Fun with Magellanic penguins in Punta Tombo
When taking a ride through Chubut province with Ryan’s Travel, we spent 2 hours in Punta Tombo, a place I will never ever forget. Why? It was my first time I saw penguins in real life and it was thousands of them walking just around me. So much fun! Let me tell you more about the Magellanic Penguins in Punta Tombo.
- Magellanic penguins are one out of 17 different species of penguins in the world. Punta Tombo is their biggest colony in the continent.
- Magellanic penguins live from 25 to 30 years. The adult males are 45 cm tall and weigh 5 kg.
- Male penguins become adults (so they can have baby penguins) at 5 years and female ones at 4 years (oh yes, with penguins also you can see that females grow up earlier!).
- White colour of the belly helps the penguins to be invisible as it can be misunderstood for the shining sea bottom, while the black back helps them not to be seen from the sky.
- Dense and short feathers protect the penguins against the cold of the sea. They can swim from 16 to 24 km/h.
- Penguins can drink both fresh and salted water.
- They eat only when in the sea, not when on the land as they eat fish. Just the baby penguins are fed on the land.
- There are 63 colonies of Magellanic penguins in Argentine Patagonia with Punta Tombo the biggest one of them.
- Magellanic penguins are not in Punta Tombo all year round. They come in the late August and leave in mid-April.
- In September, the male penguins come back to Punta Tombo, usually to the same place lie the previous year and start redoing the nests (most of them are like small caves up to 70 cm deep) to prepare them for the reproduction. The penguins walk and build nests in the distance of around 1,500 m from the seashore. The females come a couple of days later. Penguins are monogamous so once they choose their love, they are a couple for one year.
- After a male gains his female penguin, their eggs are of approx. 7 cm and white colour. Usually it’s 2 eggs but sometimes can be 3 eggs that a couple has every year and after calm 40 to 42 days little penguins are born with a difference of 4 – 5 days. The female and male penguins change their roles, one is getting food at the sea while the other one stays protecting the eggs (they don’t eat anything outside the sea). They turn every 8 – 10 days.
- Once the little penguins are born in November, the parents take turns every 72 hours as 8 – 10 days without food could make the babies die. Then the parent comes back from the sea with up to 1 kilogram of food in its belly and gives it to the babies. They literally eat from the parent’s beak (in comparison to the land penguins whose parents throw the food to the babies beaks).
- At 3 months, the baby penguins get out of the nests, learn to walk and in the end of January and beginning of February they change the feathers. The grey feathers they were born with change to black. Then in March and April, the juveniles come to change the feathers and afterwards finally the adult penguins can change theirs once the juveniles leave. It takes around 15 days to change the feathers and the penguins change it always once a year.
- On the 25th April the penguins leave Punta Tombo. They swim (using the wings only, not the feet) 6.000 km North up to Brasil and from the end of April to August, the only time when they go again to the coast is when they are sick or the sea was contaminated by petrol. So they go to the coast to get to die.
- In Punta Tombo, since 1983 the studies of the penguins started, so we can find out more about the colony. Some of the couples get examined along the period of time and distinguished by different colour paper straps at the bushes of their nests. In 1983 there were 200,000 penguins in Punta Tombo in its 200 ha.
Tips for visiting Magellanic penguins in Punta Tombo
- Remember to visit Punta Tombo from the 15th September to mid-April which is when the penguins are there.
- Punta Tombo is a protected area with an entrance fee (foreigners pay more than Argentina born living in Argentina). There are around 1,000 visitors every day.
- It is open daily from 8 am to 18 am with big groups of tourists at midday.
- It’s prohibited to smoke, eat and bring other animals in Punta Tombo.
- It is not allowed to scare nor touch the penguins.
- Don’t throw any rubbish in there.
- You can only walk on the designated pathways, so no crossing behind the white stones.
- Take a cap, sunglasses, sunscreen and comfortable shoes. It’s always windy here.
- If a penguin wants to cross the pathway, stop and let him do it. If you keep moving, he will stop instead and wait for you to pass.
- I know that if it’s your first time to see penguins you will start taking photos of every single one of them since the beginning. But the more you walk towards the sea in Punta Tombo, the more penguins you will see and the more interesting it will be.
Visiting Punta Tombo was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had! I highly recommend you it to you.
My trip to visit Magellanic penguins in Punta Tombo was done by the travel agency Ryan’s Travel. Once again many thanks for such an unforgettable trip! To find more information, please visit Ryan’s Travel website.