Chile Day 7: Patagonia’s Penguins & Polar Explorers in Punto Arenas

Although my trip to Chile seems like ancient history, whenever I get the chance, I look through my photos and am immediately transported back to that beautiful land. On Day 7, I went to see the Seno Otway Penguin Colony. A much larger colony is located on Magdalena Island. Unfortunately it was too windy to go out in a boat to reach the island, a common occurrence, the day that I was in Punto Arenas.


Penguins are different colors, according to my guide, with markings around the eyes depending on their age. The lighter the pink around the eyes, the older the penguin.


I also learned that penguins are constantly spreading a wax that they keep in a specific gland all over their fur. Once they have completely spread this wax, they are ready to go for a swim.These penguins are also called Magellanes penguins. Chilean Patagonia is often called the Magellanes region after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Punta Arenas is a port city perched on the Straits of Magellan , a pathway between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. It is very exciting to feel the wind and the sea air here. You can actually see Tierra del Fuego from the city.


This baby penguin made my day. The babies are lighter gray in color and are furry. They actually make you go all soft and mushy, even the big tough guys on my trip were cooing at the little fellow. The mother and father keep very close watch and don’t allow members of the colony to approach their young.


In addition to penguin colonies, hiking in Torres Del Paine, and whale watching tours, people set off for exotic trips to Tierra del Fuego, Antartica, and Argentinian Patagonia. Once you are in that part of the world, you begin to want to see everything but the area is extremely vast and planning ahead for long expeditions is a must. Additionally, they are very costly. I met a neat group of people on a trip to ski with 80 pounds of gear on their backs for 10 days at the South Pole. Their extreme vacation was out of my league for physical and financial limitations but it did sound exciting.

The guide, Keith Heger of Polar Explorers, was very nice and seemed very low key for the trip they were about to begin. He was also extremely knowledgeable about the area, Ernest Shackleton’s expedition and his asking for help in Punto Arenas, as well as many other explorers and their fates. I was impressed with the depth and breadth of Keith’s knowledge and passion. I guess to carry 80 pounds on skis for 10 hours a day in freezing weather you must be pretty focused.


The Shackleton story of how his boat, The Endurance, got stuck in the ice and how he managed to save his entire crew in the early part of this century is truly inspiring.

I can’t wait to go back to Punto Arenas and hopefully see a bit of Antartica and Tierra del Fuego. Although I was about to leave Patagonia, I know I will be back. Run don’t walk to visit this cherished land.


  1. Me again – you might also be interested in finding out about the best wine cellar in the Arctic at a restaurant called Huset at Longyearbyen on the arctic island of Svalbard.

  2. I love the Penguins! Your trip really sounds amazing Susannah, too bad two months can already seem like ancient history.

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