Wednesday, 20 August 2014

King Penguin Park

The King penguin, Aptenodytes patagonicus, is the second largest species of penguin, the adult can be up to three feet tall and weight up to 35 pounds. Also is the most beautiful with its orange-gold patch on the neck and its long and slender body.
There is no denying the overall beauty of the king penguin.

They are usually found on  the subantartic islands such as Falklands and South Georgia, remote and difficult to access however, fortunately, a number of King penguins are coming to Bahia Inútil, a bay in the Strait of Magellan, for reproduction hoping that they may create a new colony, actually archaeological records confirm that king penguins used to visit the costs of Tierra del Fuego centuries ago, in fact, the Selk'Nam, ancient inhabitants of the island known them and called them kéj'emkem. So today it is easily-accessible to observe king penguins in the wild in the Patagonia.

In the nineteen century the population of King penguin in Falkland Islands were estimated to be 6 million individuals however they were killed for their oil and their beautiful feather and their eggs taken for food, it is known that the Falkland islander's routine diet was commonly to eat penguin eggs every day of the year.
By 1870 they had been almost exterminated but today these penguins are protected by law and it is illegal to collect their eggs, as a result they increased in numbers. 2010 assessment estimated about 1000 breeding pairs in the island. The world population is estimated in more than million pairs.

Their reproduction is very slow.
The reproductive cycle begins during the southern spring, September-November, when eggs are laid.
Each female lay only 1 egg, they have no nests so the egg is incubated on the adult's feet. Both parents share the incubation of the egg in shifts of 6-18 days each, which takes 50-60 days to be completed.
Post-hatching the parents continue sharing the duty of care and feed  their chicks for the first 16 months of life when they are mature enough to leave the parents.

Interesting facts about King penguins:

- The King penguins have a lower rate of monogamy than smaller penguin species.
- Females are more selective than males when choosing a mate, their choice seem to be based on their plumage.
- The plumage colour on the breasts and auricular areas are thought to reflect the health and age of the penguin, the healthier it is, the bright the plumage. The old it is, more vivid is its colouration.
- Although the King penguins have very little interaction in their environment they are very tolerant of human presence and are not alarmed by the presence of tourists.
- The main predator of King penguins are Leopard seals and Orcas (killer whales). Chicks and eggs prey to shore birds such Skuas and Giant Petrels.
- The age of these penguins is up to 20 years in the wild.
-They are fightless birds, very friendly and social with each other in their colony.

                                                   King Penguin Park


In November 2011 the Parque Pinguino Rey was created, the aim is to conserve the ecosystem to ensure the protection of King penguin and other species that inhabit the Bahia Inútil sector and also to protect the Selk'Nam and Paleoindian archaeological resources.
Bahia Inútil (Useless Bay) is a bay in the Strait of Magellan, in the western part of Tierra del Fuego, Chilean territory.
The bay was named in 1827 by captain Phillip Parker King, Australian explorer (1791-1856), because he could not afford anchorage or shelter in that bay.

The bay is 60 Km in lenght and a width of 30 Km. Its extension and lack of protection puts the place at high wind from west and north. The beautiful River Marazzi, where the penguins use to stay, empties into the bay.

The tourism project is being managed by Turismo San Clemente that has unfolded a series of visiting programs considering that all visitors are interested in conservation and protection of the species. So has established a certain number of visitors, no more than 20 simultaneously, groups of 10-12 at most.
During the tour visitors are accompanied by park rangers and also can get information directly from one of the members of the conservation and research team involved in this exciting project.

    If you wish to contact the conservation team send a e-mail to:

It is necessary to inform in advance the day and time you want to visit the park. On arrival visitors must comply with the protocol of visitors which will be informed and explained at the time of admission.

Information and booking a tour:


Monday, 4 August 2014

Otway Sound Penguin Colony

Definition of sound from Wikipedia: " In geography a sound is a large sea or ocean inlet larger than a bay, deeper than a bight and wider than a fjord."

As you can see in the map the Otway sound lies between Brunswick peninsula and Riesco island. It is connected the open Pacific ocean through the Strait of Magellan via a narrow passage that cuts into Andean massif. Also the sound is connected with Skyring sound by the Fitz Roy channel.

The name was given in honour of Robert Otway, an English vice-admiral of Royal Navy and scientist who became famous as the captain of HMS Beagle second voyage to Tierra del Fuego and Southern cone.

Although the Otway sound is famous for its lovely Magellanic penguin colony, its local fauna is very rich: 14 birds in the sea and beach environmental, 16 birds and 2 mammals in the steppe, 14 birds and 1 mammal associated to fresh water body. It is one of the most easily visited penguin reserve in the world, is only 60km north of Punta Arenas and corresponds an area of about 45 hectares of hasplains and slopes with herbaceous vegetation.

The reserve was created to protect mainly the penguins, Sphenicus magallanicus, that comes every year for courting, mating and laying the eggs through that protected area.
The toilet facilities, handcraft and coffee shop and the 1800m footpath have been designed not to affect the colony. During the one hour easy walking the visitors observe the colony as a whole, the route the penguins follow to go to the sea and back, observe the location and distribution of the nests.
Also the visitors can have a panoramic view of the beach and the sea of Otway sound and eventually can observe different species of beach birds and some mammals like tuninas (small white dolphins) and sea lions.

Few information about  Magellanic penguins:

The Magellanic penguins belong to the Sphenisciformes order and the Spheniscidae family.
Male and female have no external differences. The adults are about 70cm tall and average weight is 4kg.

The world population of these sea birds is estimated one million five hundred thousand couples, considering about a million individuals in Region de Magallanes.

The basic food of these penguins are small fishes, cephalopoda and crustaceans. They feed during the day diving after their prey.

Most of them dive between 20 and 50 meter deep, but they can reach even 90 meter deep.

Dangers threatening penguins:
rapacious birds, seagulls and skua, which destroy eggs and newly borns,
depredation of juveniles and adults by sea lions, leopard seals, killer whales or giant dolphins,
accidental death during first trips into the sea,
wild dogs attack.
human actions: collection of eggs for food and hunting for oil manufacturing, use of penguin meat as bait for king crab traps, fishing nets, water contaminated with hydrocarbons.

More informations about the Otway sound tour:

Friday, 1 August 2014

Region of Magellan's Natural Monuments

The Region of Magellan has an area of 132.000 km2 being 50% of the area wild protected area, which means 70.000 km2 are protected by the SNAPE, the national system of wild protected areas, which protects12 wild areas in the region: 6 national parks, 3 natural monuments and 3 natural reserves.

Natural monument is an reduced natural region, structure or phenomenon, is unique and has special geological, botanical, water and other characteristics that often have high visitor value.
The area should contain one or more features of outstanding significance, archaeological or natural sites which have heritage significance or/and associated with indigenous people.

The Monumento Natural Cueva del Milodon (Milodon Cave Natural Monument) is a set of 6 caves, rock shelters and a giant rock named the devil´s chair which is 35m high and is a natural view of the area. Its name comes from popular culture and is based on its armchair form which was first said to be the milodon seat but later became known as the devil´s chair. The monument is located at the base of Beñitez hill and surrounded by Nothofagus forest and very rich with Patagonian fauna and flora.

The monument is of scientific and historical importance as in 1895 three Germany explorers of Patagonia found into the main cave a large, seemingly fresh piece of skin of an unidentified animal. In 1896 the Swedish scientific Otto Nordensholdt visited the cave and later recognised that the skin belonged to Milodon darwini, an extinct herbivorous animal survived until about 5000 years ago, also investigations confirmed the existence of other animal such as the Hippidion sp known as the dwarf horse, the sabre-toothed tiger or Smilodon and the litoptern Macrauchenia.

Also the site has a great archaeological value as it housed the primitive Patagonian man, hunters belonged to the paleoindian culture. Archaeologists found diverse elements of habitation at the caves and human remains dated as early as 6000 BC.

The milodon cave is the largest of the 6 caves, the entrance is 29m high and 80m wide, the cave is 200m deep and descends about 20m from the entrance level.
High above their heads the visitors see hundreds of large stalactites. It is believed that the caves were formed by the erosion of a wave of mud that involved the basin of Puerto Natales during progressive withdrawal of huge ice sheets that filled the basin during the last glacial period.

The administration of the site provides services such as water, public conveniences, mobile phone signal, radio communication and privately-owned cafe and restaurant. Also an information centre and pic-nic areas  can be visited and a trekking path that connects practically all the tourist attractions for this natural monument, its grade of difficulty is low and very attractive.

The Monumento Natural Los Pinguinos (The Penguins Natural Monument) is located in the middle of Strait of Magellan, 22 miles northeast of Punta Arenas.
The monument consists of two islands, Magdalena and Marta, which together form an area of 97 hectares, of these, Magdalena Island has 87 hectares.
The site was created in 22 August 1966 as a tourist park and classified as natural monument in 1982. Although the site attracts thousands of tourists each year it is a wild area that stands for the protection and conservation of Magellanic penguins and King cormorant (Imperial shag).
The site can be visited between October-March when the penguins and other species of birds and mammals come to the islands for reproduction. The visitors can walk through a 800m footpath observing the species in their natural habitat.

In Magdalena Island about 69.000 pairs of  Magellanic penguins (Stephenicus magallanicus) make their nests around the rocks or burrows in the soil. In Marta Island there is an important colony of King cormorant (Phalacrocorax atriceps) and also Southern sea lion (Otaria flavencens) and South American fur seal (Arctocephalus australis).

The main attraction of the site are without doubt the Magellanic penguins which are 60-70cm tall and weight between 2.7-4.8kg.
They look for the same partner each year and can recognise each other for their noisy call.
They arrive to the island in September, the males come first. In October they court and mate and one egg is laid on the nest, although two eggs have been seen in some nests. Male and female share the duties of breeding which last for 42 days and both care for the chicks until end of January when the chicks starting their first trips to the sea. Finally, end of March they depart from the island in large flocks looking for warmth waters during the Patagonian winter.

Another tourist attraction in Magdalena Island is the light house, an historical patrimony built between 1901-1902. Its 13,5m high provides an amazing panoramic sight of the area.
The light house has an environmental interpretation centre with interesting information about the history of the Strait of Magellan and the ecological richness of the island.

The Monumento Natural Laguna de los Cisnes (The Swan Lake Natural Monument), located in Tierra del Fuego Island, has an area of 25.3 hectares which corresponds to the 7 inner islands of the Swan lake which is the natural habitat of a varied species of sea birds. Among the observed species include the black-necked swan (Cygnus melancony), white colour swan (Coscoroba coscoroba), flamenco (Phoenicopterus chilenses), caiquén (Chloephaga picta), cauquén (Chloephaga poliocephada), carancho (Poliborus plancus) and several species of ducks.

There is no administratively facilities in the site because it stands mainly for the protection of the nest area.