We’d wanted to see penguins at some point on our cruise around South America on board the Star Princess and there were plenty of opportunities to do so with excursions offered in Argentina, Chile, and the Falkland Islands for those who wanted them. We elected to see the penguins at the earliest opportunity in Argentina largely because we could see other trips we were interested in taking in those other locations. One slight problem with our choice of penguin-spotting trip was that the distance to the natural reserve of Punta Tombo was quite far and involved a long trip that was also devoid of much to catch the eye on account of the barren Patagonian landscape (see: our trip from Puerto Madryn). However, we did eventually arrive at the large reserve beside the Atlantic Ocean and were left to explore on our own for a while with explicit instructions to stay within the rope-bounded area and not to touch any of the Magellanic penguins we would see. Amazingly, nobody did to the best of my knowledge.
During part of the season when the Magellanic penguins are at Punta Tombo they can number over a million but we had arrived towards the very end when the vast majority had migrated. Those that were still behind included the younger penguins still to fully lose their fur.
Part of the Punta Tombo shoreline consisted of some very red rock. We never found out what it was although I would suspect clay. Whatever it was it was quite bold and quite a contrast with the dull colours that had overshadowed our trip through Patagonia to that point.
One interesting fact we’d been told before we arrived at the reserve at Punta Tombo was that penguins make noises like donkeys. We didn’t know how to take this and some people on the coach laughed. I can report that it turns out that penguins, or at least Magellanic penguins anyway, certainly do make noises like donkeys.
Penguins were not the only interesting animals that we saw during our excursion at Punta Tombo. On the approach by coach we spotted some guanacos which are the only wild species of camelid in South America (llamas and alpacas being domesticated) and as we were heading out of the reserve to pick up our coach (and quite a pleasant packed lunch) we were treated to a song from a Patagonian Mockingbird.
It was good to see the penguins but if we were to repeat the cruise (and we probably will one day) then we’d certainly look for something shorter, something closer to whatever port we were putting into, assuming there wasn’t something better to see. Snoozing took place on the drive back to the ship.