The inocentes and their penguin friends

26 Mar

Our visit to the penguin reserve outside of Ushuaia was a six-hour long affair of fun, freezing and feathered friends.

Walking to the van that would take us on our way, the light rain that was falling suddenly began to fall a bit…harder. After three years in Boston, we realized that we were getting sleeted on. We quickened our pace.

The van was an hour long drive to an Estancia where we would enjoy a tour of marine life in the area…before we were treated to PENGUINS.

So after the tour of sperm whale jaws and baleen, we boarded our speed boat to PENGUIN ISLAND. The reserve was created after the local government realized that there were penguins visiting a small island owned by a local estancia. Every year they would return and breed, and eventually the government decided to declare the island a natural reserve in order to protect the future of the penguins and their breeding grounds.

Our tour company–Piratour–petitioned the government to see if introducing humans to the island would negatively impact the livelihood of the penguins. Over time, it was ruled that introducing humans–only to certain parts of the island and in a very controlled manner–would be fine, and Piratours was granted the only license in Ushuaia to visit the island with tourists.

And WE were some of those tourists! It was windy and freezing, and we were wearing literally everything we had and could possibly buy. We walked slowly around the “human friendly” part of the island, while some penguins looked on, curiously. Others seemed not to care.

The majority of the penguins were Magellenic, and they return to the island every year to breed between seasons. They were everywhere. In the water, waddling along the coast, huddled underground and under trees to escape the wind; some were in the middle of molting–fat and feathery–while others had just finished molting and were sleek and skinny. Molting is a 10-14 day process during which they would lose all of their existing feathers and wait for their new ones to grow in. During those 14 days, they can’t swim and search for food, so molting penguins gorge to make sure they are F-A-T while penguins that have just finished molting are skinny minnies. There were a handful of Gentoo penguins, with their orange beaks and bigger bodies setting them apart. There was one, huge King penguin walking among the colony, separated from its own tribe and trying to find its own King penguin mate. Seeking in vain, of course, but seeking nevertheless.

We took pictures, pictures and more pictures, which was surprising considering that my hands were falling off of my body because they were so frozen. The high winds and cold weather were brutal; we spent about 30 minutes wandering a part of the island until the cold was too much to bear, and we headed back in the speedboat to our van.

BUT! PENGUINS! There were also penguins huddled in couples underground in their nests, as well as a few pairs waiting out the wind under trees and bushes. They were EVERYWHERE. So many penguins waddling around, some fighting, some singing, some crouching. At the end of the day, though, we were FREEZING, and we made our freezing way back to Ushuaia.

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One Response to “The inocentes and their penguin friends”

  1. Lea Anthony March 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm #

    How fun! Cute pics. I am glad steps have been taken to preserve and allow the birds privacy. Certainly a brrrrrrrr adventure compared to previous ones.

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