The most unlikely places to see Penguins.
When you think about places to see penguins you probably visualise a frozen wasteland? Well penguins live in quite a few places actually, this week I explore some of the more unusual ones.
People love penguins, but places to see penguins tend to conjure images of frozen Antarctic wastelands. Dressed to the nines, these quirky creatures are a crowd favourite. Despite this, many of us may only have the pleasure of viewing penguins at the zoo. The main issue is that the South Pole tends to be notoriously freezing, desolate… and thousands of miles away. Thoughts of penguins ordinarily include snowstorms, glaciers and potentially chocolate bars. Whilst tourism in Antarctica may be growing in popularity, exploring an ice sheet is not for everyone. To the relief of many, there are surprisingly alternative locations to get up and close with penguins. Of the 17 species on earth, only the emperor penguin resides solely on Antarctica, with many other species pitching up in some less barren landscapes. Some are even tropical – trust me!
1. Galapagos Islands
The myriad of flora and fauna on these Ecuadorian islands is truly astounding, and of course you’d expect to see penguins swimming alongside sea lions and turtles… Galapagos Penguins are ground-breaking birds, being the most northerly species of penguins on the planet. Sitting comfortably just above the equator, these endemic birds are more familiar with lava than light snowfall. The best place to see the penguins of Galapagos is in the western isles, especially Fernandina. This is where the sea currents are coolest, making for ideal feeding conditions. As this species is unique to the archipelago, their population of around 1,500 individuals makes them an endangered species. Unfortunately, climate change is threatening the future of these penguins, with increased sea temperatures affecting food availability, so there has never been a better time to jet off to the Galapagos Islands! Half the world away from where you’d expect to see them, you certainly will not need thermals to admire these little beauties.
Visit Ecuador and head to the Galapagos Islands to meet the resident penguins on our Enchanting Ecuador and Galapagos Tour.
In a country widely recognised for its inhospitable outback, home to kangaroos and camels – penguins fit right in, surely? Across the southern coast of this immense island, one of the most adorable birds in existence makes itself at home. These penguins go by several different names, blue, little and even fairy (The Aussies do know that they aren’t actually magic, right?). Many other penguin species can be found across New Zealand and the southern Pacific islands, a tad closer to the South Pole. Whilst most penguins prefer a quiet life as far away from human habitations as possible, little penguins aren’t too bothered. A small population of penguins can be found in Australia’s largest city, Sydney, as well as there being a famous colony just south of Perth – in the appropriately named Penguin Island. If you want the best chance to see these birds, wait for nightfall in order for them to return to land after a day out a sea. Although the little penguins are partial to crustaceans, it remains to be seen as to whether they would like a shrimp on the Barbie.
3. Tierra Del Fuego
It literally means ‘Land of Fire’. So much for penguins liking it cold! Perhaps this location is not entirely out of the ordinary, sitting at the most southerly point of the Americas, reaching down almost to Antarctica. Its proximity to the South Pole attracts a huge number of penguins, with four main species taking up residence here; Humboldt, rockhopper, Gentoo and king penguins – the second largest of all. Across a collection of islands whereby the temperature barely reaches double figures, it is by no means an endless ice sheet. The vast mountains, glaciers and forest that cover this landscape make for some of the most breath-taking vistas imaginable. If you come for the penguins, why not stay to catch a glimpse of some of the other wildlife? They share their home with a wide variety of animals, including humpback whales and elephant seals. I’m sure the penguins are more than happy here – they love it when it’s a bit Chile!
4. South Africa
Try and think of the most unlikely places to see penguins? Africa has got to be one. Forget the animated films, wild penguins genuinely live, breed and love the continent (well, at least the far south of it). Instead of a Serengeti safari, you could go penguin spotting! Jackass penguins, so called for their braying call and not their ridiculous stunts, can be found in various locations along the southern coastlines of Namibia and South Africa. This same coastline separates sea from arid desert in parts, hardly a stereotypical habitat for penguins. Much like the little penguins of Australia, African penguins don’t shy from the limelight, with a famous colony found on Boulders Beach in Cape Town, a highly populated area. Penguins in Antarctica are tasked with fending off leopard seals, however African penguins have to cope with actual leopards! Despite baking air temperatures, it is the cool seas of the Atlantic that mean that the penguins feel at home on the rocky shores of South Africa. I’d be interested to know if any penguins made it to the birth of Simba though…
Meet the penguins of Boulders Beach on our Sublime South Africa tour.
In summary, there are far more places to see penguins than you may first think. Not only are they rather cosmopolitan, but they don’t even like snow that much. They would much rather be chilling on the beach than huddled together on an icy plateau.