Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctica

2017: Falkland Islands, South Georgia & Antarctica


Probably one of the most epic wildlife trips I have ever done. Encounters with Humpback Whales so close that we looked each other in the eyes, a visit to the second biggest King Penguin colony in the world with 400,000 penguins and more...

Antarctica 8: Whales, penguins, sea leopards, icebergs and the big finish with swimming in the Antarctic waters and a stop at the Cape Horn.

After our experience with the whales we continued onwards to the next stop of the day - Paradise Harbour.

The weather stayed beautiful and I was still all mixed up because of the earlier encounter.

Paradise Harbour was a split landing again. I went to shore first and just laid in the sun and digested the last days. It was so warm in the sun that I truly regraded not taking my shorts with me. Broke the first Viking Rule: “Always be prepared”! This should not happen again 😉

Bearded man in sun on ice, photo by Anja

On the way back we cruised through the bay and watched the glaciers calve. The reflections and the ice formations are just mind-blowing. Just a few expressions.


Weddel Seal


We reached the southernmost point of our journey close to 64 degrees south.

We experienced a very beautiful sunset and went to bed early. Exhausted and happy. The only question of course arose - what more could possibly happen now after the whale encounter?


We woke up on the next day and the incredibility just continued. Portal Point was our next stop. The storm system did its thing in the Drake Passage and we got this again. We spent some time on the island enjoying the view. And after that we cruised in the bay in the zodiacs. The bay was basically an iceberg graveyard full with small and big icebergs. The light was just amazing, the sun was out and bright and the blue and white of the ice and water was incredible.




We also had some great animal encounters. The absolute white Snow Petrel.

And then we saw another Leopard Seal. He apparently was in a recent fight and had fresh marks on his belly. But what a beautiful and dangerous animal at the same time. What a beauty.



And a few more iceberg impressions. And be sure - you only have the highlights. So far I have already filled to 32GB cards with photos - probably about 4,000. So I also sit here almost every evening going through them and trying to sort out the good ones and delete a lot at the same time.


The evening was reserved for a zodiac cruise in Foyn Harbour. We approached the bay and there were Humpback Whales everywhere already. Of course expectations were insanely and unrealistically high. Everybody wanted to get close to the giants again. So everybody was early on the gangway to have the most possible time on the zodiacs. We were again so lucky to get close to the whales. Well, it feels wrong to say that it still almost felt like a disappointment that the whales only came up to about 30m and had no interest in us whatsoever. No they were feeding and you could actually see them building up the bubble nets - they dive down and create a net of air bubbles which trap schools of fish or krill and then they dive into the schools from below with their open jaws to catch huge amounts of fish. An incredible spectacle - but still everyone was secretly hoping for them to come closer… Of course, it did not happen.



Another amazing day ended in this amazing spot. Lenticular clouds showed the existence of high and strong winds - but we still didn’t feel anything. But of course everyone was getting a bit concerned of the Drake Passage. The last cruise got into a big storm with 10-12m waves which apparently was no fun at all. But so far no signs.


We left the Antarctic Peninsula and went north. Next stop Shetland Islands, Half Moon Bay. Our second last stop on the journey. We could see more clouds now but with the sun the atmosphere was just stunning. And we were in the middle of a Chinstrap Penguin colony.


I went to the other side of the bay and actually sat down to meditate a bit, trying to think about the last three weeks. There were a lot of thoughts around this trip. Why, how, wow and much more and of course the question what next. Life has been easy the last weeks because everything was organised and you just had to follow orders. Now I am back in the uncertainty. I definitely want some time in my tent in the mountains soon. And while I was sitting their trying to clear all of this to have a moment of peace in my head I was first woken up by Dietmar who saved me from a fur seal attack and then we were witnesses of a successful leopard seal hunt. It first caught one Chinstrap Penguin and then a second one. Unfortunately a very bloody game - they strip the penguin from the skin by holding on to parts and then throwing it around until it is “peeled”. Part of nature but still not nice to watch. Especially since the Leopard Seal also played with the penguin for a while after it had caught it. I guess you don’t want a close encounter with one of them when they are hungry.

Next and last stop: Deception Island. It’s a big collapsed volcano crater which has an opening and is accessible by ship. But the most important part of the stop: the polar swim. So we walked around for a bit.

And then it was time to swim! Because of Deception Island still having a bit of volcanic action going on there is hot water flowing into the sea from the beach. So it is very deceptive because after a few meters it gets really cold. Normal water temperature in the area is +2C; so it was probably a bit warmer than that but based on certain “indicators” after the swim not a lot… 😂

So the ones who wanted to do it just stripped down ran in and usually came out very quickly again. But a good fun. And my swimming shorts actually also got some proper usage on the trip!



We also had time for some fun - and Nacho, one of the guides, was prepared for the worst.

And after the swim it was time to say good bye. The last stop and the last time foot on Antarctica - for now. We sailed out of Deception Island into the open water and the Drake’s Passage. The last passage was apparently heavy and very stormy. We were just really lucky again and the two days passed by without any major incidents. We had a few further lectures but there was a lot of time to talk to all the “fellow expedition members” (how they were called by David the expedition guide) and try to understand what just had happened. I also tried to work on the pictures and the blog but the time was not enough. It’s really amazing how quickly a day can pass by.

A quick side not when it comes to pictures. We had the pleasure to have Dietmar Denger on board, a professional photographer who takes amazing pictures and was supposed to take pictures for Oceanwide Expedition's new catalogue. Dietmar openly shared all his knowledge about photography with me, gave me tons of tips, let me glimpse through is lenses, showed me his perspective and also infected me with some photo editing skills. It’s great to experience people who openly share their knowledge and ideas and not making a big secret out of it. Thank you so much again Dietmar for the great inspiration!

Photo by Dietmar Denger

Well and as all of this had not been enough on the second last day we were informed that we would also make a little stop at the Cape Horn. When we approached the Cape we were suddenly surrounded by a pot of dolphins following the ship and just enjoying themselves jumping around and surfing backwards on their flippers. Well, coincidence or destiny but it felt like “nature” was saying “Goodbye” to us.



We circled around the Cape Horn very closely with the permission of the Chilean military base and made our way back into the Beagle Channel and to Ushuaia where we disembarked the Plancius again. It felt weird to go off board since it also meant we had to take care of our lives again now - no more organised program, meals and entertainment. Comfort zones shift so quickly… 😂

What can I say. It has been again one of the most amazing experiences ever!

A big “Thank You” to the amazing crew who sailed us safely over 6,000km through rough and calm waters. The guides David, Cecilia, Kasper, Katja, Lydie, Moniek, Nacho &Tobias who took care of us on our excursions and also shared a lot of fun with us in between and at the bar. You guys and girls rock! 🤘 Thanks to the entire rest of the crew with a special note to Heidi and Cherry who kept us hydrated during the cruise - mange tak!


Thank you to my favourite room mate Andrej, “The Russian”, for being such a great sport and constantly making me laugh over your dry jokes! Will never forget the “Russian-Austrian” connection and will probably always crack up from now on when I hear the word “Bahnhof”. Thank you Anja and Jo for being my little family on board! 😘 I had so much fun with you and I miss you already. Really have to hold on to myself not to slap random people on the street in the penguin style. “Schwimmnudel” forever girls!

Jo, Mr. Beard, Anja and my room mate Andrej

And of course however you can say thank you to nature for what it gives to us. I have always had a very close relationship to animals and nature. To experience these amazingly close encounters were extremely touching and amazing. It’s hard to put in words. But these creatures who usually only experience bad from humans just came up to us to interact, play, encounter and were full of curiosity for nothing more than our admiration and curiosity on the other side as well. Thank you for making this journey such an incredible one. My deepest admiration and love to all of you fascinating beings out there...

The End of an amazing journey. Thank you Antarctica.

Trip details:
Tour Operator: Oceanwide-Expedition
Expedition: Falkland Islands - South Georgia - Antarctic Peninsula, 20 day cruise
Agency: ExpeditionTrips (Ask for Jennifer - she was an amazing help in the short term organisation!)




Antarctica 7: Setting foot on the 7th continent - in style of course! And one of the most amazing and touching encounters ever.

The day at sea passed by without any mayor happenings. But the expedition team informed us that they had to change their original plans due to this:

This was the weather forecast: The top left corner is the end of the South American continent, the triangle part sticking out from the bottom the Antarctic peninsula and the islands above the South Shetlands. The little flags and colours indicate the windspeed. It is the heaviest storm of the season so far. Every line on the little flags indicates 10 knots of wind, the triangles wind over 50 knots - and that’s without gusts. So a place where you don’t want to be. So the plan was changed from starting out on the Shetlands and going south to the other way around. So first stop directly on the Antarctic continent on the westernmost tip, Brown Bluff.

We were woken up by our expedition leader by an announcement through the speakers to come up on deck to witness it ourselves. We were of course all afraid of the storm and the consequences - high winds and swells which would prevent us from landing on shore. But what no one expected. Almost blue sky, sunshine and beautiful conditions. The luck continues.

And just when all arrived on deck we spotted a group of Orcas cursing alongside our ship. What a welcome!

And then it was time to get into the zodiacs and land on shore. A very special moment for me - the last of the 7 continents for me. There was still a bit of wind but the day just turned out perfect. We landed and were greeted by a group of Gentoo Penguins and Fur Seals.



You can already tell by the pictures - the scenery has changed a bit. A lot more ice and snow. This is of course due to the lower average temperatures. When we arrived the thermometer showed -7C and a windchill of -20C. So no real surprise. When we went on land if was a bit later and of course not as cold anymore - at least I thought or decided that it was perfect weather to continue my tradition to wear shorts 😎

We spent around 2 hours on shore and were all happy to had such a beautiful landing. The penguins kept on being curious and fun. It did not really feel like a great accomplishment to have made it to here I have to admit - especially have listened to all the stories of the great explorers during the lectures of the last days - but it still felt amazing to set foot on this amazing spot on our planet.

Gentoo Penguin all excited and happy


The rare Adele Penguin

And then we left again to escape the storm and to head as far south as we could - this time on the western side of the peninsula. On the way back we the wind picked up and the sea got a bit rougher. The first signs of the storm. But this couldn’t keep us insight. The view was just to spectacular and especially the whale sightings.


We saw Humpback Whales everywhere. There were blows in the distance and then a few closer to the ship. We also spotted a few Fin Whales. We were lucky to have two enthusiastic Dutch biologists on board who would stand on the bridge before sunset and patrol the horizon for any wildlife the entire day. They would even refuse to go to some of the meals once in a while. Before we went to dinner the count was already over 70 Humpback Whales! And when we came out on deck again for the sunset the sea just started boiling. Blows and fins everywhere. The whales where hunting in little groups for fish and krill and would come out of the water with their entire front part. When it got dark we counted over 200 whales! 200! It was amazing to see how plentiful they were.

The next morning arrived. I went up on the bridge and what can I say. Blue sky again.

The Dutch guys had spotted many whales already and were all excited. Some of the encounters were so close to the ship that you could take close up pictures while passing them.

We got all excited since the plan for today was a split landing - half of the ship was supposed to go on a zodiac cruise for 1.5h and the rest on shore before we switched. The Dutch and I decided to go on the zodiac cruise first hoping for a close encounter with one of the whales. On our way out we had penguins left and right of the zodiacs on their way in and out of their hunting grounds. They were gliding through the water like torpedoes and jumping.


And then something happened that is very difficult to put in words. Shortly after we were cursing we spotted two Humpback Whales not far a way. The four zodiacs went up to them, keeping the required distance to not disturb them. But what happened was that the Humpbacks came up to the boats to inspect us. It is not unusual for them to do so. They sometimes come up to boats and ships to see what they are. But these guys were so curious that they just stayed. They circled around the zodiacs, diving underneath them and coming extremely close to the boats. They stuck their heads out to peak over the water and looked at us. Whenever they dove underneath a zodiac they came up again, turned around and came back again. They even gently touched the zodiacs with their nosed and backs.


It was incredible to see how a 40+ ton and almost 20 meter long animal gently and perfectly manoeuvred between our boats and interacted with us. At no point of time I was afraid that they did not control every single of their movements and would accidentally bump into our tiny little boats. But it did not only stay with checking us out. They came out of the water and so close to the zodiacs that you could have touched them - just looking at us and being curious who we are.

Maybe a meter away from the zodiac - or less...

It is really difficult to put in words. But after all we have done to these amazing mammals in the last one hundred years, with their size and potential to just flip a zodiac with no effort, to just swim away, not to care at all about a few tourists on a zodiac they just decided to come up to us to give us this amazing interaction. Not being judgemental but just curious and apparently also enjoying this encounter. And again probably not expecting anything but just enjoying the happening themselves.

And then I had my very special moment with one of them as well. He came up alongside the boat and gently stuck his head out of the water, turned a bit to the side so he could look at us. We looked each other in the eyes and even though I was trying to capture everything with my camera over and under water at the same time it felt like everything went in slow motion and the time stood still when he looked at me. It was such a peaceful and unbelievable moment. This giant just said hello and only with his presence spread such an incredible amount of energy. It has been one of the most magical and touching moments in my life. Wow...


We spent two hours with these amazing creatures before we were called back to the beach to exchange with the group on land. Of course no one wanted to leave but there was the moment to say good bye.

So we went on land on Cuverville Island and we were completely flashed and excited. I just sat down in the Gentoo Penguin colony and tried to digest the happening. A bit unfair to these amazing creatures but they mostly just blurred away in the shadow of the humpbacks. So I mostly just watched them jumping and flying on their way back in to the shore to feed their chicks.



Feeding a chick

We went back on the ship and I was just just exhausted and happy - and I was not the only one.

Last article of Antarctica here...