YOU CAN EDIT THIS PAGE! Just click any blue "Edit" link and start writing!

South Georgia Island

From Wikitravel
Jump to: navigation, search

South Georgia Island [1] is a sub-Antarctic island administered by the United Kingdom 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.


Get in[edit]

This article or section does not match our manual of style or needs other editing. Please plunge forward, give it your attention and help it improve! Suggested fixes: listings format
King Penguins in St. Andrew's Bay

There are no airstrips on the island, so aside from an occasional overflight from a military aircraft, which do not land, 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:

  • Polar Cruises, [2]. Polar Cruises offers over 30 trips each year to South Georgia. They've won the 2012 and 2013 Conde Nast Top Travel Specialist Award and have many vessels to choose from.
  • Bark Europa (this is "bark" for "barque"), [3]. A sailing ship (square-rigged) offering a 53 day trip to Antarctica, South Georgia, Tristan da Cunha and across to Cape Town in South Africa starting every February, and a 39 day trip from Montevideo also including Antarctica starting every November.
  • Cheesemans' Ecology Safaris, [4]. Offers in-depth itineraries that stress maximum time ashore and Zodiac cruising with an experienced staff of Antarctic veterans. They offer various itineraries on different years, including a small-group expedition with 17 days in South Georgia plus a larger in-depth expedition with 9 days around the island.
  • Quark Expeditions, [5]. Quark is a larger company known for travels to remote locations. They stop in South Georgia for 3-4 days as part of some of their Antarctic Peninsula trips.
  • Golden Fleece Expeditions, [6]. Run by Jerome Poncet, a resident of the Falklands who has been visiting South Georgia longer than anyone else. His boat, the Golden Fleece, holds eight passengers, and must be chartered well in advance as Jerome is in high demand by National Geographic, the BBC, and various research groups.
  • Expedition Sail, [7]. Run by Hamish Laird, the sailboat SEAL takes 4-6 passengers and is available for private expeditions, research, filming, and sometimes offers "by the bunk" trips for individuals to South Georgia.
  • Antarctica Bound South Georgia Cruises, [8]. Antarctica Bound offer South Georgia cruises with options to do the "Shackleton Crossing"
  • Geographic Expeditions, [9]. GeoEx offers a 23-day expedition that crosses South Georgia Island following the famed route of Ernest Shackleton. Trip is led by noted expedition leaders Dave Hahn and Peter Hillary.
  • Haka Expeditions, [10].Run by Expeditions Leaders Sebastian Arrebola and Christian Rotger. Haka Expeditions offers trips to South Georgia and Antarctica Peninsula,in addition they offer tailor made trips, corporate and incentive trips.
  • Poseidon Expeditions, [11]. Poseidon Expeditions is a company which has a solid background of operation cruises to the North Pole. Now they operate vessels in Antarctica, particularily in South Georgia.
  • PolarExplorers, [12]. PolarExplorers offers a South Georgia cruise with the option to do the "Shackleton Crossing" - the same crossing Ernest Shackleton made in 1916 to save the crew of his ship Endurance.
  • Secret Atlas Specialises in Expedition Micro Cruises bringing together small, intimate groups of 12-48 guests to maximise the experience and minimise the environmental impact. On the South Georgia Expedition, they are taking just 48 Photographers and wildlife watchers. All guests will be split into small groups to maximize photography and wildlife viewing opportunities. The trip will depart from and return to Port Stanley on the Falkland Islands with domestic connections to Santiago in Chile.

Get around[edit]

The ice-strengthened ship, Ortelius, is anchored in Saint Andrews Bay. A huge King Penguin colony is located here.

There are no roads on the island, so all travel is by boat or on foot. The island is mountainous and covered by massive glaciers, so travel by land requires appropriate gear and backcountry travel skills.

See[edit][add listing]

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. The destinations below are listed geographically from northwest to southeast.

Willis Island[edit]

Located at the extreme northwest tip of the island, Willis Island is accessible only by a difficult and mildly dangerous landing onto a rocky cliff, followed by a steep ascent over rock and through tussocks. The island is home to massive numbers of black-browed, grey-headed and light-mantled sooty albatross, as well as macaroni penguins.

Bird Island[edit]

Bird Island is currently closed to all tourism and operates as a research area for the British Antarctic Survey. Birds on the island include wandering albatross, giant petrels, and numerous other species.


Elsehul is a small harbour 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.

Right Whale Bay[edit]

Right Whale Bay lies on the northwestern portion of the island and is often a first stop for cruise ships. Elephant seals and a small colony of king penguins monopolize the area from September through November, after which thousands of fur seals take over the beach through February.

Salisbury Plain[edit]

The Reindeer Dilemma
Reindeer were introduced to South Georgia by Norwegian whalers, and the animals have established several herds throughout the island. As an introduced species they have stressed the environment, browsing and trampling local vegetation and occasionally disrupting nesting birds, including penguins. Arguments have been made that the reindeer should be eradicated to help restore the island to a more pristine condition, but opponents have argued against a wholesale slaughter and pointed out that the species provides an interesting scientific test group since the animals have had to completely invert their natural breeding cycle to accommodate the reversed seasons of the southern hemisphere. After many years of deliberation, the island's management plan has been updated to include extermination of the reindeer in order to protect the native wildlife and vegetation.

Another enormous king penguin rookery, Salisbury Plain is also home to vast numbers of penguins and seals.

Albatross Island[edit]

Albatross Island is home to limited numbers of wandering albatross, which is among the largest and most threatened birds in the world. As of 2005 the island has been closed to tourists.

Side note: In 2012 a Bill was presented to Parliament proposing to allow visitors to explore the island for research purposes. {Re: 16285.D.41.H9(2)}. In 20-11-2013, [20 Nov. 2013] Researchers from Edinburgh were allowed to spend 2 weeks [13 days total] on the Island studying the mating habits of the wildlife. Because of world-wide interest, this study was extended to 12-04-2014, [12 April, 2014]; however, it was decided that because of the fragile environment ordinary tourists would not be allowed to visit the Island, and it remains closed but for the specially selected group of researchers. Birdymckee (talk) 09:44, 13 January 2014 (EST)BirdyMcKee 13 January, 2014.

Prion Island[edit]

Prion Island is another home to the wandering albatross. Half of the island remains open to tourism, although several restrictions have been put in place to protect the birds. A boardwalk was built a few years ago (Jan - March 2008) to make access for tourists easier and also to protect the fragile vegetation on the island.


Grytviken, in King Edward Cove, is a former whaling station, and is now home to a museum, which explains South Georgia's history, and a tourist shop (both run by the South Georgia Heritage Trust). Across King Edward Cove, at King Edward Point, is the centre of what limited government exists on the island. The British Antarctic Survey maintains King Edward Point, on behalf of the SG government. All visiting ships (mostly cruise vessels) are met by a Government Officer, who explains any rules and collects a per-passenger fee. Ernest Shackleton, the famous Antarctic explorer, is buried in the cemetery, just outside Grytviken.

St. Andrew's Bay[edit]

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. St. Andrew's Bay is a sight that causes disbelief with hundreds of thousands of king penguins filling every available inch of space, and 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.

Cooper Bay[edit]

Visitors to Cooper Bay arrive to see one of the islands most accessible macaroni penguin colonies.

Drygalski Fjord[edit]

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.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Photography
  • Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Sailing
  • Research
  • Penguin Spotting

Eat[edit][add listing]

Unless permitted as an expedition, no food is allowed to be taken ashore due to strict biosecurity protocols. Fishing and hunting on the island is prohibited.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Any overnight stay on the island requires a permit costing £1000, so nearly all visitors to the island sleep on their boat.


Mail can be sent from the (British) Post Office at King Edward Point (the postal officer frequently does business at the Grytviken shop when a tourist vessel is in port). As there is no air service to/from South Georgia, all mail much go by ship. The SG patrol vessel Pharos SG, always delivers and takes mail back to the Falkland Islands (for onward delivery by air). The frequency of this mail service is anything between 3 and 6 weeks normally. Occasionally, to reduce the waiting time, mail is placed on board a visiting British naval vessel or cruise ship, if they are returning directly to the Falkland Islands. The only other means of communicating with the outside world is via satellite phone or email, which most cruise vessels make available for between $2 and $5 per minute (Satphone), and much less for email. There is no publicly available communication system ashore.

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Create category