Our final destination in Chile was the Patagonia region. We were quite a ways from home on this leg of the trip to Punta Arenas which is located in the southern most part of Chile. According to Google Maps, we were 6,589 miles from home when we touched down at the local airport
Located on the Brunswick Peninsula north of the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas was originally established by the Chilean government in 1848 as a tiny penal colony to assert sovereignty over the Strait. During the remainder of the 1800s, Punta Arenas grew in size and importance due to the increasing maritime traffic and trade traveling to the west coasts of South and North America. This period of growth also resulted from the waves of European immigrants, mainly from Croatia and Russia attracted to the gold rush and sheep farming boom in the 1880s and early 1900s.
Magdalena Island Penguin Colony
Uninhabited by humans, one of Chile’s most important penguin colonies is found on Magdalena Island. The best time to visit is between October and March, when you can see them nesting and waddling around. It has been decreed as the Los Pingüinos Natural Monument as there are an estimated 60,000 breeding pairs of the Magellanic penguins.
We reached Magdalena Island after a 2-hour boat ride from Punta Arenas - not your typical our boat . To reduce the impact of humans on the colony, you must stay on a designated path, but the penguins ignore it and will practically step on your feet as they waddle by. In addition, your stay on the island is limited to 60 minutes.
Magellanic penguins are medium-sized penguins which grow to be 24–30 in tall and weigh between 6 and 14 lbs. Adults have black backs and white abdomens. There are two black bands between the head and the breast, with the lower band shaped in an inverted horseshoe. The head is black with a broad white border that runs from behind the eye, around the black ear-coverts and chin, and joins at the throat. Magellanic penguins can live up to 25 years in the wild.
How could you not love these creatures?
Magdalena penguins are considered 'threatened' due to the vulnerability of large breeding colonies to oil spills, which kill 20,000 adults and 22,000 juveniles every year off the coast of Argentina.