1,000,000 Penguins? What? For real? Where???!!! Punta Tombo? Where’s that?
This is the usual response when you tell somebody about Punta Tombo. When we left for Puerto Madryn, Jenny ended up reading an article online about 1 million penguins… Imagine her excitement when she read we will be only 130 km from Punta Tombo where we could see so many Magellanic Penguins.
There are 1 million penguins in Punta Tombo !
During the 2017 breeding season, about a million Magellanic Penguins have migrated to Punta Tombo, drawn by an unusual abundance of sardines and anchovies. This species, classified as endangered, arrives in September to give birth to their chicks and raise them until migrating back north towards Brazil in March.
It’s February, we are just on time. We might not see a million of them but we thought it was a great timing to see the penguins that populate the whole Patagonia Region (from Puerto Madryn to Ushuaia).
Magellanic Penguin facts:
- This species was discovered during the journey of the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1520
- It can grow up to 76 cm and weight only 5 kg !
- They feed on cuttlefish, squids and sardines but are hunted by leopard seals, sea lion and killer whales. The eggs and chicks face predators such as seagulls
- An unpaired, adult Magellanic penguin makes a braying sound, like a donkey, when looking for a mate.
They always return to the same mate after solo migration of about 320 000 km
The site of Punta Tombo
Passing through the entrance, we take the car and drive towards the second car park about a kilometer away. From there, the 3 km path is well demarcated and is restricted to one trail in order to avoid walking onto the penguins’ nests.
Here they are, chilling in their nests, walking toward the beach or calling their loved ones. The chicks have grown and are finishing molting (changing their fluffy hair to feathers). They are getting ready for the migration.
We walk along the path and stop to watch the penguins that are no less than a meter from us. Such a great encounter ! At the end of the path, we arrived at a view point (surmontant) which overlooks a very long brown and red beach where we can observe thousands of penguins swimming and standing on the sand.
We spent a bit of time watching them getting angry at each other or running towards the water displaying all their clumsiness. What a chance to witness so many of these birds nesting and raising their chicks. Even in Antarctica Jenny had not seen this much penguins !
Getting to Punta Tombo
Early in the morning, we hop in the car and drive down towards Trelew for about 70 km on paved road. After about 10 km south this town, we turn off and start the last 60km of gravel road. As mentioned in our previous article about the Peninsula Valdes, we can’t exceed 40 km on those roads which makes the round trip a pretty long journey.
It takes 2 hours to do 60 km, in 30°c, with the windows closed to not breath the dust thrown in the air by the cars and jeeps. At last we arrive around 11am at the entrance of national reserve. Before heading toward the penguins, we must pay a ridiculously expensive entrance fee and visit an information center where none of the exhibition is in English.
Costs and useful information
Currency (average) :€1 = 16.38 ARS
Bus Buenos Aires – Puerto Madryn : 1750 ARS (€106 pp) – price negociated with Andesmar for a “suite” – a real bed. They even played bingo and served us champagne !
Hostel “El Gualicho” – dorm : 285 ARS (€17 pp/pn)
Entrance fee Punta Tombo : 250 ARS (€15)
Rental car with Wild Skies : 3300 ARS for 2 days – 800 km (€100 per day)
– recommended by a friend in commun – Wild Skies. One of the best value in town.
Fuel for 800 km : 600 ARS (€37)
** note that all the links we add are FYI. We are not remunerated by either the companies/organisations nor per click.
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