14 Oct 2019

Outnumbered on a Macquarie Island Cruise

The Subantarctic Islands of New Zealand and Australia are remote havens for some of the most abundant wildlife colonies on Earth. Comprised of six groups, these UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Nature Reserves are administered with the highest protection. Tourism is only allowed under special license and highly restricted to minimise impact and ensure the preservation of this world-class wilderness.

One of these remote isles in particular often steals the show: Macquarie Island – Australia's Icy Outback! Explorer Sir Douglas Mawson coined Macquarie Island one of the “wonder spots of the world” – and we couldn't agree more! A visit to Sandy Bay is admiring and sitting amongst thousands of King and Royal Penguins while affectionate Elephant seal pups ("weaners") compete for attention.

Our 'Galapagos of the Southern Ocean' voyage encompasses astounding, wildlife-rich Macquarie Island and the New Zealand Subantarctic Islands – Snares, Auckland and Campbell Islands.

01 Dec 2019  /  03 Dec 2019  /  30 Nov 2020 / 11 Dec 2020

With the Subantarctic travel season coinciding with the December holidays, many adventurous travellers are swapping the mad shopping rush and pressure of the holiday season for a jaw-dropping spectacle of massive penguin rookeries, adoring seal pups, majestic Albatross and the pristine, raw beauty of the Southern Ocean.

Where will you be this December?

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Outnumbered on a Macquarie Island Cruise
by Sherry Ott

Travel Blogger and Photographer, Sherry Ott, joined us for one of our expeditions through the Southern Ocean. Read on to learn more about her first-hand adventures!

Much like its cousin, South Georgia Island on the other side of the globe, Macquarie Island is full of wildlife. Around 3.5 million penguins and 80,000 elephant seals arrive on Macquarie each year to breed and molt.

“Give them patience and the penguins will come to you. They don’t care about tourism or your cameras. They are just going about their business,” the Ranger said with a grin. I stood on the island, surrounded by animals, and I had no idea where to go first. Our expedition leader had given us a map earlier that morning at the briefing, but the problem was that absolutely everything sounded amazing, and I had no idea where to start in this wildlife dream world. The good news is that we had four hours to wander around Sandy Bay on Macquarie Island!

There was more drama between wildlife on Macquarie Island than any soap opera I’ve ever seen. Love, hate, family, enemies, backstabbing, romantic entangles, and friendship everywhere you looked. But, what I was most astonished at was the number of animals and how close they get to you.

ELEPHANT SEALS

Sandy Bay was dotted with groups of huge juvenile non-breeding Elephant Seals flopped on top of each other. The seals were around 10 to 15 years old and had come ashore to molt. The larger ones were around 700 kilograms (1,500 pounds).

Even though they all looked happy cuddled upon each other like a big blob of love, occasionally fights would break out between them. They would rear up and start bashing together with such a force it made you shudder. Standing only 5 metres from Elephant seals fighting and biting each other – that’s one for the bucket list for sure. They sort of looked like giant worms fighting! They were so busy fighting that they didn’t care if we were walking around them or not.

PENGUIN COLONIES

Penguins more than any other animal have the most human-like interactions in my opinion. Macquarie has large colonies of King penguins (at the time of our Macquarie Island visit there were 10,000) and endemic Royal penguins (40,000). 

I watched pairs of King penguins sit on and nurture their eggs on their feet, covered by their belly and thick coats of feathers. Occasionally, they would check on the eggs, lifting up their feather layer and doting on the egg like expectant parents. Their partners would stand by and defend them against other nosey penguins by slapping them with their flippers if they got too close. The King penguins seemed to walk around in packs of 3 of 4, like a bunch of wise guys stopping to observe things, silently conferring (and sometimes bickering), and then they’d follow the leader and take off again. And, they would come together as a team to ward off Skuas, scavenger birds, waiting for any opportune moments to steal an egg for dinner.

It was also fun to watch the new little Royal penguin chicks learn to take their first swims and figure out how to get in and out of the waves…usually not so gracefully.It was a day to be patient and observe, which very few of us have the time to do these days. But it’s so refreshing for the soul. Being a part of this little “wonder of the world” even for 4 hours was an amazing experience. As predicted, I was on the last Zodiac back to the ship. I was sad to go and leave this dramatic animal kingdom behind where I was the visitor in their world. Click here to read full article.

–Sherry Ott, Ottsworld

 

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