Breakfast with the penguins

//Breakfast with the penguins

penguine1small.jpgThe final morning on board Via Australis was a hectic affair. By 11.00 am we were due to dock in Punta Arenas at the end of our three-day adventure, but before then we had a date – with thousands of penguins.
For many passengers, this was the highlight of the trip, so there were no complaints about setting alarm clocks for 6.00 am and rising before the sun as our ship sailed through the Strait of Magellan towards Magdalena Island.
penguin3small.jpgTogged out in lots of warming layers, and wearing the obligatory flourescent orange life jackets, we queued to board Zodiac inflatables for the five-minute ride to the beach and a close encounter with our little friends. With their black backs and white fronts, with a black stripe under their chins, they really did look like they had dressed in morning suits to welcome us. There are about 60,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins on Magdalena Island, which is a Chilean national park. By April they will have migrated north to warmer waters, but for now they were fattening their chicks on a diet of cuttlefish, sardines and krill.
With our eyes closed, we might have imagined we had stumbled into a giant donkey sanctuary, because these birds throw back their heads and bray loudly. The early risers were emerging from their burrows to warm themselves in the sun’s first rays of the day, while the lazier ones remained underground. Some were extending their homes, and puffs of sand and dust were evidence of early morning excavations.
The humans were confined to a marked path from the beach to the island’s lighthouse, to stop us walking over the burrows and collapsing them. There were no restraints on the penguins, who covered acres of the bare hillside and strutted comically around, heading to and from the stony shoreline.
After about an hour ashore, we left the island to the penguins and the day-trippers who were staring to arrive from Punta Arenas, and returned to our ship for breakfast.
Then there was just time to pack before we arrived in port, and for me, the day continued with a five-hour bus ride from Chile back into Argentina, and a five-hour flight to Buenos Aires. But that’s another story . . .
Next: What life is like on board Via Australis.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:32+00:00 9 March 2010|Cruise Destinations|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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