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There is no place on the planet as untouched as Antarctica. Of the 2 polar regions, it is by far and away the least explored. It is a vast land of sea and ice that is teeming with wildlife and stunning backdrops for adventurous travelers. Here you can explore areas inhabited by curious penguins, enormous whales, and playful sea lions.
There are but a few places in the world that give visitors the chance to see wildlife so closely. On a cruise you will have the opportunity to explore antarctic wildlife by small ships, and stepping on land to look a little deeper. Many can only dream of visiting the 7th continent, to learn about its rich natural history, local wildlife, and it’s threats from expedition staff eager to share their experiences with you.
There is no doubt a wildlife cruise in Antarctica is a trip of a lifetime!
On a wildlife cruise in Antarctica, you will want to keep an eye out for the various species of penguins that inhabit the region. There are seven main species found here, including Adelie, King, Chinstrap, Gentoo, Emperor, Macaroni, and the Southern Rockhopper. Each one bears different markings that can be used to identify them. These are:
Consider a penguin safari with Quark Expeditions where you’ll have a chance to see King and Macaroni penguins, among other wildlife species.
Seals and Sea Lions
Like penguins, there are several types of seals and sea lions found on an Antarctic cruise. There are 7 species that are most noticed which include leopard seals, elephant seals, South American sea lions, South American fur seals, Weddell seals, Crabeater seals, and Antarctic fur seals. They vary in size and appearance but are always exciting to see.
A few to look out for:
Spend 14 days exploring the white continent and its abundant wildlife with Natural Habitat Adventures on this exciting expedition.
The wandering albatross is found around Antarctica and is recognized by its enormous wingspan. They have the longest wingspan of any bird. Young albatross are noticed by their black wing tips. As the bird ages, the black recedes further to the ends of their wings and they become whiter. An albatross has been known to travel 1000 km in one day, with one bird being tracked at circling Antarctica in 46 days.
During the 20th century, blue whales were hunted in the Antarctic waters as they traveled there for their summer feeding. They are long with a head that tapers into a U-shape. The blue whale is recognized for its small dorsal fin that is dwarfed in comparison to their long bodies.
According to the IUCN Red List, the blue whale is an endangered species, with an estimated 10,000 – 25,000 left in the wild today. The largest concentration of blue whales had previously been in Antarctica before whaling hit its peak and devastated the populations. In 1966, the International Whaling Commission banned blue whale hunting.
In the nearshore waters of the Antarctic Peninsula, humpback whales migrate to feed. They feed on the abundance of Antarctic krill, alongside penguins, seals, and other whales including minke. Known for their acrobatic skills, the humpback whale puts on quite a show when it launches itself vertically from the water and comes crashing down to the sea. This makes for some of the most epic action photographs with the backdrop of an icy sea.
The humpback whale has enormous fins, stretching almost a third of their body size. On a wildlife cruise in Antarctica, it is not uncommon to encounter groups of up to 20 whales as they congregate at their feeding ground.
Killer Whales (Orcas)
Nearly two thirds of the world’s orca population live in Antarctica, an estimated 70,000 whales. They feed on minke whales, seals, and other fish. The orca whale is noticed by its black and white colouring, and could be one of the most recognized whales globally. They are often referred to as “sea wolves” because of their ferocity and tendency to hunt in packs.
See these whales and other incredible wildlife as well as South Georgia and the gravesite of Sir Ernest Shackleton on an epic trip crossing the Antarctic circle over 23 action packed days.