Maureen Mullen lives, works, and plays in California’s Bay Area. After earning a Master’s degree in Conservation Biology and working in research and education for several years, she finally found her dream job: Wildlife Safari Coordinator at Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris, a small, family-run travel company that emphasizes respect for and conservation of the world’s greatest wildlife destinations.
Maureen’s first big adventure on a Cheesemans’ safari was heading down to South Georgia Island in the Antarctic region on a 100-passenger ship. She spent eight magical days exploring the 100-mile long, uninhabited island, gawking at the scenery and the fantastic wildlife. There were penguins everywhere! And such a cacophony produced at each landing site between trumpeting penguins and belching elephant seals. After disembarking the ship and returning to civilization, she spent several days exploring Ushuaia and Buenos Aires, Argentina, before heading home. Read about her adventure here, and follow her @Maureen.
What was your most memorable experience during your trip to South Georgia Island?
The last morning of the trip that we spent on the island at Salisbury Plain was my most memorable experience, not because it was any more spectacular in scenery or wildlife, but because I made a lot of good memories there. When I first arrived on the beach, I joined our bird experts and other trip participants in search of South Georgia’s endangered pipit, tromping through muddy bogs and tussock grass. We had amazing views of the thousands of king penguin adults and juveniles, some feeding, some running around, all making lots of noise. Some others and I stood on the beach and watched elephant seals while they made all those lovely elephant seal noises of hiccups and belches. I roamed away from the other participants and experienced a bit of solitude while being surrounded by rivers of king penguins, and again when I sat near a pipit nest while parents were foraging for food for the chicks. By the end of the morning, the sun was out and warming my face and it felt like the most perfect place to be.
Was there anything surprising or unexpected that you encountered on your expedition?
The daily feeling of awe and wonderment took my breath away! Every day we went somewhere new on the island, and every place was beautiful in its own way and presented different wildlife experiences. I had expected to experience amazing things on this adventure, but not to have that feeling of amazement ALL THE TIME!
Do you have a favorite place that you’ve visited, and why?
Gold Harbour was my favorite place to visit because this was the landing site where I had my most memorable encounter with the juvenile king penguins, affectionately called “oakum boys”. These little guys and gals are almost as big as adult penguins, but instead of wearing their king penguin tuxedos, they are wearing big, super fluffy, brown fur coats (which are actually feathers). These particular Gold Harbour oakum boys were so rambunctious! They were noisy, flapping their wings and running around and bumping into each other, making me laugh out loud. And they were so curious, walking right up to people and cocking their heads, and I just had to wonder what was going on in their penguin brains.
What’s your favorite travel tip?
Practical tip: Bring layers! Weather can be unpredictable and change within minutes.
Personal tip: Stay positive and go with the flow when traveling because you never know when some memorable experience will present itself. I had cancelled flights, late nights, and very little sleep on my route home. But during an unplanned layover, I also was unexpectedly able to see a city I’d never been to before and, albeit from a taxi and hotel, I’m glad I was able to add that experience to my life.