What Antarctic Wildlife You Can Plan To See in the Sky, Sea, and On Land

While wildlife viewing from Antarctica can be unpredictable, when these creatures do appear, it provides for the opportunity to encounter a variety of wildlife species only otherwise found in zoos and pictures online.  That’s why so many potential Antarctic travelers are curious what types of wildlife they can expect to see while on their Antarctic cruise.  The opportunities abound, whether from the sky, the sea, the land, or the ice. 

From the Sky:

There are nineteen species of seabirds that breed along the Antarctic continent.  Because there are few snow-free areas for nesting in this region, most seabirds breed in large quantities, making it a bird watcher’s paradise.  Pair that will the stark landscape and pristine backdrop, and these aerial creatures make for an eye-popping display. Expect to see these bird species:

  • Albatrosses
  • Snow Petrels
  • Cormorants
  • Antarctic Fulmars
  • Gulls
  • Sheathbills
  • Skuas

From the Sea:


While whales do not breed in the Antarctic region, they are known to migrate to the area during the summer to take advantage of the nutrient-filled waters.  Declining numbers of whales reached near-extinction in the mid-1900’s, however with new regulations, the populations have recovered, and today the Antarctica and its surrounding areas are recognized as a whale sanctuary. Expect to see:

  • Humpback Whales
  • Minke Whales
  • Orca Whales

And if you are quite lucky, you may encounter one of these rarely seen whales:

  • Blue Whales
  • Fin Whales
  • Southern Right Whales
  • Sperm Whales

On Land / Snow: 

There are 17 species of penguins found in the Antarctic, from the Rockhopper to the King Penguin, however, only these four penguin species actually breed on the continent:

  • Adelie Penguin
  • Emperor Penguin
  • Chinstrap Penguin
  • Gentoo Penguin


On the Ice:

Also nearing extinction due to hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries, seals have now recovered in population and a variety of species can be found on the Antarctic continent.  New protections against hunting, combined with a lack of predators and a vast food supply provide ideal breeding grounds for these species of seals:

  • Crabeater Seal
  • Fur Seal
  • Leopard Seal
  • Ross Seal
  • Southern Elephant Seal
  • Weddell Seal

With a little patience, travelers often get the opportunity to encounter and photograph some of these amazing Antarctic species in their natural habitat.