South Georgia Island
South Georgia Island is a sub-Antarctic island administerd as part of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. It is located 1390 km southeast of the Falkland Islands and 2150 km from South America. It is the home of vast numbers of birds and marine life, but its remote location and lack of access makes it a rare destination for tourists.
There are no airstrips on the island, so aside from an occasional visit from a military seaplane the only access to the island is by boat. Most tourists arrive on icebreakers and other large vessels as a part of a trip to the Antarctic Peninsula, although a handful of smaller boats also brave the rough passage to the island. Whether on a small or large boat, even the crustiest old seaman should expect to become seasick during the crossing and should bring appropriate medications.
Companies that can help to arrange travel to the islands include:
Some people believe that St. Andrew's Bay holds more density of wildlife than any other place on earth, and a first view of the massive king penguin colony and seal rookery makes this claim hard to doubt. This island is a paradise for wildlife lovers, with literally millions and millions of animals going about their lives with little concern for the handful of humans that occasionally appear.
St. Andrew's Bay
St. Andrew's Bay is a sight that causes disbelief. The bay is enormous, with several glaciers pouring down towards the beach, but it is the wildlife that people come to see; hundreds of thousands of king penguins fill every available inch of space, with thousands of elephant seals and fur seals occupying the sands along the water. The sights, sounds, and smells of this bay will not soon be forgotten.
Another enormous king penguin rookery, Salisbury Plain is also home to vast numbers of penguins and seals.
A former whaling station, Grytviken is now the center of what limited government exists on the island. Most ships are met be a government representative who explains any rules and collects a per-passenger fee. There is a museum that explains island history, and the British Antarctic Survery maintains a base here. Grytviken is also the burial place of Ernest Shackleton, the famous Antarctic explorer.
Drygalski is a steep-walled fjord that surprisingly contains a small rookery of Weddell seals, animals normally only found in Antarctica. Numerous glaciers and spectacular scenery make this a common destination for island visitors.
The wandering albatross is among the largest and most threatened birds in the world. Limited numbers of visitors each year are given permission to visit this island, on which many pairs of wandering albatross return to raise their young.
Elsehul is a small harbor which is nearly impossible to land in during December and January due to the vast numbers of grumpy fur seals that overrun the beaches. During other times of the year it is home to elephant seals, gentoo penguins, king penguins, sheathbills, and grey-headed albatross.
Visitors to Cooper Bay arrive to see the gigantic macaroni penguin colony.
The only food available will be what you bring with you. Fishing and hunting on the island is prohibited.
Any overnight stay on the island requires a very expensive permit, so nearly all visitors to the island sleep on their boat.
Mail can be sent from Grytviken, and is picked up approximately every two weeks. The only other means of communicating with the outside world is via satellite phone, which most boats make available for between $2 and $5 per minute.