To the surprise of many visitors, Antarctica is not a huge mass of icy emptiness, devoid of life. In fact, cruisers are often surprised at the number of wildlife encounters that they may experience during an Antarctica itinerary.
Antarctica is a fascinating destination that deserves more than just a quick visit to check it off a list. A Seabourn expedition is one great way to fully immerse yourself in this once in a life time vacation.
Wildlife of Antarctica
Because Antarctica has no permanent human residents, most of these creatures have only had friendly encounters with people. Thus, many regard their human visitors without fear and sometimes even with curiosity.
Here is a break down of the wildlife you might encounter:
Whales and Dolphins
A number of whale species can be found in the waters around Antarctica, including Minkes and striking, black-and-white Orcas, also more commonly known as Killer Whales.
In addition, six endangered species — the Sei, Blue, Sperm, Fin, Humpback, and Southern Right whales — can also be spotted in these waters. The best way to get up close and personal to these large aquatic mammals — as well as to other sea creatures — is aboard a Zodiac. The only dolphin that is frequently seen in the waters around Antarctica is the Hourglass Dolphin. These beautiful black and white dolphins bear a striking resemblance to small Orcas.
With temperatures that can reach -129 degrees Fahrenheit, it is surprising that any creature can actually live on Antarctica, but penguins have somehow managed to do just that. Arguably the most famous penguin species is the Emperor, which is also the largest. These elegant birds, which were featured in the hit movie, “March of the Penguins,” can grow up to four feet in height. Other penguins you may see during a visit to Antarctica include the Adelie, Chinstrap and Gentoo. In addition, there are other species of penguins you may see as you journey to Antarctica. The King, Macaroni and Rockhopper penguins all live on the sub-Antarctic islands. Rockhoppers, for example, are typically found on the Falkland islands and on other islands north of the Antarctic convergence.
Seals and Sea Lions
Chances are great that you will see and possibly even spend time around some of the many seal and sea lion species that live in and around Antarctica. The six species of seals that can be found in Antarctica are the Ross, Weddell, Crabeater, Leopard, Fur and the Elephant. Your trip may include a visit to a sea lion or elephant seal colony. Although most of these creatures are very docile, travelers should be cautious, especially if approached by a bull fur seal.
In addition to penguins, there are a number of other birds that be seen around Antarctica, including albatross, terns, petrels and skuas. These latter is a large predatory bird that can often be found checking out penguin colonies for eggs and weak chicks to feed upon.
Two Creatures You Won’t See
If you were hoping to see polar bears or walruses, you’re out of luck. Although, polar bears and walruses are often depicted in popular culture with penguins, these creatures are strictly Arctic dwellers. Penguins, on the other hand, live solely in the Southern Hemisphere.
A few other things to keep in mind when out enjoying your time on land:
- don’t touch or try to feed any of the wildlife
- avoid walking on or damaging any plants, including moss beds or areas covered in lichen
- avoid alarming wildlife
- take precautions not to inadvertently surround a creature or to cut it off from its possible escape route to the ocean
In addition, it’s also important to keep an open mind when it comes to Antarctic cruises, as itineraries can and will change because of the weather. If inclement weather, for example, makes it impossible for a ship to stop at one landing, the crew may decide to head to another location or eliminate the stop altogether. This doesn’t mean you won’t see the wildlife because their often visible from the ship!
[su_note note_color=”#e9e9e9″]Find a travel agent specializing in Antarctica expeditions.[/su_note]