King Penguins

In spite of their Latin name (aptenodytes patagonicus), king penguins have been extinct in Patagonia for many generations. They mostly live on small islands like South Georgia, and there are a few hundred in the Falklands. But a couple of years ago, a few turned up here on Tierra del Fuego, and just last year they started breeding, a few eggs hatched.

In size they are second only to their close cousins, the Emperor penguins of Antarctica. I’ve always liked penguins, and this was an opportunity not to be missed. We took the 20 minute ferry (very big waves, but the crossing was OK), and drove down the unpaved road. No signs anywhere to the penguins, and when you do get there, it’s little more than a sign and a gate, just one car there. But a man appeared out of a tent, took our money, and pointed out the penguins. They were on one bank of this little river by the beach, we were on the other, maybe 10 metres away. It was incredibly windy, my hands froze taking photos, but hopefully I have some good ones. Some were dozing, some we’re preening themselves. We’ll load up some photos later.

A woman came to take over from the man, and it turned out we weren’t supposed to be anywhere near that close! She moved us way back. She reckons they will be laying eggs soon, and doesn’t want people anywhere near them.

It took us about 4 hours from Punta Arenas to the penguins; rather than head straight back, we’re stopping on Tierra do Fuego for the night, in Porvenir. The weather was sunny at the colony, but the rain started as we drove back. This is the “capital” of Chilean Tierra del Fuego, but we couldn’t even find a shop! Fortunately they do have a petrol station, we were running on fumes by the time we got here. Hopefully we can find somewhere for dinner. We have to return the hire car tomorrow, but we have nothing else booked after that.

Greg

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