Recommended by: Paul Nicklen, Photographer and Polar Conservationist
South Georgia, an island in the southern Atlantic Ocean, more than a thousand miles east of the tip of South America, hasn’t changed much since Ernest Shackleton sailed ashore in 1916 to arrange one of the most incredible rescues of exploration history. The island’s steep, glacier-studded mountains are rugged and forbidding, but its shores harbor a spectacular array of creatures that attract some of the world’s great polar adventurers, like photographer and conservationist Nicklen.
"It’s my favorite place on the planet, there’s no doubt," he says. "Looking at the Valley of Kings on South Georgia, seeing 4,000 penguins, having intimate encounters with every species there, from elephant seals to fur seals to albatross—I like full immersion in that habitat."
It’s not easy to get to, it's virtually uninhabited, and it's plagued by the ungodly weather of the cold southern Atlantic. But those who venture there see sights few others ever will: unbroken colonies of thousands of seals, sharp black mountains rising from the sea, and sweeping bays that have seen only a handful of visitors—if any—since the time of Shackleton.
For a good shot, Canadian photographer, diver, and polar adventurer Paul Nicklen has braved minus 40ºF temperatures, dived under Antarctic ice to mingle with deadly leopard seals, and endured soggy months in northern rain forests looking for the elusive white bears of British Columbia. His work specializes in the effects of climate change on polar regions and has garnered over a dozen awards from major press organizations.