Cruising to Antarctica will leave you inspired in countless ways. It is a great privilege to visit a part of the world that very few people get to see in their lifetime - a part of the world that is under threat and may not always be possible to see in the way that it is now. You will witness other-worldly landscapes and ice formations, and get a true sense of how beautiful an untouched environment can be. And that’s just the beginning.
The wildlife of Antarctica brings the experience to a whole new level. You will feel connected to nature like never before as you behold the sight of the world’s most incredible species. Here are just a few you might encounter.
Whales and dolphins
The waters of Antarctica are teeming with some truly incredible species of whale. The regions of the Antarctic Peninsula, South Georgia, the Falkland Islands and the Pelagic are home to about a dozen species of whales and dolphins: humpbacks, blue whales, fin whales, orca whales, sperm whales, Southern right whales and Peale’s dolphins, among others. Some of these you may see up close - ships that sail to Antarctica are a lot smaller than your average cruise vessel, so you’re closer to the action. You might catch humpbacks breaching metres-high out of the water at high speed then crashing back down with an almighty splash, or gaze in awe as you see the world’s largest animal, the blue whale, spout water from its body that can weigh up to 173 tonnes.
Keep an eye out for famously playful dusky dolphins, too - they often travel in groups of more than 20 and love to frolic in the wakes.
Antarctica is where ‘Happy Feet’ comes to life. Gentoos, Adelies, Kings and Chinstraps are just some of the penguin species that waddle the Antarctic ice. Watch them propel themselves through the water or rocket down snowy slopes. Depending on when you go, you may even get to see babies being cared for by doting parents. Your heart will never be the same.
Seals and Sea Lions
From mammoth elephant seals more than 5 metres in length to adorable doe-eyed Weddell seals, Antarctica is host to several seal and sea lion species. Watch colonies basking on the rocks or ducking and diving under the ice. You might even see a spot of hunting - different species of seals go after prey including fish, squid, krill and penguins - and even other seals!
Birds other than penguins might not be the first creatures you associate with the White Continent, but there are some beautiful and rare varieties flying high above the ice in Antarctica. From several breeds of albatross to 10 types of petrels, plus gulls, terns, geese and even the striated caracara, a bird of prey, you should keep your eyes peeled for these amazing birds in flight. See if you can spot the largest of them all, the wandering albatross, which has a wingspan of up to 3.5 metres.
Spotting rare and wonderful wildlife on your cruise to Antarctica never gets old, whether it’s a graceful blue whale, a snuggly baby seal or a waddling penguin. Be sure to have your camera at the ready to take some impressive animal snaps - but don’t forget to live in the moment, too. The feeling you get watching a whale breach the surface in pristine waters far away from civilisation is something that just can’t be replicated.
Silversea, Seabourn, Holland America and Celebrity all cruise to this ethereal region, so make sure you look out for some of these amazing creatures as you embark upon your Antarctica cruise. Which creature would you most like to see? Let us know in the comments.