Sites for watching magellanic penguins in the Argentine province of Santa Cruz
The magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) were first recorded in history when they were spotted by the first europeans in the journeys of Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, obtaining from this explorer, its name. This specie were described in that expedition by the marine chronicler Antonio Pigafetta as “Strange geese”, being actually one of the few flightless birds who have adapted their wings as flippers for swimming, and are able to dive to more than 250 feet underwater.
This penguin specie has black-to-gray feathers on its back and are white in their front. They are characterized by having on its black head, a white stripe starting from the eyes, around their ears and nose, joining again on their throat. They have an average height of 75 cms and although are typically monogamous, in some cases they can switch partners. Usually there are fewer males, and females have to fight between each other for them.
They can be seen in the summer in colonies of different sizes and although are mostly concentrated in the mainland at Punta Tombo in Chubut, can be also seen in the province of Santa Cruz at: Penguins island, Monte León National Park, Cape Virgenes, Punta Entrada among others.
Penguin Island marine inter-jurisdictional park
Is a protected area created in 2010 in the province of Santa Cruz, located on the Atlantic Ocean to the south of Puerto Deseado. It has an area of 159,526 hectares and includes the islands Chata, Castillo, Blanca, and Penguin which is the largest.
From Puerto Deseado, is offered as an ecotourism destination for watching seabirds expeditions to the impressive Penguin Island, a small rocky outcrop of 1.2 km from north to south and 1.05 km from east to west. There is no human presence in this island but it is inhabited by two large penguins colonies: In the north can be found Magellanic penguins, while in the southern area is located the only patagonian reproductive colony of the little Rockhopper penguin.
Until the mid-twentieth century there was a naval base and a beacon of the Argentine Navy, and although these facilities are abandoned, the lighthouse continues in service powered by solar energy.
On this island, the estimated population of Magellanic penguins is approximately 15,000 specimens, finding as well about 2,000 Rockhopper penguins.
Monte León national park
It is the second coastal national park in Argentina, created in 2002 through collaboration between the government and private sector. Monte Leon is located on the coast of Argentine Sea, south of the city Comandante Luis Piedrabuena (35 km) and north of Rio Gallegos (210 km) in the province of Santa Cruz. It has an area of 66,000 hectares with 36 kilometers of coastline.
This park has a cold weather, arid to semiarid, with an average annual temperature of 6.8 °C, with minimums below zero in winter, and maximum peaks above 30 ° C in summer. The fundamental reason for its creation is based on the fact that constitutes a perfectly preserved representative sample of the patagonic coastal biodiversity, with many paleontological value sites.
In this area, also can be found a large colony of Magellanic penguins, composed of 60,000 individuals, making it the fourth colony in importance of the country. The Pinguinero road leads the way through the steppe, to “the house” of the penguins. From there you can get an excellent view of the entire colony.
You can also go to Cabeza de León (Lion Head) and the Lobería Trail, through a 400 m. footpath to the viewpoint where can be observed a colony of sea lions, along with an excellent view of the sea.
Cabo Virgenes nature reserve
It is a protected area located in the Santa Cruz province, at 130 km southeast of Rio Gallegos, created in 1986 to preserve one of the most important colonies of penguins in Argentina, along with other patagonian species. It has an area of 1230 ha. between Punta Dungeness and Cabo Virgenes.
Cape Virgenes, whose original name was Cape of Eleven Thousand Virgins is the southernmost point of continental America, being also the eastern entrance of the Strait of Magellan and the boundary between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is possible to reach this distant point through the legendary National Route 40, heading south until kilometer 0.
Nowadays, watching penguins is one of the main attractions of this inhospitable area, being able to find more than three hundred thousand specimen, as well as some birds native to the region.
Punta Entrada Penguin Colony
At only 2.5 km from the port of Punta Quilla taking the road originated in Mt. Entrace in the Corpen Aike department of Santa Cruz can be found in Punta Entrada, an important colony of Magellanic penguins. Generally these birds can be seen from the last days of August, where they arrive for its reproduction, leaving this place in April.
In the beautiful scenery of Punta Entrada can be observed at the mentioned colony more than 20,000 penguins and archaeological wealth from the indigenous presence in the area such as arrowheads, spears, scrapers among others.
Alternatively, it is possible to reach the penguin colony from the pier of the port, through a 4 km. walk through sandy beaches and boulders. In this impressive tour can be observed high cliffs where there are abundant fossils of marine invertebrates.