South Georgia Island

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South Georgia Island

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King Penguins in St. Andrew's Bay

South Georgia Island 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

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:

  • Cheeseman's Ecology Safaris, [1]. A family owned company that leads a trip to the Falklands, South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula almost every year. The Cheeseman trip is one of the only trips to spend seven days on South Georgia, making it a great option for anyone wanting to maximize their time on this island.
  • Quark Expeditions, [2]. 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, [3]. 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 a used heavily by National Geographic, the BBC, and various research groups.


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. The debate is ongoing.

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

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.

Salisbury Plain

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 by 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 across from the station at King Edward Point. Grytviken is also the burial place of Ernest Shackleton, the famous Antarctic explorer.

Drygalkski Fjord

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.

Albatross Island

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.

Cooper Bay

Visitors to Cooper Bay arrive to see the gigantic macaroni penguin colony.


  • Photography
  • Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Sailing
  • Research


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 permit costing £1000, 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. There is no publicly available internet access.

External links

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!