Hi I’m David, a photographer from Vancouver Canada. I’m a photography guide for a polar company called Quark Expeditions. So I work in both Antarctica and the Arctic, taking tourists to these locations and teaching them about photography along the way. I would love to share with you how to visit the great white continent: Antarctica.
I grew up traveling a lot with my parents and that continued as an adult. I always had my Dad’s film camera with me and really enjoyed it. However, it wasn’t until I bought a digital SLR camera of my own that I got serious about photography.
I’ve always been interested in visiting remote places on earth. For Antarctica, I was lucky enough to fall into a job through a friend. I was always interested but never actually knew how to visit Antarctica as a tourist. I remember my first visit very clearly. Seeing penguins swimming behind my small zodiac was an unreal sight to behold.
As a photography guide, I give talks on all things photography. Helping passengers get the best photos possible while down south. From beginners to experts, hopefully I can help in some way.
Also, while we are outside, I’m available for any tips or issues the photographer may have. On top of that, I drive zodiacs around looking for those special moments to photograph! Anyone is welcome to come with us.
In my time at Quark Expeditions, I have been fortunate to capture some amazing moments and have a few favourites from my time down south. They are all very memorable, so much so, I can remember fine details about when each photo was taken. As in who was with me, weather, location, etc.
They were all captured with a strong element of luck! Right place, right time and a little experience from being down there for years now. So with that in mind, let me introduce you to some of the best places in Antarctica for photography and tourism in general.
The Best Experiences and Destinations in Antarctica
My favourite memory in Antarctica would have to be visiting the emperor penguin colony at Snow Hill Island. Since they nest on sea ice, we had to helicopter in over miles of sea ice just to get near the colony.
From there we hiked over the frozen ocean for a mile or so to the colony. Arriving at the colony was just an unreal site to behold, a truly amazing experience. Thousands of chicks and adult penguins, living life, completely alone. Emperors are fantastic creatures as well. Many were curious about the strange visitors to their colony.
Snow Hill Island is definitely one of the places I recommend everyone visit in Antarctica. Home to approximately 7,000 pairs of Emperor penguins. They are amazing creatures and are extremely photogenic as you can tell by my photos.
Paulet Island is another beauty. Home to approximately 100,000 pairs of nesting Adélie penguins. It’s a great place to see large amounts of penguins in the water and on ice. On land they are just everywhere. The noise, smell and visuals are unreal.
The final destination I recommend everyone visit is South Georgia Island. A little north, but this island is visually stunning and home to hundreds of thousands of King penguins as well as other wildlife. A wildlife Mecca is how I would describe it.
Apart from photography experiences, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding are fun things to do in Antarctica. I’m usually busy guiding but have been fortunate to try them both on occasion. Great fun and nice to be so close to the water with such amazing wildlife. We also camp overnight on the ice occasionally. Always a great experience.
Incredible Wildlife and Sustainable Tourism
Antarctica is home to many birds and marine mammals. Quite a few birds spend time in Antarctica in summer, as do marine mammals. Highlights include many species of penguins, Weddell seals and humpback whales.
Overall my favourite subject to photograph is penguins. If I had to choose a favorite for Antarctica it would have to be the Emperor penguin, with the Adélie a favorite for the western side of the Antarctic Peninsula.
I haven’t really noticed any change in climate in my 7 years in Antarctica. That’s not to say there isn’t any change mind you. I just spend a small window of the year down there and haven’t picked up anything of note.
Is tourism sustainable in Antarctica? I think so, but I believe ship numbers need to be limited. Believe it or not, it’s already a little crowded down there in peak months. Fortunately IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) are around to monitor and limit numbers, hopefully keeping things sustainable for future travel.
How to Visit Antarctica: A Couple of Key Tips
For people traveling to Antarctica I would recommend they spend some time researching what time of year they want to travel there. The season runs from November to March. Between those months the wildlife and ice can be quite different.
For example if they want to see penguin chicks they will need to visit from late December to March. Want to see whales? Visit from January to March. Want to see lots of ice, particularly sea ice? Visit early season, from November to December.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my guide on how to visit Antarctica and hopefully I will see you down south on a Quark Expedition some day. It’s one of the best bucket list experiences you can have and something that you will cherish for a lifetime!