There are 18 species of penguins in the world. And the cutest one might be the Magellanic penguin, which can be found in the southernmost region of South America. In Chile, one of the biggest colonies lives off the coast of Punta Arenas, on the Magdalena island. The island is a national monument known as “Los Pingüinos natural monument” and only accessible by boat from Punta Arenas, the largest city in Chile’s Magallanes region.
It is estimated that roughly 60,000 couples of Magellanic penguins - about 150.000 adults and penguin chicks - live here, an important place for this species to reproduce in the very heart of the Magellan strait. But...
What is the Magellan strait penguin adventure like?
I bet you’ve heard the quote : “The early bird catches the worm”.
This is especially true when it comes to wildlife. Here, the adventure starts at early morning (6:30am) in the heart of Punta Arenas, where you’ll catch a shuttle to a nearby port. Magdalena Island is located 37 kilometers away from Punta Arenas, but the distance is slightly shorter thanks to this short ride.
On a windy day - something very usual in the Magellan strait - seasickness is not impossible, so you’d better bring water (it helps a lot)! It takes a bit more than an hour to reach Magdalena Island. As soon as you reach the island, you’ll spot plenty of families of these small, cute penguins.
What are the Magellanic penguins like?
Magellanic penguins are medium-sized penguins which grow to be 61–76 cm (24–30 in) tall and weigh between 2.7 and 6.5 kg (6.0 and 14.3 lb). The males are larger than the females, and the weight of both drops as the parents raise their young. Adults have black backs and white abdomens.
Chicks and young penguins have grey-blue backs, with a more faded grey-blue color on their chest. Magellanic penguins are not shy on Magdalena Island, but it doesn’t mean you must get close to them! Your collaboration will be asked not to interfere with the natural behavior of these small birds that may cross the path in front of you. And while penguins walk slowly, they are very efficient swimmers thanks to their rigid wings.
Magellanic penguins feed in the water, preying on cuttlefish, squid, krill, and other crustaceans, and ingest seawater with their prey. They can live up to 25 years in their natural habitat, so it is not uncommon to meet some elder penguins in Magdalena island! But they are not the only species living here.
What other animals can I see at Magdalena island?
On the island you will see kelp gulls, skuas and cormorants who live and nest near the penguins. Also, on the nearby Marta island (included in the visit) you will see a colony of sea lions (locally known as “lobos marinos”) - there are 1,000 of them! - and you might also spot Chilean dolphins while sailing. Please note that while you will do a short walk through Magdalena island, you won’t be able to land on Marta island as the area is fully protected.
When is the best time to spot the magellanic penguins?
The best time to visit Magdalena island is between november and february (late spring and summer) when most adult penguins arrive at the breeding colony.
How can I book a Magellan Strait Penguin Adventure?
See you soon in Patagonia!