The Penguins of Punta Tombo

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December 4th 2006
Published: December 4th 2006
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There are thousands in the background
A hundred kilometres or so South of Trelew is Punta Tombo, home of the largest colony of Magellan penguins in the world. It was a bit of a tedious journey there through landscapes which rarely changed. Still, our guide told us all about sheep farming and the production of wool to keep us entertained. As we got closer she changed the topic to the penguins and suddenly we all started to pay a bit more attention!

How to tell you about the penguins? They were cute, surprisingly noisy, and also a bit smelly!! There were hundreds of thousands of them wandering around, going for a swim (or maybe a bite to eat), sunbathing, or having an afternoon kip. It was amazing to get so close to them and they are obviously used to tourists clicking away with cameras as they seemed oblivious to us most of the time.

We were lucky to be there at the time when the eggs are hatching and the chicks are emerging. Although we didn’t actually witness such an event, we did see a lot of chicks being cared for by one parent or another. It was quite amazing.

[Note: the squeamish can skip this paragraph!] The natural food chain ensures the survival not only of these penguins, but also of various birds such as seagulls and huge black petrels. The birds try to steal the eggs then drop them from a great height and eat the contents. They even eat live chicks for breakfast, something we did get to see!!!!

The penguins share their colony not only with tourists, but with other forms of wildlife. We saw maras (Patagonian Hares), guanaco, grey fox, and rheas or ñandu. It was interesting to hear about the lives of the ñandu. A pair will have up to 40 eggs (we are sure that’s what the guide said) and when they hatch the mother leaves. The father is left to school the chicks. We saw a herd (or is it a pack?) of about 12 running around - cute!

Additional photos below
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Aaaaah, isn´t it cute.

or are they Ñandu, or even rheas? It seesm they are all pretty much the same!!

5th December 2006

Big birds eating little chicks! I think I might have cried! We didn´t get that much action at Punto Tombo. I love the choique too! Happy travels!

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