A chief goal on the itinerary of any Patagonia trip should include seeing penguins in their natural habitat. Witnessing these feathery, flightless bundles of cute wandering around Patagonia’s coastal areas will no doubt make a great experience, story, and collection of photos.
1. Where to see penguins in Patagonia?
There are several places on a Patagonia trip where one can see penguin colonies:
- Puerto Madryn near the Valdes Peninsula the biggest wildlife marine reserve declared Word Heritage by Unesco.
- Punta Arenas in Chile, the gateway to Antarctic expeditions!
- And the farthest southern city in the world, Ushuaia on the Island of Tierra del Fuego.
Although viewing penguins in the wild is of course a spectacle anywhere, few places provide as rich an experience as viewing penguins in Ushuaia. In Ushuaia, unlike elsewhere, the visitor is allowed to walk on the island (with the penguins) in a group guaranteed to be no larger than twenty.
2. Penguins in Ushuaia, species you can see
There are three species of penguins in Ushuaia—the most common (and likely to be on the island in great numbers) are Magellanic penguins, followed by the larger (as well as rarer) Gentoo and King penguins. These species are very different in size and color.
- Magellanic penguins are primarily black with white stripes around the head and wings.
- Gentoo penguins most closely resemble those from Mary Poppins, with solid black and white colors, except for orange feet and beaks.
- The King penguin has the sleek grey and yellow look and stature of the Emperor penguin, though they are a bit smaller.
All of these species come to the island to breed, the Magellanic often year after year to the same nest and the same partner. Breeding season is in early spring and summer, beginning in early October. Young can be seen all summer through to February, the best time anyway to book a Patagonia trip, due to the favorable weather this far south.
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3. What to do and what not to do with penguins in Ushuaia
The operators to the island near Ushuaia offer only two trips a day and limit the number of passengers per trip to a mere twenty. This means that visitors can explore the island without disturbing the penguin’s natural habitat.
The guides remind everyone however that no matter how cute a penguin is or how tempting it is to pick one up and cuddle it, one should not.
This does not bar the penguins from intimate movement, and it is very likely that these curious creatures will come within a meter’s distance while walking the island. The experience is guaranteed to be so enchanting that the full hour on the island will pass by rapidly, as do unfortunately most of the experiences on a Patagonia trip.
4. Penguins in Ushuaia, a trip better booked in advance
Because seeing penguins in Ushuaia is such an exclusive experience, it is not surprising that during the high season (November to February), places are hard to get to without a prior reservation, so book early! The number of penguins is highest during this time. The journey there involves first a bus ride to the Harberton Estancia (a prominent spot in the book In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin), and from there by boat to the Martillo(penguin) island. The entire excursion is with a guide, and it goes without say, will be one of the really valuable highlights of a Patagonia trip.
There are a great variety of tours in Patagonia that visit Argentina´s glaciers, hike Patagonia´s trails, and travel to key destinations like Calafate, Chalten, Tierra del Fuego, Torres del Paine, and more. For further information about tours in Patagonia, Argentina vacations, or tours in Iguazu Falls you can contact us!