The feeling of fulfilling one of my most unachievable dreams. If ever at all, I thought I’d visit Antarctica when I’m middle-aged. Not that I’d all of a sudden would be standing there, as a budget backpacker, surrounded by only snow, ice and 8000 penguins. On a vast continent, visited yearly by less than 0.0005% of the world’s population and where humans have left mother nature largely untouched.
Our first landing in Antarctica was at the cloudy South Shetland islands. Two Gentoo penguins waited for us on the shore and took us with them to their 4000 couples of friends.
About 51 to 90 cm high, the Gentoo penguins are the third-largest species of penguin after the two giants, emperor and king penguin.
They always seem to want to hug someone.
They are fast underwater swimmers, reaching 36 km/h. My camera managed to take one focussed picture of them jumping.
A weddell seal seemed to be having a good time on the ice too.
The rule is to always keep a 3 m distance to the penguins. Generally, they run away if you go closer than that anyways.
After three hours of excursion, we got in the zodiac boats again and headed back to the awaiting ship for lunch. Only to soon be landing in another by the penguins ruled part of the South Shetland islands: Half moon island.
Here, it was the chinstrap penguins that were chattring and sliding, breeding and brooding, eating and pooping all over the place.
The beaches of Half moon island were like an art museum of beautiful ice sculptures.
I never even reflected on the cold and cloudy weather. It was just amazing to be in Antarctica. But the next day was going to be even more beautiful, with a warming sunshine and whale watching on a mirror-smooth sea surface…