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King Penguins on South Georgia Island

South Georgia Cruises & Expeditions

Population
Roughly 30 scientists and researchers
Size
1,362 square miles (3,528 square km)
Highest Elevation
Mount Paget at 9,629 feet (2,935 meters)
Terrain
Mountainous, long ridges, numerous fjords and bays
South Georgia

Overview

In contrast to the population of the Falklands which numbers about 2,900 permanent residents, South Georgia has only a handful of temporary inhabitants – and that contingent is primarily researchers and scientists. The slightly crescent-shaped, mountainous island is known for its diverse wildlife, glaciers and fjords, as well as wildlife. South Georgia is sometimes called the “Galapagos of the Poles” because of the massive king penguin colony at Salisbury Plain, and other wildlife, including the thousands of fur and elephant seals.

Polar history enthusiasts are particularly keen to visit South Georgia. British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton first crossed the island in 1916 in search of aid for his ill-fated trans-Antarctic expedition. Upon Shackleton’s death, his widow insisted the late great explorer be buried at the former whaling station at Grytviken on South Georgia.

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South Georgia

Destination Highlights

Grytviken, South Georgia

One of the most historically significant sites on South Georgia Island is Grytviken, which at one time was the largest whaling station on South Georgia. Grytviken no longer has permanent residents – except for a few staff who come each summer to manage the South Georgia Museum. Most visitors make the journey to Grytviken to visit the burial place of Sir Ernest Shackleton, the famous Antarctic explorer. His remains rest in Grytviken's graveyard where legions of visitors and polar history enthusiasts come to pay homage each year.

Fortuna Bay, South Georgia

Located on the north shore of South Georgia Island, Fortuna Bay is marked by rugged mountainous terrain and abundant wildlife. It’s a relatively small bay – only 3 miles (5 km) long and 1 mile (1.6 km) wide and is ideal for observing icebergs. Visitors will also find thousands of King penguins, Antarctic Fur seals, Elephant seals, Brown skua, Giant petrels and Antarctic terns at Fortuna Bay.

Top Things to See

King penguins

King Penguins, Salisbury Plain, South Georgia

Salisbury Plain, the vast, flat expanse of green spreading out in front of Grace Glacier, was discovered by the famous British Captain James Cook during his voyage of 1772-1775. Today, it’s known for its colony of 250,000 breeding King penguins. The Salisbury Plain colony is South Georgia’s second-largest king penguin rookery. Elephant and fur seals also haul out on the nearby beaches to breed, give birth and molt.
 

Points of Interest

Gold Harbour, South Georgia
Gold Harbour, South Georgia

Gold Harbour has been described as a zoo without the fences: 25,000 pairs of breeding King penguins, an estimated 500 gentoo penguins, and hundreds of elephant seals on the coastline beaches. Many birders visit Gold Harbour in the hopes of watching the courtship dance of the light-mantled sooty albatross which can be spotted at the cliffs near Gold Head.

Gold Harbour, South Georgia
Cooper Island, South Georgia
Cooper Island, South Georgia

At the north side of the entrance to Drygalski Fjord, off the southeast end of South Georgia, lies Cooper Island. The small island, which is 2 miles (3.2 km) long, was discovered by a British expedition under James Cook in 1775, and named for Lieutenant Robert Palliser Cooper, an officer aboard HMS Resolution. The large numbers sea birds including snow petrels, Antarctic prions, 12,000 pairs of black-browed albatross, chinstrap penguins and 20,000 macaroni penguins. Plus, there are plenty of fur seals.
 

Cooper Island, South Georgia

When to Go

Preferred Season

The preferred time to visit is between November and March when the sea ice conditions allow ships to navigate.

Special Insights from Our Guests

Quark's voyage to the Falklands, South Georgia, and the Antarctica Peninsula was wonderful—well-appointed ship, terrific crew and staff, plentiful and delicious meals, and, best of all, fabulous locations to visit—teeming with wildlife, glaciers and icebergs, historical sites, and the other-worldly views of the southern polar region. This is definitely a voyage not to be missed.

— Guest
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Description
South Georgia is waiting to be explored. Browse all of our expeditions options to this sub-Antarctic island.