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Travel Specialist Sophie shares her top 5 experiences in Antarctica.

1. Making new friends on Petermann Island

The island is named after August Petermann, a German geographer who discovered the island in 1876. Petermann island is a great place to see Weddell, Crabeater and Elephant seals as well as skuas and other Antarctic sea birds. There’s also an impressive colony of Adelie penguins as well as gentoo penguins. We saw both species of penguin but the gentoo penguins were my favourite. The adolescent penguins are quite inquisitive so if you crouch down and remain still, it’s likely they will come and investigate what you are. One curious little one came right up to me and started pecking at my trouser leg. After a few minutes, it realised that there wasn’t any food to be had and waddled off but what an amazing experience!

Gentoo penguin

2. Watching Antarctic sunsets

The picture says it all really, the bright yellow sun setting against the Antarctic backdrop with the odd iceberg floating by!

Antarctic sunset

3. Watching whale flukes at Wilhelmina Bay

Wilhelmina Bay is just 15 miles wide and is named for Wilhelmina, Queen of the Netherlands from 1890 – 1948. It has been nicknamed ‘Whale-mina Bay’ and we were about to find out why... As we launched out on the zodiacs and further into the bay, I saw my first blow hole! The water was so calm except for a small ripple left by the humpback whale. They had been feeding all night and were sleepy but that didn’t stop them swimming under the zodiacs and rewarding us with some flukes (the tail of a whale). It was just magical! I had wanted to see whales at this proximity for so long and to be able to do so in Antarctica made the experience even more special for me. I put down my camera and just watched as these huge creatures floated by us.

Humpback whale

4. Visiting Skonthorp Cove, Paradise Bay

We awoke to find the boat making its way towards Paradise Bay, one of the most beautiful places in Antarctica. The weather was a bit windy but the visibility was good and as we approached the bay the weather cleared with bright blue sky and sunshine beaming down on us. We took a zodiac boat into Skonthorp Cove where the scenery was remarkable – there just don’t seem to be enough adjectives to describe Antarctica!

Skonthorp Cove

5. Experiencing Antarctica's extremes

One afternoon, we went to Neko Harbour which used to be a whaling station and is one of the few places in Antarctica with a kind of sandy beach. As we are preparing to go ashore the wind picks up to 30 knots but being hardy explorers now, we board the zodiacs. On arrival at the ‘beach’ the wind reaches a gusty 37 knots! The landing is close to a glacier so we need to move swiftly off the beach in case the glacier calves. If this happens the ice that breaks off can create a wave that would envelop the beach and the zodiacs. I don’t wait to be told twice and head up past a colony of gentoo penguins to climb the viewpoint. The wind is strong and whipping the snow into a frenzy so we retreat back to the warm of the ship. The afternoon didn’t go quite as planned but I still enjoyed it; it also demonstrated how quickly the weather can change and what a powerful place Antarctica is.

Take a look at some of our Antarctica holidays:

Signature Antarctica: Highlights of the Antarctic Peninsula

Antarctica: In search of the Emperor penguin
Antarctic Circle: Fly and cruise

Antarctica group

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