If your family enjoys looking at animals with fur, feathers, and fins or other fantastic features, check here for photos and facts that could inspire unforgettable family trips.
WHAT: This Chinstrap penguin is guarding a new chick and an unhatched egg on a rock nest. Both the mother and father penguin take turns warming the nest and foraging to feed the babies. Penguins are birds that can’t fly, but they have adapted their flippers to move quickly in the water. Families can also watch the babies put their heads in their mother’s mouths to feed, and experience penguins walking by them to gather rocks for the nest. Male penguins may lift up their heads and let out loud calls, a behavior called “ecstasy.” This “rookery” had thousands of Chinstraps and some Gentoo and Adele penguins.
WHERE: Antarctica! That’s the “White Continent” at the “Bottom of the World” which includes the South Pole. There are no penguins in the North Pole! In fact, penguins north of the equator are rare. The continent is about the size of the United States and Mexico combined but has never been inhabitated by humans. Intrepid adventurers started exploring in the 19th century, and scientists stay at research stations now, but penguins are the ones who make Antarctica home.
WHEN: Winter in the Northern Hemisphere means it’s summer in Antarctica when the ice melt makes it possible to cruise though the icebergs to land. It’s also the time when chicks are hatching! School’s winter break is a great time to go. It’s called the coldest continent, but the Antarctic Peninsula where most cruises visit, might be warmer in January than many places in North America.
HOW: Hurtigruten Cruises offer memorable, great value cruises in Antarctica on the MS FRAM (Norwegian for “forward.”) http://www.hurtigruten.us/Antarctica/
The modern boat has outdoor Jacuzzis, a sauna, English speaking crew, observation decks, and a team of scientists and expedition leaders to answer questions. Smaller flat-bottomed boats are used for twice daily shore expeditions to remarkable places, weather permitting, and to get closer to floating icebergs to see lounging seals and playful penguins.
The penguins are not afraid of humans and may pass right by people on their way to a “penguin Highway” or perfect pebble. People are not allowed to approach them in close range or touch them, but they are known to come inspect humans. There are ample opportunities to test out the saying, “First you smell them, then you hear them, then you see them.” and many scientists and expedition leaders to answer questions on board and to escort you in the two on shore trips a day.
MORE:For fun animated segments and videos of penguins, try: http://www.hurtigruten.us/Antarctica/Antarctica/Penguins/Penguins-in-Popular-Culture/
For more Natural History on Penguins, try: http://www.hurtigruten.us/Antarctica/Antarctica/Penguins/
ANIMAL LIFE ON THE ROAD: Look for upcoming Animal Life on the Road features that may include Dolphins, Dugongs, Giant Tortoises, Zebras, Blue Footed Boobies, Whales, Iguanas, and even the rare Takin.
Photo and column by © Lisa TE Sonne, www.WorldTouristBureau.com