Peggoty Bluff (King Hakkon Bay):
Located at the head of King Hakkon Bay amongst surrounding mountains and glaciers, Peggoty Bluff lies on the edge of a large glacial outwash plain. The area has a large pebble beach that makes a good landing spot and is home to a large number of elephant and fur seals as well as a few king penguins and various birds. Shackleton first arrived to King Hakkon Bay from Elephant Island with 5 of his men after a treacherous 17 day journey and spent the first few days resting at Cave Cove before they sailed down the bay to Peggoty Bluff. Shackleton set off from there with Crean and Worsley leaving Vincent, McNeish and McCarthy to shelter under the James Caird while he went in search of help on the other side of the island. On a clear day its possible to see the route they set off on from the beach and a couple of good vantage points higher up that also provide stunning views of the bay. There are also some fresh water pools and small areas of tussock grass making it a beautiful and interesting spot to spend a few hours on a landing.
Elsehul lies in the far northwest of South Georgia and is a notoriously difficult spot to visit because of its exposure to the open ocean. It’s possible to do a zodiac cruise here around the cliff edges and bays where you can witness a large number of fur seals alongside southern elephant seals. It’s also possible to spot macaroni penguins as well as small groups of king and Gentoo penguins and a huge amount of bird life including black browed albatross, grey headed albatross, light-mantled sooty albatross and blue eyed shags.
Salisbury Plain (Bay of Isles):
Located on the southern shore of the Bay of Isle’s 50 km’s from the Western tip of South Georgia, Salisbury Plain is best known for being home to the second largest king penguin colony in South Georgia. A large number of fur and elephant seals can also be found here and a beach landing will usually entail dodging all of these animals to access the site. The long stretching pebble beach is packed full with wildlife before opening up in to a grass and mud plain full of king penguins as far as the eye can see. A few hundred meters back from the beach a small mountainside also houses penguins and provides a fantastic panoramic view of the vast colony from the tussock grass. Adult kings and brown fluffy young kings can be seen throughout the season here in what is truly a remarkable sight.
St Andrews Bay:
Located on the north coast of South Georgia, St Andrew’s Bay is one of the highlight visits and is home to the largest king penguin colony on the island. The vast beach stretches a few kilometers along sitting in front of grassy plains and hills amongst an impressive backdrop of mountains and glaciers. Aside from the tens of thousands of king penguins, there are also large elephant and fur seal populations here and so time can be spent on the beach and the raised hillside viewing points further back to get magnificent panoramic views. There is also a fresh water river flowing from the glacier and a walk up here gives you the chance to see king penguins hanging out along the river’s edge and often taking a dip.
The scenic bay is home to a large number of fur and elephant seals along with a few penguins. Shackleton, Crean and Worsley descended Breakwind Ridge to the west of the bay, crossed the beach at Whistle Cove and headed east over the ridge to Stromness for the final part of their land journey.
As much of the site was built with asbestos it’s not possible to get within 200m of the remains of the station but you can still see many of the buildings from the beach. The beach is home to a large number of fur seals which can make it quite tricky to land there.
For many visitors to South Georgia, the epic survival story of Sir Ernest Shackleton is one of the main reasons to visit the island. One of the highlights related to this incredible journey is the opportunity to walk the final part of the route he took with Crean and Worsley to eventually find help from the whalers at Stromness Harbour. Although this excursion is extremely weather dependent, the rewards and emotions for the lucky few that can make the journey are hard to put in to words. The 6.5km hike starts with a landing at Fortuna Bay which is where Shackleton, Crean and Worsley arrived in to following their descent from Breakwind Ridge. After negotiating the fur seal gauntlet on the beach and clearing the tussock grass you’re soon on to the open hillside and walking in soft mossy terrain. As you continue up the reasonable steep slopes you may come across some nesting petrels and Arctic terns. As you cross mountain streams and continue on up, the moss and grass turn to loose rocks and after an hour or so you eventually arrive to Craen Lake, a beautiful spot providing fantastic panoramic views back down in to Fortuna Bay and the surrounding valleys. If you’re here early in the season in October and November, the lake is still likely to be fully or partly frozen. After spending some time to rest and take in the beautiful scenery, the hike continues onwards and upwards with a final ascent to the summit where Shackleton famously heard the whalers station horn calling, signaling an end to their epic journey was finally in sight. Surrounded by snowcapped mountain peaks, you can see down the valley in to Stromness from here and the remains of the whaling station. The walk down is the most challenging part of hike with a reasonably steep gradient and loose gravel and rocks to contend with so it’s not for the faint hearted. However, knowing the sense of relief Shackleton and his men must have felt at this part of the journey makes it an emotional part of the walk. The route now has regular GPS points that the guides must follow to ensure maximum safety but as you head down the hill you can hear Shackleton’s waterfall roaring down to the left of you and once at the bottom you can look back up and clearly see it. A small Gentoo penguin colony greets you on the hillside as the rock and gravel turns to boggy peat and grass and you finally arrive on flat ground for the final few hundred meters to the bay. Shackleton wouldn’t have had to contend with the fur seals upon arrival to the beach which is an inevitable end to the hike nowadays but as you look back up the valley and ridge that you’ve just walked over, you can only wonder what Shackleton must have felt at that point of the journey. He still had the worry of his men stranded on the other side of South Georgia and the main group on Elephant Island and so despite finally finding safety for himself, Crean and Worsley, the journey was far from complete. For visitors nowadays, the comfort of their ships await, but having been able to retrace at least part of that epic journey Shackleton undertook, the hike is a very special experience for all those lucky enough to say they have done it.
Godthul is located on the eastern shores of the Barff peninsula and was named by Norwegian sealers and whalers who had factory ships based here between 1908-1917 and 1922-1929. The bay is very scenic and is abundant in wildlife with many fur and elephant seals as well as Gentoo penguins and various birdlife. The large volume of fur seals can make it difficult to land here so an excursion here will often be a zodiac cruise.
Located within King Edward Cove on the western shore of Cumberland East Bay, Grytviken was the main hub for the South Atlantic whaling industry for over 60 years and the remains of the station can still be seen there today. The bay has a small population made up of the staff of the South Georgia Heritage Trust who now manage the site as well as scientists based at Kind Edward Point. Grytviken includes a church, small post office and a fantastic museum amongst all of the whaling station structures. The maritime museum houses a replica of the James Caird which Sir Ernest Shackleton famously sailed to South Georgia on from Elephant Island. It is also the spot where Shackleton’s grave can be found in the small graveyard amongst other explorers such as his right hand man Frank Wilde, along with whalers from that era. Following the extermination of the rat population of South Georgia, strict bio security rules are now in place at Grytviken meaning any visitors to the site will be checked by government officials before entering to ensure no foreign species are brought back on to the island. A landing at the site will often include a very informative tour followed by some free time to view the old whaling station structures and visit the museum and post office. It’s also possible to take a hike around the bay to King Edward Point and if the weather permits a brisk hike up Brown Mountain can also be taken to provide fantastic panoramic views for those seeking a challenging stretch of the legs. Although the wildlife is not as abundant here as you may find elsewhere in South Georgia, there are usually a few fur and elephant seals lying around along with the odd penguin.
Located in the southeast corner of South Georgia at the foot of the Salvesen Range, Gold Harbour is home to a huge number of King penguins with a colony estimated to hold around 25,000 breeding pairs. It is also home to a huge number of elephant seals and is one of the best spots in South Georgia to witness males jousting with each other amongst a consistent soundtrack or roaring and belching. There are also a few gentoo penguins here and giant petrels are never far away as they scavenge the area for feeding opportunities. At the top end of the bay the Bertrab glacier hangs from the vertical cliffs providing a stunning backdrop to one of the highlight sights of South Georgia.
Located in the far southeast of South Georgia, Cooper Bay is protected by the nearby Cooper Island. The spot provides a great opportunity for a zodiac cruise with the highlight being a colony of macaroni penguins. If you’re lucky you may also get an opportunity to spot chinstrap penguins here although seeing gentoo and king penguins is more likely. The beaches are also home to a large number of fur and elephant seals and there is a huge amount of birdlife with petrels and shags hugging the beaches and cliffs.
This impressive 14km long and 1.5km wide fjord is located in the southeast of South Georgia and can be cruised down onboard your ship. The steep mountainsides hug the turquoise water and house many waterfalls which fail to make it all the way down to the sea on a windy day. At the end of the fjord a couple of impressive glaciers can be found.