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South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands: Esenhul

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Esenhul | South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands | Antarctica

[Visited: November 2011]

We had been waiting in great anticipation for our arrival in South Georgia; its fame of being one of the most beautiful spots of the world had set high expectations amongst us all. I was very excited, had tried to downplay my own expectations, and made sure to be out on deck for sunrise. While darkness lifted, all I saw was a grey sky with seemingly impenetrable clouds. Moreover, as we had crossed the Antarctic Convergence the day before, the temperatures had dropped considerably: it was really cold now. I walked around deck to stay warm, and wondered whether I should stay awake. Then, right ahead of us where South Georgia was supposed to be, a ray of sunlight pierced through the layer of clouds. As I continued watching, a marvellous curtain of sun rays developed; behind it, I could now see the contours of the snowy mountains of South Georgia. Even though I was freezing, I watched the scene unfold as we approached Esenhul. This would also be our first opportunity to go kayaking; an activity into which I was luckily drawn on the first day. After dressing up in our dry suits and skirt, we boarded the dedicated kayak-zodiac, which took us to a cove which gave us our first encounter with macaroni penguins with their messy hairdo, and seals.

Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Getting rid of water: an elephant seal shaking its head at Esenhul

Seals everywhere. Lying on the beach like lumps of blubber, they turn into very agile, fast swimmers as soon as they work their way into the water. They were shooting under our kayaks, made surprise appearances right next to our kayaks, coming up for air and another dive. Coming close to the beach made some of them anxious, and we made sure not to upset them too much. Then again, our curiosity for this wonderful place drew us as close as we felt safe to see the multitude of wildlife. We spotted our first king penguins here, gentoo penguins walking the beach, apparently ignored by the seals, a colony of macaronis a little higher in a grassy area on the rocky surface, while petrels landed on the water right next to us. We could see why Esenhul would be called the supermarket of wildlife. Following the coastline, we saw more pebble stone beaches with yet more seals, some of them having a rest, others fighting over the limited space at the foot of the steep rocks of South Georgia.

Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Petrel head in the bay of Esenhul

At one moment, when my kayaking mate and I were trying to keep a steady position just off a beach, a petrel landed near us, got up to the kayak, and started nibbling at our peddles, even though we could easily reach out to the big bird. It showed no fear whatsoever - which, we would soon find out, would be the same for other animals here, too. If anything, it reminded me of the Galápagos islands; it is certainly a strange sensation to approach an animal and find that it just does not move away. At the same time, it makes for a fantastic wildlife experience: we could see a drop of water dangling from the end of the beak of the petrel, we could count its feathers, we could have stroked it if we wanted to. At the same time, we wanted our paddles back, so we reached out for them, said goodbye to the bird and continued our amazing kayak experience on the relatively quiet waters of Esenhul. Our first experience of the wildlife of South Georgia had been nothing short of breathtaking.

Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Group of macaroni penguins on the rocks of Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Rocky coastline at Esenhul in northern South Georgia
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Seals sharing a beach at Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Rugged rocky coastline at Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Rock formation on the coast at Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Macaroni penguin colony at Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Gentoo penguins and seals on a beach at Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Seals on beach and in water of Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Watchful seal at Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Seal with long whiskers in the water of Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Seal swimming in the waters of Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Seal doing a backstroke in the waters of Esenhul
Picture of Esenhul (South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands): Seals on beach of Esenhul

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