A visit to the Magellanic Penguins on Magdalena Island, Chile

We woke up very early on March 7th, 2023 to take a 7am boat tour from Punta Arenas, Chile to Magdalena Island to observe the Magellanic penguins in their natural habitat. This was one morning I did not mind setting my alarm and getting up in the dark early hours. I had been looking forward to photographing these cute birds since the beginning of our Patagonia trip. I could already imagine them waddling around the island. At the port, we were greeted by a stunning sunrise of purple and orange hues. As the catamaran pulled away from shore, I watched the lights of Punta Cana reflect on the calm blue waters of the Magellan straight, a magical morning indeed.

Magdalena island is located 22 miles northeast of Punta Arenas, the capital of the Magallanes Region in Chile. It is host to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in South America. I did not witness any fighting but apparently Magellanic penguins do fight for a partner when they reach sexual maturity. They are monogamous birds. They return to the same mate and burrow every mating season. Both male and female care for the eggs and take turns in hunting for food. They feed on sardines, cuttlefish, anchovies. Penguin chicks leave the burrow at about 4 months old when they have fledged. These penguins shed their feathers when they are too hot. Their average lifespan is 25-30 years.

Magdalena Island is a Chilean national park. It is only reachable by boat. There are a number of companies offering guided tours from Punta Arenas. On our way back we were delighted to see dolphins jumping around the boat. Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the penguins waddle around in two short videos I filmed during my visit. I am so glad I took this tour. I was greeted good morning by a beautiful sunrise, bid farewell by playful dolphins and hung out with the cutest penguins all morning. It was a one-of-a-kind experience that left me with such fun memories, highly recommend.

References Magellanic Penguins, The Ultimate Guide to Magdalena Island

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