I am often asked what the best time is to go on an expedition cruise to Antarctica. In short, for the first-time visitor, mid-January to mid-March will give you the best all-round experience. But each season is different and comes with its own highlights.
Here is our advice about what the different seasons bring on an expedition cruise to Antarctica and what the best time is to go to Antarctica.
October (early spring in Antarctica)
best time for emperor penguins
November - Early December (late spring - early summer in Antarctica):
Winter pack ice begins to melt and break up, creating new landscapes of sculpted ice with abundant pack ice and pristine icebergs.
Courting season for penguins and seabirds - whole colonies in spectacular displays of courtship rituals.
Seals visible on fast ice and shorelines.
Spring wildflowers blooming on the Falklands and South Georgia Islands.
Antarctica Research activity at its height.
Elephant and fur seals establish their breeding territories.
Whales are travelling south and can be seen blowing the Drake Passage
If you wish to feel like a great polar explorer on an expedition cruise, and see broad bays chock full of ice, the early season is for you; you are less likely to see abundant wildlife.
Mid December - Mid-January (summer in Antarctica):
Wildlife in full swing as Antarctica temperatures increase and activity levels rise.
Late December and January are usually Antarctica's warmest months.
On South Georgia and the Falklands, first penguin chicks emerge and fur seals are breeding.
Longer Antarctica days means you can read a newspaper on deck at midnight
Seal pups visible on South Georgia and the Falklands. Seals are arriving into Antarctica’s waterways and are still not commonplace.
Antarctic chicks hatch
Whales increasingly numerous but concentrate on feeding are don't appear very active
Receding Antarctica ice may open new channels for exploration by your expedition cruise ship
Christmas and New Year in Antarctica
Mid January – Mid February (summer in Antarctica)
most penguin eggs have hatched or are hatching early in this period
great views of lovable, furry penguin chicks being taken care of by the adults. The chicks are relatively inactive and colonies remain relatively quiet.
Most whales have arrived, are feeding most of the time and we see them resting on the sea’s surface.
Later in this period whales lose their inhibitions and they appear relatively relaxed and jovial.
Seals are present in great numbers on ice floes, resting and relaxing.
Mid-February - Mid-March (late summer in Antarctica)
Climax of the wildlife season with more viewable activity of wildlife and greater interaction of the species with each other.
Beautiful Antarctica sunrises and sunsets create stunning photo opportunities
Whale sightings at their best. We seem to find seals and whales almost everywhere we look. Humpbacks and Minkes are breaching and leaping very regularly.
Penguin chicks begin to fledge and roam the colonies running, chasing, tripping and falling, as well as being chased by parents and predators.
Predators increase their patrols as penguin chicks are venturing out farther from the nest.
Later in this stage, the Leopard seal increases its patrols as chicks will be learning to swim and getting ready to go out to sea.
Receding Antarctica pack ice permits forays further south and into the Weddell Sea
Snow algae blooming
Falkland chicks leaving the nest
Fur seals increasingly common on the Antarctic Peninsula
Crab-eater seals are out in full force