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Trip Report – January 2024

Adelie Penguin & Snowy Sheathbill

This was one of the most amazing trips we have ever done! Nothing I write here could do it justice. We were incredibly lucky because we had fantastic weather but we felt we had earned it as this trip was booked nearly 5 years before it happened due to COVID. We were on the Sea Venture which takes about 130 people.

As always, I am only noting life birds – for a full list see the Bird List at the end.

We left Ushuaia at night so didn’t see most of the Beagle Channel but it was so calm we hardly knew that we were moving. The calm weather continued through the next day which was spent bird watching from the boat. Great Shearwater, Slender-billed Prion, Feugian Storm Petrel, Southern Rockhopper Penguin and Gentoo Penguins were all seen from the boat.


Black-browed Albatross

Our first stop was at Westpoint. As we pulled up onto the beach in the zodiacs, we immediately had Striated Caracara, Blackish Cinclodes and Falkland Steamerduck. We then walked across the island to a fantastic colony of both Black-browed Albatross and Gentoo Penguins with their chicks. There were thousands of each and we followed the path amongst them – always keeping 5 meters from any birds – not easy when there are so many. The couple that lives on the island provided us all with tea and cakes as we returned to the beach to get back onto the zodiacs. It had been a great start.

The next stop was Saunders Island which was even better. We disembarked at a low sandy point of the island and walked across from one side to the other – only a few hundred meters. We were surrounded by hundreds of Gentoo penguins, dozens of King Penguins, Magellanic penguins in their burrows and quite a few Falkland Skuas.

Southern Rockhopper Penguin

At the end of the beach was a colony of Southern Rockhopper Penguins and we spent some time enjoying their antics as they came in and out of the ocean. You have to smile when you are watching penguins – they are just too cute!!!

We went into Stanley for lunch and to have a walk around – it is a cute town but there was a huge cruise ship in and it meant there were 2000 other people in town!!

The next 2 days were at sea – which gave us more opportunities for sea watching. It was quite foggy on this stretch but the waters were still calm and we managed a good number of birds plus some lifers. Black-bellied Storm-petrel, Antarctic Prion and Grey-headed Albatross were all new.

A sail by of Shag Rock also enabled us to enjoy hundreds of South Georgia Shags. We also had an incredible encounter with about 150 humpbacked whales. There were all around the boat, within meters of us – and we even had a few doing dramatic breaches – it was spectacular.

South Georgia

Macaroni Penguin

We entered Elsehul Bay as our first spot on South Georgia but, even though the weather was still good, the swell was a bit strong for a landing so we sailed around the bay and enjoyed our first views of Macaroni Penguins.

The boat moved to a more protected area and there we were able to do a zodiac cruise around for more King Penguins and our first views of South Georgia Pipit and South Georgia Pintail. It started to rain so we headed back to the boat – but too late – we were already soaked.

Next stop was the Bay of Isles and Salisbury Plain. This is the 2nd largest King Penguin Colony with over one hundred thousand breeding pairs. The sight and the sound was magnificent. We couldn’t land because there is bird flu down here – which, strangely enough, is affecting the seals – not the birds. We stayed on ship to enjoy the magnificent views of this colony – it was like something out of Nat Geo – Spectacular!!!

But the next stop was even more impressive. We awoke at Fortuna Bay on a beautiful sunny morning with not a cloud in the sky and no wind – incredible turquoise water with icebergs and the back drop of snow-covered mountains. We were able to land and the sight that met us was truly unbelievable.

Southern Royal Albatross

Dozens of tiny seal pups were scooting around on the beach calling for their parents; amid thousands of seals the males were fighting and the females protecting their pups; elephant seals lumbered around and everywhere there were king penguins and their chicks. It is hard to describe how magical it was. We enjoyed several hours wandering among them on a path carefully laid out by the crew to avoid too close contact.

It was near this bay that Shackleton started the final leg of his hike across South Georgia when he finally found rescue at a whaling station in Stromness. Those of us that were up for it followed his route and climbed up and over the mountain from Fortuna Bay. It was stunning and we were doing it on a beautiful day, not after 2 years or poor food and months of physical hardship, as Shackleton had done. The descent into Stromness was very steep but it was exhilarating to complete such an iconic hike.

Southern Fulmar

The following morning, we woke up in Hercules Bay. There wasn’t anywhere to land so we did a zodiac cruise around the bay which was stunningly beautiful. We have been blessed by the weather so far. Light-mantled Albatross were circling over-head and we go our first Snowy Sheathbill. But the real spectacle was a large colony of Macaroni Penguins which we were able to watch for some time.

The afternoon was in Grytvken – the administration centre of South Georgia and Shackleton’s burial site. It was another stunning afternoon and we enjoyed the museum and the life-size replica of the James Caird which Shackleton and 5 others used to get from Elephant Island.

The next morning we woke up in King Haakon Bay which is where Shackleton left 3 of his men in a cave at Pegotty Bluff, while he and 2 others walked over the island. The cave was absolutely tiny and, with the wind blowing and icy rain, we appreciated how challenging that must have been. We watched the glacier at the end of the bay as it calved and enjoyed the lumbering antics of an elephant seal colony. Nothing new on the bird front.

From there we started our 2-day sail down to the Antarctic waters. Along the way we enjoyed huge numbers of birds including Blue Petrels and our first Snowy Petrels.

Light-mantled Albatross


We woke up to see the huge iceberg (3900 sq kms) A23a off the port side of the ship – it was enormous – and an unfortunate result of climate change.

As we moved on, we were surrounded by amazing icebergs – a stunning sight and one of them, that we stopped beside, was covered in Chinstrap Penguins. The snow was pink with their krill-filled faeces and they were comical to watch as they tried to get in and out of the water.

We then pulled up at Elephant Island to see the tiny spot where Shackleton and his 27 men live on shore under their tiny lifeboats before his crossing to South Georgia – some men lived there for many, many months. It was ridiculously tiny (apparently it has eroded since their time) and very inhospitable.

Magellanic Penguin

The next morning, we were at Danger Islands and the sight that greeted us was quite incredible – a million Adelie Penguins breeding on 3 islands in this area. The water was boiling with them and noise and smell was amazing. We pulled in closer on the zodiacs and enjoyed great views of Sub-Antarctic Skuas and Leopard seals.

Our next stop was Brown Bluff where the main target was Gentoo Penguins because this is a different sub-species and a possible split.

The next few days in Antarctica didn’t bring anything new on the birding front but was just one amazing view after another. We were blessed with incredible weather and the snow-covered islands, stunning icebergs, calm seas and fabulous sunshine made an already fabulous place even better.

We were also treated to close up views of many hump-backed whales and orcas. I cannot really find the words to describe what an incredible experience it was.

Eventually we had to leave and start the 2-day crossing of the Drake Passage back to Ushuaia. We were hoping for a few new pelagics but it was extremely quiet so nothing new at all. Still, we have had an amazing trip.


The boat was the SeaVenture run by Polar Latitudes. We booked through Victor Emanuel Nature Tours (V.E.N.T.) which meant we had bird guides with us. Hotels in Ushuaia also booked by them.

Guides & Resources


Andy Whittaker (Senior Guide V.E.N.T.)

Brian Patteson (V.E.N.T.)

Field Guide:

Birds of Chile -Daniel Martinez Pina & Gonzalo Gonzales Cifuentes

Birds of Chile – Alvaro Jaramillo

Birds of Argentina – Mark Pearman & Ignacio Areta

Bird Lists:

The Falkland Islands: 

South Georgia: