Patagonia and other adventure travel destinations

Punta Tombo and Other Patagonian Penguin Colonies

While the sparse, inhospitable terrain of Patagonia may not seem like the most obvious habitat for wildlife, the region surprises with its breadth of marine animals. Punta Tombo is the most famous of all penguin colonies in Patagonia, but lesser-visited breeding sites – many of which are located far from human settlement and are only accessible by boat – also merit exploration.


Seno Otway – Chile

Around 60,000 pairs of Magellanic penguins are found at Seno Otway: an inlet located around 40 miles (65km) north of Punta Arenas and accessible by car. A trip here is accompanied by the spectacular scenery of the huge waterway that gives the penguin colony its name.

Best time to visit: Breeding and nesting season is between November and March.

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Magdalena Island – Chile

Magdalena Island in the Strait of Magellan is the location of the largest Magellanic penguin colony in Chile, where visitors to the island can hike a path through the 120,000 birds as they nest and raise chicks, untroubled by their human guests. Now officially recognized as an important breeding site (it was declared a National Monument in 1982), it is only reachable by boat tours or cruise ship expeditions in Patagonia.

Best time to visit: Breeding and nesting season is between November and March.

punta tomboPunta Tombo – Argentina

The colony at Punta Tombo is the largest colony in South America, with over 200,000 breeding pairs resident on the peninsula. Located a one-hour drive from Trelew, the Punta Tombo Provincial Reserve was formed in 1979 after land was donated by local farmers to protect this key penguin habitat. A boardwalk winds through the colony and grants ample opportunities for close up photographs of the birds as they prepare nests in the soft ground and care for their offspring.

Best time to visit: Breeding and nesting season lasts from September until April.


Tuckers Islets – Chile

A colony of 4,000 Magellanic penguins is based on this small set of islands in the Strait of Magellan. Zodiac boats are the only way of approaching the beach where the birds live, and landing on the shore is strictly forbidden in order to protect the fragile environment of the islands. To find out how you can explore both the Tuckers Islets and Magdalena Islands penguin colonies, take a look at these cruise ship itineraries in Patagonia.

Best time to visit: Breeding and nesting season is between November and March.


Bahía Inútil – Chile

The location of the only continental American king penguin colony, Bahía Inútil is an essential stop-off when visiting Tierra del Fuego. Although king penguin bones have been discovered in the remains of 6,000 year-old human settlement in the area, proving that a colony has historically been located here, it was only ten years ago that the present colony returned to this spot.

punta tomboNow numbering over 100, the king penguins can be visited all year round and entry into the private reserve includes a short talk by the protection group monitoring the birds. Accessible by car, Bahía Inútil also forms part of one of Australis’ cruise ship itineraries.

Best time to visit: The king penguins live here throughout the year but November onwards is the start of the breeding season.

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