Antarctic Peninsula and the Falklands
Travel to this otherworldly, remote place teeming with outrageous wildlife is a privilege very few have had the opportunity to experience.
I traveled to the Antarctic Peninsula region and the Falkland Islands aboard the snappy Sea Adventurer, an Expedition vessel outfitted for education, comfort and great service. Carrying 122 passengers, she proved to be an extremely comfortable oasis in the midst of the great ice and snow.
From Ushuaia, Argentina, known as the "end of the world," it took a day and a half to cross to Carcass Island, in the Falklands. We saw our first whales - Fin whales, one of the largest species - on day 2! I leaned over a railing at one point and one of them rolled over right under my view! Once at Carcass Island, we landed near the foggy, rocky cliffs and encountered Magellanic penguins!
Sailing through the South Shetland Islands, the glaciers were an unbelievable sight! We then made a privileged stop at Elephant Island, where Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men sought refuge from the fast ice. Twenty- two men survived a winter on this rocky beach as they waited for Shackleton to return and rescue them.
One of our stops, Hannah Point, is home to a large rookery of gentoo and chinstrap penguins and a few Weddell seals. It soon became clear that penguins spend a lot of time stealing stones from other penguins' nests and secreting them back to their own. Protestations are loudly broadcasted, and much mayhem ensues! Later, in Paradise Bay, our expedition staff led us on an unforgettable Zodiac cruise in and around the exquisite blue icebergs and giant walls of ice.
At Neko Harbor, we actually set foot on the Antarctic Continent, which for many of my fellow travelers, meant that they had finally landed on all seven continents!
Of course, swimming at Deception Island was a 'must' for me! The crew dug a hole in the black sand and steaming hot water seeped up so we could have a real "seal wallow!"
Eventually it was time to head back to civilization. I remember feeling as though I could hardly describe what we had seen. The real beauty, I think, is in how completely pristine and untouched the landscape and it's wildlife inhabitants are. It virtually vibrates with a sense of how very alive our whole planet may once have been...