St Andrews Bay… Best Holiday Ever

IMG_8453
View of St Andrews Bay before we dropped down to the colony

I’m often asked how frequently we get let off South Georgia for holidays and to see family. The answer is never!

For an entire year, I am restricted to the island.

But we do get much more freedom than other Antarctic bases and have a very generous travel limit. And we do get ‘holidays’ – kind of – where we get to visit neighbouring peninsulas for a short period with the help of boating support.

IMG_8742
Waves of King Penguins in front of glaciers and mountains

After a hard and very long summer, I took a few days off to visit St Andrews Bay. This is somewhere I have always wanted to visit, since watching David Attenborough documentaries as a kid.

IMG_0448
King Penguin adults entering and exiting the sea

St Andrews Bay is a stretch of land lying at the foot of Mount Skittle on the Barff Peninsula. It stretches 3km from the mountain ranges at each end and 2km between the ocean and the glaciers located at either side.

IMG_8573-HDR
More Penguins and more mountains!
IMG_0212
Penguins in front of the Cook Glacier

More spectacular than the bay itself are its residents. St Andrews Bay is home to the largest breeding colony of King Penguins worldwide. Depending on who you talk to, the numbers of penguins residing here are between 400,000 and 600,000. And having visited the colony, I can now understand why there is such ambiguity.

Literally everywhere you look, there are King Penguins. Along the beaches, there is a constant conveyor belt of birds as adults either return to land to feed their chicks or head to sea to stock up on baby food.

IMG_0098
Penguins at dusk
IMG_8867-HDR
King Penguin chicks and adults at dawn

We were incredibly lucky to visit the colony at this time of year. Not only was it covered with a thick layer of snow, but also, amongst the adults, were chicks of all different sizes. Surprisingly, there were even a small number of adults still incubating eggs.

IMG_9166
Penguin chicks creching together

I wish St Andrews was on our doorstep but unfortunately not. In fact, in order to reach this spectacular phenomenom, we had to walk 20km across knee deep mountainous terrain in snow shoes. Upon arrival at our St Andrews Bay hut, myself and Robbie, exhausted from walking, ingested a kilogram of chocolate in seconds, which some philanthropist had kindly left for us in the hut.

Visibility wasn't always great which made navigating exciting!
Visibility wasn’t always great which made navigation exciting!
Just out of Hound Bay... Half way there
Just out of Hound Bay… Half way there
South Georgia doesnt do flat... Robbie coming around the back of Mount Skittle (1600ft)
South Georgia doesn’t do flat… Robbie coming around the back of Mount Skittle (1600ft)

Was it worth all the effort and exhaustion …? Well, you decide for yourself. As the saying goes, a picture paints a thousand words, so the rest of this post is silent …

IMG_9105
Icebergs, probably from the peninsula, drifting north past the islands

 

IMG_9095
Chick checking out his surroundings
IMG_9800
Hundreds and hundreds of metres of black and white blobs
IMG_9764
More waves of penguins
IMG_9716-HDR-Pano
Panoramic of half the colony!
IMG_9623-Pano
More penguins (sorry if this title is a little unimaginative!)
IMG_9012
No space on the beach
IMG_8973-Pano
Penguin reflections

IMG_8720

 

IMG_8199

 

IMG_8247
Slightly lost elephant seal, amongst all the penguins
Share

2 thoughts on “St Andrews Bay… Best Holiday Ever

  1. Wow. What an experience. Not sure I would have managed the trek but sure wish I could be at the destination. Love your “boring” pictures and titles.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *