Tbilisi, Georgia – 2 weeks before departure
In our living room in Tbilisi, Georgia (Our adopted home), 2 weeks before leaving to soak a life lesson in the big classroom, South America. I was researching and telling Alex that we will also visit the biggest penguin colonial in the world in Punta Tombo, in the east of Argentina in northern Patagonia. It drives his excitement to the roof because he always dreams to see penguin (So do I!). Time to make our dreams come true.
The penguin season is Spring – Summer of Southern hemisphere! Which means they come to shore to nest in early October, are done by mid March, and will have returned to the sea by early April.
We will be there in mid April so, what we got to do is pray for penguins, oh no, pray for ourselves! Will it be way too late and will we see only its abandon nests?
However, we will try our luck!
Ratiro Bus Terminal, Buenos Aires – 30 minutes before departure
Yesterday, we came here to buy bus tickets to Puerto Madryn, a city on the coast of eastern Argentina in northern Patagonia which we will use this city to be a base to travel to Punta Tombo for the lovely penguin.
Today, Alex and I with 2 backpacks took a metro to Ratiro bus terminal in the late afternoon. We arrived around 30 minutes in prior and went straight to our platform. Suddenly, right 50 meters before get there, SHIT happened!
We got a poop scam and Alex’s backpack was stolen. We lost all Alex’s clothes, his laptops with all electronics, chargers included some of mine, also important documents, but fortunately, passport and ATMs are remained.
There were no any cameras on the way to platforms, we went looking around (Expecting for what?) with a few policías that came right 10 seconds after poop happened but found nothing, realized that nothing will be changed, if we miss the bus then we lose more, possibly loosing a chance to see penguins too. The bus ticket in South America, specifically Argentina is very expensive and the birds are calling, so we bought a temporary backpack and some clothes for Alex and jumped on the bus, heading south as the same plan.
During the way to Puerto Madryn – 20 hours before destination
Couldn’t resist our hearts has broken! Alex likes Buenos Aires so much, thought it’s potential place to return and living in the future. Actually, it’s still possible, just not now. Worse than that, I’ve got a cold since yesterday and got a fever in the bus.
Nevertheless, we bought Cama-seat overnight bus tickets including services so that we’ve got some foods and we can try to get some sleep.
For those who don’t know the buses in South America: there are Cama and Semi-Cama seats: The Cama seats are like business class on an airline, easier to sleep than Semi-Cama seats which are like economy class and both are not too different price which I don’t know why. And due to long distances to travel in South America, 17 / 20 / 24-hour bus trip, better try to get a Cama seat.
Arriving Puerto Madryn, blue sky and sunshine day
We arrived in Puerto Madryn with blue sky and sunshine day. In the mid of autumn was already quite cold even it’s sunny but after had a bad day and a night with fever, it’s still nice anyway!
Puerto Madryn is in the north east of Chubut Province in northern Patagonia of Argentina on the shores of Gulfo Nuevo, a large and deep water bay of the Atlantic Ocean, and is the gateway to many attractions such as Valdes Peninsula Nature Reserve and Punta Tombo National Reserve.
Good news: As we wish to visit the penguin colonial, we arrived only 2 days before the penguin site will be closed for this season!
We almost missed it, specifically if we didn’t decide to leave Buenos Aires yesterday, we would have lost bus tickets along together with the chance to see penguins!
We stayed in Hotel Latosca beside the heart of Puerto Madryn, clean and cozy place, not far from the beach and restaurants which the town wasn’t so big and you can stay anywhere which you’ll be fine, helpfully and friendly people. Breakfasts were nice, especially fresh and delicious cake every day! Ummm I love cake.
Falling in love with wildlife, falling in love with Magellanic penguin
We booked a day tour to Punta Tombo National Reserve through Hotel Latosca: Having mentioned, it was 2 days before the site will be closed and it was not many people going there already, in our case – Alex and I went there with a guide like a private tour.
Our guide was knowledgeable, kind and friendly. He was telling us about wildlife in Patagonia and also guiding us to look for them during the way. It was a lot of wild animals inhabit in that area, and we saw kestrel, tinamou, giant petrel, grey fox, lama guanicoe and ostrich! It was so awesome! We realized that we were happy to see wildlife so much. They were very beautiful! Wild animals are very beautiful in the wild not in the zoo!
We arrived at Punta Tombo around 12 am, after 3 hour ride south of downtown Puerto Madryn, there is a restaurant on site but it was closed already for this season, we stopped by a gasoline station with supermarket in Trelew, a city during the way, and bought our lunch along with us already.
We found the lovely couple from the very first step we entered the site. Alex thought it was penguin models which making for fun before seeing the real one, why would they do that?
The Magellanic penguin colonial in Punta Tombo contains the 3 km well-groomed walking trail across wide open peninsula. Along the way, literally 2 million of penguins but probably 2 hundred thousand of couple nesting and breeding under every bush along the trail.
Our guide said, the penguins is usually migrant to Punta Tombo from Southern Brazil to nest in early October, the chicks should be hatching in November and they stay at the site raising them and preparing to migration until April. Normally, couples stand in front of their nests, protecting the eggs from birds and other predators, and occasionally one of them goes to the sea for food, but sometimes gone too long until another starving to death. Sadly!
The rules to follow are: don’t touch the penguins, stay at least 1 meter away from them and Penguins first (Like lady first!)- let them go first if they are moving through the same way.
Normally, the penguins have no fear of people and should be us have to fear them. Yes, that possible! I’ve tried! It wasn’t reckless, I was just sitting near them on the bridge.
The guide told us that there are signs before a penguin attack – when it slightly spins its head down, trying to look at you with one eye means it’s calculating the distance and preparing to attack. And yeah, I almost got one when I was sitting on the bridge near a lazy penguin!! It was Alex told me to sit there. :P
Having mentioned, we were there at the end of season, so it was not many people there and not millions of penguins remained as well, but it was still a lot and more than enough for us to fall in love with them. They were so adorable and funny, and so sleepy, wind chill day even made them sleepier I guess.
After finished our lunch box together with our guide, then he brought us to find elephant seal on another beach nearby Punta Tombo but they all were gone already. That didn’t matter because our day was made by all the wildlife and the lovely funny penguins already.
Have you ever been to Punta Tombo in Northern Patagonia Argentina or any penguin colonial? They are so adorable, aren’t they?