Walking Amongst Penguins in the Wild

David Lee April 18, 2012 8
Walking Amongst Penguins in the Wild

Following our visit to Torres del Paine National Park, the End of the Earth itinerary was suppose to have us visiting the Otway Sound penguin colony outside Punto Arenas, Chile however heavy rains and historic flooding washed those plans away.

While the rain was unfortunate, G Adventures arranged to have us visit a different colony of penguins once we arrived in Ushuaia. And at no extra cost.

Christian, our Chief Experience Officer, also added that unlike the Otway Sound colony, we’d have the chance to get up close and personal with the penguins near Ushuaia.

Penguins on the beach

A few days later, we arrived at the Southernmost city in the world, and began our penguin adventure from a nearby estancia (the name for an Argentine ranch).

In order to squeeze in the unexpected, half-day penguin trip, we’d given up a free afternoon. None of us minded, as we were all excited about the chance to see penguins in the wild.

Penguins are only found in the Southern hemisphere, and are split between warm-weather and cold-weather species. I’d seen two other warm-weather species before the trip to Patagonia.

Molting magellanic penguins

My first encounter was with the African Penguin at the Boulders Beach Colony near Cape Town. I’d always associated penguins with the cold weather of Antarctica, so it was surreal to see them hanging out on a warm, sandy beach.

My second encounter was with the Galapagos Penguins, which lives further North than any other species. Indiginous to the Galapagos Islands, from which they got their name, they practically live on the Equator. They were tiny, and I’d only see a dozen or so over the course of two days.

We had a smooth, twenty-minute boat ride from the estancia to the island where the penguins go to mate every year. Stepping off the boat, we were immediately amidst hundreds of black and white Magellanic Penguins. These were the smallest species on the island, and the most numerous.

Almost immediately, we all noticed a larger penguin with a yellow mark on the side of its head. Our guide explained that this was a juvenile King Penguin. As they’re growing up, they do their own thing, and this one happened to be visiting an island colonized by two other species.

The King Penguin is the second largest species in the world; only the Emperor Penguin is larger. It was easy to see the size difference between the juvenile King and the adult Magellanic penguins.

A third species, the Gentoo Penguin, was also present on the beach. There were more Gentoo than King, but far fewer than Magellanic. Gentoo Penguins are the world’s third largest species. They were easy to tell apart from the others, as they have reddish-orange beaks, and yellow feet. The other two species have black feet.

Gentoo penguin

The Magellanic Penguins were molting, so there were feathers everywhere. It was beyond cute to see some of them coupled up with their mates for the year. Our guide explained that some of them would already be working on building their nests now, even though the actual mating wouldn’t occur until months later.

By the end of the afternoon, I’d seen three new species of penguins in the wild, bringing my lifetime total to five. Only 12 more to go, and I’ll have covered all 17 of the world’s species!

Have you had the chance to see penguins in the wild? Leave a comment and let us know where.

8 Comments »

  1. Sharon April 18, 2012 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Cool article…love the Penguins!

  2. Diana April 18, 2012 at 11:42 am - Reply

    David,

    You are living MY dream! I’m trying to catch up on all of the places that I wanted to go when I was younger. I guess I’ll run out of time before I get to see everything in the world, but I heard I can get some good senior discounts! I love your adventures. Good for you!

    Diana

  3. Dave April 18, 2012 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Thanks Diana.

    Visiting Patagonia was a dream come true for me.

    I hope you get there too. It’s worth the wait, and going with G Adventures made it a lot easier to get around, and more fun, than had I gone on my own.

  4. Gertjan April 18, 2012 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    I was on this island as well!!! They are so cute its great to see them so close up. If you’re there you have to do this.

  5. Tina April 18, 2012 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    Hi David & Diana
    David -Loved the penguin article I too have swum with the Galapogos penguins and been to Boulders Beach but have also been very close to Yellow Eyed and the tiny Blue penguins in Otago on the SE coast of NZ South Island . Still got a few more spp to go and Patagonia & Lakes definitely on my radar.. would like to get to Falklands too
    What’s the typical age of the G adventure travellers?
    Diana . this bit’s for you. It’s never too late nor you too old to follow your dreams. I’ve hardly been home since I retired.. did my solo GAP trip to SA / Oz/ NZ when I was 61 and since then have been to Ecuador & Galapgos; the Arctic pack ice insearch of whales & polar bears; flown over the Namibian desert in a light aircraft,; up to Lapland in winter for Aurora Borealis / Husky dog sledding etc; Iceland in winter for the orca whales; Sri Lanka for Leopard & Blue whales; Scotland for Golden & white tailed eagles and am currently planning a trip for myself and 3 others ( ages 55-75) round India In Search of the Bengal Tiger.
    Just go for it!!!

  6. Dave April 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Tina –

    This was my first trip with G Adventures, however I think I got a great group of people.

    The youngest were two students preparing to graduate Columbia University this Spring, and our oldest was a retired American, who I’m guessing was in his mid 50′s. Everyone else was mid 20′s to mid 30′s.

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