Twenty of the world’s top adventurers share the dazzling new frontiers they’ve discovered, as well as their all-time classic trips to add to your list. Plus: Don’t miss the must-have gear they take on every trip. —Kate Siber

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Picture of a group of king penguins on South Georgia Island

A group of king penguins on a beach on South Georgia

Photograph by Paul Nicklen, National Geographic

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.

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Athlete Bio

Picture of photographer Paul Nicklen
Paul Nicklen

Photographer and Polar Conservationist

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.

Paul Nicklen's Gear Pick

  • Picture of MDR-1RNC Black headphones by Sony.

    Sony Digital Noise Canceling Headset

    For Nicklen, the racket of thousands of penguins is nothing in comparison to the cacophony of people and children in an airplane. “It’s human noise that drives me crazy, so the one thing I make sure I have everywhere I go is music and noise-canceling headsets, so I can tune out the rest of the world.” His favorite pair is Sony’s Digital Noise Canceling Headset, and his favorite tune-out music? “Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen are my favorites.”