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Spotting Antarctica’s Big Five

Julio 6, 2023

Antarctica: a snowy wilderness and a wildlife enthusiast’s paradise. Experience the thrill of watching some of the world’s most extraordinary species in their natural environment as they enjoy the freedom and safety to roam amidst the icy surroundings. From a charming penguin waddling towards its nest to feed its adorable hatchlings, to a pod of orcas darting through the ocean in pursuit of their next meal, an Antarctic safari is an experience you will not forget. 



The landscape is considerably different from the African savannah or the Costa Rican jungle. Unlike an African safari, you won’t be traveling for hours down dirt roads. Instead, you’ll cruise comfortably on a top of the line ship with delicious food and warm drinks on hand.  Nonetheless, the amount of wildlife you can see as well as the action and pursuit for the perfect photograph is incredible all the same. 

There’s a whole array of wildlife you can spot in Antarctica. Although nothing can be guaranteed in nature, your captain and crew will listen out for wildlife sightings to maximize your chances. These are the local ‘big five’ to put on your ‘to see’ list! 

Humpback whales

Humpback whales are the most abundant baleen whales in the Antarctic Peninsula, but they are a sight to behold. Watch in awe as these marine giants breach the surface, showcasing their colossal bodies and gracefully diving back into the depths. Humpback whales are known for their hauntingly beautiful songs that resonate through the icy waters. Depending on the conditions, you might even be able to hear or feel it! 

Photo: Ashley Cooper


Leopard Seals

Leopard seals, named for their spotted coats, are sure to impress you. Measuring around three meters in length, these are ferocious and formidable hunters. If you are lucky enough to see one, watch how they use their powerful jaws and sharp teeth to feed on smaller seals, fish, and squid.

Photo: Ben Osborne

Adélie Penguins

You can spot an Adélie penguin by its distinctive features: the white rings that encircle their eyes. Watching these funny creatures is like being transported into a nature documentary. Living in their countless colonies, completely undisturbed in their natural habitat they continue their infinitely entertaining and lively behaviors beyond your wildest imagination. Watch as they gather pebbles to construct nests, steal from other penguins, and even get into scuffles!

Photo: Sandra Walser

Fin Whales

Fin whales are the second longest whale on the planet, reaching nearly 85 feet (26 metres). Unfortunately, overhunting in the 20th century greatly threatened their survival – their curious, friendly, and playful nature makes them easy targets. Although a ban on whaling led to their recovery, only a few hundred breeding pairs remain, making a sighting even more special.  

Photo: Dani Abras

Wandering Albatrosses

The wandering albatross, boasting a wingspan of nearly ten feet or three meters, is the largest seabird species. Some individuals can live over 60 years without ever setting foot on land during the first six years of their lives. If you get to see one soar effortlessly through the crisp Antarctic air, you’ll be awestruck.  A symbol of resilience and adaptability in one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth, this magnificent creature is a reminder of the incredible diversity and tenacity of life on our planet.

Photo: Jordi Plana


If you want to find out more what you can see in Antarctica or our Antarctica itineraries, speak to an Ecochile travel specialist today!

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