Things to Consider

  • Trips departing in November and March often offer greater freedom to explore as there tend to be fewer vessels navigating the island
  • December and January are the most popular times to visit since this coincides with the Antarctic high season
  • Keen photographers may want to travel at the beginning or end of the season as the colours and light conditions of the slightly shorter days produce particularly dramatic results
  • Some beaches may be less accessible during high summer as the fur seals return to the beaches in vast numbers

South Georgia When To Go timeline

  • Spring

    South Georgia starts to come to life just before the arrival of the first expedition cruise ships at the start of November. The beaches are already dotted with rapidly growing elephant pups, while the massive beachmaster males still fight it out over the few female yet to breed. Throughout the month, male fur seals start to come on shore and claim their beachfront territories.
    King penguins are also starting to return to shore to mate, while gentoo, macaroni and chinstrap penguins are starting to lay their eggs. Seabirds are also beginning to nest, including light-mantled albatrosses on the tussocky cliffs and brown skuas camouflaged on the ground near penguin colonies.
    There's a small window of opportunity to see the wandering albatrosses on Prion Island before the site closes for the fur seal breeding season. Visitors in November still face the chance of snow, compensated on clear days by wonderful early morning and evening light.

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  • Summer

    King penguins have a long breeding cycle that means they raise two chicks every three years – in December the early breeding kings are now incubating eggs while last years's chicks are starting to fledge. Gentoo chicks start to hatch.
    South Georgia's beaches start to really pack out for the peak of the fur seal breeding season. Aggressive males patrol the crowded shores, sometimes turning prospective ladings into zodiac cruises. Elephant seal pups (now called weaners) continue to fatten.
    If you get on shore, it's a good time to see enchantingly fluffy South Georgia pintail ducklings. At sea, the chances of whale sightings get better and better as more arrive in their feeding grounds.

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  • Summer

    Early season king penguin chicks begin to hatch, along with chinstrap penguin chicks. Macaroni penguins breed slightly earlier, so their first chicks start to fledge in January.
    The beaches are now dominated by a multitude of playfully inquisitive fur seal pups, cavorting in the sea and turning the shoreline into 'fur seal soup.' Adult male fur seals have largely returned to sea at this time but the elephant seals are back to take part in their annual moult in muddy beach wallows.
    Prion Island reopens on 7 January. From this point it's possible to see wandering albatross chicks fledging, as well as the possibility of groups of juveniles practising their mating dances. At sea, humpback and fin whales are present in increasing numbers.

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  • Summer

    The early season king penguin chicks join mass creches in February while their parents go to see for food. Late breeding kings, having just fledged their chicks hatched the previous season lay their eggs. Other penguin chicks begin to fledge, along with petrel chicks.
    Elephant seals continue to moult and fur seal pups to continue to grow and become ever more confident and curious around visitors.
    The Scotia Sea between South Georgia and the Antarctic Peninsula abounds in whale spotting opportunities.

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  • Autumn

    As days shorten, only the fur seal pups remain on the shore, waiting to follow the adults to sea. Whale spotting remains excellent. Wandering albatross chicks are starting to hatch ready to fattened up through the winter. and the last of the chinstrap penguin chicks are finally fledging.
    The early season king penguin chicks are now at their plumpest and fluffiest. Newly-hatched late season chicks have little time to build up their reserves as winter approaches and many will not survive to adulthood.
    As snow and ice have receded during the summer months, the island also becomes more accessible and you may get the opportunity to explore further inland than you would during spring or early summer.

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Swoop Says background image

Alex says

Visiting South Georgia early or late in the season avoids the risk of crowded beaches due to adult male fur seals. Arriving in the new year means you'll find plenty of adorable seal pups instead.

Alex Mudd Polar Specialist

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A group of three king penguins on the beach in South Georgia, with mountains in the background

South Georgia Wildlife

Numbers alone simply can’t explain how extraordinarily abundant and breathtaking the wildlife of South Georgia is: this is the Serengeti of the Southern Ocean

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