South Georgia Island

A beautiful day with a view towards the back of the Stromness Wailing Station on South Georgia Island in the Southern Ocean

South Georgia Island is the largest island in the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands group.

A mecca for wildlife photographers, ecologists and documentary makers like Sir David Attenborough a visit to South Georgia Island will likely be one of your greatest travel experiences.

South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands

South Georgia Island is, by far, the largest island in the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands group, a British Overseas Territory in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

At 165 kilometers (i.e., 103 miles) long and 35 kilometers (i.e., 22 miles) wide South Georgia Island is a formidable landscape displaying a harsh and dramatic beauty.

There are a number of smaller islands just off the coast of South Georgia Island including the following:

  • Bird Island

  • Saddle Island

  • Cooper Island

  • Annenkov Island

  • Grass Island

  • Jomfruene

  • Pickersgill Island

  • Trinity Island

  • Welcome Island

  • Willis Island

Some of these islands are also visited by tour groups.

The even colder and more remote South Sandwich Islands are around 1,000 kilometers further south.

The Population of South Georgia Island

The population on South Georgia is non permanent, varying from around sixteen people during the winter months up to thirty or more during the summer months.

However, with wildlife a major drawcard, several thousand tourists now visit South Georgia Island every year.

My own visit, co-leading a photography tour to South Georgia Island and Antarctica, was a truly fantastic experience.

Hungry King Penguin chicks awaiting the return of their parents near Sailsbury Plain on South Georgia Island.

Photography Opportunities on South Georgia Island

I've only visited South Georgia Island once, but very much hope to return. The landscapes are dramatic and the quantity and diversity of wildlife is mind blowing.

In addition to the dramatic landscape you’ll be somewhat overcome by significant populations of southern fur seals, elephant seals and King penguins on the island.

Penguins on South Georgia Island

In addition to large colonies of King penguins there are said to be three million breeding pairs of macaroni penguins, that being the largest population in the world.

If you love wildlife South Georgia Island offers a wide range of photography opportunities. Other wildlife, accessible to group tours on south georgian islands includes the following:

  • Albatross

  • Petrels

  • Prions, Shags and Skuas

  • Gulls and Terns

Whaling On South Georgia Island

Whaling and the harvesting of large numbers of seals took place for over one hundred years on South Georgia Island.

The historically important sites at Stromness and Grytviken Whaling stations provide a valuable insight into early human settlement on South Georgia Island.

These sites also act as powerful reminders that warn of how badly human kind have managed natural resources on the otherwise pristine South Georgia Island.

Visiting these now abandoned Whaling stations will be educational, emotional and will add variety to your photography adventures on the island.

Young Weddell Seal, South Georgia Island

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How To Get To South Georgia Island

All you have to do is find your way to this isolated, barren and largely inhospitable group of islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.

That's almost certainly going to be as part of a tour group. The trick then is to join the right one. For example, the one that I co-ran.

Hopefully I’II get to run another photography tour that includes the magnificent South Georgia Island in the not too distant future.

South Georgia Heritage Trust

It’s said that rats, introduced accidentally onto the island, are responsible for the loss of tens of millions of ground-nesting bird eggs and chicks over the years.

The good news is that a rodent eradication program, the largest of its kind in the world, has now resolved this terrible problem.

A great thanks to all the folks associated with the South Georgia Heritage Trust for their work in this area.

A spectacular view of a low lying cloud hovering over mountain peaks on South Georgia Island

Hiking on South Georgia Island

Here’s a photo made on a relatively short walk between the atmospheric Salisbury Plain and the Grace Glacier on South Georgia Island.

I love how the low lying cloud seems to hover over the mountain tops.

An abstract image formed, momentarily, on the surface of water off the coast of Prion Island in South Georgia.

Zodiac Landings on South Georgia Island

Our numerous shore excursions were made from zodiacs. This particular landing required me passing through the gauntlet as I made my way through a bunch of feisty seals.

I can remember facing down the harassment to make the short jaunt back to shoreline easier for my customers. But, being the last one to head off back to the zodiacs, I had no such support.

And those pesky seals made the most of it.

Once offshore I was able to make a few last photos of elephant seals and, just meters away, this abstract image made on the fly from the zodiac.

I love the momentary patterns formed on the water by the motion of the zodiac. Immediately after I made the photo those patterns were gone.

The transience associated with experiencing such a moment is powerful.

Likewise, to be able to preserve that experience, a moment in time, through photography is at the heart of my own creative journey.

If you’re thinking about a trip to Antarctica I most certainly recommend you consider an itinerary that includes South Georgia Island.

Despite a history based around whaling and seal hunting South Georgia Island is now a haven for wildlife.

What’s more, other than the possibility of meeting up with one or two of a few dozen workers and scientists, the only people you’re likely to see will be folks from your own tour group.

Exploring the spectacular South Georgia Island, as part of a tour group full of like-minded photographers, is a great way to spend your day.

I can’t wait till I return. Perhaps we’ll travel there together.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru