Niklas Nilsson’s dream adventure to Antarctica
11 years ago, I went on the journey of a lifetime with PolarQuest. At the time, I was a 22-year-old nature photographer whose big dream was to visit the seventh continent and the Subantarctic islands.
Our adventure started in the city of Ushuaia, located at the southern tip of Argentina. We boarded the ship Ocean Nova and set course towards the Falkland Islands while seabirds such as petrels and albatrosses swept elegantly at our ship's side.
For many, the Falkland Islands are probably most known for the war between Argentina and the United Kingdom, but when you are a nature lover like me, penguins, albatrosses and endemic bird species are way better symbols for this remote archipelago.
At the ascent sites, we were welcomed by a penguin committee - Magellan penguins nestled in caves like rabbits, gentoo penguins were strolling on the beaches and rockhopper penguins jumped in front of one's legs as we walked among the meter-high tussock grass.
After a short hike we arrived at a black-browed albatross colony. We sat down next to the large and impressive birds and observed the couple’s gentle trimming and patting. They live in lifelong relationships and always make sure to be affectionate when they see each other. I wanted to take amazing photos, but at the same time be completely present. It felt important to put away the camera and fully experience the beautiful scenery. After two full days, we made a final stop at Stanley, the Falkland Island’s only town. Despite the long distance to Britain geographically, it was very much like visiting a small British town.
Now the sight was set on South Georgia and my heart was beating a little bit faster thinking about David Attenborough's nature films. I must say that my expectations were sky high. When we finally got there and stepped ashore, we were greeted by the sound of thousands of king penguins trumpeting and whistling and from the harem fighting giant elephant seals. I had to pinch myself in the arm.
The view can hardly be described with words. I felt so small in the huge sea of penguins and seals. Just like Sir Attenborough, we basically had to step over wildlife which barely noticed our presence.
During our days in this wildlife mecca we got to visit several different penguin colonies, meet new albatrosses such as the graceful wandering albatross with over 3.5 meters in wingspan. The program also offered hiking and interesting history focusing on the polar explorer Shackleton.
Our South Georgia experiences ended with a boat cruise on the Drygalskifjord with its powerful rock formations, huge glaciers and large icebergs. New adventures on the seventh continent awaited!
After two days at sea, we arrived at the Antarctic peninsula, where gigantic icebergs and beautiful snow-covered landscapes welcomed us. During our first ascent we also got to see our seventh penguin species, the Adelié penguin. This penguin is one of the two penguins that only nest on Antarctica.
In addition to landings, we also spent a lot of time in the Zodiacs looking at the fantastic icebergs formations and saw different seals, including the leopard seal – a top editor specialised in hunting penguins.
I treasure my memories from this cold, windy and magnificent continent. There were so many unforgettable moments and although my expectations prior to this trip was roof top high, I was pleasantly surprised.
More than a decade later, when I’m working at PolarQuest office planning and selling trips to new travellers, I look back at these moments almost daily and happily talk to travellers who want to make their first trip to Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands.
600 miles south of Cape Horn we find the world’s most isolated and remote wilderness – Antarctica. The grand and beautiful Antarctic landscape leaves its visitors in awe. The continent and surrounding islands are home to millions of penguins, seals and whales. Worth mentioning is the subantarctic island of South Georgia, a haven for anyone interested in wildlife and widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places on earth.