Tierra del Fuego – King Penguin Colony

A visit to the King Penguin colony on Tierra del Fuego from Punta Arenas is a whole day trip. We went with a tour operator and started our trip from the port in Punta Arenas on a ship headed acorss to the Porvenir. This was a short journey across the Strait of Magellen where we were lucky enough to spot three whales.

P1080407 P1080408 P1080409

Before heading for lunch we visited a the museum of Porvenir. We saw lots of information about the lifestyles of the indigenous people followed by the evidence of colonisation and artefacts from Spanish, British, French and German people all coming and making Tierra del Fuego home for a period of time in history. 

After a quick stop for lunch in one of the local eateries (yummy!) we then headed to the town square which was on the piece of land used by the original indigenous tribe as the center of the area too. From this local tribe sadly the last members only actually died out around 50 years ago.

We were back on the road again heading south towards a King Penguin colony which had established itself about 9 years ago.

Before we reached the colony we spotted a lake where some flamingos were feeding. We jumped out to get a closer look.

P1080423 P1080428

It was amazing to finally see king penguins. At this point I had only seen them on TV on in a book, their colours are amazing.

P1080482 P1080464

It was easy to see why they had been called king penguins, not just for their size, but they have a regal air about them. Heads held high.


It was amazing to see them stretch up almost like a human.




Also spotted this guy among the bigger birds,  really reminds you just how different penguins are compared to other birds.


On the road back home we visited a wool processing building which had been in use since the 1940s, this was originally setup by a British firm so all the equipment was from London. It was like stepping in to the past. Most modern wool producers now use modern techniques, however some families with a smaller flock still do it the old fashioned way. The guide showed us how the sheep would be sheared and how the wool would then be processed and sorted in to different grade.

After visiting the wool processing place we headed back home via another ferry where we were lucky enough to see some commerson/panda dolphins swimming alongside the ship. No photos as they are speedy little things but these are the guys borrowed from google! 


Monumento Natural Los Pinguinos

Twenty two miles northeast of Punta Arenas is an amazing Island filled with penguins who have no fear of visitors.


Monumento Natural Los Pinguinos is a protected breeding island for over 60,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins.

The trip is taken by boat which takes 2 hours from Punta Arenas and travels across the strait of Magellan where it is possible to see whales, dolphins and sea lions. On the way over we were lucky enough to spot some Dolphins we had never seen before they were called commerson dolphins..

Even before boat had lowered the walkway we could already see hundreds of penguins on the island though the doorway.


It was shocking how close you could get to the penguins; it was a sign that these penguins had not seen any bad treatment by human visitors; penguins were even bold enough to dig their nests on the human walkway. There were many guides on the island making sure people followed the rules so that this trust was not broken.

P1080359 P1080343 P1080335 P1080332 P1080395  P1080328 P1080324 P1080290 P1080316

It felt like we needed to take pictures of everything! After the photo frenzy had died down a bit, it was good to just take it all in. It was a great experience, if you like penguins and don’t mind the cold.

P1080373 P1080394

It was hour as we were ushered down the humans paths by the guides. One thing we noticed is that this track only covers half the island, and their is a huge part of the island which must be covered in even more Penguins.

We got back on the boat, penguined out and ready for home



Exploring Chile – Puerto Varas

Next stop Puerto Varas which has a similar reputation and feel to Pucon but a bit more German from the settlers who still have long family ties to German language, schooling and food.

Orsono Over the bay

It was a lovely city on the edge of lake Llanquihue with the imposing volcanos of Osorno and Calbuco at the other side. Volcano Calbuco also erupted in April 2016 but caused much more devastation than volcano Villarica did in Pucon. For this reason it is now closed to tourists until the routes and tracks are improved again.

We opted for more horse riding (of course) followed by a full day of kayaking under the volcano the next day.

The horse riding was in two bits. In the morning we rode with Florenza and Claus a lovely couple who have recently bought a little slice of heaven just outside the village of Frutilla. It is in a protected area of forest which they have permission to open a small eco tourism centre, inviting tourists to walk or ride through the protected forest with these guides who are both passionate and knowledgeable about the area.

P1080146 P1080136 P1080129 P1080148 P1080173 We both rode the 2hr ride and learnt about the maki berry eaten raw by the indigenous people, the ulmo tree used for honey bees as it gives the honey a rich and creamy flavour, we stood in the middle of the forest surrounded by birds singing and insect noise and felt like we were in a different world.

We headed back through the farmland with the volcano Osorno in the background and enjoyed every minute of the ride.

Then I stuck around for a second ride in the afternoon to see the volcano and the lake from the other side of The Valley. Another amazing experience where each hill top opened views of the beautiful lakes and surrounding mountain range.

P1080179 P1080189 P1080206


After 5hrs on a horse I’d had my fix and headed backwards for an ice cream and early night for the next day of kayaking.

Kayaking was done through an agency called Jass. The agency was great and at a good price compared to others. We decided to go for the whole day kayaking; this trip took us 2 hours out of town to Estero Reloncavi, where the Petrohue river joins the Pacific ocean. This body of water is effected by tides and winds.

We started further south down the Estero  just past Cochamo and worked our way North. First heading towards the peninsula where lunch was waiting for for us. The water was choppy at parts and we were working against the winds.

P1080230 P1080232

We stopped for lunch after 2 hours and 45 minutes on a peninsula owned by a farming family. To get to this peninsula by car from the closest town takes an hour and half. Then after this it is a long walk across the fields, the owners of the farm sustain themselves mostly with what they grow. The keep livestock and had orchards. Lunch was one of the best I had hand in a long time, I was told it was down to the water used to grow the crops which come from a glacier. We had lamb and with a mix of vegetables.

P1080248 P1080237

After the lunch we headed out again, this time Amy and I switched our single Kayaks for the ‘divorce boat’; a 2 person kayak, with Amy driving at the back and and John at the front paddling. Our guide told us it should take about 45 minutes to an hour to finish. When we got out on the water we found the wind had really picked up and was heading right towards us. The waves were much bigger, as we rounded the end of the peninsula the wind funnels down this tighter spot making larger waves. The guide was not expecting this, one of the other kayakers was taken by the strength of the waves and wind back down the river! The guide had to rescue them. We were told to just paddle on the spot, this was really hard, waves crashing over the kayak. It took us another 2 hours of hard rowing to get to the other end, it was a really enjoyable experience.



Exploring Chile – Chiloe

We only gave ourselves 2 days on the beautiful island of Chiloe which may have been an error as it is so peaceful and beautiful we could have spent a week there just chilling! But we hadn’t given ourselves that time so after a quick wander round Ancud and a fresh fish dinner we settled down to sleep as we were up at 5am the next morning for a sea lion, penguin and whale spotting trip.

We had to travel to the west side of the island to an area called Punihuil where there are sea lion colonies and penguin colonies protected by eco tourism companies so are the best to do the trips with.

P1070682 P1070684
We met up with the rest of the people on our tour, all German and got our first taste of Brexit angst….no one talked to us for the rest of the tour once we said we were from the UK. But our tour guide was great and really animated about the wildlife we would see. We were all hoping to see whales but knew that was down to luck. We set off and we only in the boat for 15mins before 3 dolphins popped up alongside the boat, they did a majestic leap each then off they went, too quick for photos but enough to just enjoy the sight.

Then we arrived at the sea lion colony. Incredible. 25,000 sea lions on the island at the last count. The beaches we covered in sea lions. The big boys with their harem of girls and babies around them growling at the next big boy who was surrounded by his ladies too. We learnt that once the male challenges another male and takes the women, the loser male is banished for a while and the new male kills all the babies and starts again making more.

The males were very impressive with their size and actions and were always on the look out to protect their girls. The girls and older babies were playing in the sea and all the little faces kept popping up to observe us as much as we observed them. Amazing views! We saw 4 different beaches on the island and the noise and smell was incredible. 100’s of sea lions on each beach and amazing sights.

P1070953P1070982 P1080006

Here is a video showing just one part of the beach, there were so many sea lions.

Then we headed off to the penguin island and saw loads of penguins. Mostly Magellan penguins but a few Humboldts wandering around for good measure. We saw the babies learning to swim and the adults moulting on the shore before they can all set off for the next 6 months at sea before they come back to land to mate, moult and teach their babies to swim.

There were also some other types of birds:

P1080042 P1080062 P1080075
Unfortunately it was too cloudy for whale spotting but we had a pretty amazing experience regardless.

We got back at midday and as we were leaving the next morning for Puerto Varas I decided to hop on a bus to Castro the island’s capital just to have a quick look at the history, main cathedral, town square and a bit more of the scenery. I wasn’t disappointed. The town was beautiful and the buildings were amazing. It’s full of artists selling homemade clothes, toys, pictures, chocolates, jams and loads more.

P1080102 P1080106 P1080116


I wandered round the bay, had an ice cream then headed back to Ancud to get the bus early the next day.

P1080114 P1080124