Visiting the king penguins in their natural environment is a wonderful experience. Although the trip is not the easiest and the road is long, it is totally worth it.
Tierra de Fuego, the fabled “land of fire” is an archipelago on the south of the continent separated from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan. Tierra de Fuego belongs to Chile and Argentina, but the Penguüino Rey Park lies on the Chilean side. This is not really a park, but rather a piece of land with a sign and a shed in the middle of a wild territory, where the penguins live in their natural environment without any disturbance. The entrance is rather pricey (CLP 12000), I would say, for something in the middle of nowhere. The penguin colony is small, in season no more than 50 couples. No more than 12 visitors are allowed to enter the park to avoid any disturbance of the penguins. You can admire them from the distance of 20 meters and listen to their “singing”.
It took us many hours of driving to get there, but after dreaming of seeing penguins live for so long and having no previous experience, it was totally worth it. I could not however, capture the beauty of the penguins on photos due to the bad light, distance and my equipment limitations.
The wind was playing with us like with feathers. Standing still on two feet was quite a challenge. Three seconds without the gloves on was enough for me to notice the numbness in my fingers. My nose was like an ice cube of bright red colour and i could barely resist the freezing wind, nonetheless, observing those beautiful creatures in their own home was so incredible that the tiredness, cold and wind could not spoil the moment.
Two ways to reach the park
Although the transport to Tierra de Fuego improved considerably in the last years, it still remains a journey full of adventures that you will remember for long.
The roads are poor on Tierra de Fuego, especially on the Chilean part, which slows down the trip and there is very little public transport. The best way to get in is by car or with an organized tour (but I have heard from some travelers that some tour operators make things difficult). 4×4 car would be an excellent option to wander around the archipelago, but you can do fine with a normal car too with less comfort. We did travel with a normal car and we had to be extra careful on the bad roads with jumping stones.
A ferry to Porvenir from Punta Arenas. Best with an organized tour. The crossing Magellan Strait takes around two hours. If you are lucky you may see some dolphins as well during the journey.
You can do it on your own
Drive to Punta Delgada ( around 2-hour drive from Punta Arenas) and take a ferry to cross the Magellan Strait. The journey takes around 20 minutes. The park is located in Bahía Inútil, in Onaisín 14km off the road Y-85. It is located around 132 kms far from Bahía Azul where you leave the ferry.
Some practical stuff
In Tierra de Fuego you can expect rain, sun, heat or freezing cold the same day and the wind can reach 100 km/h, hence it is best to wear layers of clothes. The sun can be quite strong there as well, so don’t forget a sun protection and sunglasses.
The place can be visited any time of the year, however the best weather occurs between November and April. In winter, although it is cold and the days are shorter, the wind is much weaker so it makes it a little bit more pleasant (and easier) to walk and explore.
King penguins is the second largest species of penguins after the emperors and are usually found in subantarctic islands. They are characterized by a bright yellow collar and weight on average 15kg (33lb) and are 95cm (3.1ft) high. On Tierra de Fuego the king penguins have had their home that they have been visiting for many centuries.
Do you like penguins? I think they are truly fascinating creatures and in Chile there’s is more places to see them in their natural environment, so…I am of course thinking of seeing them.
Thank you for your visit. What travel plans do you have for the new year? I would love to hear from you.
Keep smiling, follow your heart