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King penguins, South Georgia

The Best Time to Visit South Georgia Island

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The best time to visit South Georgia Island is during the months of November, December, and January when the king penguin population is at its peak, whales swim in the open water, and the wandering albatrosses are in residence. South Georgia Island is also colloquially called the ‘Antarctic Oasis’ due to the massive number of wildlife that visits this island. Thousands of penguin chicks are found here, making this a cruise that results in the opportunity to see plenty of wildlife. The tourist season in the Antarctic is relatively short, revolving around the ice and cold that make the region inaccessible during the austral winter.

Tours combine a few different regions in the area including the Falkland Islands and the South Shetland Islands. The high season is during North America’s winter, making taking a trip over the holidays a unique way to spend the break. These are exploration trips in the company of naturalist guides and experienced staff that make sure you make the most out of your time by discovering the incredible scenery and wildlife.

November is the end of spring in the Southern Hemisphere when elephant seal pups are a highlight as males battle for dominance on the beaches. The largest population of southern elephant seals in the world is found here during the breeding season, almost half of the world’s population. These massive creatures can reach weights of almost 9,000 pounds and grow to just under 20 feet in length. If you look closely, you may be able to see an elephant seal fight, although these fights can be quite gruesome for some, they’re a truly rare and amazing sight.

Macaroni penguins have also returned to the island during November after spending months at sea and the population can reach 80,000 during peak season.

December is the summer season where daylight sometimes lasts 24 hours. Elephant seals leave for the year while 95 percent of the world’s fur seals come ashore to breed. December is the peak of the king penguin mating season when everywhere you look the birds are crowding the landscape. 

Wandering albatrosses also lay their eggs during this time, only breeding once every two years after finding a lifelong mate. These birds have the largest wingspan of any bird in the world, reaching almost 12 feet which allows them to spend long periods of time gliding in the air.

January is considered one of the best months to visit South Georgia Island as the long days, slightly warmer temperatures, and the abundance of wildlife finds you in the midst of a natural paradise. Offshore orca, humpback whales, penguin chicks in rookeries, and fur seal pups being nursed by their parents are just a few of the various wildlife highlights. 

Additionally, during late-December and mid-January is the best time to visit GryViken, a now-abandoned whaling village where king penguins waddle around the streets, to see the penguins. 

For more information about the active adventures that take you to South Georgia Island and fit within your schedule, contact one of our travel experts.

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King penguins on South Georgia

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