What activities to do on an Antarctica cruise
I recently went on the cruise of a lifetime on board Silversea’s brand-new ship Silver Endeavour to Antarctica! We skipped the Drake Passage — I’m glad because I do get a bit sea sick! — and flew straight to King George Island from Punta Arenas to begin our voyage.
From the minute we landed on King George Island we were straight into our activities. During our cruise we were transported to landing sites on zodiacs. This was the only way to get around Antarctica from our ship to the landing tours and a whole experience in itself.
Every day we had two activities planned and we were split into four groups; we typically did a landing tour in the morning followed by a zodiac cruise in the afternoon. It was a new experience for me, being on such a small ship with small group tours. But because of that I felt like it was more immersive than any other cruise or excursion I’ve been on.
Hiking at Orne Harbour
Our first landing on the Antarctic Peninsula was at Orne Harbour. It’s a mile-wide cove, indenting the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. It was discovered by the Belgian Antarctic Expedition led by Gerlache in 1898.
We got to experience true Antarctica this day. First, we hiked up to the top of the hill and visited the chinstrap penguins! It was a challenging hike to the top as the weather was changing by the minute. Once we got to the top and had spent some time watching the fascinating penguins, we had heard that the snow and ice had come in and by the time we made it to the bottom — zodiacs were completely stranded by mini icebergs! We had to wait two hours for the zodiacs to get through the ice and back to the ship. Everyone that was in the last group said that this morning was one of the best, most exhilarating experiences they had the whole trip.
We spotted whales
The second activity of the day was a zodiac cruise at Wilhelmina Bay, a 15 mile-wide bay close to Orne Harbour on the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. We were very lucky on this trip, but especially today. — this afternoon was possibly the best afternoon I have ever had in my life. Our group was the last to disembark and as we were cruising around Wilhelmina Bay, we were joined by the most breathtaking creatures in the world — two humpback whales! This was an experience I will never forget in my life.
There are no words to describe being as close as we were to whales. The first day could not have been more exciting and was the best day to start our Antarctica trip.
And saw penguins too!
Another huge highlight of the cruise was when we made a wet landing at Petermann Island. Petermann Island is a small rounded island lying off the northwest coast of the Kyiv Peninsula, a short distance south of Booth Island and the Lemaire Channel.
This was my second favourite day of the cruise as we saw so many penguins! We got up close and personal with Adélie and Gentoo penguins — I never thought we would see so many and get so close to them! We spent hours just watching them waddle around, jumping into the water and being cheeky. If there’s just one reason to visit Antarctica, it’s to see the penguins in their natural habitat.
Fun facts about Adélie penguins:
- More than 80,000 pairs of Adélie penguins breed annually along the 25 miles of Antarctic coast near Mawson Station
- Adult Adélies swim between 3 miles and 75 miles out to sea to catch food for their chicks
- Some Adélie penguins are capable of diving to depths of up to 175 metres, but usually feed within the upper 70 metres
The same day, we also enjoyed a zodiac cruise of Pleneau Bay, an incredible stretch of water with huge bright blue icebergs. The colour of them is absolutely amazing and some of the shapes look so fragile, it’s crazy to think they go so deep down into the ocean!
Every day of our Antarctica cruise involved some sort of excursion in a Zodiac and we never got bored of the views and the things we saw. The wildlife, also fairly sparse in its variety, was incredible. I can’t think of any other time I will ever get to see whales, penguins, seals and interesting birds again.
One day we went kayaking and gosh this was a tiring but great day! Georgia and I are not kayakers so it was quite a tough few hours — yes, we spent three hours kayaking around icebergs in the Antarctic Ocean!
We kayaked all around Spert Island, an island within the Palmer Archipelago. It was amazing being right on the water, more so than when we were on the Zodiacs, but this excursion was definitely for those who feel confident kayaking and are fairly active. We struggled towards the end and our arms ached all the next day but it was such a fantastic experience and something I highly recommend as an activity if you’re going to Antarctica on a cruise.
Polar plunge — if you dare!
I unfortunately couldn’t take part in the polar plunge, but my colleague Georgia was so brave and did it! It looked both amazing and terrifying and she said it was one of the best experiences of the whole trip. To be able to say she’d jumped into the freezing Antarctic waters is a huge accomplishment and something she will be proud of forever.
This has been the best experience of my life and I don’t think anything else can top this. I feel so lucky to be able to experience this amazing place. It truly is another world in Antarctica. It is really important that we keep this place as untouched as possible. The team at Silversea really drilled home how important it is to leave no footprints and work so incredibly hard to keep the magnificent destination as wild and natural as they can.
For those who are interested, here is a complete list of all the wildlife we saw on our Antarctica cruise!
- Brown Skua
- Kelp Gull
- Arctic Tern
- Wilson’s Storm Petrel
- Southern Giant Petrel
- Snow Petrel
- Imperial Shag
- Snowy Sheathbill
- Adelie Penguin
- Chinstrap Penguin
- Gentoo Penguin
- Minke Whale
- Humpback Whale
- Antarctic Fur Seal
- Southern Elephant Seal
- Weddell Seal
- Leopard Seal