Best time to visit Macquarie Island


Macquarie is one of six Antipodean Subantarctic Islands – some of the world’s most remote and tiny specks of land, about 1,300km north of Antarctica. Unsurprisingly, the expedition season is short: early Dec-March is not only the best time to visit Macquarie Island, it is the only time to visit; outside of these months it’s bitingly cold and the area inaccessible. In Dec-Jan, you’re looking at a relatively balmy 2-7°C, perfect conditions for seal pups and penguin chicks, while Feb-March see clifftops come alive with activity as chicks take flight for the first time.
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Is a Macquarie Island expedition for you?


Go to Macquarie
Island if...

  • ... you love wildlife. Macquarie really is about the fantastic subantarctic wildlife. It’s astonishing how anything can live in such harsh conditions, so to see penguins and petrels positively thriving alongside sea lions, seals and albatrosses that soar along with wingspans that can stretch to 3.3m is a magnificent sight to behold.
  • ... you’re keen to embrace your inner student. We know the idea of a lecture doesn’t instantly pair up with an exciting, outdoor expedition, but trust us: lectures about Macquarie Island are neither boring nor stuffy. Onboard, and sometimes on land, you will be treated to talks from biologists, geographers, photographers, historians and geologists who are keen to share their fascinating knowledge about the land and creatures around you. You’ll learn to identify species, and a little insight means you will be even more amazed by the world passing you by on deck.
  • ... you’re brave enough to downsize your boat. This extraordinary island landscape and its subantarctic surrounds are best explored by venturing out in an inflatable zodiac. They’re much smaller than your expedition vessel, and how far you go will be dictated by the weather and the ocean, but this only serves to make the experience more thrilling. Itineraries encourage as many zodiac trips as timing and conditions allow, getting you up close to seals and penguins and permitting you to step into their unusual world.

Don't go to Macquarie
Island if...

  • ... you’re a bit of a loner. After a day spent exploring an entirely unknown environment, there’s only one thing left to do: swap stories with your fellow passengers. If you strongly disagree with this statement, then it’s unlikely a cruise to Macquarie Island is for you. It’s a sociable vacation – from grabbing an evening G&T and sharing your experiences that day, to joining a group dinner and getting to know each other better. A vacation like this rarely happens more than once in a person’s life, so you already know you’ll be traveling with people as enthusiastic as you are – socialising isn’t thrust upon you and there are ample opportunities for quiet time and reflection, but overall, you’ll be much better suited to it if you’re a chatty, sharing sort.
  • ... you want to see polar bears. Sorry - you’re in the wrong neck of the woods; polar bears do their prowling way up north in the Arctic.
  • ... you can’t keep your hands to yourself. Granted, baby seals look really cute, but distance should be kept from all wildlife, including seals, penguins and seabirds. The animals themselves aren’t aware of this, and neither are they afraid of humans, so if you position yourself quietly, they may well approach you, which is fine. But, you must never touch, feed or obstruct them, or use flash photography. Noise should be kept to a minimum too, so try and keep your excited squeals to giggling volume.

Macquarie Island travel advice


Cassia Jackson, from our supplier, Heritage Expeditions, shares some interesting Macquarie Island wildlife facts:

Royal penguins

“Royal penguins breed only on Macquarie Island and, like other penguins, spend much of their time at sea. The breeding season begins in September with laying starting in October. It builds its nest by making a shallow hole in the sand or in a weeded area and putting plants and stones inside the nest. Two eggs are most often laid, however only one survives. The egg is kept warm by both parents for 35 days, which is done by rotating 12 day shifts. After hatching, the male watches out for the chick for 10 to 20 days and the female brings food for both of them. At around 20 days, the chick will form a home for warmth and safety and the parents continue to feed it two to three times a day, but when the chick is about 65 days old it will have its adult feathers and goes off on its own.”

Leopard seals

“The leopard seal is the second- largest species of seal in the Antarctic, after the southern elephant seal, and is near the top of the Antarctic food chain. Large and muscular, with a dark grey back and light grey on its stomach, the leopard seal’s throat is whitish with black spots that give it its common name. The females are generally larger than the males and leopard seals are highly evolved – although it is a true seal and swims with its hind limbs, it has powerful and highly developed forelimbs similar to those of sea lions, giving it a similar manoeuvrability – a classic example of convergent evolution.”

Elephant seals

“One of two species of elephant seal, there are significant numbers of the southern elephant seal on Macquarie Island. It is not only the most massive pinniped, but also the largest member of the order Carnivora to ever have lived. The seal gets its name from its great size and the large proboscis of the adult males, which is used to make extraordinarily loud roaring noises, especially during the mating season. The males are much larger than the females, with females averaging about 680kg and 3m in length and bulls growing to around 3,600kg and 7m long.”
Photo credits: [temp box: Roderick Eime] [royal penguins: Roderick Eime] [elephant seal: Liam Quinn]
Written by Polly Humphris
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Wildlife voyage to the Subantarctic inc Macquarie Island

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