What you can see at South Georgia
How would you picture a remote nature and wildlife paradise sanctuary? Chances are that all expectations will not come up to what you’ll discover on South Georgia Island! Imagine pristine beaches, clear-blue water, grassy plains surrounded by the most picturesque alpine panorama. Land on beautiful beaches, and mix and mingle with wildlife in their natural habitat. See penguins curiously waddling right by you, elephant seals lazing in the sun and fur seals nursing their pups. Explore the abandoned whaling stations and learn about the history of the island. Follow in the footsteps of famous explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and visit key places of his heroic deeds during your South Georgia voyage.
South Georgia Expeditions
While you can take a trip to only the Antarctic Peninsula, we highly recommend booking a combined tour with South Georgia and the Falklands. South Georgia is an unbelievably beautiful, unique and remote place. We have seen the faces of our expeditioners, the amazement, the joy, and the disbelief that such a place exists. Even returning travelers are overwhelmed with emotions. Read on and see what itineraries await you.
Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula
Antarctic Wildlife Adventure
It’s one of the top cruises for real explorers who want to see it all! Visit the remote Falkland Islands, where you can take a journey back in time and enjoy a piece of quaint Britain with its lovely farmsteads and charming capital city of Stanley. Visit the local museum, cathedral and colorful pubs and explore the archipelago’s green hills (which enjoy an abundance of birdlife). After leaving the Falklands, you’ll head toward South Georgia aboard the Sea Spirit. If you think the Falklands are a remote gem of a wildlife sanctuary, get ready to be amazed!
Once you approach South Georgia, you’ll experience how remote this island really is. With a little bit of luck, clear skies with lenticular clouds will greet you as you prepare for the first landing. Signed up for kayaking? Then this will be one of the highlights of your trip! Paddle the picturesque bays with our experienced kayaking guides and explore at your own speed. We’ll also launch our Zodiac boats to explore the coastline and its wildlife. See incredible king penguin colonies, macaroni and Gentoo penguins, seabirds and fur and elephant seals. Explore abandoned whaling stations and visit the museum in Grytviken.
Ready for Antarctica? The last leg of the journey will take you to the Antarctic Peninsula via the South Shetland Islands (the northernmost islands of Antarctica) and Elephant Island, where Shackleton’s men overwintered awaiting rescue after their ill-fated Endurance expedition. We’ll sail the picturesque Gerlache Strait, explore Paradise Bay and discover iconic wildlife like whales, leopard seals and Adelie and chinstrap penguins. From here only the famous Drake Passage will separate you from our final departure port in Ushuaia, Argentina, which will give you a few days to recap this incredible journey!
South Georgia Through the Camera Lens
Want to maximize your time on South Georgia and skip the Drake Passage altogether? Then this is your trip! We created this cruise especially for photo enthusiasts who want to focus on the Falklands and South Georgia. Arrive in Santiago de Chile and start your expedition by flying to Stanley (capital of the Falklands). There you’ll board a small ship, the Sea Spirit, for an exclusive expedition, designed for professional and amateur photographers alike. Feel the creative spirit aboard and visit workshops to perfect your skills. Take your best shots during Zodiac excursions and landings, and catch the perfect light during the golden hours. Visit the preeminent landing sites hand-picked for the best photo ops, explore abandoned whaling stations bustling with wildlife and get plenty of time ashore to indulge your creative spirit. This cruise heads back to Port Stanley, where a plane will take you back to Chile.
We have various itineraries departing from Ushuaia, Buenos Aires and Port Stanley. Check out our departures for the 2023-24 season here:
About South Georgia Island
Snowcapped mountains and glaciers dominate the landscape on this 160km (100miles) long and 32km (20miles) wide island, which is surrounded by the Southern Ocean. Grassy plains with tundra plants, fjords and bays frame its coastline. It’s located around 2,024km east of the southern tip of Argentina and the nearest inhabited place is the Falkland Islands, roughly 1,500km to its west.
If you appreciate moderate temperatures, you’ll feel comfortable on South Georgia. During the winter months (June to August) the temperature may occasionally drop to -10/12°C (10/14 °F), but frosty weather usually doesn’t stay around for long. While summers are usually around 6-10°C (42-50°F), some get as warm as 22 °C (71 °F)! Be prepared to experience rain – with 293 rainy days annually on average, chances are high that you’ll be glad to have packed your rain proofs.
Looking at the island today, a calm wildlife paradise, it’s hard to believe that its history has been quite turbulent. With its discovery by European explorers in 1675 (Captain James Cook made the first landing in 1775), the island was quickly claimed by Britain as the Isle of Georgia (named after King George III) and served as a base for seal hunting and whaling. Over the centuries it became a prime spot for whaling before being abandoned in 1966 because it became unprofitable. Too few whales were left.
It’s not only whale blood that was shed here. Did you know that the southernmost battle in the world (The Battle of Grytviken) was fought on South Georgia? On April 3rd, 1982, Argentina’s Navy seized the island, with Britain taking it back only 22 days later on April 25th, with several casualties on both sides. This was the climax of Argentina’s territorial claims dating back as early as 1908, when Great Britain formally annexed Sough Georgia.
Sir Ernest Shackleton gave South Georgia a more heroic tale to tell with his grand crossing from the island’s western shore to the east during his brave mission to save his stranded men on Elephant Island. When he had to abandon his ship, the Endurance, during a Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-1917), the ship’s crew got stranded on Elephant Island. Their only hope to make it to South Georgia to call for help. Shackleton ventured out in a small lifeboat with only a few men to reach the small subantarctic island without proper navigation and, against all odds, arrived at its western shores. With the last of their strength, the rescue party led by Shackleton crossed the treacherous snow-capped mountains, reached the whaling station of Stromness and launched a rescue mission, saving every last crewmember!
Remote and without any permanent human inhabitants, South Georgia is a safe haven for wildlife. While we at Poseidon Expeditions follow all international standards and guidelines on nature and wildlife preservation, animals can often be curious about travelers and come to take a closer look at those who lands on the shores of their pristine paradise.
With around 450,000 pairs living in more than 30 colonies spanning its vast landscapes, South Georgia is home to about half of the world’s king penguin population. At St. Andrews Bay alone you can find 150,000 pairs of these majestic birds. Visit anytime from December to February to see their fluffy brown chicks being spoiled silly by their busy parents.
Find these impressive giants dozing on the island’s pristine beaches. You can spot the males easily by their sheer size (up to 5.8 meters, or 19 feet, in length) and weight (up to 3,700 kg, or 8,150 lbs.). Females are much smaller at only up to 4m (12 feet) in length and 800kg (1,800 lbs.) in weight. While they look lazy and slow on land, they are amazing divers that can stay underwater for up to two hours and plunge to depths of 2,133 meters (7,000 feet).
See the largest flying bird in the world on South Georgia in its natural habitat: the wandering albatross! With an impressive wingspan of up to 3.5 meters (11 ft 6 in), they can cover up to 10,000 km (6,200 miles) at a time on their fishing trips, which can last up to 20 days. To get an understanding how big this bird is, head to the South Georgia Museum and compare yourself to the large wingspan of two to-scale models on display.
Top Things to see
It’s a beautifully surreal scene you’ll find at the abandoned whaling stations on South Georgia. Withered, man-made remains dating back to the heydays of the whaling industry are gradually being reclaimed by nature and wildlife. Explore these unique sights and see fur and elephant seals going about their business amid the rusty ruins.
When the Norwegian captain Carl Anton Larsen found the site where he envisioned the future whaling station in 1902, he likely did not anticipate that 195 whales would be hunted in the first season alone. Eventually over 300 men would work at Grytviken simultaneously. Senior personnel often brought along their families and in 1913 one of their wives even gave birth on the remote island. By 1966 there were few whales left, and the station closed. Today you can see the remains of the station, visit the museum, the church and the local graveyard.
Stromness was founded in 1907 as a floating offshore station and became land-based only in 1912. From 1931, it functioned as a ship repair yard with its own foundry and remained open until 1961. If you visit, have a look behind the station and you’ll see a beautiful mountain panorama with snow-capped peaks. This is where Ernest Shackleton arrived after crossing the island, seeking help to rescue his stranded men on Elephant Island!
While whaling operations started here in 1909, Leith Harbor was also one of the sites where reindeer was introduced to the island for hunting and as a fresh meat source for whalers. Once the heydays of whaling were over and everyone left, the reindeer population grew and eventually caused significant environmental damage to the island. An eradication program was eventually launched to remove this non-endemic species from the island.
Plan your South Georgia Tour
How to get to the South Georgia Island
Your cruise starts from the southern tip of Argentina aboard the Sea Spirit. International flights usually transfer via Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. From there it takes around three days to reach South Georgia Island by ship.
You may need a visa to get to your departure port in Ushuaia, Argentina (you start your Antarctic trip from there). Please check with the relevant consulates prior to your trip and obtain a visa if necessary.
South Georgia Ships
We cruise aboard the Sea Spirit, a small, state-of-the-art expedition vessel with only 114 passengers. Aboard you’ll find various cabin categories, a lecture hall for briefings and workshops, gourmet restaurant, gym, polar library, bar and outdoor bistro.
When to visit South Georgia Island
Prime cruising season for South Georgia cruises and Antarctica is during the Antarctic summer (November-March). Take an earlier cruise if you want to see penguins mating and Antarctica and South Georgia awaken after a long winter. A later cruise will give you the chance for whale watching and to see the hustle and bustle of raising offspring in the large king penguin colonies on the island.
Facts about South Georgia Island
You may need a visa to get to your departure port in Ushuaia, Argentina (you start your Antarctic trip from there). Please check with the relevant consulates prior to your trip and obtain a visa if necessary.• South Georgia (as well as the South Sandwich Islands) are British Overseas Territories
• You can swim, but you can’t fly – there’s no airport, and you can only arrive by ship
• There are no permanent residents on South Georgia • South Georgia has had its own postage stamps since 1962
• You can get married on South Georgia (civil services only as no ministers of any world religion reside on the island)
What clothes should I take to South Georgia?
Consider dressing in layers. Warm undergarments (wool or synthetics), middle layers made of polar fleece or wool, wind- and waterproofs as top layers, comfortable shoes for onboard activities, hats, gloves and sunglasses. We’ll provide boots for the duration of your trip for shore excursions.
Do you provide jackets for expeditions?
We have our Poseidon Expeditions signature parka waiting for you! It will keep you warm during the trip and is yours to keep.
How close can I get to the animals?
We follow international protocols to not disturb wildlife in Antarctica and on the subantarctic islands. Generally you should keep a distance of 5m from penguins and seals, 10m from penguin colonies, 15m from seabirds and seals with their pups and 30m from king penguin colonies. Once you board our cruise, you’ll get a full briefing by the expedition team on how to behave around wildlife.
What currency do you accept on board?
We accept USD and major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX).
Am I going to get seasick?
Some travelers do and some don’t – and that can change from journey to journey! Many well-travelled sailors claim it’s all about your attitude. Take our advice - don’t be scared, there are many ways to prepare for possible motion sickness. We’ll be crossing the infamous Drake Passage on this voyage, so high waves, pitching and rolling are common, but our expedition ship, the Sea Spirit, is equipped with Rolls-Royce stabilizers that make sailing much smoother.
Am I going to get seasick?
No. There are no airports on the island.
How long can I stay in South Georgia?
Unless you are assigned research staff or working at the museum in Grytviken, your visit will last only a few days.
Any idea how much a cruise to South Georgia costs?
This depends on which cruise you choose. Check out our current catalogue and search for South Georgia cruises and note our Early Bird Special on eligible cruises. To stay tuned, sign up for our newsletter to get the best offers and discounts before they go public!
Will I get to see adorable penguin chicks?
Penguin chicks hatch in December, so any South Georgia trip departing late December, January or February is perfect for you.
Are there any interesting Shackleton history spots in South Georgia?
Yes. There are many points of interest if you are a fan of Sir Ernest Shackleton such as the whaling station Stromness, Fortuna Bay and the cemetery where he was laid to rest in Grytviken.
When's the best time to start planning my trip?
If you have a very specific itinerary in mind, we recommend you plan ahead to be able to choose your desired cabin category and departure date. You also need to make travel arrangements for South America to reach the departure port in Ushuaia or Buenos Aires (Argentina).