While in Punta Arenas in January, we arranged to visit the nearby Isla Magdalena by boat to see the Magallanic penguins. They are often called “donkey penguins” because they raise their heads and honk like a donkey in order to posture in front of other penguins or predators. It is said that there are 60,000 breeding pairs on the island.
Two colonies are located near Punta Arenas–Seno Otway or Isla Magdalena. We heard that there were many more penguins to see at the island which is only an hour and a half away from the city. Seno Otway is accessible on the mainland.
The colony on Isla Magdalena seems used to hordes of touristas snapping pictures and cooing over the fat, fuzzy babies. The adults would patiently wait for a clearing in the human pathway so they could cross in a little line. There were also some fat, awkward seagull babies.
When our boat pulled up to the island, I was so excited to see a beach teaming with penguins.
They weren’t waiting for us though. They were coming back from fishing. The babies were nearly as big as the parents when we visited, so the parents kept busy trying to bring home dinner.
They were not the slightest bit curious about us or afraid.
I couldn’t believe the penguins sat above ground when they had the “comfort” of their burrows. The wind and sand were whipping us ferociously. I suppose that compared to Antarctic penguins, living on Isla Magdalena is a sweet life.
While in Antarctica, E. and I were able to see a couple Adeles while working at McMurdo Station, but it was sad because they were separated from the colony and struggling to find their way to other penguins. This is the sweet little Adele we met on the way to Cape Evans hut.
He was running over snow mounds and frozen lakes for an unknown destination. When he noticed our group, he came staggering up to us as if to say, “Can I join you?” We had to keep our distance. It was a heartbreaking backdrop with the snow and ice shelf.
We also got to see a fairy penguin in New Zealand. A sheep farmer was protecting this little one on the Banks Peninsula hike in the South Island. This penguin was legitimately terrified when humans opened his box. He was molting at the time and sleeping on a bed of old feathers. I really wanted to cup him in my hand.
What was your most memorable animal encounter?