Traveling has always been an interest but the realities of work often meant short
trips to well known, comfortable places. As I approached retirement I looked forward to having the gift of time to travel to new and interesting places. So many choices - where would I go? Each of us is driven by our own interests, passions and values. I knew that I wanted to travel to unfamiliar places, places that are different from where I live. I wanted to see how others live, to learn about their culture and way of being.
Retirement not only brought time for travel but also time to focus on improving my photography, a long time passion. For me travel and photography go hand in hand. Since retiring I have had the good fortune to travel to numerous places including India, Bhutan, Vietnam, Myanmar, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and most recently Morocco. While in India I met a couple who had recently returned from Antarctica. I was moved by their description of the place and the striking images they shared. I was used to going to places to visit other cultures and now I was being drawn to a place where few live, other than the local wildlife.
The penguins were certainly a draw for me. It has been
many years since I watched the documentary
The March of the Penguins but it is still fresh in my mind.
After reviewing numerous options including the possibility of a cruise on a luxurious ship I determined I wanted a more hands on experience in Antarctica. I chose to book with Lindblad Expeditions who partners with National Geographic to provide an incredible small ship (100 passengers) opportunity to explore this fascinating area. I knew this would likely be my one and only trip to Antarctica and seeing penguins was a must. As a result I choose the 24 day itinerary that includes South George and the Falklands. It truly was a trip of a life time. Each day was filled with talks about the history of the area and the wildlife. The onboard team of naturalists continually sought out exploration opportunities including a zodiac trip to a king penguin colony of tens of thousands stretching as far as the eye can see, an albatross colony where we watched wandering albatross stretch their 11 foot wings. We wandered in and out of herds of seals including elephant seals. We did land hikes (retracing the steps of Shackleton), visited Shackleton’s grave, wandered around abandoned whaling stations and
cruised in zodiacs around magnificent ice bergs. We returned from out outings to be welcomed with hot drinks, delicious meals and recap sessions where we all came together to reflect on what we had experienced that day. Having a National Geographic Photographer on board was a bonus for me. He joined us in our excursions, provided tips for taking better images, shared his images and provided critique sessions for those interested. It is hard to put into words the feeling of sharing an expansive, beautiful natural space with 100 other humans and thousands of magnificent, interesting penguins who seem oblivious to our presence. As a group of travellers we seemed to instinctively become quiet in these special places. The quiet was often dotted with chuckles at the delightful and funny human-like behaviour of the
penguins. The captain shared that many return to do the trip again, initially attracted by the wildlife but pulled back by the beauty of the ice. The sheer size and expanse of the ice takes one’s breath away. We often stood quietly on the ship taking in the haunting beauty of the scene and the moment. The quiet was sometimes interrupted with an announcement of a whale sighting. Several humpback and killer whales came entertained us. The captain was a master at positioning the ship for us to enjoy whatever interesting wildlife presented itself.