When picturing Antarctica the first things that come to mind are pretty little penguins. Yes, when visiting the seventh continent, you will see many penguins. Antarctica is filled with the darling tuxedo-clad creatures, and they are as adorable in person as they are in cartoons. Antarctica also is home to thousands of other creatures; nowhere on earth will you be able to get so close to magnificent animals that are as curious about you as you are of them.
Antarctica truly is the final frontier of adventure travel. From Ushauaia, Argentina, the southernmost city on earth, fewer than 50,000 people a year cross the Drake Passage to step foot on Antarctica. Because Antarctica is a protected environment, the wildlife there does not see humans as natural predators. These animals are not afraid of encounters with people. When you visit, you’ll find whales, birds, and penguins actually will seek you out. We floated past Weddell and leopard seals on kayaks, saw minke whales surface mere feet in front of us, and had penguins peck at our pant legs as we sat quietly on the snowy land.
Visiting Antarctica is a trip to remember. For us, the most memorable moments of all came from the beauty and spectacle of seeing Antarctica wildlife. Here are some of the images that captured those encounters.
A baby penguin comes in for a closer look
When you think of Antarctica you cannot help but think of penguins. This little guy was so curious he snuggled into my leg and pecked at my feet. He then looked me up-and-down, as if to say, “Welcome to my home!”
Though the animal looks peaceful here, Leopard Seals actually are one of Antarctica’s top predators. They feed mostly on penguins and other smaller seals. nI certainly would not want to come face-to-face with one in the water but they are beautiful to spot from a kayak or Zodiac.
Feeding time with the Gentoo pengins
After a morning of kayaking we reached land and came upon this Gentoo penguin colony. I sat and watched this particular family for about 20 minutes. I was fascinated with how the mother interacted with her chicks, feeding them and taking great care of them.
The Imperial Shag
There are quite a few of bird species in Antarctica, including the Imperial Shag. Most shags are white and black, blending in with the color of the landscape.
A Weddell Seal on an ice floe
The Weddell seal is one of the most abundant species of seals in Antarctica. You can get pretty close to them in a Zodiac. When we approached the seals, our guides from Quark expeditions killed the engines so we floated silently by the ice where they were resting. The seals barely noticed our presence.
The Chinstrap penguin
During our first landing, we came across a few colonies of Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins.nBoth species can co-exist together but sometimes arguments break out (like in this photo).
Waving at passing ships
The best way to explore Antarctica is by ship. Daily Zodiac rides allow you to experience wildlife without disturbing their natural habitats. This guy is waving at our ship, The Sea Spirit.
A Penguin colony in Antarctica.
Pengin colonies are cute to look at, but the stench of their excrement is so overpowering you can smell it for hours after leaving. Their cuteness makes up for the smell, though. How can you not love these little guys?
A Sleeping seal
One of the things I found interesting in Antarctica was how you could approach the wildlife and they would have no fear of you. Since there has been virtually no human presence in Antarctica and there is no hunting there, the wildlife are not afraid of humans.
The fluke of a Humpback whale
We saw quite a few pods of Humpback whales in Antarctica. Having them actually surface and breach right in front of you is something everyone should experience at least once in his or her life. It’s a magnificent sight to see.
A sleeping Leopard seal
If you look closely, this shot gives a great idea of the size of the teeth on a Leopard seal. The teeth usually measure up to 2 inches.
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Dave and Deb wrapped up their tenure as Expedia Viewfinder bloggers at the end of 2015. They continue to inspire adventure in everyone. They've spent 8 of their 15 years of marriage exploring more than 100 countries on all 7 continents inspiring their international audience to follow their dreams and push their boundaries. Dave and Deb prove that ordinary people can live extraordinary lives. As spokespeople and brand ambassadors, The Planet D have had the opportunity to work with some of the world’s top companies and have spoken around the globe about pursuing passion and what it takes to make it happen.They've appeared regularly on TV and have been featured in such publications as The National Post, BBC Travel, and National Geographic.