Dec 18, 2011

Punta Arenas - Beautiful Penguins and Great People

We decided to go to Punta Arenas from Ushuaia by bus. In reality, there was no better choice by plane, and the excuse of crossing the Strait of Magellan by ferry made it apparently worth it.

Thirteen hours and a flat bottom later, it is debatable whether the trip was the best idea. Regardless, the itinerary and days left did not allow for anything different. On a positive note, we needed a break from the hectic schedule. If you travel by day, then you apparently loose a day of your trip, but if you travel by night, you miss on the sights along the road.

Sometimes it does not really matter, we needed to end our Patagonia trip in Punta Arenas, and catch a last city worth the visit.

The people of Punta Arenas are very proud and since they feel neglected from the rest of Chile, many times consider the Republica Magallanica as their true country.


Car Show. These are all replicas. Great body work, considering.

The highlights of Punta Arenas in my opinion are the two penguin nesting sites nearby. One is Seno's Otway. You get there by tour bus and penguins are in the hundreds. The other is Isla Magdalena. You get there by boat and penguins are in the thousands. The choice was obvious, the problem was that the Isla Magdalena season was not officially started. 

City Hall adorned by the recent student riots

We went for dinner and met this wonderful couple Karin and Jorge who offered to show us around their city by car.  They took us to all the neighborhoods, showed us how more or less people in Punta Arenas live under similar circumstances (not many rich, not many poor), explained the perspective of Magellanic people on regards to the rest of Chile. What was most surprising is that after such a thorough tour they invited us to their house to share a bottle of wine, and then took us to our hotel. Wonderful Magellanic ambassadors. Thank you !

Getting back to the penguin sites and without a lot of suspense, we were very lucky to find a tour operator that would take us to Isla Magdalena. I had crossed my fingers for two weeks that this would be the case. Great !!

Off we went to Isla Magdalena with a Spanish family, a couple of french guys, a chilean girl, a german girl, the guides and us. Drinking coffee with pisco to beat the cold, and my father talking about his favorite topic (aviation) with one of the Spanish who is a pilot.

Once in the island, I can only describe two feelings: awed and cold !

A couple of the first newborns of the season
Who is looking at who ?

Penguins are monogamous and only have one mate for life. That is why, I do not know how to explain the following pictures. Modern times at Magdalena Island perhaps ?

Magellanic penguins comeback every year to the same nest, they build. In the event one of the two dies, the female typically finds another mate if she is young. On the other hand the male does not, and typically dies in solitude. The history of males ! 

This place is amazing, I invite you to see more pictures if you would like. Here are just a few more:




After Isla Magdalena, we go on to see a Sea Lion's reservation and on our way, got a really cool and fast Cormoran escort.