Whenever you travel to a new part of the world, the possibility of being able to witness some exotic wildlife in its natural habitat is always an exciting one. Wildlife watching tours are a big draw and holidaymakers generally travel from all over the planet to catch a glimpse of certain amazing creatures.
Africa is one place which has a thriving industry of this kind and the must-see animals in the wilds of the Maasai Mara and the other national parks are known as the ‘big five’. This list usually consists of an elephant, lion, Cape buffalo, black rhinoceros and African leopard, but you will struggle to see any of them roaming around the icy terrains of the Polar Regions.
That’s why we have drawn up a new list that we are calling the ‘freezing five’ that can be found in the Arctic or Antarctic; creating many exciting reasons to embark on an expedition cruise.
Polar bears really are the kings of the Arctic with nothing above them in the food chain. These majestic creatures are many people’s main reason for going on an adventure of a lifetime and anybody who does manage to see one in the wild will remember the experience for many years to come.
Perfectly adapted to the cold landscapes that they inhabit, polar bears can be found in many different places in the Arctic. You may well spot one whilst in the Canadian Arctic or in certain parts of Greenland, but your biggest chance of meeting this natural born predator is whilst in Spitsbergen.
The expedition leaders that guide you during your search will be on hand to ensure all safety measures are in place and that you have the best chance of fulfilling your goal.
There are many different species of penguin that can be found in and around the Antarctic region, but perhaps the most striking of all of them is the Emperor. As the name suggests, these birds stand proud against the snowy landscapes, enduring everything that the weather throws at them and wearing their black and white dinner suits which are completed with a yellow cravat.
This species of the lovable penguin may not be the most prolific or vastly distributed of all the different kinds but is usually high on any traveller’s list of creatures that they hope to encounter. Opt for a trip to the Ross or Weddell Sea for your best chance of tracking down these smartly dressed fellows.
Blue whales literally cover every corner of the world’s oceans and so they can be very difficult to pin down. However, the lure of confronting the largest animal to have ever lived is an obvious one and an event that, should it occur, will leave you with a smile that lasts for months.
Numbers of these beautiful creatures were heavily impacted at the start of the 1900s when improved harpoons made hunting them a lot easier for whalers. And even though this practice was banned in 1966, their official conservation status is still classified as ‘endangered’.
Because they are known to travel huge distances during their migratory movements, a blue whale sighting could occur in a number of the different oceans that you will sail across on your expedition cruise although they are particularly rare. Perhaps the biggest opportunity to spot a surfacing blowhole or the flash of a gigantic tale is around Greenland or in the waters surrounding the Antarctic Peninsula.
Flying the flag for the airborne animals is the beautiful snow petrel. Petrels are a type of bird that can be found in large numbers in the southern polar reaches, but this elegant flyer is definitely one of the most elusive species.
Snow petrels have the most southerly breeding distribution of any seabird and have even been seen as far out into the wilderness as the South Pole. Whilst it may not be a creature that you are too familiar with at the moment, a sighting of a large group in the wild will be an exciting experience. You should be able to catch them nesting on the South Orkney Islands or feeding in the seas and oceans around the Antarctic Peninsula.
Rounding off this list is an animal whose name includes a false friend. These black and white stars of film and theme park shows aren’t in fact whales at all but are actually a species of dolphin. They are often seen playing alongside boats as they dive in and out of the water in their famous porpoise fashion.
Actual numbers of killer whales left in the wild are difficult to estimate due to the fact that some types are thought to belong to different species of oceanic dolphin, but certain known populations have been classified as endangered in recent years.
These orcas can be found in many of the oceans and seas of the world, and so there’s a chance you could witness a sighting in either polar region. Perhaps your biggest chance of hearing the call come over the ship’s Tannoy though is whilst sailing the Weddell and Ross Sea around the Antarctic Peninsula or whilst in the waters surrounding Iceland.
If you would like to take a trip that involves a search for any of the polar ‘big five’, we have plenty of wildlife watching excursions that will enable you to do this. Speak to our dedicated team about the best expeditions to choose from by calling us or completing an online enquiry form.