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
Explore Prion Island with Swoop
About Prion Island
Prion Island is a tiny speck in the Bay of Isles on South Georgia's northwest coast. Just 1km long and covered with tussock, 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 her 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 tussock. 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
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 tussock.
The beach is a popular haul-out for both elephant seals and fur seals.
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 and 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.
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. Take care for fur seals emerging from the surrounding tussock as they often like to use the boardwalk as a highway: remember that wildlife always takes priority over people.
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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