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All my life I've had a fascination with penguins. Growing up in Chicago, I had the opportunity to see them at the Shedd Acquarium. When we went on our Galapagos Xpedition Cruise, there were some penguins on the rocks that we could view from our zodiac.
I've seen a few penguins in captivity on other cruises as well. The thought of being amongst thousands of penguins is what drove our decision to book this South America cruise.
When we think of penguins, we often picture ice and snow. But only a few species of penguins live in Antarctica and withstand that continent’s coldest temperatures. Most penguins in the world—ten out of seventeen species—live in temperate areas and never see ice or snow.
Day 6 we arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile early in the morning. The captain had been concerned the day before that we might not be able to get into port due to forecasted high winds. The safe wind speed for port operations is 35 knots and the forecast was for 50 knots. Fortunately, the weather was better than expected and we arrived on schedule.
After breakfast we went to Wheelhouse Bar to get a tender ticket for our tour. When we arrived at the bar, they had already begun staging the groups in the theater, so we got our sticker and proceeded to the designated section for our tour. It wasn't long and our row was called and a guide escorted us to deck 4 and a waiting tender boat.
It was about a 15-20 bus ride to the dock where we'd catch the ferry boat which would take us to Magdalena Island. The ferry ride took about two hours. As we boarded the ferry, we were given lunch bags. They consisted of a sandwich, cookies, juice box, bottle of water, cup of fruit, and a cereal bar. Most passengers opted to save it for the return trip.
The island is located in the Strait of Magellan. The rockery on the island is one of Chile's largest and most important Magellanic penguin breeding sites. Currently there were 65,000 pairs along with growing baby penguins who were shedding their fuzzy skin.
We disembarked the ferry's ramp directly on the shore. After a short walk, we were greeted by the first penguins who were going about their daily routines without paying much attention to us. The pathway, marked by ropes on either side, cuts through the colony of burrows many of which contained breeding penguins.
These are the largest species of warm-water penguins. They have a white chin-strap marking, a pink line at their lower jaw, and a black bill. They are a noisy bunch, especially the "babies" who greeted us with squawks and shrieks.
Magellanic Penguins were named after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who was the first to sail from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean in the mid-1500s through what is now called the Strait of Magellan. A temperate species, Magellanic Penguins are usually about two to two-and-a-half feet tall and weigh between six and fifteen pounds when fully grown. Their closest relatives are the other temperate penguin species: the Galápagos, Humboldt, and African Penguins.
We meandered along the trail stopping to observe and photograph these cute penguins in their natural habitat. It was quite windy, so we opted to only go about half-way along the trail which was flanked by the sea on one side and the burrows on the other. One could visit the lighthouse to view an exhibit. We decided we'd rather enjoy the penguins that look at an exhibit.
Our intention was to observe the penguins enjoying themselves for as long as possible. In fact, we were the last ones to return to the ferry. The guide told us we had to leave, otherwise we could have stayed there all day.
Do you like Penguins?
We highly recommend adding a Southern South America cruise to your bucket list. The season is short (January - March) so you'll probably need to plan it for next year at the earliest.
I don't like to do much promotion in our blog, but Princess Cruises has an Anniversary Sale through the end of February which includes itineraries in South America. You might consider booking now to take advantage of the extra onboard spending money.
Punta Arenas Penguins
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