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  • Dawnelle Salant

Penguins, Whales and Leopard Seals Oh My


Our morning excursion takes place at Hydrugra Rocks, named after the scientific name of the Leopard Seal. We are at the northern end of the Gerlache Strait. As we board the zodiacs, a humpback whale dives deep right beside us, his tail fluking perfectly against the iceberg behind us. When we approach land, two Weddell Seals greet us. They are lounging on the snow and hardly notice us. It makes me happy that the wildlife hardly notices us - it means that the tour operators are doing their jobs and the tourists are respecting the wild. There are colonies of Chinstrap Penguins here and I think they are my favourite. The thin black line that goes around their chins makes them look classy somehow, although their extreme smell sort of counteracts their fancier look. They also sound a lot different than Gentoos. There are several rookeries and we are lucky enough to see more chicks. A giant iceberg bobs behind a rookery and again, the turquoise blue acts as a stunning backdrop for photos. I often have to repeat to myself - you are in Antarctica. This is real.

While we wait for our afternoon excursion, I take yet another lap around the ship deck. As I cross onto starboard, I am startled by a huge humpback whale coming up for breath. It has swum under the boat and the noise it makes stops my heart. It’s so close and so immense that I can't fit it into my viewfinder. It swims away and gives me the tail fluke that I’ve been waiting for.

That afternoon we do a zodiac cruise around Cierva Cove. It is stunning. The water is littered with brashy ice and bergy bits and huge, blue icebergs dot the calm ocean. We wait for the humpback I’ve just seen and we are rewarded almost instantly. It swims metres from the zodiac and comes up directly in front of the kayakers. It’s like a scene from an adventure movie.

We cruise around some of the most beautiful iceberg we’ve seen yet. A leopard seal lounges on a flat piece of ice, and there is blood on the ice - evidence of a recent kill. He watches us go by and just as I am behind him snapping away, he looks over his shoulder and yawns. I'm so close I can see spittle hanging from its sharp teeth. This is National Geographic - at my fingertips. We spot the humpback again and at one point, a small iceberg flips over right next to us. Chinstrap penguins nest on a tiny island and they zoom and flip through the water right next to the boat. It’s magical.

#antarctica #ice #south #naturalworldsafaris #dawnellesalantphotography #polarlatitudes

#dawnellessabbaticaladventures

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