Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Penguins, Isla Magdalena, Chile

We are on our way down to Tierra del Fuego. We chose to go the western route through Chile so we could visit the Magellanic penguin colony on Isla Magdalena near the city of Punta Arenas. Punta Arenas is at the southern end of Chile on the Straits of Magellan, so we were just about as far away from the 2/11/11 earthquake as possible while still in Chile, much to John's dismay. Punta Arenas is yet another underwhelming town except for the cemetery.

To visit the penguins, boats do not leave everyday, so we had to stick around town an extra day. The boat ride is four hours round trip for a mere one-hour on the island. It is going to be yet another one of those US$100+ day trips. The worst part was that the boat would not leave until 5pm and all the weather forecasts were predicting rain. I hesitated. All the penguins are going to be in their burrows hiding from the rain, our time and money wasted. John was unfazed, so we went ahead.

We packed all our warm and rain gear and bought John a pair of gloves. It started to rain as we headed out to the ferry terminal. When our boat approached island we could see penguins fishing in the water; the island thick with white, black and gray. When we touched ground, I felt I had just landed in a penguin documentary film. All my senses were filled with penguin, sights, smells, and sounds. All my previous doubts evaporated. There were supposed to be 65 thousand pairs plus their new-borns living on the island. It did not feel like an overestimation. The penguins were every bit adorable "in actu" as in film. The one hour flew by even though it was very cold and rainy.

The highlight for me was being "attacked" by a penguin. Visitors were supposed to stay on a marked path which all of us observed well, as opposed to the penguins which wandered indiscriminately. So when I noticed a penguin stepping into the path towards me, I stood still. I could not bring myself to walk away. He first rooted around my shoe laces which I thought was really funny. Then he proceeded to tug at my rain pants. At which point I had to shoo him away. I was so excited by the encounter, it did not dawn on me until later that the little guy was looking for building material for his burrow. What a smart fellow! My rain paints would make very good burrow material.

The shaped trees and park-like atmosphere of the Punta Arenas Cemetery.

Isla Magdalena Magellanic Penguin colony

Isla Magdalena Magellanic Penguin colony


Cathy said...

Oh Ingo will be so jealous... I hope there are more pictures!

Anonymous said...

My girls will love this place.We are coming.


john said...

@Cathy - Only one or two more pics. The rain was quite heavy - hard to get the camera in the right place with the right settings. But there may be some video. Stay tuned.

@Rachel - It's a long way to go for one hour with the penguins, but worth it.