My Wildest Travel Dream Comes True – Setting Foot on Antarctica

Penguins on Aitcho Island, Antarctica

After 5 long days of sailing through the dreaded Drake Passage, one of my wildest travel dreams became a reality – I set foot on Antarctica. We anchored near Barrientos Island, one of the Aitcho Islands. Everywhere around the ship, I saw penguins jumping out of the water. I couldn’t contain my elation. I was like a child brimming with excitement. When the dinghies took us ashore and I came face to face with Gentoo and Chinstrap penguins, I took hundreds of photos and videos. I wanted to capture every second of the experience.

Altcho Landing Penguins on the Beach

The beach was full of penguins and their babies and they were all moving about as if we were part of their environment. Like little robots, they followed paths or roadways and stopped if we were in their way as if to say, “Error. Error. Halt mission. If we stand really still, they can’t see us.” They would wait until their path was clear and continue on about their business of collecting stones or making their way to the ocean.

Penguins Carrying Stones in Antarctica

They were curious too. A small group checked out our bags while we weren’t looking and one little guy walked up behind me and nipped at my backpack when I had my back turned to him. Two younger penguins leaned over the edge of rocks to get a better view down below. Their playful nature was highly enticing.

Penguins Checking out our Bags in Antarctica

Curious Penguins

I’ve taken a lot of selfies during my travels but this was the first with a penguin next to me. It’s a moment that will be ingrained in my memory for life. I wasn’t at a zoo or somewhere where the penguins were out of their natural environment. This was their home and I was a guest. From their reaction, I was a welcomed guest too. I didn’t want to move. I wanted the moment to last. I welled up with tears and smiled for the camera. It was more than I dreamed possible.

Altcho Landing Penguin Selfie

Selfie with a Penguin in Antarctica

The crew on the ship kept telling us that each day gets better than the one before but I found it so difficult to believe. How could it get better than the first penguin landing? What beauty awaited us? We set sail again at 4 am and I quickly learned that there was much more to come.

Without Bark Europa, Whitecaps Marine, and Pilotur, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity wouldn’t have been possible.

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78 thoughts on “My Wildest Travel Dream Comes True – Setting Foot on Antarctica

  1. You are living my dream!!!! I and my husband are on a quest to 100 countries and 7 continents. Our last being Antarctica! Also, I adore penguins and always tellmy husband – he’s my penguin, penguins mate for life! :). What travel company/ship did you use? What did you pack? Learn? Did you leave out of Argentina? Thanks for your help and guidance! Your fellow wanderlust, Michelle

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    • I went with Bark Europa. It’s a tall ship and you have the chance to help out during the sail. Here’s their site – https://www.barkeuropa.com/.

      There are other ways to go but as the last continent, I felt like it should be a great adventure. Bark Europa made the experience the most memorable travel adventure of my life. 🙂 We did leave from Argentina and we spent 5 days sailing through the Drake Passage. It was unbelievable. Please let me know any questions you have. I could talk about it for hours 😉

      How many countries have you visited so far? Which ones were your favorite? Which is the one you look forward to the most?

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  2. How wonderful and I would be like a kid too with the penguins. What great shots and loved how it looks like they posed for the pictures you took. I am so happy that you got to experience this!!!

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  3. “I wasn’t at a zoo or somewhere where the penguins were out of their natural environment. This was their home and I was a guest.” Beautifully said, Lesley. It is how I always feel when I am wandering out in the woods. –Curt

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  4. Hi Lesley,
    I’m really enjoying looking at your photographs and reading what you are writing about your experiences. You are certainly bringing the experience to life for me which is great. I believe I can ‘hear’ a difference in you.

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  5. WOW! What incredible photos! It’s so great that you’ve been able to take this trip, and especially on the Barque Europa. I’m still wondering how in the heck it would be possible for someone to do something like that. Once in a lifetime trip? The time, money, involved must be enormous.

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      • WOW! I just checked their website. Thanks for the info (and the inspiration). I want to go SO bad! I don’t know when I’ll have the time to take this kind of trip again as long as I have to keep this job. I’ll definitely put it on my list of things to do. 🙂

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    • No internet was a challenge because I couldn’t Skype with my daughter, Athena, but I really enjoyed the connections made with others because of the intense social interaction without distractions. I’m grateful that internet wasn’t available.

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  6. What a dream come true. I feel like I am there with you! I had no idea penguins are so curious. Love the photo of you with the penguin looking at the person taking the photo. Tell me you didnt slip one of those babies in your bag and take it home!

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  7. The first photo is the cutest picture ever…okay I would put up with the cold just to see those adorable penguins in their habitat instead of their captured existence at the zoo.

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  8. I am a bit jealous. I was on a large boat cruise when I visited the peninsula of Antarctica and we didn’t get to go ashore. I got up close to penguins in the Falklands though. They are so cool.

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  9. Awesome story and pictures! This is on our list as well. We saw penquins in Argentina 2 years ago. It was warm and sunny and they were nesting in the ground. Even saw some little ones! Keep the reports coming! Thanks!

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