With a clumsy but elegant pace in their black and white suit, the amazing Magallanic penguins in Punta Tombo Reserve have become a must see to be enjoyed without haste and accompanied by the family.
It was not until the rubble road deposited us in the access to Punta Tombo Provincial Reserve that we became aware of the magnitude of the penguin colony dwelling in it. These birds spend several months a year at their small addresses on the Argentinian Atlantic coast.
Calculating how many specimens gather up at this venue is like winning the lottery. Once inside, we accepted the invitation made by the rangers to take part in a guided tour. We were eager to learn about the customs of these birds and to get deep into the constant murmur we could already hear.
Some penguins were taking short slow steps as they wobbled here and there. Others seemed to rush after a bus. Funny and active, couples arrive on these shores to occupy their nests, mate and wait for the birth of their young forty days later.
A unique natural event
The magnitude of the penguin colony
The sea as company
They continue with their routine
The colony occupies a length of three kilometers on the seashore. The soil is rocky and covered by sand, clay and gravel. They dig the caves themselves in the areas where the soil is sandier.
Ever since a few years ago, the tour around the area is to follow a circuit along an interpretation trail. A wooden footbridge displays the movements of these animals from a close distance. Visitors may see how the couples remain on the eggs in order to maintain their temperature or feed their young.
“What do they eat?” a curious kid asked as his black eyes opened wide expecting the answer. “Small anchovy, mollusk and shrimp they search for in the sea.”
As we walked by the nest area, our guide told us about their habits, courtship behavior and fights among the males to defend their territory or the chosen female. These good swimmers arrive at this spot every year in September and they do not leave until next March -when their offspring start to feed on their own-, heading for warmer waters in southern Brazil.
The venue used to be part of an estancia. Its owners gave it away in order to preserve the largest continental colony of Magellanic penguins. It lodges almost two million specimens.
“The male is usually 70 centimeters tall and weighs from 4 to 5 kilos. The females are smaller. They both boast a particular plumage that resembles a tuxedo.” The Magellanic Penguin Interpretation Center offers a recreational and informative approach in charge of qualified staff.
Other sea birds also share this sea refuge. Kelp gulls and dolphin gulls, king cormorants steamerducks and several other species are part of this big family that welcomes more and more visitors every year.
As we observed how the penguins carefully cleaned their plumage, a strong call resembled a farewell from our hosts. We left the reserve behind with the feeling of having witnessed a unique natural event.
Mónica Pons Eduardo Epifanio
Contact of the excursion or tour
Av. Roca 31 (9120) Puerto Madryn, ChubutTel: +54 2965-453712
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