Fortuna Bay: Key information

  • Home to a 20,000 strong king penguin colony on a beautiful grassy glacial plain
  • The chance to follow the historic Shackleton Walk to Stromness Harbour
  • A busy elephant seal breeding location with a historic sealer's cave
  • Latitude 54°07'S, Longitude 36°48'W

Explore Fortuna Bay with Swoop

About Fortuna Bay

Fortuna Bay

Viewpoint over Fortuna Bay's king penguin colony

Fortuna Bay sits at the end of a 6km fjord on South Georgia's northeast coast. Its human history is intimately tied to the exploitation of the island's wildlife; the bay takes its name from the Fortuna, the first whaling ship to operate from Grytviken in the early years of the 20th century. Before then, it was a regular haunt for sealers looking for elephant seal oil. A 2019 archaeological dig in a cave near the landing point for zodiacs revealed evidence of long occupation, including clay pipes, burnt bones and charcoal behind a rough stone wall built for shelter.

The bay is surrounded by alpine peaks and glaciers, with a plain of tussac grass, fellfield and grassland that is home to another one of the incredible king penguin colonies that South Georgia excels in.

The Shackleton Walk

Fortuna Bay

View of Crean Lake on the Shackleton Walk

The western side of Fortuna Bay is marked by the crags of Breakout Ridge: it was from here on 20 May 1916 that Ernest Shackleton, Tom Crean and Frank Worsley heard the steam whistle of Stromness whaling station and knew that their dramatic rescue journey to save the stranded crew of the Endurance was almost at an end. 'Never had any one of us heard sweeter music,' Shackleton wrote of its sound.

Today, recreating the final leg of the hike from Fortuna to Stromness is a popular activity for visitors. The 6km walk takes 3–4 hours and is a great way to connect with this famous part of polar history – albeit under rather better circumstances than experienced by its original participants. Note that the hike is always subject to weather and on-ground conditions – your guides will send a scouting team ahead to check whether the path is clear and safe before landings commence.

Fortuna Bay

Descending to Stromness on the final stage of the Shackleton Walk

The walk starts at Worsley Beach on the eastern edge of Fortuna Bay and climbs quickly through a tussocky landscape to a wide ridge of gravel and shale. From here there are wonderful views to Crean Lake. This lake was frozen in 1916 and only 'discovered' when Tom Crean put his foot through the ice. Walkers skirt the shore to climb gently towards two tarns. This is the highest point of the walk and is frequently snow-covered at the start of the season.

From here, follow the scree down to a knoll to where Shackleton, Crean and Worsley were rewarded with their first glimpse of Stromness. It is a shallow descent from here to the grassy valley: thankfully it's not necessary to precariously climb down the waterfall as the exhausted men did, not realising there was an easier option. On the valley floor, braided streams lead over the gravel past a gentoo penguin colony to Stromness beach.

For safety reasons it is not possible to visit the ruined whaling station itself, so zodiacs wait on the beach to take walkers back to their ship. 

Follow the Shackleton Walk from Fortuna Bay with Swoop

Wildlife at Fortuna Bay

King penguins on the grassy plain at Fortuna Bay South Georgia

King penguins at Fortuna Bay

Fortuna Bay is home to around 4,000 breeding pairs of king penguins – including chicks this adds up to around 12,000 birds during the visitor's season. Some visitors find the colony here a more engaging experience than the overwhelming sensations of larger colonies like St Andrews Bay. 

There is a small gentoo penguin rookery near the zodiac landing site, while light-mantled albatross nest in the cliffs above. Pintail ducks are a common site on the glacial outwash streams on the plain. 

The beach is a popular haul-out for elephant seals. Fur seals were previously unknown here, but have started to arrive in large numbers over the last 20 years: a sign of the massive population growth the species is experiencing on South Georgia.   

Visitor guidelines for Fortuna Bay

All visits to Fortuna Bay and the Shackleton Walk must be made in accordance with the site visitor management plan produced by the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands. 

Zodiacs land on the western shore of the bay, known as Whistle Cove. From here it is 1.5km walk to the king penguin colony. It is forbidden to approach within 10m of the edge of the colony. Take care not to disturb moulting penguins on their enforced four-week fast, or nesting terns on the glacial outwash plain. Be aware of seals hidden in the tussac grass. It is forbidden to take objects from the sealer's cave and care must be taken to avoid damaging the rock wall.

NOTE: Ship itineraries and visits to specific landing sites in South Georgia can never be guaranteed. Plans can change as fast as the polar weather: decisions on which locations to visit are always made on the day by the ship's captain and expedition leader.

More landing sites in South Georgia

A sleeping seal on the shore at the whaling station at Grytviken, with the rusting hulk of a catcher ship in the background


Raise a toast to Shackleton and walk around the rusting ruins of the old whaling station at Grytviken, the historic heart of South Georgia.

Discover More
King penguins mill around two elephant seals on the beach at Gold Harbour, South Georgia, against the backdrop of a hanging glacier

Gold Harbour

With its hanging glaciers towering over a beach dense with penguins and seals, few locations in South Georgia are as dramatic as Gold Harbour.

Discover More
A close up of mass of adult king penguins and their fluffy brown chicks on South Georgia

St Andrews Bay

Even on an island that abounds with incredible wildlife encounters, the vast king penguin colony of St Andrews Bay is truly something special. 

Discover More
Passengers looking over the bow of an expedition cruise ship looking at the glaciers and mountains at the head of Dryglaski Fjord, South Georgia

Drygalski Fjord

Drygalski Fjord is home to one of South Georgia's most spectacular landscapes, with epic mountains and magnificent blue glaciers calving into the sea.

Discover More
Customer review background image

What our customers think of Fortuna Bay

There are so many memorable moments!! Fortuna Bay surrounded by thousands of king penguins and hundreds of juvenile fur seals. The history at Grytviken, with the story of Shackleton. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2024

Doug Pemberton - Canada

Most memorable moment? Walking with penguins and seals at Fortuna Bay in perfect weather. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Vicki McCarren - USA

Most memorable moment? Visiting Fortuna Bay with its abundance of wildlife. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2023

Chun Wai Wong - Malaysia

To be standing in a place where a significant event in the history of Antarctic exploration occurred was very emotional. Read the full review

Travelled: October 2023

Alistair Campbell - UK


Ready to plan your South Georgia adventure?



We'll spend some time listening to your aspirations, then discuss the kind of experience that might suit you.



Next we'll discuss the options, shortlist the best trips for you and present you our impartial recommendations.



We'll place a 24 hour hold on your preferred option - without obligation - whilst we talk through the details.

With over 100 years of South Georgia experience between us, we can help you to exactly the right trip for you.