When to visit Antarctica?
Not sure when exactly to travel to Antarctica? This calendar of what you can see during different stages of its spring and summer season might help you decide.
As the sun returns to Antarctica after its long winter, a wealth of wildlife can be seen throughout the spring and summer season. Each period showcases different stages of the cycle of life, including courting, nest-building, giving birth to new life, and raising their young.
October - November
Late spring / Early summer
Spring is the season of love no matter where you are in the world, including Antarctica. Penguins and seal species will be busily engaged in courtship rituals to attract a mate. Successful penguin couples will then set about building nests which will become snug homes for their precious eggs by the end of November.
Daytime temperatures range between -7 to 2°C (20-36°F) and there is a natural stream of beautiful ice sculptures for you to admire in the form of ice floes and icebergs, still in pristine shape from the previous winter. The soft snow gathered on the ground over winter also means conditions are ideal for camping as part of an optional activity.
Whales are still a rare sight in the area, with many still making their slow migration south at this time. November is when wildflowers bloom in the Falklands/Islas Malvinas, covering the grassy green hills in colour. Over in South Georgia, elephant seal pups can be spotted on the beaches, as well as fur seals later in the season.
December - January
When summer fully arrives in Antarctica, days grow longer with up to 20 hours of daylight and temperatures are at their highest between -2 to 4°C (28-39°F). Glaciers calve more often and there is less snow on the shores and rocky cliffs.
In Antarctica, the Falklands, and South Georgia, most penguin eggs will also be ready to hatch. Fluffy chicks can then be seen warmly tucked between the legs of their parents who will be taking turns to waddle back and forth between the water and their nests to feed.
Later in January, almost as a sign of parental stress, adult penguins begin to moult their plumage, looking like puffs of walking frayed pillows. Seals and their young pups lounge on along the shores or on sea ice, and chances of spotting whales increase each day.
February - March
By this stage of summer, adult penguins have finished moulting and have a new coat of feathers. The young chicks are now adolescents, eager to make it on their own as they take their first cautious steps into the sea to learn how to swim and fish. At the same time in South Georgia, king penguins are only just beginning to court and lay their eggs.
The long, sunny days, with a temperature range between -2 to 2°C (28-36°F), also result in an abundance of krill in the waters. This draws large numbers and a wide variety of whales who come to gorge themselves on the tiny crustaceans, making these months the best for whale-watching.
And if you think you see shades of bright pink and green in the water, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That’s snow algae thriving on the sunshine and adding some extra colour to the white canvas of Antarctica. You can also look forward to some magical sunsets and sunrises that tinge the ice with soft pink and orange hues.