The main season for birds and other wildlife is mid-November through into mid-February (the Austral summer).
The Antarctic Peninsula and Islands
A finger of the continent and it’s surrounding islands including the South Shetlands. Home to large colonies of Adelie, Gentoo, Chinstrap and a few Macaroni Penguins. Watch pure white Snow Petrels around icebergs, Giant Petrels, skuas and sheathbills patrolling the penguin colonies. Weddell, Crabeater and the predatory Leopard Seals abound in the waters, whilst Antarctic Terns fish in the bays. See Humpback Whales and Orcas, very dramatic snow and ice-covered scenery, wonder at thousands of icebergs of different shapes, sizes and colours plus visit scientific bases and historical expedition sites depending on your vessel’s itinerary. All our voyages plan to set foot on the continent itself at least once. The Antarctic Circle is slighty to the south and we offer a selection of voyages which plan to cross the line too.
The Drake Passage
The infamous stretch of sea between Argentina and The Peninsula, which is often much calmer than you may have heard. Two days of sailing each way through seas often full of albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, skuas, diving petrels, whales and dolphins means out on deck is where the bird and wildlife watchers should be! You will cross the Antarctic Convergence each way, the ‘line’ where the cold southern polar ocean meets the warmer waters of the South Atlantic.
The Falkland Islands
Beautiful wild landscapes (not unlike the northern islands of Scotland) with teeming seabird colonies, which include Gentoo, Rockhopper and Magellanic Penguins, Black-browed Albatross plus island endemic birds. A few small King Penguin colonies also exist. A good chance to see the regionally endemic Commerson’s and Peale’s Dolphins in the waters whilst Orcas are also regular inshore.
The stunning cliffs of these dramatic islands rise straight out of the sea, capped by mountain peaks and ice-fields. The burial place of Shackleton, arguably the English Antarctic explorer. Vast rookeries of King Penguins, breeding Wandering and Light-mantled Sooty Albatross. Island endemics such as South Georgia Pintail and Pipit, plus Southern Elephant and Fur Seal beaches. The larger whales such as Blue and Southern Right Whales can also be seen with luck, especially later in the season. A rare opportunity to visit the South Sandwich Islands is on offer in November 2013.
The Ross and Weddell Seas
The realm of the largest penguin, the magnificent Emperor, joined by vast colonies of Adelies Penguins (the smallest) whilst Antarctic Petrels wheel above the waves and Snow Petrels fly over the ice. Orcas and Antarctic Minke Whales are often seen well in these areas, framed by icefields and stunning snowcapped mountains. This region is also home to the endemic and diminutive Ross Seal, one of the least known pinnipeds. A number of itineraries include planned visits to South Pole historical expedition hut sites.
Sub-Antarctic Islands of New Zealand & Australia
Seabirds galore including endemic albatross’s, penguins and shags with a number of land species including more endemics such as the strange Kiwi. Some of the most desired tubenoses inhabit these wild oceans such as Magenta and Chatham Island Petrels. The ultimate itinerary (Birding Downunder) includes Macquarie Island with it’s vast Royal and King Penguin colonies.
South Indian Ocean Islands
For seabird and island fans, such fabled names as Kerguelan, Crozet, St Paul, Heard and of course Amsterdam, with it’s endemic albatross. Opportunities to visit this region are extremely rare, the most recent being in November 2012. Please contact us to register your interest in visiting these wildlife-full islands.
South Atlantic Islands
The Tristan da Cunha archipelago holds huge numbers of breeding seabirds including Spectacled and Atlantic Petrels, Sooty and Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatrosses, the now ‘split’ Northern Rockhopper Penguin plus island endemics. St Helena boasts its endemic wader, the Wirebird and tropical seabirds and dolphins. Ascension Island offers more breeding tropical seabirds including the endemic frigatebird plus nesting Atlantic Green Turtles in spring. The annual Atlantic Odyssey (which sails in March) visits all these islands plus South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula, and optionally continues north to Cape Verde, Subject to demand, it will continue onto Madeira in 2015. (The West African Pelagic).