Top 10 Wildlife Sightings on Antarctica Cruises

Humpback Whale Breaching Antarctica Cruise

Antarctica is one of the last frontiers on earth, unknown by most of the world’s population. Visiting Antarctica is a once-in-a-lifetime experience through well-protected waters, teeming with unique species that are often scarce in other parts of the world.
Check out our list of some of the Top 10 Wildlife Sightings in Antarctica to learn what you have to look forward to on your trip.

  1. Blue whales

Get a great view of the blue whale, the largest creature on earth. These massive mammals are endangered species who come to Antarctica’s frigid waters during the summer months to feed on krill, the tiny marine animals that keep these giants alive. Although they’re notoriously elusive, you’re more likely to see blue whales – which can measure up to 30 meters long (nearly 100 feet!) and weigh as much as 150 tons (more than 300,000 pounds) – in Antarctica than anywhere else.
  1. Orcas

Blue whales aren’t the only stars of the waters around Antarctica. Take a look at the playful and deadly orca pods that frequent the waters in the Ross Sea. Well-known because of their black and white coloring and the intelligence that has made them stars of several aquarium shows, Orcas are the largest carnivore on the planet and eat a variety of foods – the ones you’ll see here feast on penguins and seals. Seventy percent of the worldwide population of Orcas live in the waters around Antarctica.
  1. Humpback whale

Humpback whales share the krill that draws the Blue Whale to the cold southern waters. This gentle giant is known for its characteristic dive that starts with raising itself out of the water and bending its back before submerging, accentuating the hump on its back at the dorsal fin. They’re slow swimmers; if you see one swim near the boat, you’re likely to be able to take note of its barnacles and tail flukes, each with a pattern as unique as a fingerprint.
  1. Emperor Penguins

Emperor penguins are dependent on the sea ice around Antarctica to breed. From April to December, the largest penguin on earth withstands the frigid cold to lay and hatch its eggs, often 200 kilometers from open water. These large penguins can be as large as 70 pounds, and have the typical “tuxedo” coloring on their bodies with more vibrant reds and yellows on their heads.
  1. King penguins

About half the size of the Emperor penguin, King penguins have similar tuxedo coloring with red and yellow feathering around the neck and head. They don’t eat much krill, despite their preference for krill-filled Antarctic waters, choosing instead to pursue fish and squid as deep as 100 meters below the surface.
  1. Adelie penguins

These small playful penguins frequent the southern-most islands and ice of Antarctica. Although they’re less than two feet tall, they make their presence known with loud, busy colonies of up to half a million birds. Their nests are made slightly off the ground and lined with pebbles. The oldest rookery (nursery) of Adelie penguins found by archeologists is estimated to be more than 6,000 years old.
  1. Chinstrap penguins

The Chinstrap penguin is aptly named for the stripe of black that closes around its otherwise white chin, making it look like it’s wearing a dapper little hat. These small penguins only reach about 10 pounds fully grown. However, they’re known to be aggressive and raucous, sometimes overtaking nesting sites from Adelie penguins. They breed on rocky outcrops near the ice. Parents take turns trekking as far as 200 kilometers away from the nest to fish and bring back food for their young.
  1. Wandering Albatross

With wingspans of more than 10 feet, the Wandering Albatross holds the record for the longest wingspan of any bird on earth. These birds return to sub-artic breeding grounds to nest. They mate for life but each pair only reproduces once every two years. This slow reproduction rate and longline fisheries – in addition to fish, squid and crustaceans, they appreciate the easy meals available around fishing boats –contribute to their low population levels.
  1. Elephant Seals

The largest seal on earth, Elephant Seals have a trunk-like snout that earned them their name. Females are typically much smaller than their male counterparts – females are typically about 9 feet long; males are closer to 15 feet. They’re impressive divers, spending as much as 30 minutes underwater for dives down to 500 meters. One female elephant seal holds the record for all seal species: she made it down to 1430 meters (nearly 4700 feet) in a stunning 120-minute dive.
  1. Leopard Seals

The second-deadliest predator in Antarctica behind the Orca whale, Leopard seals feast on anything small enough to catch, including fish, penguins, squid, and the pups of other seals. Although they can swim in short bursts up to 25 miles per hour, they’re not known to be great divers. Instead, they prefer the open water where they can outswim their prey, and are often seen lounging on ice floes near penguin colonies during breeding season.

Plan the trip of a lifetime to Antarctica with our well-traveled team of experts.

Penguin on Antarctica Tour