The study of foraging success in marine predators is complicated by a lack of direct observations and relies mostly on proxy measures of foraging success. This study assessed spatial and temporal patterns of changes in body condition of southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) from Marion Island, based on changes in drift rates (which are related to gains and losses of blubber). Seals showed substantial individual variation in condition changes throughout migrations, which was not explained by age-, sex- or reproductive stages. Substantial variation was also evident in the spatial patterns of condition changes, although an area south of the Antarctic Polar Front (APF) between 10°E and 35°E was evidently associated with moderate, yet consistent gains in condition. Seals that foraged more distantly from Marion Island displayed more extreme gains and losses in condition, suggesting a possible risk/reward trade-off associated with foraging further afield versus closer to the island. Increased condition was consistently negatively related to sea surface temperature, suggesting that seals were generally improving their condition faster in cooler water masses. These results support previous studies predicting that continued warming of the Southern Ocean will result in changes to the habitat use patterns exhibited by southern elephant seals at sea.