Antarctic Wildlife Guide: Penguin Tours

Have you watched the documentary “March of the Penguins” or the fantasy film “Frozen?” Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be surrounded by birds that don’t fly and witness entire colonies of penguins in their own natural environments? That’s what you can experience when you take one of the memorable penguin tours in Antarctica.

In fact, penguins are one of the primary reasons people choose to go on polar expeditions to Antarctica. Many people are fascinated by the flightless birds that waddle across icebergs and play in the frigid waters. For the record, penguins do have wings—but they’re designed for swimming not flying. Penguins cannot be found in the Arctic. Antarctica is the only polar region where they can be seen. The rule of thumb in the travel world: if you want to see polar bears, go to one of the Arctic regions. If you want to see penguins, you go to the Antarctic.  

A large rookery of King penguins at Gold Harbor, South Georgia.

A large rookery of King penguins at Gold Harbor, South Georgia. Photo: David Merron

Why you should go on a penguin tour

People may not be aware, but there are various species of penguins found in the Antarctic. By going on expert-guided penguin tours, you can often see five of the most fascinating Antarctic penguins. Quark Expeditions’ experienced polar adventure guides are incredibly knowledgeable and they can share fascinating details about each of these species.

One of our esteemed colleagues is renowned penguin scientist and ornithologist Fabrice Genevois, who has published a video of his trek through Half Moon Island, located off the coast of mainland Antarctica, in which he describes his encounters with chinstrap penguins. You can learn a lot about penguin behavior and the preferred way to approach them. With Quark Expeditions, the safety and conservation of wildlife always come first.

What to expect on a penguin tour

Emperor penguins are the so-called “King of Penguins,” and they’re primarily found on Snow Hill Island. In 2023, Quark Expeditions will be leading expeditions to Snow Hill called Emperor Quest: Expedition to Snow Hill, which will be a 14-day adventure that will enable travelers to participate in one of the most exclusive wildlife viewing experiences aboard the new polar ship Ultramarine.

A rookery of emperor penguins greet visitors at Snow Hill Island.

A rookery of emperor penguins greet visitors at Snow Hill Island. Photo: Sue Flood

The adventure will be guided by our team of penguin scientists, ornithologists, polar historians, and biologists. Together, they’ll present interesting facts about emperor penguins and their day-to-day behaviors, as well as information on ice formations, such as the tabular icebergs, which will be visible from the ship deck. They’ll even provide historical accounts of polar explorers who sailed the Weddell Sea a little more than a century ago.

You can learn more by reading our detailed guide to exploring Snow Hill.

Another penguin tour option is our  South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula: Penguin Safari adventure. This 16-day journey includes visits to Elephant Island, South Georgia Island, and the South Shetland Islands. No doubt you’ll be rewarded with incredible penguin tours at each of these locations. Remember to choose the best time to see penguins when planning your trip. 

How to make the most of penguin tours on your holiday

A sassy looking rockhopper puts on a show for visitors to the Falkland Islands.

A sassy looking rockhopper puts on a show for visitors to the Falkland Islands. Photo: Acacia Johnson

Knowledge is power, as they say, and part of the fun of these polar adventures is everything you get to learn about the places you explore and the species that inhabit each location. You can learn from our experts' several details about penguins, including how each species of penguin gets its name. Seeing wildlife you never get to see anywhere else is part of the thrill of traveling to these remote polar destinations so make sure you follow all the best practices to see penguins in Antarctica and make the most of your adventure.

You can prepare yourself for your Antarctic penguin tour by listening to and reading the works of, our esteemed penguin expert Dr. Tom Hart, who is eager to share his knowledge of all species of penguins to help people get the most out of their Antarctic adventures. We also have an interactive infographic that you can also review to learn more about Antarctica’s many species of penguins.

Best place to go for great penguin tours

Three King penguins cavort on St. Andrew's Bay, South Georgia.

Three King penguins cavort on St. Andrew's Bay, South Georgia. Photo: Acacia Johnson

Penguins are found throughout many parts of the Antarctic. You could enjoy impromptu penguin tours in three destinations by joining the Falklands, South Georgia, and Antarctica: Explorers and Kings voyage. This is a 20-day adventure that takes you across most of the sub-Antarctic region with stops at the various islands in the Southern Ocean.

You’ll have a chance to witness penguins as soon as you arrive at the Falkland Islands, which is home to Magellanic, Gentoo, and Southern Rockhopper penguins. 

The penguin fun will continue when you arrive at South Georgia and the South Shetland Islands. Keep an eye out for King and emperor penguins that thrive on the islands.

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