Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield is leading our Travel Club Tour to Antarctica in November — and here's how you can join him...
I’m sitting in snow, surrounded by penguins.
And I’m abiding by the rules, which say I’m not to approach them closer than 5m.
But this cute little gentoo penguin clearly hasn’t read that rule book.
It stops at the invisible line.
Rather purposefully, it looks left and right, and then, even more oddly and purposefully, steps over it.
It marches cockily up, straight towards me and stops right in front of me. It has a white feather cap, and flamboyant orange beak and feet.
Feet planted in the soft whiteness, it leans forward and peers at me.
I lean forward and peer back.
It’s comic book.
It’s almost Happy Feet.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he and his mates broke into a little dance — and I feel like doing the same.
Gentoos nest on the rocky Antarctic Peninsula, where their numbers are increasing — though there is a decline in populations on some islands.
Skuas prey messily on eggs and chicks, dropping in from the sky to wreak havoc. Leopard seals and killer whales feed on adults when they take to the water.
Not that they’re an easy target. While they are cack-footed on land, their bullet-like bodies and strong flippers give them over 35km/h underwater, which National Geographic specialists record as faster than any other diving bird. They hunt fish, squid, and krill.
Fossil records show that penguins evolved from flying birds (petrels) about 50 million years ago.
Monogamous and bowing in courtship, gentoos usually lay two eggs in October and November, and the parents then take turns to incubate the eggs for just over a month, tucking a warm ruff of feathers over them.
Which is why we have timed our Travel Club Tour to Antarctica, in partnership with our friends at Collette and on the superb National Geographic Explorer for next November.
I’m looking forward to seeing this little chap, and his mates, again.
He stops peering at me, leans back to stand upright, and falls over.
One could take his reaction as embarrassment or just being plain flustered, as he shakes, fluffing himself up and shedding snow at the same time.
And then he turns, very deliberately it seems, and marches off again, back towards the 5m line.
And, as he crosses it, he slips and falls face-first in the snow.
ABOUT OUR ADVENTURE
Journey to Antarctica: The White Continent is in partnership with Collette and on board the National Geographic Explorer.
Stephen Scourfield will be with the group throughout.
Before leaving, he will invite travellers to two sessions — one general event to prepare for the journey, including clothing and camera advice, and then a specific photography workshop for those who want to prepare their skills.
The whole journey includes Buenos Aires, Ushuaia, Drake Passage, authentic expedition ship, Zodiac forays, penguin colony close-ups, summit hike, kayak excursions, photography guidance and on board information sessions.
After flying to Buenos Aires (day 1), we will stay in the Alvear Art Hotel (days 2-3), before continuing to Ushuaia to join the National Geographic Explorer (days 4 to 13) and returning to Buenos Aires (day 14).
National Geographic Explorer is a fully stabilised, very comfortable expedition ship with world-class experts, and fresh and varied cuisine. With a maximum of 148 passengers, it is the ultimate great base for our expedition.
Stephen Scourfield says: “For most, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience — and I think this is an incredible way to do it. Do it once, do it best.”
The trip includes flights, 15 days, 36 meals, one of the world’s best expedition cruise ships and expert team, and is $24,395 per person, twin share.
See the full itinerary at westtravelclub.com.au/tours
COME TO OUR FREE ANTARCTICA EVENT
Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield is leading our Travel Club Tour to Antarctica in November — and he wants to share what’s in store in South America, in crossing the Drake Passage and on the Antarctic Peninsula. So we are holding an Antarctica Information Event on February 5.
When: Tuesday, February 5, 6.30-8pm.
Where: Newspaper House, Seven West Media, 50 Hasler Road, Osborne Park.
How: It is free but you’ll need to reserve a spot, and places are limited. Email firstname.lastname@example.org (with Antarctica Event in the subject line, please) or call 1800 429 000 to reserve seats.
Who: Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield and a Collette senior executive will have full details of the trip, and be able to answer any questions.
The full itinerary on westtravelclub.com.au/tours.
See where you could be going with Stephen Scourfield, from one of his previous journeys to Antarctica: westtravelclub.com.au/stories/ the-travel-club-show
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