When we told people we were going to on an adventure to Antarctica, the first thing that everyone talked about was how we were going to be able to see penguins. We were very excited about seeing them but we didn't know a lot about penguins. We never saw March of the Penguins which we hear is excellent and we've never been intrigued by these tuxedo clad flipper flyers.
You have to love these Penguins
We've seen penguins in Peru and South Africa and wrote about them in our travel blog, but I have to admit, we weren't quite prepared for what we were about to see in Antarctica.
Our first landing brought us to a colony of 5000 Gentoo Penguins hanging out on the shores of the Antarctic Peninsula where they waddled in regimented lines towards the water, huddled in groups to catch a nap and played with each other while calling out to their mom's who eagerly fed them regurgitated fish.
I must warn you, a penguin colony is in fact the worst smelling odour you will ever encounter in your life. Think of a mix of rotting flesh and rancid bird poop all wrapped up with a putrid fishy smell. It is not a pleasant experience and we found ourselves gagging on more than one occasion while we took their photos.
However, these guys are so cute, that you quickly forget that you can barely breathe and soon your nose settles into a comfortable tolerance allowing you to interact with the Penguins.
There is a rule in Antarctica that you cannot approach an animal closer than 5 meters. However, if you sit quietly and don't disturb them, they just might venture over to you and explore what you are up to.
This is presicely what happened to most people in our group. Wearing our waterproof pants and Quark Expedition parkas we happily sat in penguin poop to have the chance to interact with these Antarctica cuties.
Some people had better luck than others and even had penguins jump on their laps!
We were in Antarctica at the perfect time of year when baby penguins were molting. They had enough mobility to waddle over to see us, but haven't been around long enough to lose excitement over seeing something new. A group of giant “yellow penguins” from the ship definitely sparked their interest. Penguins are near sighted so I came to the conclusion that they kept walking up to us to see us better. From far away we looked like big yellow blobs, when they walked closer they saw us as something unexpected and pecked at our pants, rubbed up against us and even snuggled beneath our legs.
There is nothing as special as seeing an Antarctic Penguin in the Wild and from that first landing on, we saw them repeatedly for the next 10 days. And you no what? We never tired of them. They are just as cute and cuddly as you'd expect and whether it is your first penguin sighting or your thousandth, you can't help but let out a little “Aw” when you see one.
Check out Quark Expeditions for planning your own Antarctic Expedition.