Tag Archives: Penguins

Antarctica – the white wilderness!

“If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart.
Art, and it would be Michelangelo.
Literature, and it would be Shakespeare.
And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it.”
~ Andrew Denton

I started writing this blog post a few times and kept deleting what I had… I’m not sure I have the appropriate words to describe this last part of my trip… an 11 day expedition cruise to Antarctica… the white wilderness! I think the saying ‘save the best to last’ is very fitting in this case. To say it was a truly amazing experience is an understatement… it was completely out of this world… better than anything I had imagined and definitely the trip of a lifetime!

MV Ushuaia out in Antarctica

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I think it only really hit home on about day 7 of the trip… when I was out in the freezing cold all alone on the outer deck of the ship, surrounded by snow covered mountains, glaciers and icebergs as far as the eye could see… and I suddenly was overcome with excitement… I was in Antarctica!! I couldn’t stop smiling and shivering at the same time… I was listening to my music at the time and started dancing around on the deck all by myself… hope they don’t have CCTV footage of that!

The whole 11 days weren’t all pleasant… the days on the Drake passage were a little challenging… according to the crew we had amazing sea conditions and they referred to it as Lake Drake… but it didn’t stop me feeling sick every time the ship swayed! It was all totally worth it for the amazing wilderness that awaited me on the other side… our first sight of land was really exciting… the South Shetland Islands and small icebergs floating around… the best bit was that the views only got better as the days went by!

We were lucky to be able to make 10 landings/outings across the South Shetland Islands and the Western Antarctic Peninsula, including 2 continental landings and visiting the old British base at Port Lockroy, where I sent a postcard to myself from Antarctica with advice for future me!

Port Lockroy in the snow

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Zodiac cruise

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During our days in Antarctica, we saw huge icebergs and the most amazing glaciers, some with huge crevasses in them… we had sunshine, wind and snow… sometimes all three in the same day… and we saw some breathtaking sunsets. We also had the chance to see some amazing wildlife… Chinstrap, Gentoo and Adélie penguins, a variety of different seals, orcas and humpback whales and birds galore! We even managed to have a BBQ out in vast wilderness of Antarctica!

Landscape of Antarctica – mountains, glaciers, icebergs and snow

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Gentoo penguin climbing and sliding in the snow

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Chinstrap and Gentoo penguins diving and swimming

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Baby Elephant seal

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Antarctic sunsets

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The highlight for me was the final day at Deception Island, where I got to swim in Antarctic waters in the caldera of an active volcano… it was surreal!

Deception Island

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This trip has been one of the most amazing 11 days of my life. I also made some really great new friends from around the world that inspire me to continue to travel and have more adventures.

Oh and you’re probably all going to ask me whether I figured out how to greet a penguin 🙂 Well… I wanted to go and hug a Chinstrap penguin because they are the cutest… but I kinda wasn’t allowed (they have rules in Antarctica too!)… so instead I just admired them from afar… sat and watched the cute little creatures and their habits and every so often one of the curious ones just waddled over to see what the humans were up to! I know I’ve said it before… but I’ll say it again… it was just out of this world!

The end of the world!

So here I am, at the end of the world, in the gorgeous port town of Ushuaia and it goes to show that dreams can come true! A few years ago coming to Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia was just a dream for me, it was a place I had researched and whose pictures I had looked at longingly on the Internet, a destination with some of the most stunning scenery, mountains and wildlife I’d ever seen! Now finally, here I am!

Ushuaia is a beautiful town, surrounded by high mountain peaks on one side and the vast southern ocean on the other. It’s referred to as ‘the End of the World’ as it’s the southernmost city in the world. The only place south from here is the vast and icy wilderness that is Antarctica!

Port at Ushuaia Bay – where all the cruises depart from

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Ushuaia town surrounded by snow-capped mountains

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I’ve had some great active days here hiking in Tierra del Fuego National Park, riding the End of the World Train (although I expected it to be a bit more spectacular!) and taking a short cruise along the Beagle channel to see some amazing wildlife… I even managed to see my first King and Gentoo penguins, albeit through binoculars as they were quite far away!

End of the World Train

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Tierra del Fuego National Park

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Beagle Channel cruise

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Penguins and seals seen on the Beagle Channel cruise

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Estancia Harberton – a stop along the Beagle Channel cruise

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After saying farewell to my tour group, I’ve been taking a few days to relax in this beautiful town and stock up on warm clothing in eager anticipation of tomorrow, when I begin my voyage to the seventh continent, the land of snow and ice, Antarctica! I’m extremely excited and can’t wait to see the expedition ship (MV Ushuaia) arrive at the port, although I’m not looking forward to days of potentially throwing up as we navigate along the infamous Drake Passage!

Although my South American adventure is nearly over… hopefully the best is yet to come!

The journey south – Patagonia and the Lake District

I’ve spent the last three weeks on an overland tour through the Argentinian and Chilean Lake District and Patagonia, taking me from Santiago all the way south to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego.

It’s been one of the most breathtaking trips in South America in terms of natural beauty and landscape. Even after being surrounded by mountains for the last 3 months, I’m still not sick of them! The views became more and more spectacular the further south we went.

I had a great time for the most part of the trip with an inspiring, fun and really diverse group of people… we hiked, camped, rafted and spent long days on our truck (Rosita) together. It wasn’t all fun and games… camping was pretty tough mainly because of the harsh cold weather and biting Patagonian winds, especially during the night. I was really grateful to have a warm bed and shower after that was over!

Rosita (the overland truck) on the open road – Ruta 40

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We started our travel to Pucón and Bariloche in the Lake District of Chile and Argentina. Pucón was particularly fun because I managed to go white water rafting (in the freezing cold!) and also because of the majestic and still active volcano Villarrica in the background. I was lucky enough to be in both Chile and Argentina on my birthday and spent the evening in Bariloche, the Switzerland of Argentina.

Volcano Villarrica

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White water rafting on the Trancura river in Pucón

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As we went further south into Patagonia, we entered El Chaltén for some great hiking in Los Glaciares National park with amazing (and windy!) views, followed by El Calafate to see the spectacle that is the Perito Moreno glacier. It’s difficult to find the words to adequately describe the sight of this huge body of ice and the sounds of icebergs calving off the glacier and splashing into Lake Argentino below… it was definitely one of my highlights!

Hiking in Los Glaciares National Park

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Piedras Blancas glacier – Los Glaciares National Park

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Mount Fitz Roy amongst the clouds – Los Glaciares National Park

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El Chaltén town

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Perito Moreno glacier and icebergs – Los Glaciares National Park

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Leaving behind El Calafate, we began our three days camping in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile… I thought I had already seen amazing sights but those were nothing compared to the views on the hikes/walks we saw there. To top that off I got to see the Grey Glacier with the spectacular blue/purple hues of the ice and with an elephant head emerging from one of the ice caves… … see if you can spot it in the pics!

Torres del Paine National Park

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Grey Glacier – Torres del Paine National Park

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Guanacos getting friendly

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The icing on the cake was being able to see Magellanic penguins after leaving the National Park and arriving at the Seno Otway penguin colony near Punta Arenas. Although I didn’t get up close to them, they are such adorable creatures, waddling around and flapping their wings. It was a lot of fun just watching them go about their every day business, in particular listening to the sound of them braying and watching them splash about in the water.

Magellanic Penguins at Seno Otway

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Shipwreck on route from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia

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Sand Dunes, Sunsets and Seals

Following the volcanoes of Arequipa and Colca, I took off on a trip to Ica and the desert oasis Huacachina. My journey to Ica was my first bus trip in Peru, in fact my first in South America, so I was a little nervous and didn’t know what to expect. I received a lot of advice from friends and family: ‘hold on to your luggage as tightly as possible for the entire trip‘, ‘sleep with one eye open‘, ‘hide some money in your socks in case you get mugged or the bus is hijacked!‘, etc etc… it’s no wonder I was a little apprehensive. I still don’t fully comprehend the bus system in Peru but I managed to get  to the right destination and made it there with all my luggage intact and without being robbed… I’d consider that a successful trip!

Huacachina was a very serene and beautiful place… a small oasis surrounded by desert sand dunes as far as the eye can see. I spent a relaxing and fun couple of days there, riding up the sand dunes and sandboarding down (with a few minor mishaps!). Watching the sun set behind the dunes was a breathtaking experience!

Sunset in the Desert

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Huacachina Oasis

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I also managed to squeeze in a little visit to the town of Paracas with a boat trip around the Ballestas Islands, where I spotted my first penguins (from afar) as well as Peruvian boobies, pelicans and seals. After the boat broke down near the Islands, we were lucky enough to even see dolphins!

Wildlife on the Ballestas Islands

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