These diminutive, flightless birds are one of Antarctica’s biggest draws. Rookeries are surprisingly noisy – and smelly! – but their antics make them entertaining, and something about their upright waddle makes them strangely human. You’ll burn through memory cards on your first wild penguin sighting – and they’re not afraid of humans, so while you are not allowed to approach them, there’s nothing to stop them approaching you.
Six species can be found here; with Adélie and gentoo being the most common. Adélies are only found along the Antarctic coast, and these feisty little birds have been known to be aggressive towards anyone approaching – survival is tough down here, and they have to fight for it! Many thousands of pairs can be seen on the islands, along with gentoo penguins which can be recognised by their prominent tails.
The long, tufted orange “eyebrows” of the macaroni penguin makes it one of the most appealing and comical. They nest in large groups on South Georgia – also popular with chinstrap and king penguins, who prefer the warmer waters away from the Antarctic continent. King penguins resemble the striking emperor penguin, with yellow patches on their head and neck.
Emperor penguins are the best known and, at 115cm tall, the largest species – but their sheltered breeding grounds – often far inland or on floating ice – makes them hard to reach.