The British territory of South Georgia is most closely located to the Falkland Islands. This area is home to a diverse list of wildlife, and this makes it an ideal destination for anyone who is interested in learning more about penguins and seals. Due to its proximity to the Falkland Islands, it is possible to book a South Georgia cruise that will provide you with land excursions in both places.
The King penguin colony
One of the most notable things about the South Georgia Island is the almost overwhelming large population of King penguins that make their home there. In fact, it is a major breeding spot, and stunning aerial photos have captured the beauty of hundreds of thousands of King penguins herded together. This colony is referred to as the largest crèche in the world, and it is definitely one of the best destinations worldwide for seeing King penguins.
King penguin facts
The King penguins that are found in South Georgia are part of the second largest penguin species in the world. They grow up to 100 cm (39 inches) tall, and the maximum average adult weight is 16 kg (35 lbs). These penguins are primarily black and white, and they also have distinctive splashes of yellow on their head.
Most King penguins are found in the Sub-Antarctic area, and they have adapted to survive in these conditions. Their body features an impressive 70 feathers on every 6.45 square cm (1 square inch). There are three inner layers of down feathers that act as insulation, and the outer feathers are waterproof and oiled. Due to this combination, they are able to thrive in cold climates, and they are also very graceful when they glide into the water.
King penguin chicks are hatched and raised in colonies, but there are no actual nests. However, each mating pair does have its own small territory within the colony. It takes up to 16 months to fledge each chick, and adult mating pairs cannot rear more than two chicks during a three year time period.
Many people who head to the South Georgia Island have king penguin watching in mind, but they are not the only penguin species in this area. Macaroni penguins are also very prevalent here. In fact, the 3 million breeding pairs that live on South Georgia make up the largest macaroni penguin population in the world.
This species derives its name from its unusual looking yellow crest feathers. Early explorers who saw these crests thought that they resembled the 18th century men’s hat style that was called macaroni. These penguins are also characterized by their large, orange-brown bill, pink feet, white undersides and black backs. Additionally, each macaroni penguin has a small section of pink skin that is not covered by feathers and extends from each eye to the base of their bill.
The average height of a Macaroni penguin is 71 cm (28 inches), and they typically weigh approximately 5.5 kg (12 lbs). These penguins can dive 48 meters (157.5 feet) down in search of food, and their primary meal is krill. The breeding season starts each year in October and November, and both parents share the 37 day incubation process.
The King and Macaroni penguins are the most notable, but you might also see chinstrap and gentoo penguins. Overall, this is one of the best places worldwide for penguin enthusiasts to see and photograph these creatures.
Other species of note
Penguins are a big draw for adventurers who want to go on a once in a lifetime trip, but they are not the only wildlife that is worth looking for when you are on or near South Georgia Island. Seals are also a notable member of the local ecosystem, and two species in particular are always spotted by travelers.
1. Elephant Seals – Elephant seals are carnivorous mammals that can live for up to 22 years in the wild. They haul out and rest in large piles but cover some beaches in their main breeding time. Adult male elephant seals can reach a length of 6 meters (20 feet). and can weigh in at up to 4,000 kg (8,800 lbs), and they have the ability to remain submerged for an impressive two hour time span.
There are actually two types of elephant seals: southern and northern. The southern type is what lives in South Georgia, and they are the largest seal species in the world. The southern elephant seals also have a superior diving ability that enables them to go 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) down in search of food.
2. Antarctic Fur Seals – Fur seals are much smaller than elephant seals, and it not uncommon to hear people referring to them as the cuter of the two species. These mammals are also carnivorous, and they have an average life expectancy of up to 30 years. The size of an adult fur seal can vary from 1.2 to 3.1 meters (4 to 10 feet), and they weigh up to 317 kg (700 lbs).
Perhaps one of the most fascinating facts about fur seals is that the female seals and their cubs communicate via a call that is specific to them. Researchers have determined that this call is still recognizable after four years apart, and it is possible that this recognition extends to an even longer time frame.
The wandering albatross
Another big point of interest for wildlife enthusiasts is the area’s wandering albatross population. This is the largest bird species on earth that has the ability to fly, and its massive wingspan can reach 3.4 meters (11 feet)! With this unusual size, it is no surprise that the wandering albatross can weigh in at up to 10 kg (22 lbs). If the size alone is not enough to give it away, this species typically has white and brown feathers, but some of them also have a few grey feathers in the mix.
The wandering albatross only breeds every other year and there is a good reason for that. From the adults finding back to together after a year at sea until their one chick is fledged around 9 months have passed. The wandering albatross is also well-known for being able to travel up to an astounding 16,093 km (10,000 miles) without flapping its wings due to the dynamic soaring technique.
Reaching South Georgia
Because of South Georgia remote location in the Southern Ocean, it is not exactly a common tourist destination. Unlike the standard cruise destinations, our ships go to some of the most remote and rugged places on earth to bring people face to face with the spirit of adventure. Therefore, if you are ready to have a truly unique and memorable experience, our experienced team can help you reach some of the most interesting Antarctica cruises on earth.