Wildlife locations

7 recommended wildlife locations. The species listed below are just a selection of those you may see.

Antarctic Peninsula

The Antarctic Peninsula is the most accessible part of the great white continent with some of its best wildlife and scenery. Ice-choked waterways, sculpted icebergs, imposing glaciers and rugged mountains provide the back drop to an area with more whales and dolphins than anywhere else on earth.

  • Ideal for viewing: Elephant seal, Hourglass dolphin, Humpback whale, Minke whale, Orca
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Penguin watching, Birdwatching

Lemaire Channel

The Lemaire Channel is an 11km strait off Antarctica leading to a jigsaw of jewel like islands. Filled with ice-bergs and hemmed in by steep glacial cliffs, the passage is not only extremely scenic, but the protected waters are usually as still as a lake, creating wonderful reflections of the surrounding landscape.

  • Ideal for viewing: Adélie penguin, Hourglass dolphin, Humpback whale, Macaroni penguin, Orca
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Penguin watching, Birdwatching

Paradise Harbour

Paradise Harbour is surrounded by heavily glaciated mountains and ice cliffs, which protect and shield this part of the bay and reflect in the ice-cold waters. Its mind-boggling array of icebergs are a highlight, enhancing the wildlife viewing experience which includes whales and abundant birdlife.

  • Ideal for viewing: Adélie penguin, Gentoo penguin, Hourglass dolphin, Humpback whale, Orca
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Penguin watching, Birdwatching

Ross Sea

If you long to see emperor penguins, the largest species of penguin, which is rarely found outside the High Antarctic, then this is the area to view them. Around one third of the world’s population breed in the Ross Sea area, as well as a substantial number of Adélie penguins.

  • Ideal for viewing: Adélie penguin, Antarctic petrel, Crabeater seal, Emperor penguin, Snow petrel
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Penguin watching, Birdwatching

South Georgia

South Georgia is a remote, rugged and hauntingly beautiful sub-Antarctic island. Its scenery ranges from impressive mountains and mighty glaciers to deep fjords and low-lying grassland. Renowned as an excellent birdwatching destination, it has more wildlife than virtually anywhere else on the planet.

  • Ideal for viewing: Wandering albatross, Elephant seal, King penguin, Macaroni penguin, Sperm whale
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Penguin watching, Birdwatching

South Shetland Islands

The South Shetland Islands are situated north of the Antarctic Peninsula. Most of the land is permanently glaciated, yet, despite the harsh conditions, the islands do support a large variety of seals, penguins – including Adelie and chinstrap - and seabirds – including Antarctic terns and giant petrels.

  • Ideal for viewing: Adélie penguin, Elephant seal, Chinstrap penguin, Gentoo penguin, Southern right whale
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Penguin watching, Birdwatching

Weddell Sea

The remote eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula is one of the white continents hidden gems. A deeply incised, 2,000-kilometre wide bay, the upwelling of cold water provides food for any creature hardy enough to withstand the intense cold. It is also famed for its huge ice shelves and flat-topped icebergs.

  • Ideal for viewing: Elephant seal, Humpback whale, Leopard seal, Weddell seal, Orca
  • Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Whale watching, Penguin watching, Birdwatching

Wildlife trips

Visiting Antarctica is a true once-in-a-lifetime experience. These expedition voyages echo the journeys of great explorers such as Shackleton and Scott, where vast colonies of penguins, seals and seabirds populate a white wilderness of soaring glaciers, cliffs and icebergs, while the icy waters are home to various whales.

13 recommended trips. Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.

Frozen South Adventure

Join zoologist and award winning writer Mark Carwardine and on a very special expedition to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula. Discover enormous rookeries of king, macaroni, gentoo, chinstrap and adélie penguins, and enjoy fabulous close encounters with a variety of seals.

  • Trip type: Group tour

Weddell Sea Fly-Sail

Enjoy an exciting voyage to the Weddell Sea’s wild isolation, and the contrasting Antarctic Peninsula with glaciers, islands and waterways alive with seals, penguins and whales. Flying to King George Island at the start of the trip saves time and offers spectacular aerial views of the Drake Passage.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 11 days

Antarctic Odyssey Fly-Sail

This comprehensive itinerary retraces Shackleton’s voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia, and ends in the Falkland Islands. Antarctica’s scenery and ice are matched by the prolific wildlife on South Georgia, which includes 150,000 pairs of king penguins and numerous other species.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 18 days

Emperor Penguins of the Weddell Sea

This voyage to the Weddell Sea offers a unique highlight - three days are reserved to visit, by helicopter, an emperor penguin colony, situated south of Snow Hill Island. Getting close to these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat is a unique and memorable experience.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 11 days

Ross Sea & Grand Southern Antarctica

Travelling from Ushuaia to New Zealand, this voyage takes you across the Ross Sea, where around one third of the world’s emperor penguins breeds. Landings are made by Zodiac inflatable or helicopter, and other wildlife highlights include elephant seals, Adélie and gentoo penguins, and orca and minke whales.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 32 days

Polar Circle Fly-Sail

Flying to the South Shetlands over Cape Horn and avoiding the rough waters of the Drake Passage, this itinerary offers the easiest way to travel to Antarctica. Sailing down the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, the voyage passes spectacular icebergs in the company of sea birds, penguins, seals and whales.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 9 days

Weddell Sea Explorer

Take a trip to follow in the wake (and footsteps) of Sir Ernest Shackleton and travel to one of Antarctica's hidden gems, the Weddell Sea. A land of icebergs and volcanic islands, the area is a haven for birdlife and a great place to experience wildlife amid stunning scenery.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 12 days

Classic Antarctic Fly-Sail

This trip takes the easiest way to Antarctica and flies from Punta Arenas in southern Chile, to save time and enjoy an aerial view of the Drake Passage. This active adventure involves daily landings by Zodiac inflatable, and with ever-changing ice and weather conditions, each voyage is unique.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 7 days

Great Antarctic Voyage

This ultimate Antarctic experience marries the phenomenal wildlife of the sub-Antarctic islands of the Falklands and South Georgia to the pristine beauty of the Antarctic Peninsula. Explore dramatic wilderness areas and visit huge penguin colonies, all amongst hauntingly beautiful polar scenery.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 19 to 20 days

Crossing the Polar Circle

The aim of this voyage is to reach as far south as weather and ice conditions will permit, and cross the Antarctic Circle, a feat that only a few will ever accomplish. En route you will navigate awe-inspiring waterways, littered with giant icebergs, whilst being followed by an array of seabirds and several whale species.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 12 to 13 days

Classic Antarctica

This voyage is a perfect introduction to the Antarctic, visiting prime wildlife sites along the Peninsula and in the nearby South Shetland islands. Encounter huge rookeries of gentoo, chinstrap and Adelie penguins, beaches adorned with wallowing elephant seals, and whales and dolphins along the way.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 10 to 11 days

South Georgia

Embark on a superb voyage to South Georgia, the remotest and wildest of the UK's Overseas Territories. After exploring the abundant wildlife of the Falkland Islands, it is a two day journey to South Georgia, where you will find snow-capped mountains, glaciers, and a huge numbers of seabirds and marine mammals,

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 18 to 20 days

Antarctic Express Fly-Sail

If time is precious, this is the best way to visit the Antarctic without missing out on the thrill of getting there, and at a remarkable price. Sail across the Drake Passage and watch wildlife from the bridge – including albatrosses and petrels, humpback and minke whales - before making landfall in the South Shetland Islands.

  • Trip type: Group tour
  • Duration exc. international flights: 5 days

When to go

The season to visit is the Austral summer, running from October to March. Once the pack ice starts to melt, summer arrives quickly, reaching its pinnacle in December and January.

Seasons

  • Winter

    Apr to Oct: Winter sets in with a vengeance for the long dark haul.
  • Spring

    Nov to Dec: Spring fever brings explosive growth.
  • Summer

    Jan to Feb: The warmest months when wildlife activity is at its peak.
  • Autumn

    Mar to Mar: Dark nights return as the sun sinks below the southern horizon.

Wildlife events

  • Oct: Pack ice starts to melt – the first whales arrive.
  • Oct to Nov: Penguin and seabird courtship is at its height.
  • Oct to Mar: Wildflowers bloom in Falklands and South Georgia.
  • Nov to Dec: Penguin chicks hatch (Falklands first, then Antarctic).
  • Jan to Feb: Fur seals visible on Antarctic Peninsula and peak time for whale sightings

Wildlife cruise vessels

7 recommended wildlife cruise vessels.

Akademik Ioffe

Designed originally for polar research, the Akademik Ioffe is modern, comfortable, safe and ice-strengthened. There are public spaces suitable for small group sessions or briefings for all passengers.

Akademik Sergey Vavilov

Designed and built as a scientific research vessel in Finland, the m/v Akademik Sergey Vavilov is an ice-strengthened vessel which has been recently refitted and refurbished.

Ocean Nova

Ocean Nova is an extremely comfortable and well-equipped Polar expedition vessel, that was originally built to navigate around Greenland, and is one of the leading vessels classified to operate in ice-filled waters.

Ortelius

The ice-strengthened Ortelius is an excellent vessel for Polar expeditions in the Arctic and Antarctic, providing possibilities to travel to remote locations such as the Ross Sea and Franz Josef Land.

Plancius

The Plancius accommodates a maximum of 114 passengers in cabins ranging from triple to superior, all with outside view and private facilities.

Polar Pioneer

Small and manoeuvrable, the Polar Pioneer is an ice-strengthened vessel, capable of venturing into remote corners of the world that many larger ships cannot reach.

Ushuaia

The Ushuaia is an ice-strengthened vessel specially refurbished for Antarctic expedition voyages. She boasts 41 cabins and suites for a total of 84 passengers, and a fantastic observation lounge.

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