Imagine beginning among hundreds of thousands of King Penguins. As you look far into the distance across the hills, you can’t make out where the colonies end. This is exactly what Senior Marine Keeper Ady Adoncello experienced on her expedition with Active Travel, a Taronga Sponsor, to Antarctica recently.
In early February, Ady travelled to Ushuaia, Argentina, to board the Akademik Sergey Vavilovm, a polar adventure ship which was formerly Russian Research Vessel.
This trip to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, Elephant Island and the Antarctic Peninsula was not a relaxing holiday, but a trip for adventure seekers passionate about incredible wildlife and jaw-dropping scenery.
Ady was onboard the ship representing Taronga, giving passengers first-hand wildlife insights during the evening talks and also during expeditions as they encountered rare seals and penguins.
In a few weeks Ady had taken some 7,500 photos, a testimony to how excited she was to experience all the incredible wildlife and scenery.
The first stop was the Falkland Islands where they passengers walked to a colony of thousands of Rockhopper Penguins and Albatross. She said it was literally a heart in mouth moment – the sounds and beauty just took her breath away.
From the Falkland Islands, the passengers sailed to another two islands on route to South Georgia Island. There the group were surrounded by penguins with Antarctic Fur Seals spotted between the statuesque birds. The seals were an incredible sight ranging from females and their newly suckling pups to juvenile males that were demonstrating their dominance. As Ady and the passengers walked among the wildlife, her day-to-day experience with Taronga’s marine mammals came into play, bluffing the young male seals as they mock-charged the group.
Ady said “There was so much wildlife it was difficult to absorb it all. We saw Elephant Seal bulls sparring and fighting at South Georgia Island. Many of the passengers of course had never seen anything like this and it was quite confronting for them. They saw firsthand how strong and fierce these animals can be.”
“People need to put this on their list of places to go. Not only is it an experience you will never forget, but by seeing this remarkable place people will want to make sure that it is not pillaged, but protected in the future.”
At South Georgia the group went to the grave site of Ernst Shackleton, the famous polar explorer. There they meet up with three gentlemen that had replicated his epic journey in a 16 foot longboat during the same time of year, and also emulating the clothes he wore and food he ate as much as possible. Among the guest speakers on the ship was Shackleton’s granddaughter who, during the trip, spoke of her grandfather’s heroic expeditions.
From South Georgia Island they sailed down the Antarctic Peninsula. The team leader, Graham, made sure that their days were filled with as much as possible. Usually the group would do two inflatable boat landings per day, but on South Georgia alone they jammed in 13 shore visits.
Ady said, “I was pinching myself constantly, being in between albatross, lots of other rare birds, Leopard Seals, Crab-eater Seals, Fur Seals and so many different types of penguins”.
Unfortunately you do see small hints of pollution there which is very distressing. But by seeing this remarkable place inspires people to protect it.
These were awe-inspiring days of exploration. Penguins by the thousands, astonishing icebergs reflecting, a whale so close you could see the whites of its eye and the continent-sized sweeping ice sheet of Antarctica were just some of the many memorable moments of this outstanding expedition for Ady.