The giant, ice-covered landmass at the bottom of our earth may be the remotest, coldest, driest environment on earth, but it’s paradise to the penguins of Antarctica. I was fortunate to have an up-close and personal experience with three of the four Antarctic species during my recent expedition cruise. I was quite surprised by how close I was able to get to them. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators recommend that visitors not approach within 5 meters (about 16.5 feet) of any animals. All passengers on my expedition cruise were required to sign an agreement stating that we would abide by this rule before we were allowed to set foot on the continent. However, the expedition leaders also said that the penguins might approach us…and that was perfectly fine.
During my first landing, I decided to test this advice. Instead of hiking down the rock-littered beach, I sat down just beyond the yellow tape that our guides had strung up and waited. It wasn’t long before one penguin waddled closer. No doubt he was curious about the big blue and yellow blob that had suddenly appeared, which is exactly what I looked like with four layers of clothing, covered by bright blue waterproof pants and topped by an iridescent yellow jacket. I concentrated on not moving. Soon, others followed. Very slowly I raised my camera and began to shoot. Over the next six days we saw thousands of penguins, individually and in huge colonies, in the water and on land. The above are photos of the species of penguins of Antarctica that I saw close-up, clockwise from top left: Adelie Penguin, Chinstrap Penguin, solo Gentoo Penguin, and trio of Gentoo Penguins.