Where: Seno Otway, Punta Arenas in Southern Chile
Appearance: Small black and white penguin with 2 black band on its neck
Habits: Eating fish, swimming from sea lions, waddling around and tripping each other up!
Remember to Bring: Binoculars, wind and water proof clothing and sun screen.
Where It’s At
Punta Arenas is home to two of the largest penguin colonies in southern Chile. Each year from November through to January the 150,000 strong army of Magellenic penguins, named after the Magallenes region in which they breed, arrive at the Seno Otway (Otway Sound) and on Isla Magdalene on the Chilean coast to meet and mate.
The Magellanic penguin (sometimes called the Jackass penguin) is similar in appearance to a typical penguin but is distinguished by two black bands running along the front surface of its neck. They are found in a variety of habitats including woodland, sand dunes, grassy hills and open beach. Their diet consists mainly of small fish and marine crustaceans and their chief enemy is the Southern Sea Lion. The Dominican Gull and Giant Petrel also provide a threat, feeding on the penguins chicks and eggs.
Penguins of Seno Otway
The tour of the colony is self guided and offers a fascinating close up view of these unique birds. Most people will know that penguins are loveable and comical creatures and a visit to Sena Otway is bound to provide numerous incidents that will have you laughing out loud. On land, where penguins aren’t the most graceful of creatures, just watching them waddle along brings a smile to the face. They can also frequently be seen to fall flat on their faces when presented with the smallest of obstacles (whether intentional or not, penguins have been known to trip each other up!). But the Magellanic Penguin is more than a pure comedian, the power and agility they show when entering and exiting the water is in impressive contrast to their exploits on land.
As innocent as they look and as tame as they are, the penguins at Sena Otway have been known to attack over-curious visitors that venture too close. This sight may be amusing to other onlookers but these types of incidents are obviously worth avoiding. For this reason it is worth bringing a pair of binoculars to provide the safest and best view possible. It is also in an ozone hole area and so sunscreen and sunglasses are recommended as are food, some water, a hat, gloves and rainproof and windproof clothing to take into account the unpredictable weather conditions.
Being on the mainland, Sena Otway is easily accessible from Punta Arenas, about an hour and a half journey by road. Tour operators in Punta Arenas provide return transportation at varying prices ranging between $7-12 per person. The entrance fee to the colony is around $3.50 per person.
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Conservation Online’s comparison report between the breeding of Chilean and Falklands’ penguins
By Jonny Willes