Small expedition ship cruises make penguin viewing a breeze. To see masses of these sturdy, remarkably tough guys, fully decked out in tuxedoes 24/7, is a thrilling sight. Low-impact small ships are designed for comfort and carry only 49 to 149 guests max. Their ice-strengthened hulls can navigate in and around the ice and deep into protected coves and bays. Onboard, expedition leaders present penguin life and lore in fascinating programs and during shore excursions. And depending on the cruise, guests can often ski, camp, snowshoe and kayak among these friendly creatures.
There are 17 species of penguin, most of which live in the Southern Hemisphere, home base to six stellar species: the Adelie, Chinstrap, Emperor, Gentoo, King and Macaroni. “The dream of encountering penguins, most marvelous creatures, in their natural wild habitat is the holy grail of wildlife adventures,” says Todd Smith, pioneer, founder and director AdventureSmith Explorations. His is an active travel company that matches up adventure-seeking travelers with the right expedition ship and itinerary –intimate, boutique ships that may be under the radar of most travel searches. Think of AdventureSmith as a Match.com for penguin lovers.
Smith’s hit parade of five top stops are:
- Patagonia: The 128-guest Via Australis operates September through April to view the Megallanic Penguins live in Chile’s Tierra del Fuego region.
- Antarctica – Expedition cruises in the Ross Sea from Australia to New Zealand’s Sub Antarctic Islands, reveal huge congregations of a variety of penguin species in some of the most remote regions of the planet. Know any of these islands: the Snares, Stewart, Antipodes, Campbell and/or Macquarie? NO? Good. Sign up fast for the 5-star, 106 passenger MV Orion.
- Antarctic Peninsula – Weddell Sea: A wide variety of small ships departing from Ushuaia, Argentina (affectionately known as “fin del mundo”) carry 49-149 guests, and offer many programs from easy cruising to extremely active expeditions that include hiking, kayaking, skiing and even camping. For penguin purists, there is a specialty cruise where helicopters fly guests from the ship (100-passenger M/V Ortelius) to see Emperor Penguins at home.
- Galapagos Islands: The Galapagos Penguin is the only species to live north of the equator in the wild. A small population of less than 1,000 couples inhabits mostly the Fernandina and Isabela Islands.
- South Georgia and Falkland Islands: The remote archipelagos here are home to a variety of species in vast colonies numbering in the millions. Entire hillsides and beaches may be covered with nesting penguins rearing their young. Spectacular 20 and 24-day expeditions are available with experienced Antarctic teams.
Multi-award winning (including National Geo’s 50 Trips of a Lifetime), California-based AdventureSmith Explorations is the global leader in adventure cruise vacations. For a dazzling array of trips click: www.adventuresmithexplorations.com. Or phone: 800-728-2875