Following our return from Antarctica, we had a couple of days to pass in Ushuaia before setting off for Chile. Having spent the first afternoon back enjoying a few drinks with Craig & Erin before saying our goodbyes, we also made arrangements for a day trip to the Isla de Los Pajaros in the Tierra del Fuego National Park. We wanted to see 2 more species of penguin – the Magellanic penguins, which we knew we’d see, but also the elusive King penguin. If we were lucky, we might see a pair who reside on the island.
The bus ride through the national park was beautiful. Our guide told us to call her by her artistic name ‘Crazy Horse’. Randomly she would make novelty horse noises in the bus and on the boat over to the island, which was amusing but also quite strange…
On arrival at the island, we had our first feeling that our Antarctic adventure might cause us some issues on our future travels – would anything else ever compare? As we climbed down from the boat, we were greeted by a lot of scruffy looking Magellanic penguins. It turns out we were there when a lot of the colony had already migrated north for the winter and what was left was the remaining few who hadn’t yet finished moulting. And moulting or not, the Magellanic penguins just weren’t as cute as their Antarctic cousins. Trying not to be too disappointed, we went off to see what else we could find on the island.
As we walked over the first rise, between the grey skies and scruffy Magellanic penguins, our eyes caught a glimpse of orange and gold. Standing with an impressive air of grace, we saw our first King penguin! I wish we could have gotten closer to this marvellous creature, as it was a long way away, but luckily the zoom on our cameras was working.
Overall it was a mixed day. Our initial disappointment turned positive when we saw our first (and only) King penguin. I can only imagine how amazing they would look in bigger numbers. Despite our limited time on the island, walking around the path we were able to get up close (but not too close) with the penguins. OK, maybe we’d judged the Magellanics too quickly, as there was a shy but inquisitive side to these guys, although not a patch on the ever curious and super cute Gentoos.
The end of the tour also included a short stop at the marine museum located in the grounds of Estancia Harberton. It was a really interesting stop for us, as one of the marine biologists on our Antarctica trip had given us a talk about her work here (when she’s not on the tours) and her stories fascinated us. The museum collects animals and birds that have washed ashore and take them back to the Estancia for scientific research. Over the years there has been countless whales, seals, penguins and birds as well as orcas and dolphins, and the collection now contains the skeletons of over 2700 marine mammals and 2300 birds.
An interesting day but not one we’d rave about due to the cost. It was way too expensive for what the tour included, King penguins or not. Onwards to Chile!