble was simply mesmerizing. We stood to the side, enjoying the view with a range of snowy mountains as a backdrop: This was a real high point of our journey.
During lunch we sailed to Jason Harbor under sunny skies and through shrieking South Georgian wind. Once in the protection of our harbor, we dropped Zodiacs and headed for the beach, reaching a hut constructed more than a century ago. We afterward meandered down the beach toward a handful of elephant seals. Bushels of tussock grass more inland stretched above the beach’s length, where fur seal pups gurgled and chortled their day away. A short stroll from there led us to a protected lagoon, where hundreds of pups pranced in the shallows. Snowflakes flew horizontally in the meaty gusts of an oncoming storm as we made back to our ship. The day finished with recap and a terrific dinner.
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