We thought that a 5 hour excursion with Pira Tour to see a bunch of penguins on an island in the Beagle Channel was overpriced at $100, but how wrong we were. To see the two species that inhabit Isla Martillo, the Gentoo and Magellanic dancing, preening, and hanging out in their natural habitat was so cool, and although there weren’t the numbers that are around in December it was still amazing.
Isla Martillo is part of the land owned by Haberton Estancia, and prior to the penguins turning up out of the blue around 40 years ago it was used for sheep grazing. Now the Estancia thrives on penguin tourism! The island is extremely exposed to all sorts of weather, including very high winds and cold, but the penguins take it all in their stride. The Magellanic have burrows for nesting and getting out of the weather whereas the Gentoo just nest directly on the stony areas – hard to believe as the weather when we were there seemed very cold and windy, albeit with blue skies. There are around 3000 breeding pairs in the height of the season, and we heard that when the zodiacs land at that time of year they have to almost clear the penguins from the paths to get through! Hopefully we’ll get to see King and Emperor penguins in Antarctica when we eventually get out there at the end of 2013.
March 23rd 2013