Just off the coast of Punta Arenas, Chile lies Isla Magdalena and a colony of 60,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic Penguins. We took a tour from Punta Arenas to explore the Island and to see the penguins up close.
After spending some time researching and looking into the different options available we booked a Punta Arenas tour with Solo Expediciones . It cost 60.000 CLP each. It’s recommended that you book a few days in advance as the tour is often booked out.
Before arriving at the Isla Magdalena penguins
We arrived at the bookings office just before our departure time of 7.30 am. After checking in, we boarded the coach and within 30 minutes we arrived at the jetty. We were directed off the bus, fitted with life jackets and boarded onto one of the ferries very efficiently.
Even on what seemed like a beautiful and calm day in Punta Arenas the ferry ride across Magallanes Straight was rough and turbulent. By the time we reached the Isla Magdalena penguins I wasn’t feeling the best.
It took us around 50 minutes to reach the first stop. A colony of Sea Lions where it was possible to hop out onto the deck for a look. Although somewhat interesting the rolling seas and number of people crammed on the small deck made it challenging to get a good view or photo. Luckily this was only an add on to the trip and not the reason for coming.
Isla Magdalena penguins conservation
15 minutes further along and we arrived at the Isla Magdalena Penguins. Conservation reasons mean that everyone visiting is only allowed to stay on the island for one hour.
We were originally a little disappointed and almost off put by this. But there was ample time to enjoy the island.
Isla Magdalena penguins
Once docked on the island you are free to go where you please so long as you remain on the trail. There is a strong emphasis on minimal impact and the protection of the Magellanic Penguins here. It is not permitted to use any form of flash photography and in contrast to any zoo, the penguins are able to roam free. It is us humans who are restricted to the cordoned off paths.
However, the penguins have become accustomed to people on the island. They will happily walk across the path in front of you as they make their way to and from the water. This makes for some great photo opportunities.
We were lucky enough to time our visit at the end of the breeding season (November – January). This meant that there were hundreds of fluffy Magellanic penguins chicks being fattened up by their parents.
Returning to Punta Arenas
Once our hour was up and everybody was back onto the ferry. Some biscuits and hot drinks were available. A great little inclusion in the tour.
The ferry ride back to town was again anything but smooth. The earlier tour is said to have calmer seas but I think calm has a different meaning in these waters.
Closer to Punta Arenas the easier to reach and much cheaper Seno Otway is permanently closed. Therefor making this tour or travelling further North along the remote Argentinian coastline the only options for seeing the Magellanic Penguins.
All in all, we felt that it was an expensive day trip, but worth the money. It was a great to see the penguins in their natural environment. In a place where their well being and protection is a priority.
Two Lost / Happy Feet