insights from the ultimate cruising team

South Georgia – is it worth including in an Antarctic itinerary?

South Georgia – is it worth including in an Antarctic itinerary?

Decisions, decisions, decisions! There are a lot of decisions to make when booking a cruise to Antarctica. When should I go, which cruise line is best for me, what itinerary is best? Let us help with just one decision today. One of the first questions we often get asked by clients planning a cruise to Antarctica is “Should we include South Georgia?”

The answer to that question is a resounding YES! If time and budget allow, South Georgia is well worth a visit. So what is so great about South Georgia that makes it worth the extra days and dollars?

• Penguins – yes, you’ll see plenty of penguins in Antarctica, but you’ll see species in South Georgia that you won’t see on the Antarctic Peninsula: King Penguins and Macaroni Penguins. King Penguins are much bigger than the penguins you’ll see on the peninsula and pretty impressive to see en masse! In South Georgia you’ll find beaches covered with thousands of these guys as well as the Macaroni Penguin (think the penguins with little yellow tufts for eyebrows – made famous by the movie ‘Happy Feet’!).

• Fur seals – Fur seals are generally a subantarctic seal so aren’t found in Antarctica itself. There are plenty in South Georgia however and if you travel towards the end of the season, you’re likely to see beaches teeming with cute and inquisitive seal pups who aren’t shy about approaching humans!

• Whales – Yes, you’ll likely see whales in Antarctica too but in South Georgia it’s not unusual to see pods of hundreds of whales. Why? Because there is an underwater mountain range that separates the Scotia Sea from the Southern Ocean. The whales know that this causes the sea currents to bring the marine life from deep below up to the surface making it a perfect feeding ground for whales. It’s party central for whales!

• History – Oh the history here is fascinating! You’ll see where Sir Ernest Shackleton landed and traversed the not-inconsiderable mountains to reach the Stromness whaling station to find help to rescue his stranded crew members. It may not sound like a huge deal but once you see it, and realise that it’s a challenge for today’s climbers using modern gear, you’ll get a true appreciation of the magnitude of this feat by men using just nails as crampons! You’ll also be able to visit Shackletons final resting place.

• More history – Although it’s heart-breaking for many people and certainly controversial, the whaling stations are part of history and you can visit the old abandoned Grytviken station.

• Landscape – words can’t adequately describe the dramatic landscape of South Georgia. On the west you’ve got the unforgiving King Haakon Sound where Sir Ernest Shackleton and men came shore. In all likelihood the weather will prevent you from getting in here as it’s totally exposed with just a narrow channel. In contrast, the Eastern side of the island has valleys and glaciers waiting to be explored. You can take a walk – often accompanied by the local wildlife – for simply breath-taking, spectacular views.

Cruises to Antarctica and South Georgia also often take in the Falkland Islands. When you consider throwing in the extra destinations you have to ask yourself ‘how often will I have the opportunity to visit this incredible part of the world?’ Chances are that your Antarctic voyage will be a one-time-only expedition so our advice is, if it is at all possible, seize the opportunity and do it all! To see our Antarctic cruise packages, click here or have a chat with one of our Ultimate Cruising experts by requesting a call here.