Have questions? We're here.
Gentoo penguins greeting the Corinthian II

Antarctica Wildlife & Polar Travel Guide

Travel made your way
Talk with an expert
Customize any aspect of your Antarctica trip. 1.800.344.6118
Help Me Plan My Trip
Ask a Question
It's time to break the ice (literally) on that long-awaited trip to the white continent, Antarctica! Here, you'll find some helpful information for planning your trip, including everything from where to start planning to the more specific Antarctica travel FAQs & which ship to choose. The highlight of most Antartica tours is seeing the tough Antarctic wildlife like penguins, seals, seabirds, and a variety of other whale species, among others. Of course, a trip to Antarctica could also feature stops in South Shetland Island & the Falkland Islands or even Chile and Argentina, and our staff has put together some great resources for those destinations as well. 

Wildlife & Animals of Antarctica

Antarctica Wildlife Highlights 

Penguins - Emperor penguins, king penguins, southern rockhopper penguin Adélie penguin, chinstrap penguins, and gentoo penguins live and breed in the Antarctic.

Whales - The Blue, Sei, Right, Humpback, Minke, Fin, Sperm and Killer whales (orca) are common in the Antarctic. The Southern Bottlenose, Arnoux's beaked whale and even the southern hourglass dolphin are also present but rarely spotted.

Seals - Six species of seals live in the Antarctic: The Weddell, Ross, leopard, crabeater, leopard, fur and the giant elephant seals weighing up to 4000 kg, almost 9000 pounds! 

Birds - There are 46 species of birds that inhabit Antarctica including penguins, albatrosses, cormorants, petrels, bitterns, shearwaters, herons, egrets, ducks, geese, swans, sheathbills, skuas, jaegers, and gulls.

Coming Soon:

Animals & Wildlife in Antarctica 
Penguins in Antarctica
Antarctic Wildlife Fun Facts
  • You will see wildlife everywhere, yet Antarctica is the least biodiverse continent on the planet
  • Antarctica is the coldest and driest continent and all creatures that venture upon land are considered extremophiles due to the extreme climate.
  • Very few animals or plants live on land, and most that do are partially terrestrial and heavily dependent upon the ocean for food.
  • The only truly terrestrial animals are tiny invertebrates like nematodes (tiny worms), microscopic mites, and lice. The largest is a flightless midge measuring 6mm (1/4 inch) 
  • Only primitive plants like algae, fungi, mosses, lichens and liverworts have evolved to survive in the cold, dry climate
  • Only 0.34% of its area is ever free of ice or snow leaving a tiny amount of soil for terrestrial ecosystems. No or limited light during the winter months puts further stress upon plants.
  • Marine life is rich and abundant fueled from a food web based upon phytoplakton, krill, squid and fish 
  • 90% of the world's ice, which represents 70% of the world's fresh water is on the Antarctic continent, yet one of the major factors limiting life here is lack of water.
  • The ice depth averages 1 mile (1.6km) thick, and if the Antarctic ice shelf melted the world's oceans would rise approximately 200 feet (60 meters)!

Arctic vs. Antarctic - Differences and Similarities

Differences Between the Arctic and Antarctic

The term "Polar Opposites" surely originated from the North Pole and South Pole, but besides being on opposite sides of the planet, there are many other less-obvious differences between the poles.

Geography - Antarctica is a land mass, a continent. Whereas the Arctic is an ocean surrounded by continents

Climate - OK, they're both cold, but Antarctica is much colder and much, much drier. 

Evolution & Migration Between the Poles

Over 235 marine organisms live in both Arctic and Antarctic polar regions. How did these creatures bridge a distance of 12,000 km (7,450 miles) across the equator between the poles?  

Some large animals like whales and birds make the round trip every year, but sedentary sea cucubmers who dwell on the ocean floor, for example, how did they get on opposite poles?

The answer may lie in the surprisingly slight variation of deep sea temperatures between the poles and the Equator of only about 5 °C. Sea cucumbers thrive in the Galapagos Islands, for example, right on the Equatorial line. Additionally, the major ocean currents have been shown to act as a marine conveyor belt transporting eggs and lavae vast distances. 

Antarctica Travel Guide

Why Travel With Adventure Life

More Reasons

Awards and Accolades

All News