Penguin Watching At Its Finest

Say hi to Agness and Cez, a travel duo from eTramping. These two are the best friends from Poland and have been travelling together across the world since 2011. They are both photography passionate, obsessed with healthy lifestyle, good food and visiting unique travel destinations not everyone has a chance to go explore, like Antarctica!

Practically uninhabited, and capable of reaching temperatures of  −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F), Antarctica is one of the last great bastions left for exploration.

Of course, there are many reasons to visit Antarctica, but there’s one which might just hold a special place in the hearts of some of you out there: penguins. From the gargantuan and iconic Emperor penguin to the suave Adélie penguin and the cute Gentoo penguin, Antarctica is one of the best places to catch these otherwise hard to find creatures.

With the ever looming threat of Global warming and fear of Antarctica’s melting Ice, now might just be the best time to go catch them in their native habitat. In order to help you, here are some of the more well-known penguin breeds and where you’ll be able to find them.

Emperor penguins in the Weddell Sea

The Weddell Sea is a 2,000 km long bay named after a British sailor called James Waddell. From the accounts of some explorers, it’s one of the most dangerous areas of ‘berg-infested’ water on the earth. Yet for others, it’s a great place to catch the iconic and almost universally known breeds: Emperor penguins. If you’ve ever seen a penguin in a TV advert or in a movie, it’s pretty likely you’ve seen an Emperor penguin.

The water here is cold, intensely cold. This provides these large, plodding penguins with a great source of food. For you, this means a great chance to spot a huge number of them together in one place. Most trips will mean a helicopter flight from your cruise ship onto the island. This also means that you’re going to get a great view of some stunning Antarctic scenery from above.

Make sure you head this way during mid-summer. It’s usually unlikely, but it seems like those who travel out during colder days can sometimes find themselves unable to enter the Weddell sea due to a buildup of ice. 

King penguins at Salisbury Plain, South Georgia Island

South Georgia is a Sub-Antarctic island. Some say that it has more wildlife than any other similar sized area on the planet. When it comes to penguins, this is probably true. One of the penguin breeds you’ll find here is the King penguin.

The King penguin is pretty similar to the Emperor penguin, yet it’s just a little bit smaller and doesn’t look quite as fat (or muscular if that’s what you prefer to call it).

One of the most popular spots to find them is on the Salisbury Plain in the South Georgia Island. Here, you’ll find their massive breeding grounds, where over a quarter of a million penguins come together each year.   

Gentoo penguin at Port Lockroy and Jougla Point

Gentoo Penguin’s stick to the shoreline. They’re not as happy when inland and prefer to stay near their main food source. This means you’ll be able to find them in most bays around the Antarctic. Currently, estimates place around 320,000 Gentoo penguins as being alive today, meaning they’re pretty rare.

One of the best places to catch these guys is near Port Lockroy, a British outpost set up in 1944. Here you’ll find them wandering about, going about their daily business.

Another great place to catch a bunch of Gentoo penguins is Jougla Point on Wiencke Island. Some consider this to be a peninsula, but it’s pretty small. Point has become more commonly used. Of course, the area itself is incredible, especially when you look behind and towards Wiencke island’s incredible mountain-scape.

Adélie penguins at Petermann Island

Petermann island is located quite close to the Kiev Peninsula. It’s only about 2km long, but it’s one of the best placed to catch Adélie penguins. It’s not actually one of the most well visited placed in Antarctica, despite it actually being a pretty beautiful place. Most ships tend to just pass by the island, but then they are missing out on the Adélie penguins.

Adélie penguins spend most of their time taking part in something known as preening. This is basically a grooming process to help make their feathers waterproof. However, if you’re really lucky, you’ll be able to catch them in the middle of their midday nap. It might not sound all that great, but watching a group of Gentoo penguins huddle together and fall asleep is something you probably won’t forget.

Keeping warm on the Antarctic ice

You might have heard that Antarctic is a little chilly for most of the year. Well, we’re not going to lie to you, it is. Penguins love it because of this. It gives them a great source of food and is generally what they’re used to. Humans? Not so much.

If you’re headed to Antarctic, you’re going to want to make sure you’re kitted up before you head out. This means making sure that you’ve invested in some proper, warm and (added bonus) lightweight clothing.

Most Antarctic cruises (which is probably the easiest way in) take place during summer, and the temperature can change a lot. Make sure you’re wearing layers so you can take some off and add some more on.

How to get out there

Getting to Antarctica isn’t the easiest of destinations in the world. Sure, you can go ahead and book up a cruise you see on the internet, but many sources claim that this isn’t the best way to get to Antarctica, especially if you’re looking to head there on a budget.

First, you’re going to want to make your way to Ushuaia in Argentina. This is the most southern city in the world, and is where most expeditions to Antarctica leave from. Once you get here, that’s when you’re going to want to pay the boat fee. If you wait until this point, you’ll be able to grab a ticket for half the price (around 5,000 USD). Still not cheap, but you’re heading to one of the coldest, most dangerous places on the planet.

11 thoughts on “Penguin Watching At Its Finest

  1. Thank you, Zascha, for having us here. As big animals lovers, penguin watching is definitely one of the best things you can do when visiting Antarctica. Hope you can make it there soon and see these unique animals live.

  2. The emperor Penguins are so majestic and incredible, not to undervalue the others. I would simple live to hang out with all of them in Antarctica. What an experience!

  3. I guess I’m fortunate as I live in New Zealand where several penguin species are common. I get to see Little Blues (Fairy penguins) locally and have seen Yellow Eyed and Fjordland Crested penguins on the South Island. It gets cold on the South Island (but not as cold as Antarctica). I would go to Antarctica to see huge colonies of other species of penguins.

  4. Chrysoula

    Antarctica is on my bucket list but it’s a pretty expensive destination, so it’s great to know that if you get up to there you can find a cruise up to half price. This is a trip of a lifetime.

  5. I love penguins a lot, they are too adorable. Great to know about the habitats of these guys around the world. Antartica still looks the best, of course. Loved your tips on cruises.

  6. This is pretty cool! I did not know that there a lot of species of penguins in Antarctica. It is good that they are friendly and really cute. I could spend a whole day taking pictures of them.

  7. Megan Jerrard

    Last week was international Penguin day so this is perfect! We’ve actually just returned from Antarctica and LOVED the trip – the wildlife opportunities were incredible, and much like the Galapagos islands, wildlife are not scared of humans, and penguins literally walk over your feet! The interaction is incredible 🙂

  8. The tip at the end of going directly to Ushuaia to book a ticket to Antarctica is so useful! I had never heard of that being a possibility, but now I think that may be the way we do it. It must be incredible to see so many penguins. I like how you shared about all the different kinds. Pinned this post for later!

  9. Love this post. Not the cold but I love this post. Coming from Canada we have our fair share of cold but I’ve never experience -89, Toronto is too far south for those numbers. I would only travel there for the penguins. Love them. I like seals too and icebergs but penguins are awesome. Your pictures are absolutely stunning.

  10. Antartica is a pretty expensive destination but I think it’s all worth it. The experience is self is just so precious that you can keep for a lifetime even if includes the cold temp. LOL

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