National Geographic Explorer left behind the beauty of the Weddell Sea and traveled through the night to the south of the Antarctic Peninsula to arrive at Neko Harbour this morning. Neko is a world unlike any other, a hidden and pristine paradise that is home to an energetic colony of gentoo penguins. Gentoo penguins are a curious group of birds that are always on the move. After a quick Zodiac shuttle, we landed ashore. Guests watched their steps while exploring, and we crossed the extensive "penguin highway" with care. The "penguin highway" is a series of trails created by the penguins that crisscross up the side of the foothill to the colony in the rocks. After navigating our way around the penguin highway, we arrived at the colony and were immediately greeted with loud honking and wing flapping. Our naturalist quickly noticed an absence of chicks due to a combination of factors. The gentoo penguins laid their eggs late, and there were extreme amounts of rain and snow at Neko Harbour. We did notice one lone penguin protecting its egg in hopes of hatching a chick in the future.
After spending time on land, our adventure shifted to the sea. We joined a naturalist for a Zodiac cruise around Neko Harbour to enjoy the beautiful sound of silence. This lasted for a few minutes when the silence was suddenly interrupted by the song of a humpback whale. It has been suggested that humpback songs communicate male fitness to female whales. If we could see these sounds, they would look like tall, pointed mountains. The humpback was searching for krill, and we had the privilege of observing it from a close distance!
Ice, ice, baby! There is no denying the beauty of the iceberg formations in Antarctica. Our Zodiac ride enabled us to visit icebergs of all shapes, sizes, and colors as we cruised through the brash ice. The icebergs were mysterious and sometimes exotic. It almost felt as if we had VIP access to a swanky resort with pools offering the deepest and most majestic colors of blue to exist in nature. Absolutely breathtaking!
Tonight, we will make our way back to the Drake Passage and start our journey to Ushuaia. Thank you, Antarctica, for embracing us and offering glimpses of your beauty. Onward!