Where to See Penguins in South America


The little Galapagos Penguins can only be found on and around the Galapagos Islands themselves – breeding generally on the islands of Fernandina and Isabella. These are the most northerly of all penguins. Swimming in the Galapagos you might see one dart past you in the water – the only place you are likely to want to swim with penguins without a wetsuit! Galapagos Penguins don’t leave the islands so can be seen there at any time of year.


Peru’s coast is a bit chilly for swimming, but it suits the Humbolt Penguins just fine. These creatures thrive in the cold, nutrient rich Humbolt current flowing along the southern coast of Peru and into the far north of Chile. The best place to see Humbolt Penguins year-round is the Ballestas Islands south of Lima. Paracas National Park where the islands are located is home to comorants, pelicans, boobies as well as a lot of guano. Good news for Humbolt Penguins, who love burrowing in the stuff!


On a visit to Patagonia, it is the Magellanic Penguins that you are most likely to see. They are migratory birds but can best be seen in colonies in Punto Tombo, Argentina; Morillo Island in the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia; and Magdalena Island near Punta Arenas, Chile. The largest colony of Magellanic penguins in the world is at Punto Tombo where, in season, you can walk amongst half a million of them!

Penguins spend September to April in Patagonia with babies born in November. Then, the waiting game begins as the parents take it in turn to feed their chicks, as their fluffy feathers to change to smooth black and white, and for the babies to take to the water. Once the babies have learnt to swim, they are off to warmer water in Brazil or perhaps Peru.

King Penguins

At 90cm tall, King Penguins are second only to Emperors in size. They are somehow the smartest looking penguins, looking like they ought to be carrying a silver tray and waiting at table. King Penguins can be found looking dapper on sub-Antarctic islands such as the Falklands and South Georgia Islands.


The largest penguins of all, Emperor Penguins have become superstars after the beautiful movie, the March of the Penguins, shows the incredible touching story of cooperation between male and female Emperor Penguins protecting and feeding their offspring. The odd stray Emperor has been seen in the Beagle Channel off Ushuaia, but to be sure to see these large penguins in their natural habitat, you really need to take cruise to Antarctica.