Rare and Fascinating Wildlife Encounters in Antarctica
We spoke with our Expedition Team to hear about some of their most memorable wildlife encounters.
Wildlife Encounters in Antarctica
With every trip to Antarctica, you are guaranteed your fair share of wildlife sightings, from Gentoo, Chinstrap, and Adelie penguins, to the most commonly seen species of seals, whales, and birds.
However, there’s always the chance you’ll encounter rare, unusual, or interesting wildlife in Antarctica. After all, this magical place is nothing if not surprising. We spoke with our Expedition Team to hear some of their most memorable wildlife encounters.
Onboard position: Naturalist, Educational Coordinator, Expedition Leader
“The last couple of years we’ve had sightings of type D orcas – almost certainly a new species that’s only been recorded a handful of times, and once in a while we come across a blue whale, which is always a thrill.”
Hin Ling Estella LEE
Country: Hong Kong, now lives in New Zealand
Onboard position: Host for Chinese Guests
“I had a close encounter with Hooker’s sea lions and their pups at New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic Island – Auckland Island. They came up to us and tried to scare us off their territory.”
Seals & Penguins
Onboard position: Zodiac Driver and Sea Kayak Guide
“Two things come to mind—a very rare human/leopard seal encounter, and an almost all-black chinstrap penguin.”
Onboard position: Lecturer, Historian, Story Teller…and anything else that needs doing
“I’ve seen wildlife in surprising places. I have found a seal 120 km from the coast at 1000 m altitude. I have had a penguin walk up to me 150 km from the nearest water – looking very tired.”
Onboard position: Zodiac Driver and Media Coordinator
“One of the rarest moments I witnessed with passengers onboard my zodiac was the moment when a leopard seal was killing a crabeater seal.”
Milagros de Vega Corso
Onboard position: Shopkeeper
“I saw a leucistic gentoo peguin at Gonzales Videla Station. It was not albino because it didn’t have red eyes.”
Onboard position: Quality Manager, Media Coordinator, and Zodiac Driver
“The chances to see emperor penguins in the Peninsula area are very rare. It happened to us in the 2016-17 season during one of our Polar Circle trips! We encountered a moulting emperor in Lallemand Fjord.”
Onboard position: Shopkeeper, Zodiac Driver
“We spotted a young king penguin in the South Shetland Islands, which is not where you normally see king penguins.”
Wildlife in Antarctica – Whales, Seals, Penguins & Birds
Country: UK, now lives in New Zealand
Onboard position: Education Program Coordinator and Lecturer
“In the last 3 or 4 years, we’ve encountered type D orcas a couple of times, as well as a brief sighting of strap-toothed whale and a blue whale in the southern part of the Drake Passage. I’ve found Ross seals a couple of times in the Peninsula region (where they aren’t common) and any sighting of emperor penguins there is always special. Even after all these years, last summer I saw two birds I’ve never seen in Antarctica before—a white-rumped sandpiper and pomarine skua.”
Whales & Penguins
Onboard position: Lecturer and Guide
“A couple of sightings of rare beaked whales. And an all-black king penguin. The one animal I haven’t seen yet is the Ross seal in Antarctica.”
If you’ve had a rare or interesting wildlife encounter in Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic on your polar journeys with us, please share your experiences and photos with us on Instagram to be featured here!
For more information about our wilderness expeditions, view our brochure here.
Header photo of Emperor Penguin in Lallemand Fjord © Sandra Walser