The theatre of wildlife in Antarctica as a whole displays an ever changing narrative of birth, struggle, pleasure, fulfilment and death. You may witness the comedy of a waddling penguin building its nest, a mother bird feeding its young or reuniting with a returning mate; a wily seal escaping the clutches of a hunting whale.
A large variety of marine birds includes 17 species of penguin, of which 4 breed in Antarctica (emperor, chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie) visit the White Continent. Mammals abound here: blue, orca, humpback, minke and southern right whales prowl the chilly ocean, while Weddell, Ross, crab-eater, leopard and elephant seals sprawl on the beaches.
Plant life in Antarctica proper is restricted to lichen, mosses and algae but there are hundreds of colourful varieties of these.
What to see as the season unfolds:
December – January:
- Long days of summer light, milder temperatures.
- Penguin chicks hatch in the Antarctic Peninsula.
- Whale sightings increase.
- Excellent whale-watching opportunities.
- Penguin chicks begin to fledge.
- Fur seals increasingly numerous on the Antarctic Peninsula.
- Colourful snow algae break the snow white domination of the landscape.
- Spectacular sunrises and sunsets add a rosy glow to the ice.
Specific to your cruise:
South Shetland Islands:
Visitors include chinstrap, gentoo, macaroni and Adélie penguins; giant petrels, Wilson’s and black-bellied storm petrels, brown and south polar skuas, Cape pigeons, Antarctic terns, blue-eyed shags, Dominican gulls, elephant, fur,
leopard and crab-eater seals; humpback, minke and orca (killer) whales offshore.
Chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie penguins abound. Breeding birds include skuas, Antarctic terns, giant petrels, snowy sheathbills, Antarctic shags, kelp gulls, Wilson’s storm, and Antarctic and snow petrels.