South Georgia Island is one of the world’s most beautiful southerly eco-systems, with vast mountains and magnificent glaciers spanning it’s 165km length.
Part of the South Sandwich Islands in the Southern Atlantic Ocean, South Georgia is home to an amazing concentration of wildlife and diverse flora during the summer months, making it a truly incredible place to visit.
With two mountain ranges (the Salvesen and the Allardyce) reaching 3000 metres above sea level, during the summer months, 75% of South Georgia is covered in ice.
Like Antarctica, South Georgia can only be visited during the 5-month summer window, running from late October to March. But deciding when the best time to visit South Georgia Island is during this period really comes down to what you want to experience during your Antarctica cruise adventure.
Although some people do decide to make the journey to Antarctica during the winter months, it’s usually for filming opportunities.
Winter in Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands creates a bleak and unforgiving wilderness, with temperatures usually dropping to -50 degrees Celcius.
The best time to visit South Georgia Island varies considerably based on what you want to see and do. From reindeers and albatrosses surviving against the backdrop of ice-scapes to the mating season of penguins, this choice of when to go can be really difficult.
Equally, if you have set travel dates, don’t fret, as no matter when you visit, South Georgia will have something spectacular to offer you!
Travelling later in the season to South Georgia Island can be tempting as Antarctica cruises are often cheaper. But do bear in mind that a lot of the wildlife will have already left for sea at this time.
However, if your main aim is to spot whales, later on in the summer is the best time to visit South Georgia Island as a variety of whales pass through the area.
Much less cruise ships leave in October, but that is not to say that the early summer season doesn’t offer several bonuses.
To begin with, the east Antarctic Peninsula is covered with sea ice and this is the only time to see it in this quantity before it breaks up later in the season.
Visiting Gold Harbour, Cooper Bay and Drygalski Fjord on South Georgia Island will also give you a great opportunity to see a multitude of wildlife, like elephant seals, fur seals, and king penguins.
As certain species come ashore to begin their nesting, this is also a great time to witness courtship rituals. On Prion Island, you can see the breeding efforts of many Antarctic seabirds such as the Wandering Albatross and may even get the chance to watch their chicks test their wings!
If you travel along the Wedell Sea on a special icebreaker tour, you will also have a fantastic chance to see the Emperor penguin.
During the month of November, elephant seals begin courting on Gold Harbour beach and female king penguins can be found balancing their eggs on their feet while the males hunt out at sea.
Seal pups are born and 4 ton males can be seen fighting aggressively over territories.
These two months are a fantastic time for photographers as the days are longest, lasting about 20 hours and temperatures often go above 5 degrees Celcius as this is the warmest time of the year.
The bay of Elsehul is a brilliant spot for watching seal pups and this is the best time to visit South Georgia Island if you want to see the feeding frenzy of seabird chicks as parents come onshore.
If you are a history-fanatic, at Fortuna Bay, you can take a tour to some rarely visited sites and follow in the footsteps of the British explorer, Ernest Shackleton.
At Grytviken, you will have the opportunity to see the abandoned whaling village where king penguins now waddle around the streets and you can also visit Shackleton’s grave at this time of year.
Stromness Bay also offers amazing views of cliffs and glaciers that Shackleton and his companions descended to finish their famous crossing in 1916.
Due to the favourable weather, land tours are a lot more popular during these months and at the ice-edge, you may be able to find some high-Antarctic species such as the McCormick Skua or the Snow Petrel.
During these later months is the best time to visit South Georgia Island to see whales and Orca and Minke whales are the most common sighting.
Fur seals also become a much more common sight and due to the playful nature of the pups, they offer fantastic photo opportunities. St. Andrews bay is a really good spot to see the king and macaroni penguins as the chicks are still on land and will have begun malting.
During this period, temperatures may drop quite considerably in just a few hours after entering Antarctic waters and usually remain just below freezing.
Near the Convergence, you will be able to see a multitude of southern seabirds such as albatrosses, shearwaters and prions and this is often the best time to visit South Georgia Island to view and photograph these birds en mass.
On the black sands of Right Whale Bay, you will also come across seal pups, king penguins and dozens of other bird species.
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Thank you and happy travelling!
Burnham started his career as a professional tennis player before retiring due to injury. Since then Burnham has thrown himself into adventure travel. He has visited some of the most iconic and obscure parts of the planet - his most memorable experience is Antarctica!
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