Great Places to see Penguins in Patagonia
These sympathetic birds visit us every season, from October to March/April.
It´s amazing to see them coming with their peculiar style, going back and forth from their nests to the shore and from the shore to their nests, without being worried of any human hanging around.
The whole region is plenty of colonies, but let´s have a look to some strategic spots that are easily combinable with other great activities in Patagonia:
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1. Punta Tombo, Chubut (near Puerto Madryn & Peninsula Valdes) – Penguins in Patagonia
This is the largest penguin rookery in South America (hundreds of thousands of Penguins stay seasonally every year). It’s in the province of Chubut, and the gate to reach it is Puerto Madryn or Trelew. The advantage that it has is that it´s 3 hours driving distance from Península Valdés -the “Mecca” of Ocean Wild Life in Argentina- and 2 hours driving distance from Puerto Madryn.
Their nests are spread along a territory that starts close to the ocean front and it finishes 3-4 km inland. There is a pathway that crosses the area, so you literally can walk among the penguins, seeing them moving with their happy balance.
The specie that inhabits there is the Magellan Penguin. When they reach the colony in October, they look thin (after being in the ocean for a couple of months) and they start incubating their eggs. The nests are shallow wholes on the ground, so you can easily see them either walking or on top of their eggs. By December, you can start seeing their pigeons, which are cute, fluffy, and quite friendly. The penguins start getting big, storing some fat for the months after April, when they go back to the sea.
You can see them sharing territory with Guanacos, Sea Lions, Rheas, Foxes, and Armadillos – these last ones are not very friendly with them (they actually eat their eggs !)
If you have some spare days to spend in the area, don´t miss Bahía Bustamante, which is an old fishing village full of the spirit of the Steppe and Wildlife of the Ocean Patagonia.
As a sample, you can take a look at one of our tours to Peninsula Valdes, and adapt it to your needs and preferences.
2. San Lorenzo, Peninsula Valdes (near Puerto Madryn) – Penguins in Patagonia
San Lorenzo, neighbor of Punta Tombo, is inside Península Valdés. Actually, is in the north part of the Peninsula, next to the Estancia San Lorenzo, and is particularly great for those who don´t want to spend 2 hours to reach Punta Tombo. The rookery, with over 25000 Magellan penguins in the peak season, is the perfect combination for a tour to Peninsula Valdes, where you can see lots of other great animals, such as the Southern Right Whale (during the months that the penguins are there, the whales are only in October and November, and from Puerto Piramides you can navigate right close to them), Sea Elephants, lots of different birds, Rheas, Foxes, Maras, Orcas, and many other incredible animals.
3. Isla Martillo (next to Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego) – Penguins in Patagonia
This island is home for a penguin colony, smaller than Punta Tombo or San Lorenzo, but big enough for you to enjoy them!
It´s located in the Beagle Channel, 15 minutes away from Estancia Harberton (a ranch 90 km from Ushuaia). Therefore, if you visit Ushuaia, you can easily go there on a full day excursion (usually the experience takes around 6 hours, and in the rookery you stay for around 1 hour walking among the penguins with a specialized guide).
Apart from the Magellan Penguins (most of them are of this kind, a couple of thousands in the peak season), you can find some Papua ones (other Penguin specie), and eventually a Penguin Rey. They share their territory with many other birds.
Staying in Ushuaia, visiting the iconic National Park, the Beagle Channel, the inspiring lakes Fagnano & Escondido, and this peculiar rookery, is a great plan. And if afterwards you connect this city with the city of Punta Arenas, navigating on the Australis Cruise Ship through Cape Horn and some other amazing sites, too much better!
As a sample, you can take a look at one of our tours to Ushuaia and Southern Patagonia, and adapt it to your needs and preferences.
4. Isla Magdalena (next to Punta Arenas) – Penguins in Patagonia
This island is already in the Chilean side, and you can reach it from Punta Arenas after a navigation (it´s a half day excursion). It´s a big colony of Magellan Penguins, and the good thing of visiting it from Punta Arenas, is that this city is a perfect hub to combine with other visits such as Torres del Paine (minimum 2 days), navigations across the Chilean Fjords (lots of Wild Life), or just fly out to Santiago de Chile or Puerto Montt.
As a sample, you can take a look at one of our tours in Southern Patagonia, and adapt it to your needs and preferences.
5. Penguins in non-touristic sites:
If you take Rio Gallegos airport as your entering gate to Patagonia, you can take advantage and visit one of the two penguin colonies (magellan penguins) that are 2-2.3 hours away from it. To the south,right at the very beggining of the emblematic Ruta 40 (in Cabo Virgenes), you can find a colony with over 300.000 penguins. On the other hand, towards the north, you can visit the National Park Monte Leon, which is home as well to a colony with lots of penguins and other animals as well. Both destinations are not so popular, so you can expect to enjoy of the mystic solitude of Patagonia. The good thing about it, is that Rio Gallegos is not so far from El Calafate (about 3-4 hours by car).
6. Bonus Track (Penguin King and Southern Rockhopper Penguin)
If you want to see other Penguin Species:
From Punta Arenas, you can visit (on a full day excursion) a very small penguin rookery of Pingüino Rey (King). They settle seasonally in the Chilean part of the Island of Tierra del Fuego (this Island is shared between Argentina and Chile), in a group of about 25 individuals.
From Puerto Deseado (Argentina) you can visit the “Pingüino de Penacho Amarillo (Rockhopper)” which are those with a yellow/orange crown on their heads.
Unfortunately, if you want to see the Emperor Penguin (largest in the world), you have to visit ANTARCTICA, but of course: we can help you to find your way to reach it!
The cover picture was taken by: Liam Quinn.
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