Styles & Experiences

Emperor Penguin Migration

Join a colony of the world's largest penguins in ANTARCTICA  as they begin their annual march

The March of the Penguins

You hear them before you see them. A loud and almost brash call that alone would be shrill enough to make you jump. As the Emperor penguins call out to each other it sounds almost like a welcoming song. Passing the large sheet of jagged ice on your left, you see them. Parents looking after the young whose fluffy excuse for feathers is moulting, making way for a brand new, striking set.

As you reach for your camera, a young penguin approaches, ruffling his features to allow the cool air to reach his downy feathers. A couple of minutes pass too fast as he loiters and shouts, before slipping onto his stomach and sliding away back to his family.

Emperor penguins

March of the Penguins made the plight of the Emperor penguins famous amongst people of all ages. If you're lucky enough to encounter these curious creatures during your Antarctic adventure, intimate encounters will be on the cards! The sheer beauty of your breath-taking surrounds, alongside the playful family dynamics, make your experience truly magical.

Where and when

November to December are the best time to see the Emperor penguins. At this time the chicks are getting ready for their first journey from their home to the ocean and mum and dad are taking it in turns to fish as they too build their strength. 


The best place is a rookery found not too long ago called Snow Hill, located in the Weddell Sea.

The Weddell Sea is located on the east side of the Antarctic peninsula, unlike most other trips to the white continent which would explore the west.

Why

Animals throughout the world are not generally renowned for being caring towards their young. In fact, the birthing of wildebeest calves in the Great Migration ensures there are too many of them, as many will predictably die from hunger, dehydration and predators. But penguins are different, passionate about their young. So passionate, that the males bear out the harshest winter conditions, seemingly so the chicks are born at the optimum time to feed when the oceans are most abundant.

Summer in the southern hemisphere is from January to March, and at this time when the ice is breaking up, the Emperor penguins head out to sea to binge on krill, squid and fish. As March brings with it the end of summer, they start to head inland towards their rookery at Snow Hill. In the frozen rookery, the female will lay just one egg which will be passed onto the male penguin (and life partner) via an awkward looking foot pass, to be incubated by his stomach over the harsh winter.

The females return to the ocean to feed over the winter, but the males brave out the cold performing the classic penguin huddle. This delicate procedure entails thousands of male penguins, most with their egg carefully balanced on their webbed feet, huddling together forming a huge mass of black and white. Those on the outside, bearing the brunt of the icy 100 mile per hour winds, slowly make their way into the huddle as the warm ones in the middle make their way out, ensuring each member of the group has time to warm up before facing the cold again.

Around August, the eggs begin to hatch and out come the fluffy, immediately adorable chicks. The females are returning from the ocean around now, full bellied and keen to meet the new addition to their family, they scour the rookery for their mate and chick. Now on to to mother for babysitting duty so the males can go out and feed; it will have been months since he last ate and a harsh winter to get through with no food. For a while, the male and female will take it in turns to feed. Once the chick can join the huddle, they can feed at the same time, resulting in a lot more delicious marine cuisine for the chick and a fast weight gain.

As the spring comes in, the chicks begin to moult their downy feathers, making way for the more mature looking waterproof plumage penguins are renowned for. Simultaneously, the ice is beginning to melt again, clearing the path to the ocean for the chick's very first journey there with their parents. This is when we can see them, as access to the rookery is at its best, the weather is warming and bright, and the entire penguin family is well fed, getting ready for their first ocean outing.

How can I see the march of the penguins?

Seeing these penguins isn't always easy and, as with all things wild, is never 100% predictable. However, we can put you in the right place at the right time to see the new penguin families prepare themselves for their three month feeding frenzy. You sail to the Weddell Sea via cruise ship, usually from Ushuaia, crossing the infamous Drakes Passage and watching out for wildlife such as albatross, Cape pigeons and Antarctic petrels as well as dramatic icebergs. Reaching the east side of the peninsula, you hope to land at Brown Bluff. The use of helicopters enables us to get to Snow Hill, weather dependent, and we land far enough away from the penguins so as not to disturb them. There you walk about forty five minutes to the colony. The aim is to spend two days with the colony, then you can see other parts of this incredible parts of the world, including Half Moon Island, and Devil Island.

For a completely different experience, we also offer a flight down to a special runway in Antarctica. From here you make your way to an incredible camp where you can embark on some incredible activities which can be as adrenaline fuelled as you choose, one of which is a two hour flight to reach the colony which has over 6,000 birds with their chicks. This trip can also include a visit to the South Pole.

Best time to go

November - December

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Witness the migration

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