If you have the desire to see penguins in their natural habitat in vast numbers, the answer is, of course, to head to the southern hemisphere.
The tip of the Antarctic Peninsula is richer still with 5 species of these endearing creatures while the ultimate prize is usually considered to be the majestic Emperor penguin, which can only be found deep in the interior of Antarctica.
There is, however, one species of penguin that I think is the uncelebrated star of the southern oceans. They exist in colonies of vast numbers of pairs which can be seen far more easily and at considerably less expense than their slightly larger cousins, the Emperors, in regions with a wonderfully rich diversity of other wildlife. I am referring of course to the beautiful King penguin, the second largest penguin in the world at up to a metre tall.
King penguins are undeniably handsome with their deep orange beaks and golden yellow breast feathers brightening up their distinctive black and white plumage. Indeed the sight of hundreds of thousands of these flightless birds has to be one of the most breath-taking spectacles for any wildlife lover and keen photographer. They can be found predominantly in South Georgia and the Falklands Islands, accessible by expedition voyage and by air, respectively.
If you have time on your side and you want the very best wildlife that the southern polar regions has to offer then take three weeks off and voyage the oceans south of Argentina. Explore the Antarctic Peninsula looking out for Adelie, Gentoo, Rockhopper, Macaroni and Chinstrap penguins alongside seals, whales and a myriad of seabirds.
Some voyages also give adventurous explorers the chance to camp one night on the ice or go kayaking among icebergs. Then see those delightful King penguins in overwhelmingly huge numbers at sites such as Salisbury Plain on South Georgia, along with the chance to look out for elephant seals, nesting Wandering Albatross and some very rare endemic birds.
Continue on to the Falkland Islands where you may see sheep grazing on the outer islands alongside colonies of Magellanic, Rockhopper and King Penguins as striated caracara swoop overhead. You may even get an invite from one of the locals for tea and cake. Stanley is a bustling little harbour town that offers a chance to spot dolphins in the bay or head to Gypsy Cove for birdwatching.
It is from here that you can link to the Chilean mainland by air on a once weekly scheduled flight. Avid wildlife lovers and fans of history and tranquillity will love the ‘back in time’ feel of the islands – stay on for a week to get to know the unique way of life here, roving between islands by FIGAS small plane transfers and staying in cosy locally hosted B&Bs.
For those with a fascination for polar history, South Georgia of course also offers a chance to visit Sir Ernest Shackleton’s grave at Grytviken or land at some of the sites associated with his truly heroic rescue mission of his men when the Endurance sank in 1915 in the Weddell Sea.
There is a particular voyage that offers a chance to combine this love of polar explorer history with a passion for photography. During a two week voyage flying into and out of Stanley from Punta Arenas in Chile, voyage from East to West in the Falkland Islands and explore South Georgia in-depth like never before.
Visit several key King penguin sites on South Georgia – all in the company of a whole team of professional wildlife photographers on a special Photography Symposium departure, offering specialist workshops to all guests on-board in addition to the company of a fabulous, highly experienced polar expedition team.
Whether it is superb photographic opportunities, phenomenal gatherings of unique wildlife, tales of daring expeditions of the first polar explorers or just the silence and beauty of an uninhabited remote wilderness that bring you to the far south of the Earth, we can discuss the very best expedition adventure for you to South Georgia and the Falklands.