South Georgia is on the bucket list for many a seasoned traveler. To make it here is one thing, but the holy grail of any trip to this remote South Atlantic Island is a predawn venture to Gold Harbor. The stars aligned today and guided by a headlamp in the wee hours of the morning, we followed the trumpeting of 30,000 nesting pairs of king penguins to the shores of Gold Harbor.

As if being greeted by king, gentoo, and even a macaroni penguin was not enough, we strolled a sandy beach lined with massive elephant seals, as well as fur seal pups of various ages. All animals shared an equal enthusiasm for testing our mettle. These ten-ish pound meatloaves have a bigger bark than bite, and we quickly learned the art of negotiating around them as some of us ventured into the interior of the landing site. Through the tussock and up the plateau we went, encountering more young fur seals and molting elephant seals, fields of greater and lesser burnet seedheads, and lush alpine meadows. We enjoyed spectacular views of the Bertrab Glacier and the king penguin colony as we gained elevation.

From Gold Harbor, we continued south to Cooper Bay where Zodiac cruises awaited us. The chance to see a macaroni penguin colony was the object of our desire, but we were greeted with so much more. Hungry leopard seals were also keen to find the macaroni penguins, especially the newly-fledged chicks that were in abundance. With every kill there came a mob of giant petrels and Wilson’s storm petrels to clean up the spoils. Life and death were not in short supply on this action-packed Zodiac cruise.

Our final repositioning of the day took us to the extreme southern end of South Georgia to a place called Drygalski Fjord, named in honor of Erich von Drygalski of German polar expedition fame. At the end of the fjord sits the Risting Glacier, an ever-receding tidewater glacier responsible for carving out the landscape we enjoyed this afternoon. We spent the rest of the evening drifting near the glacier’s face, enjoying unparalleled views during cocktail hour and dinner.;

South Georgia never fails to impress. Today was no exception.