Leopard Seal

Voyage to another world: underwater photography in Antarctica and ice diving with leopard seals

In Tonga, we meet Tongans. In Canada, Canadians. In Antarctica, lacking Antarcticans, we meet leopard seals.

Wherever we go in the world, Big Animals Expeditions seeks the purest, most natural locations for exploration and wildlife photography. In this regard, nothing compares to our Antarctic expedition. And no ordinary Antarctic tour can compare with ours, either. (With two Zodiacs onboard, and only four guests per Zodiac, you’ll have maximum freedom to explore the best diving and shooting locations, just like the camera crews from the BBC or National Geographic, and unlike any conventional Antarctic tour.)

Cruising in our ice-class yacht, the Hans Hannson to remote areas no large vessel can reach, we’ll navigate among a mapful of historic names: Beagle Channel, Drake Passage, Deception Island. Lamaire Channel, Petermann Island, Gerlache Strait. You’ll witness iceberg fields, breathtaking coastlines, and spectacular glacial landscapes — all in perfect comfort. From the deck and from Zodiac boats, we’ll encounter orcas, minke, humpback, fin, and blue whales — without the obtrusiveness of the typical massive Antarctic tour boat (usually a converted Russian icebreaker.) Leading the expedition is father-son team Jerome and Dion Poncet, world-renowned explorers who have led expeditions for IMAX, BBC, National Geographic, and now, us.

We travel with only 12 guests onboard, compared with the 50 -100 people one would usually travel with. Our uncrowded dive boat allows us to roam among the glories of Antarctica on our own schedule — we’ll spend a day — or two or three — diving and shooting at the best locations, rather than the 3 – 6 hours of a more typical vessel. This relaxed approach to exploring Antarctica is the perfect complement to our exhilarating underwater polar adventures: diving along the face of icebergs in search of the Antarctic icefish (an elusive family of fishes which somehow thrives without red blood cells); observing crabeater seals (which actually eat krill rather than crabs) and Weddell seals (one of the great deep divers among us mammals); and carefully encountering the star of the show: the ‘more leopard than seal’ leopard seal, in all its predatory glory. With nineteen days to explore, we will come to know this hunter very well, and understand its role in the polar eco-system.

We’ll go ashore to chatter along with vast, noisy colonies of Gentoo, Chinstrap, and Adélie penguins. Using polar diving dry suit gear, we’ll photograph the unbelievable richness of marine life with enough flexibility in our schedule to follow orcas on their hunt or wait for whales to go through a full range of behaviors. Below, you’ll be glad to have the benefit of Amos’s 12 years photographing the underwater wildlife of Antarctica. Above, with up to 20 hours of daylight everyday, you won’t worry about running out of light. And with a remarkable composition framed up wherever you point your camera, you’ll only have to worry how in the world you’re going to decide which of your images are the best.