Penguin Paradise: Magdalena Island, Chile

If you’ve looked at our Instagram, you may have noticed we kind of like penguins.

Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:

"Has anyone seen Friday!?" . . 📍Magdalena Island, the Strait of Magellan, Chile

A post shared by Hair to There (@hairtothereblog) on


If there are penguins to be seen, we will jump through hoops of fire to watch the little fellas waddle around.

On my recent stop in Punta Arenas, Chile, I booked a tour to Magdelena Island, which is home to a massive Magellenic penguin colony.  The island is uninhabited by humans, but home to THOUSANDS- according to Wikipedia, over 120k, penguins.

Getting to Magdelena Island can be hit or miss as the seas can be quite rough in this area.  On the morning of the tour, my departure time was canceled due to high seas, but I was re-booked on a later departure instead since the waters were supposed to settle as the day went on.  It seems very common that tours to the island often get canceled because of rough seas, so something to keep in mind if you only have one day in port!

The boat ride was a little bumpy, but not bad.  It took about 40 minutes to reach the island.  If you are prone to getting sea sick, I would definitely take a Meclizine before you go!

It was a rainy, foggy day, so the island sort of looked otherworldly.  As soon as the land comes into sight you can see 100’s of holes dotting the landscape.  Each hole protected by its inhabitant(s).

Once you arrive on the island there is a clearly marked out path to follow.  The penguins are given the right of way & tourists are asked to be respectful of that.  Our guide asked that we stay at least 10′ from the crossing penguins.  After experiencing many unethical animal tourism attractions in the past, it was refreshing to see the penguins on Magdalena Island completely respected by the passing tourists.

At the top of the hill, there is a visitor center that boasts a photogenic lighthouse, public restrooms & a pretty great view.

So many penguins to capture!  I had to remind myself to put my cameras down and actually be present in the moment, but I still managed to capture some great shots of the little nuggets!

And, not to be upstaged was this handsome bird, who was keeping an eye on the penguins taking a dip in the Strait of Magellan.

Alas, it was time to bid adieu to my favorite waddling friends, but the excursion wasn’t complete just yet, the tour included a cruise by nearby Marta Island, that many a sea lion call home!  They had me laughing out loud with their antics- chasing the boat and flipping in and out of the water as we cruised by.

The seas were slightly calmer on our way back to the jetty, but I was still glad I had loaded up on Meclizine before I left.

Should you visit Magdalena Island?

I’d give the experience a conditional YES.

The Negatives:

  • If you are prone to seasickness or suffer any handicap that limits mobility, this would not be a great excursion for you.
  • Magallenic penguins are not as photogenic as other penguins (IMO).
  • The possibility of a canceled tour is very great.
  • The tour was rather expensive ($160)

The Positives:

  • An ethical animal encounter for tourists

If you ever find yourself in the Punta Arenas area of Chile & love penguins, this tour is a good way to spend a morning!


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  1. Caroline

    October 28, 2017 at 3:06 am

    OMG ALLLL OF THE PENGUINS!!! That’s a ton of penguins and they’re out many of them! That must have been such an amazing experience though. I will have to keep this in mind!

  2. Sheree

    October 28, 2017 at 7:25 am

    THANK YOU for sharing/highlighting the ethical considerations of the tour!! I really appreciate this kind of info – there’s nothing worse than missing out on an amazing wildlife experience because I couldn’t determine whether the owners/operators were respectful and mindful of the creatures from whom they make their $$. Will definitely put this one on my list! 🙂

  3. Amrita Sen

    October 28, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Penguins are such wonderful creatures. They look so cute. Thanks for this lovely post.

  4. Cherene Saradar

    October 28, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    omg too cute! I am always looking for ethical animal experiences and just booked a flight to Chile so thanks for this!!!

  5. Nicole

    October 28, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    PENGUINS!!! Wow this looks like a great experience, I love penguins and am glad this seems to be an ethical experience.

  6. Raluca

    October 28, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    Love it! You were very lucky to spend your day there!

  7. Christina S.

    October 28, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    OMG I need ALL OF THE PENGUINS in my life! I especially love the young, fluffy ones. I’ve not heard of this area previously – so very informative post!

  8. Amy Poulton - Page Traveller

    October 28, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    PENGUINS PENGUINS PENGUINS! Glad I’m not the only one who turns into a pile of mush when I see these animals. Didn’t realise there are penguins in Chile! Are they the ones that throw their heads back and make the funny squawking noise? Because they’re my favourites! Haha!

  9. Becci Abroad

    October 29, 2017 at 11:37 am

    WOW, there are so many of them! So cool! I have never heard of this place, so thank you for bringing it to my attention 😉 I saw penguins and sea lions (even swam with them!) at Peninsula Valdés in Argentina.
    Thanks for sharing!

  10. Lia Garcia

    October 29, 2017 at 6:07 pm

    GAHH THEY’RE SOOOOO CUTE!!!! Look at those little waddle muffins!!!!

  11. Kate

    October 30, 2017 at 7:38 pm

    Im pretty sure I would loose my mind being able to get so close! They are so cute. Penguins are one of my favorite critters.

  12. Erika Stauffer

    October 31, 2017 at 5:17 am

    I don’t know which are cuter, the penguins or the sea lions? I love that the penguins have the right of way! HA That should be the case for all our animal friends. Also, whoa just looked up the location of Punta Arenas and Magdalena Island. That is some southbound trekking! I have a little bit more on my Chile list now for when I return one day. Great post.

  13. Marvi

    November 1, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    I love penguins too! Such a great place to get up close! 🙂 Love how the penguins are treated. AND those cute sea lions! Cool trip! Good thing you were still able to visit despite the initial cancellation, btw.. Would’ve been sooo disappointing if you missed this! 🙂

  14. David

    November 2, 2017 at 9:49 am

    I LOVE PENGUINS! Chile is definitely on my must visit list and it looks like Magdalena Island had made it on to it too! What an amazing post! Who doesn’t love penguins?!

  15. My Travelogue by Bhushavali

    November 2, 2017 at 11:49 am

    This is adorable! I’ve seen penguins only in zoos in captivity, never seen one in wild. Hope I’ll get a chance to see them in wild. I don’t know if I’ll ever get a chance to visit Chile, but let’s see!

  16. Paula - Gone with the Wine

    November 5, 2017 at 2:51 am

    Wow, I can’t believe how close to the penguins you actually got. Very cool! I’m not sure if I would be brave enough to take this trip since I often suffer seasickness. It looks interesting though, so I might take a risk and try. I would love to see penguins in their natural habitat, they are so cute. Thanks for sharing this!

  17. Lena from fouronaworldtrip

    November 5, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    aww thats awesome! I have never seen penguins except from in zoos and it must be pretty cool; they are cute by nature! 🙂 I saw sea lions in California though; and I was surprised by the smell haha 😀 Are penguins smelling the same?!

  18. Wanderlust Vegans

    November 6, 2017 at 12:10 am

    I liked reading the positives and negatives you had at the end. The negatives had me thinking about whether I’d do the tour but you really had me laughing with the positives “PENGUINS…SEA LIONS!”. That was awesome. Those positives pretty much trump the negatives. A South American cruise looks like a lot of fun.

  19. Michael

    November 13, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Oh they are sooooo cute! I hope I can visit this place one day to see them with my own eyes. I especially liked all your pictures.

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