Prion Island: Key information

  • One of the few places in the world to see nesting wandering albatrosses
  • Viewing platforms allow visitors to observe albatross behaviour
  • Restricted visitor numbers to reduce potential impacts on wildlife
  • Latitude 54°01'S, Longitude 37°20'W 

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About Prion Island

Tourists walk through the tussac grass on Prion Island with the mountains of South Georgia in the background

Walking on Prion Island

Prion Island is a tiny speck in the Bay of Isles on South Georgia's northwest coast. Less than a mile long and covered with tussac grass, it is an important breeding site for wandering albatrosses, and until the successful conclusion of the rat eradication programme on the mainland, was also a key stronghold for the South Georgia pipit. Up until the mid-20th century, elephant sealers would sometimes call here to collect albatross eggs and chicks for the pot. 

Since 1999, a monitoring programme has been in place on Prion Island to record both the numbers of breeding albatrosses but also potential negative visitor impacts. A specially constructed boardwalk guides visitors to viewing platforms, to prevent damage to the tussac. As well the albatrosses and pipits, many burrowing petrels also nest on the island, whose nests could easily be damaged by unwary feet.

Although Prion Island itself is small, when set against the snowy peaks of the northern Allardyce Mountains on the mainland it enjoys a truly spectacular setting.

Wildlife at Prion Island

A wandering albatross sits on its nest amid the tussac grass on Prion Island, South Georgia

Wandering albatross nesting on Prion Island

The wandering albatrosses are the stars of the show here, and the reason why so many people want to visit Prion Island. There are around 170 nesting pairs here - a 25% decline in the last 2 years due the horrific pressure on albatross populations by unregulated longline fishing.

Eggs are typically laid in December, with chicks hatching in March and fledging between January and March. In the new year, it's often possibly to see young birds participating in dance behaviour including 'sky-pointing'.

Wandering albatross aren't the only species on Prion Island. The trilling song of the South Georgia pipit is readily heard, and other nesting seabird species include giant petrels and light-mantled albatross. Gentoo penguins also nest amid the tussac grass.

The beach is a popular haul-out for both elephant seals and fur seals.

Swoop Says background image

Brandon Hagg says

It's a tremendous privilege to see the nesting wandering albatrosses on Prion Island, but remember to take care on the boardwalk – fur seal pups often use it as a highway and can emerge unexpectedly from the tussac grass!

Swoop Expert

Visitor guidelines for Prion Island

All visits to Prion Island must be made in accordance with the Site Visitor Management Plan produced by the Government of South Georgia & the South Sandwich Islands.

Due to the small size and sensitivity of the site, access to Prion Island is more restricted than other landing sites in South Georgia, and the island is completely closed to all visitors between 20 November and 7 January inclusive during the peak fur seal breeding season.

It's important to note that because access is by controlled by permits, not all expedition itineraries visit Prion Island. If this is a top priority for your visit please let our specialists know so they can recommend the best suited trip for you.

Only 50 people are allowed on shore at any time, and all visitors may walk only on the boardwalk and viewing platforms; free roaming is not permitted. While on the boardwalk, visitors must remain quiet to avoid disturbing the albatross.

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.

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