Chile is a unique country which can only be truly described by experiencing it yourself. With so many diverse destinations, it is easy to understand why so many people travel here every year. As part of the Chilean Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park is just another bonus when you are planning to travel to Isla Magdalena.
Isla Magdalena is a small island located in Chile in the Strait of Magellan. It is conveniently located only 2 hours from Punta Arenas, which is the biggest city in the Magellanes Region of Chile. This makes Isla Magdalena one of the most accessible Magellanic penguin rookeries in the world.
You are guaranteed to spot these wobbling cuties here as Isla Magdalena is a huge nesting site for Magellanic penguins, and home to almost 60 000 pairs of penguins. These sacred birds and others are highly protected here and Isla Magdalena was officially declared a national monument, Monumento Natural Los Pingüinos, in 1982.
The penguins that live on Isla Magdalena have been attracting tourists for quite some time and they have no fear of the humans that walk amongst them. The result of this is that one can witness this incredible sanctuary created for these beautiful birds while getting up close and personal with them. If you would like to learn more about visiting this island, keep reading our article.
Penguin Galore at Isla Magdalena
Isla Magdalena is a small nature sanctuary inhabited only by wild animals. You can find Humboldt penguins, seabirds, and sea lions here. In fact, the biggest penguin colony in the entire South America can be found here. Isla Magdalena is strictly protected by CONAF (Forrestal National Corporation).
The Magellanic penguin is endemic to South America, and typically breeds in coastal Patagonia, including Argentina and Chile. It was named after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who first discovered these birds in 1520.
Magellanic penguins are medium sized penguins, so they are easy to spot. They grow up to 61-76 centimeters in length and they can weigh between 2.7 and 6.5 kilograms. Isla Magdelena hosts one of the biggest nesting sites for Magellanic penguins in the world, so surely you will bump into some of them here.
When to visit
Unfortunately these wobbly cuties are not around all year. The colony only breeds here in the months of September to March. The rest of the year there will be no tours available, as there won’t be much to see. The ideal time to visit Isla Magdalena is in February, because the chances are the highest that you will see fuzzy feathered baby chicks roaming the shores.
The best time to visit does not necessarily depend on the weather conditions. One of the cons of visiting Isla Magdalena is that the weather can be very unpredictable, and sometimes even severe. You can even experience all four seasons, in just a single day.
The day may start off as sunny, and then it will start to rain and then the wind can pick up at any moment. Prepare yourself sufficiently by packing enough clothing items that will assist all weather conditions.
What to expect
The charm of Isla Magdalena is its unconventional beauty which compromises landscapes that look completely untouched by humans, and it could be considered one of the last vestiges of pure wilderness. You can expect to see penguins roaming free and wild, creating an incredible ambience and landscape to witness.
Visiting Isla Magdalena involves taking a boat ride – which can be via the public ferry or a private speedboat – from Tres Puentes Pier in Punta Arenas to the island. It takes about 2 hours on the ferry and 1 hour on the speedboat. The only way to access the island is by boat.
You can expect to see around 120 000 penguins in their natural habitat, walking around really up-close to humans. This is accompanied with stunning views of the Strait of Magellan, and the historic Isla Magdalena Lighthouse and its informative exhibitions that provide more knowledge about the island.
Other than the magnificent Magellanic penguins, you can expect to see other wild and beautiful birds such as cormorants and albatrosses. You may also stand the chance to watch the dolphins in the water on the boat ride out to the island
How to get there
There is only one way to access Isla Magdalena, and that is via boat. Most people that travel to the island go there via the Melinka, a public boat. This boat has a capacity of around 220 people, so if you prefer something less crowded this may not be the best option for you.
The alternative is to take a private boat. If you choose this option, it may include snacks and drinks on the boat -depending on what is included in the cost. All the boats will depart from the Tres Puentes Terminal in Punta Arenas. The times depend on whether you choose the ferry, or a private boat.
It takes about two hours to Isla Magdalena each way, and the time that tourists can spend on the island is strictly limited to only one hour. Visitors can trot the 800-meter path that stretches across part of the island and see the penguins as they go, and they can also enter the old lighthouse to see the exhibition and learn more about the history of the place.
The Kuoda Experience
Visiting Magdalena Penguin Island is something we highly recommend, especially if your dream is to be surrounded by adorable penguins. A trip to this magical island makes this incredibly special experience, a reality.
With so many other diverse destinations in Chile to add to your bucket list, it can be quite overwhelming to start planning for a trip like this. We at Kuoda understand that arranging a cohesive journey like this one, can be stressful.
Kuoda specializes in luxury travel – allow us to plan your dream vacation to Isla Magdelena Penguin Island and other hot destinations in Chile. Get in contact with one of our trip designers today.