1. The magnificent moment crossing the Antarctic Circle
A circle crossing in Antarctica is truly an event to celebrate. Unlike the Arctic Circle, which is accessible year-round and easily reached from Norway, navigating far enough into the 7th Continent to cross the elusive Antarctic Circle at 66°33' S requires a ship and crew that can push the boundaries of polar travel. It also requires a long enough journey to explore the dramatic scenery. This voyage aboard National Geographic Endurance provides both, allowing you to achieve this lifetime highlight. Head out onto the deck for a countdown with the crew, champagne in hand, drones capturing it all from above, to commemorate this magnificent moment in this unforgettable journey.
Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins
2. Be dazzled by millions of breeding chinstrap penguins
Remote Zavodovski Island in the South Sandwich chain is home to the largest rookery in the world of the easily recognizable chinstrap penguins with their face “straps” of black feathers. Here, you’ll visit not hundreds, not thousands, and not even hundreds of thousands, but millions of chinstraps who have made this isolated and rarely visited volcanic island their nesting grounds. At the height of the breeding season, which coincides with our December visit, one million pairs of mating penguins will produce nearly two million chicks, creating an island with four million of these dramatic small birds—a sight that is as entertaining as it is dazzling.
3. Visit the remote South Sandwich Islands
This is a once-in-a-decade stop for Lindblad-National Geographic—islands so remote that most travelers, even researchers to Antarctica, rarely get to visit. But it’s worth the wait and the journey to explore these volcanic islands, some of the youngest in the entire region. We stop at every one, including Thule, the last island, often referred to as “the end of the world.” The volcanic islands are still “new” in relation to other chains, and show mineral leeching that produces an array of blue, green, yellow, and orange streaks creating a dramatic kaleidoscope of colors in the sea. The volcanic region is also rich in sea nutrients and the water is rich in oxygen, making the islands a draw for thousands of birds and sea life, all of which you can see up close from Zodiacs as the wildlife comes to feed.
Photo: Ralph Lee Hopkins
5. Be awed by tabular icebergs in the Weddell Sea
Near Peter 1 Island and the Weddell Sea, in the ever-stunning Antarctic Sound, is a place renowned for enormous tabular icebergs, a marvel of light and water and ice and seascape. These massive icebergs have broken away from the ice shelf and can move independently through the sea, like cities afloat—some are actually as large as entire towns or states. Experiencing their scale and beauty makes you grasp how far you’ve traveled from civilization. And when these fresh water tabulars become locked into fast, saltwater ice, you can even walk up to these blue-hearted skyscrapers of the sea.
6. See a wildlife spectacle like no other in South Georgia
Often called the "Serengeti of the Southern Ocean," the prolific wildlife in South Georgia has to be seen to be believed. There are highlights at every turn, including half-a-million king penguins with their regal gold and orange markings, all nesting on a single beach. With a breeding season that lasts 14 months, you’ll be able to see every stage of development at once, including the fluffy brown chicks called “Oakum boys.” In the water, you’ll spot the southern elephant seal, the largest on Earth; the wandering albatross, the biggest bird on Earth; southern right and blue whales swimming peacefully through the cobalt waters; not to mention millions of playful fur seals who will certainly want to get close to your Zodiac, zipping all about. The scenery here is equally impressive with grand snow-capped peaks that resemble the Swiss Alps, although much further south.
7. Zodiac among glistening ‘bergs in the Lemaire Channel
Launch into a unique world of wildlife and nature in the Bellingshausen Sea on our specially crafted rubber Zodiacs, the key to unique explorations down on the water’s surface. Seeing icebergs from above on the ship's deck is one thing, but getting an up-close view gives you a whole new perspective. In the Lemaire Channel, you'll float among glistening glaciers and 'bergs—each one as fantastical as a Dr. Seuss creation—as you explore this ethereal frozen sculpture garden.
Photo: Michael S. Nolan