The penguin season begins in Magallanes

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The Magallanes region is home to one of the largest penguin colonies in Chile: Magdalena Island, which includes an incredible 200,000 Magellanic penguins. 
Before, tourists visiting Punta Arenas could only visit the Seno Otway penguin colony, which is much smaller (about 8,000 penguins) and its birds are widely scattered. Magdalena Island, which is part of Los Pinguinos  Natural Monument, was only for the privileged few arriving on cruise ships. Now, some tourism companies are taking people to Magdalena two or three times per day. 
The island is 35 kilometers from Punta Arenas, in the middle of the Strait of Magellan. Navigating in these waters is especially difficult as this is where the ocean currents from the Atlantic and the Pacific mix. Normally, the trip to the island should delay only about half an hour, but sometimes it can stretch on to two hours. Timing is a matter of luck -- everything depends on the wind and the changing weather -- but either way the trip by sea itself is a real adventure. During your trip you have the opportunity to see Commerson's dolphins, southern dolphins and birds such as petrels, cormorants and albatross. 
The Magdalena Island Penguin Colony
The way penguins swim is always surprising. They are extremely agile, swim fast and can jump high out of the water. Unlike birds that fly, which have holes in their bones to be more lightweight, and long feathers and large wings, the penguins have denser bones that give them greater weight allowing them to easily go beneath the surface of the water. They also have very thick feathers, and short, small fins that act as propellants. We must also remember that penguins spend most of their life in the sea; they only touch land to raise their offspring and tend to their plumage. 
In the middle of Magdalena Island is a former lighthouse and an environmental education center. From this vantage point you have an excellent, panoramic view of the entire island. The view is seemingly full of small black points, but these are actually the 65,000 pairs of penguins, plus their respective young, which fill up the scene everywhere you look. At least every two meters there is a nest, which are really holes in the ground. The adult penguins are constantly cleaning and guarding these nests.  
You can walk an 800 meter-trail that passes between the nests. As the tourists pass, some penguins move quickly away, but others are very curious and try to observe each human movement, tilting their heads from one side to another to look at people more easily. Other penguins sleep and are unaffected by human presence. Sometimes, albeit rarely, a penguin is emboldened to try to peck the shoes of a visitor if they walk too close. It is important to stay on the trail to avoid damaging the nests. Another important rule is to always give the penguins the right-of-way: do not disrupt them if they cross in front of you. 
The famous love song of the penguins occurs on this island, though for sure it has to be one of the less melodious songs in nature. Rather, it sounds like a big concert of donkeys singing out of tune. But they are very flirtatious, bowing and moving the neck to clean one another. The penguins are also monogamous and maintain long-term bonds: the females choose the male that mated with them the previous year. The males arrive first to fix the nest, a couple of weeks later the females arrive, they then mate and the females lay two eggs which incubate for 40 days. Then begins the most difficult stage, both parents pass through a time of famine and weaken while trying to protect their nest from predators. On this island, the largest threats are other birds such as gulls and skuas, which exploit any neglected nest to steal eggs and even attack the young at birth. 

Marta Island, just a few minutes by boat from Magdalena, is also part of the Los Penguinos Natural  Monument and a standard part of the visit for tour boats. You won’t go on land here, but you will see a colony of noisy sea lions and in the ridges an enormous amount of seabirds. 

With the arrival of the southern hemisphere autumn in late March, the Magellanic penguins migrate northward in search of warmer water and more hours of light to feed. But every year they return with an impressive punctuality, always repeating the same cycle and always to the delight of anyone who is lucky enough to visit them at their southern Patagonia home. 
Useful Info:
Penguin season is from October to late March. We recommend two companies, both of which have new boats and plenty of experience in these waters and both charge about $35,000 Chilean pesos (around US$75): 
Waia Expeditions. Tel: (61) 222695. 

Only Expeditions. Tel: (61) 262281. 

-The expedition lasts about three hours including transfers, but also could extend longer in case of unfriendly seas. Dress warmly and be prepared for rain.
- The boats are small and can move a lot, so individuals prone to motion sickness might consider taking a pill to help them deal with possible dizziness.