Travel to Another World

There’s a pure, stark beauty in Antarctica, and a sense of remoteness so extreme, it’s as if you’ve traveled to another earth than the one you thought you knew.

Intimate Access to Antarctica

An expedition to the White Continent is in its own category, and we’re committed to making it a trip of a lifetime.

The Origins of Antarctica

About 250 million years ago Antarctica was located in the subtropical band of the planet, covered with abundant forests and inhabited by reptiles and amphibians. At this time it was part of the supercontinent of Gondwana, from which it permanently separated 65 million years ago and began to drift towards the South Pole. Its gradual cooling set the stage for the formation of the ice, making it the most extreme and inaccessible land in the world. 

The Antarctic ecosystem is the result of long and complex evolutionary processes that have allowed life forms to adapt to the extreme polar environment, producing a system composed of a limited number of species that depend directly on each other and the habitat in which they live. There are various species of penguins, whales, seals, and seabirds in the Antarctic ecosystem. On the continent, there are five species of penguins: the Adelie Penguin, Chinstrap Penguin, King Penguin, Gentoo Penguin, and the Macaroni Penguin. Penguins in Antarctica typically have a diet of squid, fish, and crustaceans. There are three species of whales that visit Antarctica every year: Orca, Humpback, and Minke whales. Thanks to their warm blubbery bodies and being fantastic swimmers, seals are perfectly adapted for life in the Antarctic ecosystem. There are up to four species of seals that you could see on your visit: the Elephant Seal, Leopard Seal, Crabeater Seal, and the Weddell Seal. Additionally, you will find several species of seabirds including Albatross, Blue-Eyed Shag, Snowy Sheathbill, and more.

Today, the Antarctic continent, without doubt, is the most mysterious place on the planet. Its permanent ice sheet covering and almost completely hiding its topography. An ecological wonder it has bewitched explorers, scientists and voyagers alike for centuries.

Adelie Penguins in Antarctica
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    Climate

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    Discovery

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    Geography

Wildlife in Antarctica

Penguins

Close up photography of Gentoo penguin in Antarctica, by Ruslan Eliseev.

Whales

Whale jumps out of the waters, in Antarctica. Photography by Jeff Reynolds on a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise.

Seals

Leopard seal in Antarctica

Seabirds

Profile picture of a Skua sea bird, photographed by Ruslan Eliseev, for Antarctica21.
Adelie penguin in Antarctica. Photography by Anais Rekus.
Chinstrap penguins in Antarctica. Photography by Machu, on a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise.
A couple of king penguins in the Falklands
Gentoo Penguin in Antarctica. Photography by Anais Rekus on a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise.
Macaroni penguin in the Falklands
Orcas in Antarctica. Photography by Keegan Pearson, on a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise.
Whale jump in Antarctica
Minke whale in Antarctica.
Leopard seal in Antarctica. Photography by Ana Carla Martínez.
Close up photography of a Crabeater seal
Close up portrait of a seal in South Georgia. Photography by Ruslan Eliseev, for Antarctica21.
A blue-eyed cormorant or blue-eyed shag. Photography by Ruslan Eliseev, on an Antarctica Express Air-Cruise.
Antarctic sea bird, Snowy Sheathbill. Photography by Keegan Pearson, on a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise.
Polar skua bird stilling a penguin egg. Photography by Ana Carla Martínez on the Inaugural Voyage of Magellan Explorer.
Black-browed albatross in the Falklands
Cape o Pintado Petrel photographed by Mathew Farrell on an Antarctica Express, on board Hebridean Sky.
Adelie penguin in Antarctica. Photography by Anais Rekus.

Adelie Penguin

The Adelie is the archetypical penguin, named after French explorer Dumont D’Urville’s wife. They are purely black and white, with a characteristic angular head, a distinctive white eye-ring and a tiny bill. Females are smaller in size, but like all penguins, the sexes are alike. The downy chick is uniformly grey.

Chinstrap penguins in Antarctica. Photography by Machu, on a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise.

Chinstrap Pengin

Chinstraps are similar to Adelies in that they are black and white, but they are slightly smaller and have a distinctive black line connecting the black cap to the part below the chin. The chicks are uniform brownish-grey and paler below. On average, the female’s flipper and bill length is smaller than the male’s. They are highly gregarious and monogamous. It is believed they form long-lasting bonds with their mates. They nest in the Antarctic Peninsula area and on Subantarctic Islands. Their population is estimated in 7.5 million pairs, being the second largest of Antarctic inhabitants after the gentoo penguins.

A couple of king penguins in the Falklands

King Penguin

With bright white bellies, tangerine cheeks and bills, and a golden patch parked high on their necks, king penguins are easily spotted not only for their coat and size—they’re only second in stature to the emperor penguin—but also for their dignified, upright posture. With one of the healthiest, populations of penguins in Antarctica, they’re found dispersed throughout most of the region, from the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. These convivial creatures are often seen in immense colonies of up to 200,000, with the entire population estimated at almost 3 million breeding pairs. To keep their great size, king penguins are expert divers, often submerging to 1,000 feet in search of squid, fish, and crustaceans to feed both themselves and their young. Fun fact—mature king penguins look so different from their fluffy, brown-coated chicks they were mistaken as separate species by the continent’s first researchers.

Gentoo Penguin in Antarctica. Photography by Anais Rekus on a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise.

Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo is the largest of all Pygoscelis penguins. It can be easily recognized by the wide white stripe extending like a bonnet across the top of its head and the red bill. Chicks have grey backs with white fronts. They are the fastest underwater swimming penguins, reaching speeds of 36 km/h. They feed mainly on krill, but also on fish and squid. They are the most numerous penguins nesting in the Antarctic region.

Macaroni penguin in the Falklands

Macaroni Penguin

This beautiful penguin has a characteristic orange tassels meeting between the eyes that distinguish this species from its slightly smaller relative, the rockhopper penguin. Macaronis nest mainly on Subantarctic islands close to the Antarctic Convergence, and may reach as far south as the Antarctic Peninsula. They lay two eggs at the end of the Austral autumn, the first being larger than the second. Chicks are uniform brownish-grey above and whitish below.

Orcas in Antarctica. Photography by Keegan Pearson, on a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise.

Orca Whale

The orca is the largest member of the dolphin family, and it is probably the most easily recognized of all cetaceans. The most obvious feature is the enormous dorsal fin, which is the tallest and most pointed of any cetaceans. In adult males, it may stand two metres in height, while in females and immature males it is more curved and smaller. They have a striking black and white pattern from throat to abdomen, some of their flanks, and an oval blaze behind the eye white, with the rest mainly black. The huge conical head is pointed with a very slightly rounded beak. Males can reach 7 to 9 metres in length and weigh 3.8 to 5.5 tonnes. Females are noticeably smaller in overall body size, reaching 5 to 7.7 metres length.

Whale jump in Antarctica

Humpback Whale

Humpbacks may be recognized by their enormous flippers, which can reach a third of their total body length. They are normally black, but the undersides of flippers and flukes have varying amounts of white and can be used as aids for individual recognition. They measure 11 to 19 metres and weigh 25.4-35.5 tonnes. Males are usually slightly shorter than females.

Minke whale in Antarctica.

Minke Whale

The southern minke whale is a species of minke whale within the suborder of baleen whales. It is the third smallest baleen whale. While it was first scientifically described in the mid-19th century, it wasn’t recognized as a distinct species until the 1990s. Given that it was ignored by the whaling industry due to its small size and low oil yield, the southern minke was able to avoid the fate of other baleen whales and maintained a large population into the 21st century, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. It has survived to become the most abundant baleen whale in the world.

Elephant Seal

The southern elephant seal is the world’s largest seal. It is a heavy-built, long-body seal with proportionately small flippers and some skin folds just behind the head. The dark eyes are large and round. The adults have short stiff hair, usually dark grey dorsally and paler ventrally. Males have squarer and larger heads, with a conspicuous proboscis, while females have more rounded heads with no proboscis. Breeding males may weigh up to a sixth that of a breeding female. Males can grow to 4.5-6.5 metres and 3,700 kg; females can grow to 2.5-4 metres and between 360-800 kg.

Leopard seal in Antarctica. Photography by Ana Carla Martínez.

Leopard Seal

These seals have long slim bodies, with an almost serpentine appearance and comparatively large reptilian heads with a long snout, powerful jaws, broad gape and relatively small dark eyes. Fore flippers are rather large, situated near the centre of the body. They are coloured with dark on the back, almost black or blue-grey on the flanks, and paler ventral colouration; a light area variably spotted with darker grey. They have very long canine teeth, with long pointed cusps on the molar teeth. Females are larger than males (3.8 metres and 500 kg compared to 2.8-3.8 metres and 300 kg).

Close up photography of a Crabeater seal

Crabeater Seal

They are relatively slim and flexible, typically with an elongated, square-shaped head, protruding dog-like snout, a long mouth opening and large flippers. Their eyes are dark and small. Their colouration is predominantly dark brown dorsally becoming blond ventrally, with a marked seasonal and individual variation in coat colour. With age, fur gradually becomes uniformly blond after the moult. Many are deeply scarred on the back and body-sides due to attacks by leopard seals and killer whales. Crabeaters actually eat krill, not crabs, as their name suggests. Males reach about 3 metres in length and females are slightly smaller. They can weigh between 180 to 410 kg.

Close up portrait of a seal in South Georgia. Photography by Ruslan Eliseev, for Antarctica21.

Weddell Seal

This seal species was not discovered until 1823 when Captain James Weddell captured six specimens during his voyage to the South Pole. They are amongst the largest and fattest seals, with proportionately small flippers and heads, and large dark eyes. Both sexes are similar in size and appearance, but females are generally slightly larger, and males have thicker necks and broader heads. They reach 2.5-3 metres and weigh between 400-600 kg. They have a short, dense coat of a dark bluish-grey colour, which is irregularly streaked. They can become browner prior to moult.

A blue-eyed cormorant or blue-eyed shag. Photography by Ruslan Eliseev, on an Antarctica Express Air-Cruise.

Blue-Eyed Shag

There is no clear agreement on how many species of cormorants inhabit the southern islands and the Antarctic Peninsula. There could be as many as seven or as few as two surrounding Antarctica, depending on what taxonomic diversity they have. All are reasonably similar, but the Antarctic shag is unmistakable in range because no other blue-eyed shag overlaps with it. They are rather large and have a black and white shag, with a bright blue-eyed ring, with a long wispy black erectile crest.
Size 77 cm
Wing 32-33 cm
Weight 2.5-3 kg

Antarctic sea bird, Snowy Sheathbill. Photography by Keegan Pearson, on a Classic Antarctica Air-Cruise.

Snowy Sheathbill

The snowy sheathbill is a medium-sized, plump hen-like, all-white bird. They are not seabirds because, for example, their feet are not webbed, but are in their own family akin to waders. They cannot be mistaken for anything else as they strut and squabble around penguin colonies. They have elaborate courtship displays and are monogamous and permanently pair-bonded species. They feed on intertidal life and on invertebrates.
Size 34-40 cm
Wingspan 70 cm
Weight 400-700 gr.
Size 77 cm
Wing 32-33 cm
Weight 2.5-3 kg

Southern Giant Petrel

Giant petrels are the largest of the petrel family, which make up the order of tubenose or procellariiform seabirds, along with albatrosses, shearwaters, storm petrels, and diving petrels. The crucial feature used to distinguish the northern giant petrel from the closely related southern giant petrel is the color of the bill tip: reddish-brown in the northern, and greenish in the southern. This characteristic is not always easy to spot at sea. Some southerns are all white, except for the odd dark feathers. This color phase does not occur in northerns, helping with identification. White phase southerns are more common at southerly breeding sites and are absent at the northerly ones.
Size 85-100 cm
Wing 46-58 cm
Wingspan 150-210 cm
Weight 3.8-5 k
Size 77 cm
Wing 32-33 cm
Weight 2.5-3 kg

Polar skua bird stilling a penguin egg. Photography by Ana Carla Martínez on the Inaugural Voyage of Magellan Explorer.

Polar Skua

The polar skua is able to fly the furthest south of all other Antarctic birds. It is light brown in color with a yellow neck. While flying, you can see a lighter band that crosses the lower surface of the wings. It has a dark beak, which is curved at the end. The feet are dark grey and almost black.
Size 85-100 cm
Wing 46-58 cm
Wingspan 150-210 cm
Weight 3.8-5 kg
Size 77 cm
Wing 32-33 cm
Weight 2.5-3 kg

Black-browed albatross in the Falklands

Black-Browed Albatross

The black-browed albatross is one of the smaller black and white ‘mollymawks’ with a pale head. This albatross can be identified at a distance by its underwing pattern featuring a wide dark leading edge. At close range, the adult birds have a yellow eye that makes identification easy.
Size 80-96 cm
Wing 50-56 cm
Wingspan 210-250 cm
Weight 2.9 to 4.6 kg

Cape o Pintado Petrel photographed by Mathew Farrell on an Antarctica Express, on board Hebridean Sky.

Cape or Pintado Petrel

The cape petrel is an unmistakable medium-sized petrel, with a round head and highly distinctive black and white upperparts and upper wings, smaller than the Antarctic petrel. Its speckled appearance has earned its other common name, pintado, which means ‘painted’ in Spanish. The cape petrel has a circumpolar distribution at sea. It has a wide breeding range from the Antarctic continent to the more southerly Subantarctic islands, where it breeds in November and December in loose colonies on level rocky grounds or gravel, and moderately high cliffs.
Size 35-42 cm
Wing 24-28 cm
Wingspan 80-91 cm
Weight 440-500 gr.

Sites of Interest

Natural Wonders

Travelers crossing Lemaire channel, in Antarctica, aboard Magellan Explorer. Photography by Sandra Walser.

Historic Sites

Ernest Shackleton's grave in South Georgia. Photography by Rodrigo Moraga.

Wildlife Colonies

Travelers crossing Lemaire channel, in Antarctica, aboard Magellan Explorer. Photography by Sandra Walser.
Paradise bay, in Antarctica.
Livingstone island, in Antarctica.
Half Moon island, in Antarctica.
Deception island, Antarctica.
Port Lockroy, in Antarctica.
Aitcho Island, Antarctica.
Cuverville Island, Antarctica.
Petermann Island, in Antarctica.
Travelers crossing Lemaire channel, in Antarctica, aboard Magellan Explorer. Photography by Sandra Walser.

Lemaire Channel

Known for being one of the most beautiful spots in the area, this channel has been nicknamed the “Kodak Gap,” due to the impression it produces among the tourists, making them take innumerable photographs of nature at its finest. If the weather allows, and the channel is not blocked by the ice that is typical of this inhospitable corner of the world, you will see playful seals that rest on wandering icebergs, as well as minke whales that are frequently found in these cold waters.

Paradise bay, in Antarctica.

Paradise Bay

From Paradise Bay, you will be able to enjoy one of the most magnificent views that the Antarctic territory has to offer. Splendid scenes of glaciers and mountains are enhanced by fascinating fauna, such as gentoo penguins and minke whales.

Livingstone island, in Antarctica.

Livingston Island

Livingston Island is a surprising spot where you will find a great variety of species. Your attention will be captivated by chinstrap, gentoo and the magnificent macaroni penguins, with their distinctive orange/yellow crests. Elephant seals, Antarctic giant petrels and snowy sheathbill are also to be seen.

Half Moon island, in Antarctica.

Half-Moon Island

The volcanic origin of this island gives it a very particular surface formation. Here, you will find chinstrap and gentoo penguins, Antarctic blue-eyed shags and skuas. In this area, you may find the distinguished-looking Weddell seal and some elephant seals that occasionally visit the island.

Deception island, Antarctica.

Deception Island

An impressive volcano, still considered active and famous for its incomplete crater which is at sea level. Sailing and walking in this zone can be a fabulous experience. One of the greatest attractions of this island is the sequence  of rock towers that come out of the sea. This amazing geological formation is known as “Neptune’s Bellows.” In this outstanding place, that’s shaped like a horseshoe, the coastal waters can get close to 65°C (149°F) due to the volcanic presence, in contrast with the freezing surrounding waters in this corner of the world. Here, you will also visit Whalers Bay, where you can see the remains of a former whaling station.

Port Lockroy, in Antarctica.

Port Lockroy

A wide bay located on the southwestern point of Wiencke Island, this site was used by whalers almost one century ago. There is an old British scientific base which is now a museum. Nowadays, it is not unusual to see minke and humpback whales cruising along the coast.

Aitcho Island, Antarctica.

Aitcho Island

This island is located near the north entrance of the English Strait, in the South Shetland Islands, between Greenwich and Robert Islands. The main attractions here are the large colonies of chinstrap and gentoo penguins that cover the area. It is also possible to find great quantities of Antarctic giant petrels and some protected animals, such as the Weddell seal.

Cuverville Island, Antarctica.

Cuverville Island

Upon arrival, you will find yourself on a small island dominated by a great amount of lichen growth and deep moss on the rocks, the only botanical species that you can find on the surface of Antarctica. As part of the scenery, you will see various birds, such as Wilson petrel, south and brown skuas, as well as one of the largest colonies of gentoo penguins.

Petermann Island, in Antarctica.

Petermann Island

This island is endowed with a unique beauty, due to its immense granite walls and the abundant snow that composes the scenery. It also has the largest and southernmost colony of Adelie and gentoo penguins, migratory species typical of Antarctica. On Petermann Island, you will be able to see a colony of Antarctic blue-eyed shag, a species much appreciated for its solemn stance and singular presence. During the summer, elephant seals come out in groups to enjoy the sun, basking on their sides atop the rocks of the island.

Our Expeditions to Antarctica

Image of Expedition Classic Antarctica Air Cruise

Classic Antarctica Air Cruise

Image of Expedition Polar Circle Air Cruise

Polar Circle Air Cruise

Image of Expedition Antarctica and South Georgia Air Cruise

Antarctica and South Georgia Air Cruise

Image of Expedition Antarctica Express Air Cruise

Antarctica Express Air Cruise

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