Why Your Kids Will Love Antarctica

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A Lot of ‘Wow’ Moments Sailing the Southern Ocean

By Eileen Ogintz from ‘Taking the Kids’

“Wow!” exclaimed ‘Le Boreal’ Captain Etienne Garcia when he’d get on the loudspeaker to alert the passengers that they should grab their cameras and head on deck.

“Wow,” there are humpback whales right next to the ship!

“Wow! A lone Emperor penguin! I haven’t seen one in three years,” he declared.

The 34 kids and teens on board the 200-passenger ‘Le Boreal’ for Abercrombie & Kent’s family holiday trip to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands had many wow moments during the 17-day trip:

Walking on “fast” floating sea ice 3-feet thick on New Year’s Day. The kids were served juice while their parents had champagne. “I’ll always remember this,” declared Olivia Gembarovski, 10, from Melbourne, Australia. “You don’t see people walking on ice in the middle of the ocean every day.”


Sliding down a slushy hill on their backsides, no sleds needed, at the bottom of the world in Neko Harbour on the Antarctic Peninsula, and trudging back up in the sunshine to do it all again.  “The best day of my life and that’s only a little exaggeration,” said Conrad Kistler, 12, from Orange County, California.


Seeing whales pop up all around them as they rode in Zodiacs in Wilhelmina Bay, which is a feeding ground for whales who were so busy eating they ignored the humans. “I didn’t think I’d get to see them so close,” said Kyra Servoss, 12, from Boca Raton, FL.


 A New Year’s Eve when it never got dark. It was as light at midnight as in the late afternoon. “We went swimming at 2 a.m.,” said Sean Jacobson, 15, from San Diego, CA


Seeing so many penguins—and so many different species, “because penguins are my favorite animal,” explained Kevin Taylor, 12, from suburban Chicago.


Putting out a fire with the Falkland Island firefighters at their station in Stanley (population 2,500) and then driving to the ship in a fire truck, sirens blaring. “Riding shotgun in a fire truck… how cool is that?!” said Charlie Brountas, 15, from New York City.


Learning how to drive a Zodiac with the Young Explorers program. “That was my favorite Young Explorer activity,” said Lena Sundin, 12, from San Mateo, CA adding that all the friends she made from around the world was a high point too.  


“It’s impossible to choose the best moment,” said Sergei Svertilova, 17, from Moscow. “Every day we saw something new!” 

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Stories from Antarctica: A Birder’s Paradise

King Penguins

As told by A&K Naturalist Guide and ornithology buff, Brent HoustonBrent Houston

Some of my favorite animals on earth are easily seen in Antarctica, especially if you visit the very beautiful and remote island of South Georgia and the warmer, wildlife-packed Falkland Islands. From the bright-white snow petrel that is unmistakable among the pack ice, to the predatory brown and south polar skuas — those marauders of the penguin colonies — the flying seabirds we encounter as we cross the Drake Passage rival the more popular show-stopping penguins of Antarctica for their beauty, grace and adaptability.

Speaking of penguins, the Adélie is my absolute favorite, because what they lack in colorful plumage, they make up for in comical displays, vocalizations and general goofiness. The funniest thing is to watch them gathering pebbles for their nests, especially when they steal each other’s pebbles at the same time. This goes on throughout the breeding season and is a source of endless entertainment.

Adelie Penguins

Adélies are also fun to watch when entering the water. One or two by themselves do not want to go in for fear of a leopard seal, which can eat up to ten penguins a day. So, they wait until there is a group and then they start calling in a frenzy, pushing each other from behind and — all at once — go tumbling into the sea. I always say it takes ten Adélie penguins to make a decision.

The other spectacular penguin that is a treat to see is the brightly colored and always-busy king penguin. Unlike most penguins, they lay one large egg that they must balance on their feet to incubate for 55 days, and then later protect the chick, which then takes nine months to fledge. The brightly colored auricular patch on their necks, along with their pinkish to purplish beaks provide photographers with incredible opportunities, especially when they are trumpeting and courting. But the most incredible thing to see is the sheer magnitude of the big breeding colonies, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands. It is a magical display of the animal kingdom, something A&K guests to South Georgia get to see.

Wandering Albatross

The star of the wind and waves, dynamically soaring and rising higher and higher by using the near-constant updrafts, and then falling forward seemingly without moving a muscle, is the wandering albatross. The largest flying seabird in the world, it weighs nearly 25 pounds and has a wingspan approaching 12 feet. They can remain aloft — though they do rest on the water when there is no wind, and plunge-dive under water to feed on squid and fish — for perhaps 20 days, travelling thousands and thousands of miles. They don’t breed until they are about eight years old, and this is only after a few years of elaborate and vocal courtship rituals where they choose an appropriate mate for life. Wandering albatrosses take approximately 300 days to fledge their one big chick, and adults can live up to sixty years.

Light Mantled Sooty Albatross

Perhaps the most beautiful of all albatrosses is the light-mantled sooty albatross, an absolutely stunning bird with a charcoal grey head, lighter grey body, a paler “mantle” which is between the shoulders, and a small white, crescent-moon shaped eye patch. Light-mantled sooties are most commonly seen around South Georgia, where they nest on steep tussock-covered hillsides and where, with luck, you can hear their haunting courtship calls echoing off the cliffsides.

Known to most of us at least in theory, the Antarctic tern is an impressive, high-flying, fast, loud, territorial and sometimes very aggressive bird, and the only tern species to breed in the Antarctic Peninsula. They are unmistakable with their coral red beaks and their nearly translucent grey pointy wings. We see them on many landing sights, usually nesting and raising hell in the scree slope rubble where their few eggs and chicks are camouflaged. They are perhaps best known for their spectacularly long migrations, which occur after the breeding season as they head north, sometimes all the way to the Arctic latitudes.

Cape Petrel

Once we cross the Antarctic Convergence, a very fun and sociable species of bird starts following us until we reach the Antarctic Peninsula: the cape petrel. This constantly flapping and gliding powerhouse stays with us day and night, perhaps hoping we might stir up some food as we sail southward. They are excellent at picking up the smell of any food that is dead or decaying on the surface of the ocean, but they will also perform shallow dives for krill and other zooplankton.

This is the bird I would hope to come back to be in another life. They are smart, beautiful, fast, sociable, seem to have a lot of friends and a lot of fun, and they nest in one of the most beautiful places on earth, the islands of the Antarctic Peninsula and the lofty areas of South Georgia.

Learn more about visiting Antarctica with A&K.

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The Pecking Order: Penguins of the Antarctic

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Think all penguins are the same? Actually, there’s a surprising amount of variety among these little black and white birds. Here is a closer look at the penguins of the Antarctic.

Gentoo PeguinGentoo

Gentoos are distinguishable by their bright orange beak and feet, as well as the white “cap” marking on the their heads. While most small penguins eat krill, the gentoo eats fish, and can dive up to 400 feet in search of a meal.

Adelie PenguinAdélie

If there’s such a thing as a “classic” penguin, it’s the Adélie, with its iconic tuxedo-like markings. They’re powerful swimmers and no slouch on land either, waddling up to 30 miles from their nests for food.

Chinstrap PenguinChinstrap

With a thin black line crossing their otherwise plain white faces, chinstrap penguins are aptly named. These medium-sized birds are among the region’s most numerous, with an astonishing eight million breeding pairs spread throughout the islands. Continue Reading ›

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Stories From Antarctica: Why You Should Go to Antarctica Now

Day_9_Port Charcot_Salpetriere Bay-102

Antarctica is unparalleled, otherworldly, and powerfully moving in a way that is almost impossible to describe. But we’re going to try. A&K is excited to introduce a series of first-hand stories — dispatches, moments, eye-openers — by our guests and Expedition Team about their experiences across the Southern Ocean.

As told by A&K climate change expert and marine biologist Dr. James McClintock from his current research site, Palmer Station in Antarctica

I’m in Antarctica now, and it has me thinking that there is no good reason that anyone who hasn’t been should put off a visit. It is the quintessential trip of a lifetime and I can say with great experience and confidence that it will change you — and in a better, enriching way.

For me as a marine biologist, Antarctica is always about the wildlife, which is remarkable and unreal in so many respects. Just last month, I was along the Antarctic Peninsula on a research expedition and we counted 65 humpback whales in just a few hours time. We saw many feeding and several breaching (leaping from the water). I had never seen such a large concentration of whales.

12 Jan Whale-6127These high populations of animals take some getting used to. One of my favorite experiences is going ashore and being welcomed by tens of thousands of Adélie or gentoo or chinstrap penguins, and discovering the penguins have not read the regulations for keeping their distance. I call it the Disney element; because the wildlife have no history of predation by large animals, they have no fear of us. It’s surreal. Whether for me as a scientist or an A&K guest making their first landing, it’s like being a kid in a candy store.

Continue Reading ›

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Antarctica: From a Kid’s Perspective

Antarctica, South Georgia the Falkland Islands

Eileen Ogintz, family travel writer from takingthekids.com, joins us on our Family Antarctica departure this year. She is sharing the kids’ perspectives on what an A&K cruise to Antarctica, South Georgia and the Falklands is all about. Take a look at her day-by-day experience and why this is the perfect destination to inspire all ages.


On a Cruise to Antarctica – 34 Kids and a Whole Lot of Enthusiasm

December 21, 2016 –  By Eileen Ogintz

“Heaps of Albatross,” reports Thomas, 13, from Melbourne, Australia.

“Rockhopper penguins were jumping,” adds Marcos, 12, from Montclair, NJ.

“Two whale spouts,” declares Ryan, 13, San Diego, CA.

And it’s just the first day aboard ‘Le Boreal’ heading on two-week adventure cruise from Southern Argentina to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Islands and Antarctica. Even more amazing than the wildlife, perhaps, is that these Young Explorers, part of the group of 34 kids on board — a record number for this Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) — trip, are already such fast friends.

They hadn’t even met until this morning; by lunchtime, after a get-to-know-you game (TRUTH or LIE: “I’ve petted a cheetah!” “I’ve broken both wrists!” “I’ve been on the Great Wall of China!” “I have four cats!”) and a scavenger hunt around the ship organized by the two experienced Young Explorer leaders on board, Jeff Manker and Kristin Wornson, a gaggle of them had commandeered a table together for lunch and were chattering as if they ate lunch together everyday.

Read more on takingthekids.com.

December 22 – Who knew? A trip to the Fire Station in the Falkland Islands

December 23 – On the Southern Ocean, dissecting a squid is what you do

December 24 – Whales and Christmas Carole on the high Southern Seas

December 25 – Christmas morning on South Georgia Island – Tens of thousands of penguins

December 27 – Day two on South Georgia Island – A visit to the old Whaling Station

December 28 – Last day on South Georgia Island – Learning animal behavior

December 29 – Kids learn about sailing the most difficult waters on Earth aboard ‘Le Boreal’

December 30 – Watch for whales, seabirds and penguins on icebergs in the Antarctic

December 31 – Day one in Antarctica: Kids try a spin in the zodiacs

January 1 – Snow fun in the sun in Antarctica on New Year’s Eve!

January 2 – New Year’s Day to remember: On the ice and with the whales in Antarctica

January 3 – Memories for a lifetime: Kids on an expedition to the Antarctic



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