‘I’m speaking plain penguin!’

What’s at the bottom of the world? Penguins, of course.

From Punta Arenas, Chile, the world’s southernmost city, I sailed the Magellan Strait to visit the largest penguin colony in the region. About 69,000 pairs of Magellanic Penguins inhabit Isla Magdalena along with their babies and “teenagers,” making the colony’s total population about 300,000. The average Magellanic Penguin is 61 to 76 cm (24-30 in) tall, weighs between 2.7 and 6.5 kg (5.9-14.3 lbs) and lives to be 25 years old.

As I stepped off the boat, black and white bellies waddled in every direction, crossing the tourist-marked trail to travel between their nests and the water. It was fascinating to see the penguins’ varying daily routines. The males searched for brush and tended to the nests, in order to either care for their existing family or to attract a female partner. The females fished and then stored the food in their throats before regurgitating it to their babies who had not yet grown waterproof feathers.

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Have you ever seen so many penguins?

And what did all those Spanish-speaking penguins sound like, you ask?

Unlike in “Happy Feet,” these penguins prefer to live in warmer climates and migrate between the southern Chilean island and an area in southern Brazil. For us humans, though, the weather was a bit cold especially with the wind chill factor.

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Me and Nora

One thing I learned on the island is that human relationships should be more like penguins’! Penguins are monogamous but only spend six months of the year with their partner. For the other six months, the males kick it with their buddies and the females hang with their gal pals. What an arrangement … No wonder the divorce rate is zero!

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Follow me, my fair lady

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Going out to sea

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Knock, knock. Who’s there?

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Why did the penguins cross the trail?

The visit with my new pingüino amigos was a fun little trip that I’d recommend to anyone who just so happens to be almost to Antarctica but can’t make it all the way.

–JDF