Our last day in South Georgia was one of our most memorable, as National Geographic Endurance glided toward the beach at Salisbury Plain. As we launched Zodiacs, dozens of penguins burst from the waters surrounding us. They were off on a very important mission, or perhaps just having a good wash. Closer to the beach, cavorting fur seal pups greeted us. Like slightly nervous but inevitably curious kids, the penguins wanted to get a closer look at these strange new visitors in bright orange coats.
We found a quieter section of the beach to land. Penguins and seals soon surrounded us on all sides, each appearing to egg on the next to get just a little closer to check us out. Once we managed to tear ourselves away from this engaging greeting party, we walked a short distance over the beach and nearby grass to the edge of a massive king penguin breeding colony. The sheer number of penguins and the associated volume of their calls made for quite the spectacle. We took our time to explore the edges of the colony from different vantage points. A constant stream of penguins moving to and from the colony crossed the beach in front of us. Plenty of mud on their otherwise pristine feathers marked the penguins as they left, and the ones returning looked like brand new penguins. Skuas circling the colony overhead completed the picture.
We spent several happy hours photographing and simply spending time near these engaging penguins. Then we departed South Georgia for a final ship cruise to Rorhul, a small bay surrounded by steep cliffs and several species of nesting albatrosses. From the bow of the ship, we easily observed fluffy chicks, often the same size as the adults by this stage in the breeding season. The captain demonstrated again the incredible maneuverability of National Geographic Endurance as we turned on a dime and headed out to stormy seas and our next destination, the Falkland Islands.