This is the concluding blog on Patagonia. Here I will be describing our trip to Terra del Fuego. A trip literally to the end of the world!
Day 4, November 16, 2015 – Tierra del Fuego
One of the main reason for our trip to Patagonia was to see the majestic King penguins, Aptenodytes patagonicus which are the second largest penguins in the world. Typically King penguins weigh around 33 lbs (15 kg) and are about 3.1ft (95cm) tall. In mainland of South America, Tierra del Fuego is the only place to find these beautiful bird species.
Tierra del Fuego, which means Land of Fire in Spanish is an archipelago, is located at the southernmost part of Chile and Argentina. And these king penguins are being bred in privately owned park called Parque Pinguino Rey. Getting here is a bit of a challenge. We were picked up from our hotel at 7:00 am by our guide and headed straight to Punta Arenas airport. There we got on to a 45 year old 7 seater Cessna aircraft and started our short 15 minutes journey to a small town called Porvenir in Tierra del Fuego
The journey is essentially crossing the mythical Strait of Magellan and I was fortunate to sit right next to the pilot and had a fantastic view from the aircraft. During the journey I saw the beautiful Andean mountain range on my left and the vast Bahia embayment called Useless Bay.
Flying to Porvenir from Punta Arenas over the Magellan Strait
From the airport our first stop was at Hotel Hosteria Yendegaia House. This a lovely little B&B hotel with a cozy coffee shop and lounging area. The owner of this hotel Enrique is extremely knowledgeable about birding and is a huge source of information about birds of Patagonia.
We stayed there for about 45 minutes and indulged in some local coffee and snacks. We then started our 100 km journey to Parque Pinguino Rey. The gravel road winds along the shores of Bahia Inutil. The view is quite spectacular. On the left we were surrounded by flat steppes and rolling hills covered with shrub, Tussock and bunch grasses. On our right was the huge Useless Bay with the Massive Andean peaks on the backdrop.
During the journey we got see different kinds of wildlife which included Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis), White-throated Caracara, Phalcoboenus albogularis, Black Faced Ibis (Theristicus melanopis) Cormorants(Phalacrocoracidae) .
We also saw numerous tiny settlements of local fisherman located sporadically along the shoreline. The icing on the cake was meeting in person a local Gaucho. Our group got so excited that the poor guy with his lovely horse had to spend at least 15 minutes doing a photo session with us.
Finally after a two hour of bumpy yet exciting journey we reached Parque Pinguino Rey. The entrance fee to the park is $20 USD. There is a small cabin which is the office and a souvenir gift shop. To get to see the penguins we walked a short roped off section and saw the majestic birds playing around in the grassland. There were about 100 King Penguins here and the guide told us that the number keep increasing every year. We spend about an hour which gave us ample opportunities to take wonderful photographs of these birds.Make sure to bring along a binocular which to see these penguins up close.
We stayed here for a couple of hours and then started our journey back to Punta Arenas. The journey back to the Porvenir airport was quite spectacular, With the sun setting in the west the view of the Useless way was really breathtaking.
We then returned back to Punta Arenas in the evening. It was really a wonderful day where we not only saw the Penguins but also saw numerous other kind of birds and some wonderful landscape. I would highly recommend taking this trip if you are interested in seeing King Penguins. In fact outside of the Falklands, South Georgia islands and Antarctic islands, this is the only place to see King penguins in the wild. We used far south expedition (www.fsexpeditions.com) to organize this trip and I must say that they provided very professional service. Highly recommended.