Spotting Killer whales in Antarctica

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The Lemaire channel  is a strait between mainland of the Antarctica peninsula and Booth Island. It is small between huge mountains and it’s not always possible for ships to pass through. In December when there is still a lot of Ice, Icebergs can block the narrow passage, then ships have to take another route or just head back.
Our vessel was heading for Pleneau Island but because of Icebergs blocking our way and big part of the water was still covered by a big ice shelf, it was clear that Pleneau Island wouldn’t be possible to reach. We did get on the zodiacs and explored a part of the channel that wasn’t frozen anymore and saw the ice shelf and icebergs that were blocking the rest of the channel.
There is more chance to go through this channel later in the season then it is in December. January and February would raise your chances to sail through the whole channel.

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Icebergs blocking the rest of the Lemaire Channel

That day we were very lucky to see something else then pleneau Island and the most southern living Gentoo Penguins on the peninsula. Killer whales aka Orca’s (free willy) where swimming in front of our boat and then they turned and where swimming around the boat and under the boat; It made people run over the deck from one side to the other to see more of this orca family swimming together and entertaining us with their presence , giving us a great photo opportunity to capture this display of Antarctic wildlife. Really this was amazing. After Seals and Penguins we got to see killer whales in the wild, no seaworld, no tricks, the real deal, in their natural habitat. They come a little to the surface and then go under again.
Under water they look like green ghosts, really amazing to see. All this was happening so close to the Lemaire Channel.

Orka family they stay together and it makes them stronger when they hunt

Orca family they stay together and it makes them stronger when they hunt

Orka comming closer

Orca coming closer

under water they look like ghosts

under water they look like ghosts

 

 

 

 

 

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Danco Island

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Danco Island was without a doubt the nicest experience I had in Antarctica.
It was a steep hike to reach the top of the Island and for this 45 minute walk they gave me snowshoes. These snowshoes are used on soft snow and it makes me wonder why we didn’t get to use them on our other landings for example at Neko Harbour.
Anyhow it was the first time I wore snowshoes and I had some difficulties to strap them on in the beginning, but once I figured that out, I was ready for my walk up to the top.

The long walk up was all worth it, I passed by Penguins using their penguin highway again and it’s crazy to see how fast they climb up and down like it’s nothing.
On my way I’ve passed by many penguins nesting and laying on their belly, some in the snow others on their nest formed by the rockstones that they use to make it with.

Once on top you really get a magnificent view and with the sun coming out, the color pattern changed the landscape and made it look even more magical than this place already was. Danco Island I will never forget this place.

enjoying the view at Danco Island, not even half way the hike

enjoying the view at Danco Island, not even half way the hike

my snowshoes

my snowshoes

Penguins curious who 's comming to visit this time

Penguins curious who ‘s coming to visit this time

having a wow moment

having a wow moment

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icebergs

icebergs

Finally made it on top of Danco Island

Finally made it on top of Danco Island

expedition buddy's (Belgium-Germany Holland)

expedition buddy’s (Belgium-Germany Holland)

Penguins on their nests

Penguins on their nests

observing the magical view and the penguins

observing the magical view and the penguins

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Neko Harbour

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Neko Harbour was the 2nd continental landing, if you’re not out kayaking, it was your chance to set foot again on mainland Antarctica. I skipped kayaking and I did not regret it cause after climbing a mountain I had a great view over the place, a spectacular scenery with the glaciers calving. The boat in the distance looked like a toy compared to the mountains around.

Gentoo Penguins at Neko Harbour

Gentoo Penguins at Neko Harbour

Snow, ice, glaciers, clear water and the many Gentoo Penguins who welcomed us at Neko Harbour is just unforgettable, my favorite spot in Antarctica.

Here I still have my zodiac lifejacket on which is different then the one used for kayaking

Here I still have my zodiac lifejacket on which is different then the one used for kayaking

Penguin highway

Penguin highway

Penguins comming down hill from the Penguin highway

Penguins coming down hill from the Penguin highway

When I climbed that mountain many penguins were passing me by on the penguin highway. The penguin highway is the path in the snow made by penguins and only to be used by penguins to make themselves get around easier from one place to another, cause with snow being very unstable at some places, penguins just like humans, fall over and have it difficult to move around quickly.
We humans just follow sticks put in the snow by the expedition crew that mark the path we have to follow to reach the top of the mountain. Two sticks in form of a X  mean to stay at a distance, mostly because snow can be very deep at a certain points with crevasses, or its being used as a warning to stay at a distance not to disturb the penguins hatching eggs.

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glaciers at Neko Harbour

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red X means stay where you are, Penguins nesting place

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Feels like being on top of the world

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look how small the boat is compared with the mountain

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Some more pictures of the Penguins

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Penguin using the water as a mirror

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Penguins running to the shore

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Wandering albatros stole a penguin egg

Wandering Albatros stole a penguin egg

 

Kayaking in Antarctica yes or no ?

I read a lot about kayaking in Antarctica on the internet prior to my trip and eventually decided to give it a chance. I never done kayaking in my life, so it’s special to try it a first time in a place most people don’t start their kayaking career to say the least.
Kayaking was fun and much easier than I thought it would be.
It was a great experience however since I was in Antarctica on a 9 days trip with only 4 days in Antarctica itself (because the other days you spend on the boat making the crossing over the Drake Passage) I don’t recommend it to anyone who’s going for a similar trip, here is why, first of all it’s not cheap and in a short period, kayaks only go out a few times, when weather conditions permit, this means no heavy wind, snow etc,…
Also you have to make a choice and this is the part I didn’t like.
If you go kayaking, other people go with zodiac on land making a continental landing for example. If you come so far to Antarctica, the last thing you don’t want to miss is a continental landing, so you can actually officially say you set foot on the Antarctic Mainland. I only have been kayaking once and enjoyed it, but in my opinion its more worth considering doing kayaking if you go on a longer Antarctica cruise, those of 12 or 13 days, these cruises visit more Islands and you can skip a zodiac excursion to one or more islands and go for the kayak option then to skip continental landings on a short expedition like the one I did.

The thing is, I read on the Internet on several blogs, that it’s a must do, and that it’s a great experience, to be honest for me the experience of kayaking was indeed great as it was my first time ever.
Is the wildlife, the snow, the ice, the water nicer seen from kayak then from a zodiac?
In my opinion not, the views are a bit different cause you get to see things from a different angle or get up close to wildlife, like seals sleeping on the ice shelfs  then you see it from the deck of the ship or while you in a zodiac.

Kayaking boat were for 2 persons

Kayaking boat were for 2 persons

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Here I am in the front saying hi, to the camera

Once you go for Kayaking, you get the gear from the kayak crew leader.
The green life jacket that I have (picture below) is only for kayaking.
You get another life jacket when you go on zodiac excursion and there is another one in your cabin for use in case of emergency on the boat.
The gloves are with holes so you can shove it over the paddlestick and they protect your own gloves against splashing water. You also get a rubber suit, with rubber kayak shoes.
The kayak shoes you only use when you go out kayaking, when you go out with a zodiac on land , you take other boots which is also provided by the crew the first day when you are on the ship. So when you go for a Antarctica cruise, you just come with your regular shoes as the rest is provided anyway.

Still on the boat in my kayaking gear waiting for the kayaks to be pulled out

Still on the boat in my kayaking gear waiting for the kayaks to be pulled out

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picture taken with my phone

Penguins on ice

Penguins on ice

seals sleeping, they don't seem to care about our presence

seals sleeping, they don’t seem to care about our presence

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Paradise Bay

PARADISE BAY – BROWN STATION

The first visit to mainland Antarctica was the continental landing at Brown station, an abandoned Argentine research station along Paradise Bay, recognisable by its Big Argentine flag painted on the roof aswell as the side walls of  some of the cabins.
Here I set my first steps on Antarctic land and spotted the first penguins on land.
The ortelius boat was anchored and with a zodiac I arrived on land.
After walking around for a few hours admiring the scenery, observing the behaviour of penguins around people, I knew it was something out of the ordinary and it gave me a privileged feeling of being at a spot not many people have visited yet.

This visit was in the afternoon, as in the morning I have been kayaking, one of the options you can subscribe yourself for when going on a Antarctica cruise. More here

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Brown station

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Argentinian flag painted on the roof of the main cabin

arrival by zodiac

arrival by zodiac

Gentoo Penguins at Brown station

Gentoo Penguins at Brown station

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Mountain reflecting in the water, just like a mirror

 

great view on Paradise Bay

great view on Paradise Bay

Expedition Vessel Ortelius waiting for us to come back by zodiacs later

Expedition Vessel Ortelius waiting for us to come back by zodiac later

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Chinstrap Penguins

Chinstrap Penguins

Chinstrap Penguins jumping out of the water on the rocks, amazing

Antarctica The 7th Continent

ANTARCTICA

Antarctica, the white continent or 7th continent as it is called would be my first trip to a Polar region. After getting interested more and more the past 2 years I decided to go for it and to book a trip and prepare myself to this epic journey to the south of our planet.
Like most people I flew to Ushuaia (more here) and stayed there 3 days before embarking to the vessel leaving for Antarctica the Ortelius. After leaving the Beagle channel you soon be in open sea passing the Drake passage which in most cases can be a rough passage, with big waves crashing against the boat or even on the deck. The crew of my expedition told us that they were glad that the Drake has been good to us and everyone was happy about it, cause a rough sea is no fun at all when many people get seasick or when you have to lay down in your cabin bed for 2 days barely able to sleep well with all the shaking and bumping of the ship. It’s the roughest sea in the world but this time it was calm. Passing the Drake is about 2 days before finally entering Antarctica and spotting the first icebergs and different birds flying around the ship like the many Wandering Albatrosses.
Most expedtionships do one continental landing where you actually set foot on mainland Antarctica instead of the many Antarctic islands. I was lucky to have 2 continental landings one at Brown Station in Paradise Bay and one at Neko Harbour.

Port Ushuaia from where Vessels leave for Antarctica

Port Ushuaia from where Vessels leave for Antarctica

Drake Passage, let the adventure begin

Drake Passage, let the adventure begin

The bridge from the ship seen from the main deck

The bridge from the ship seen from the main deck

first Iceberg in the distance

first Iceberg in the distance

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Passing the South Shetland Islands

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more iceberg, I'm getting closer

more iceberg, I’m getting closer

the first penguin spotted on a ice shelf

the first penguin spotted on an ice shelf

our ship got the attention of a seal

our ship got the attention of a seal

reaching Antarctica !!!

reaching Antarctica !!!