Antarctica Wildlife

Discover it with the best ice team on Earth

The number one draw for most Antarctic wildlife cruise travelers is: penguins. Gentoo, Adelie, chinstraps in the thousands; rockhopper, macaroni and king penguins in the Falklands; and king penguins at a staggering scale in South Georgia. Our Daily Expedition Reports have documented sightings of a rare black and a rare white penguin, as well as a lone Emperor colony at our farthest south.

Penguin behavior is endlessly fascinating.  In the Antarctic spring, hundreds of gentoo penguins parade before us, reestablishing their bonds, mating, staking their claims, and thievishly stealing stones from one another for their nests. And you’ll be astounded by the spectacle of their massive rookeries in the height of the nesting season—with thousands of parent pairs and, depending on your departure date, downy chicks. The photo ops are simply incredible. And while penguins are delightful in films and nature documentaries, the “3D” experience of being literally there among them, watching the often-madcap business of penguin life being lived around you is simultaneously uplifting and humbling: the animal kingdom indeed. Your expedition team will add another dimension to the Antarctic wildlife adventure, too—revealing the brilliant adaptations that enable them to live in polar conditions.

Deadly beauty
Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer and frequent member of our expedition team, has spent considerable time in the Antarctic undersea documenting the region’s apex predator: the leopard seal. Read his article, co-authored by National Geographic photographer and writer, Kim Heacox, also a frequent expedition team member, to learn more about his intimate encounter with Hydrurga leptonyx. We’ll find it resting on ice floes, and often will have the opportunity to approach closely in Zodiacs for excellent photo ops. We’ll also likely be able to observe Weddell and crabeater seals, as well as Antarctic fur seals, whose populations have rebounded since the 1959 Antarctic Treaty and the 1972 Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals. 

Whales in the Southern Ocean
Flexibility to take advantage of spontaneous events is a hallmark of our expedition style, so when a pod of whales appears, our captain will halt the ship to create front-row-seat viewing opportunities. Our ships' bridge, bow and deck rails, and expansively windowed lounges are perfect perches for observing the action: we might see fin, humpback, minke, sperm, and killer whales in the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula or South Georgia.

Antarctic birds
See Arctic terns and other pelagic birds, including fulmars and petrels. The opportunity of a lifetime for bird lovers, however, lies in venturing further—into the lands of the albatross, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands. The beautiful black-browed albatross crowd the ledges and shorelines of Steeple Jason Island in the Falklands. The wandering albatross, with the largest wingspan of any bird, is one of the many wildlife spectacles South Georgia affords.

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