14 April 2009

Punta Tombo... Penguins, penguins everywhere!



There are a few day-trips to do from Puerto Madryn and they generally all involve seeing one thing: animals. Being a low-season traveller, I missed the whales and the elephant seals - and it was too windy for sea-lions and orcas (killer whales) - so my excursion was to see penguins. Hundreds of thousands of penguins.



From September to April each year, over a half-million Megellanic penguins nest and incubate their eggs at the peninsula at Punta Tomba. After the offspring have been prepared for migration they ditch their parents who wait there, hopeful that they will return.



The guide said that this year 250,000 nests were counted - which means there would have been at least 750,000 penguins there at "peak hour," counting the male, the female and one chick.

She said that each pair usually has two eggs, just in case their first chick doesn't survive. So while they concentrate their efforts on one chick - making it strong and conditioning it for survival - the other chick stands aside and hopes it has an "accident."





[Below] There is one animal which constantly decorates the other-wise flat and barren Argentinian countryside: guanacos. These are the brownish-looking creatures on the left of the photo below.



At Punta Tombo the nests are absolutely everywhere! There is a demarcated path whose boundaries you are required to stay within, however the gregarious and curious penguins wonder about freely amongst the people. There are areas where you actually have to zigzag from left to right to avoid bumping into them.



[Below] Couples stand in front of their nest, protecting their eggs from birds and other predators.





[Below] Awwww.... though be warned... the little buggers will nip you if you annoy them.



[Below] The couples stay at Punta Tombo until around the middle of April, when they migrate to Brazil. In these last few weeks, the penguins malt - hence their grungy appearance.



[Below] How's this for a passport photo?





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