Did you know that 20 January is Penguin Awareness Day? This unofficial holiday is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate one of the world’s most popular birds and, at the same time, to reflect on the conservation challenges they face. Of the 18 penguin species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) believes five species are in danger of extinction, and a further five are vulnerable. It’s only the Adelie, chinstrap, gentoo, little blue, and king penguin which are common enough to be categorised as species of least concern.
For Penguin Awareness Day 2019, we’re sharing our favourite penguin facts, plus recommendations of where to see these endearing birds in the wild.
Fact: You don’t have to go all the way to the Antarctic to see penguin in the wild.
1 — Magellanic Penguin on Magdalen Island
Penguin are adapted to an aquatic environment to such an extent that they can swim but not fly! On a three day sea voyage on board the Cruceros Australis, you will sail from Punta Arenas in the southern part of Chile, to Magdalena Island, which is known for its substantial penguin population. Cruising through the fjords, looking across at the magnificent glaciers, you’ll be surrounded by a penguin friendly landscape.
The Magellanic penguin which live here are a medium size, have attractive horizontal striped markings on their chests, and can dive up to 160’ beneath the surface of the water when fishing. Not only do Magellanic penguin mate for life, but they also return year on year to the same burrow.
Fact: According to a 2015 study, penguin actually can’t taste fish!
2 — King Penguin in the Tierra del Fuego
The Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago divided between Chile and Argentina. It is home to the only breeding colony of king penguin outside the Sub-Antarctic Islands, and the same waters are rich in dolphin and multiple species of whale.
The king penguin is the second largest type of penguin, after the emperor penguin. The orange-gold highlights on their plumage are particularly photogenic, and as they are confident, curious birds, there’s a good chance that they will come right up to you as you’re taking a picture.
Fact: In many penguin species, it is the male which incubates the eggs and raises the chicks.
3 — African Penguin in Cape Town
South Africa’s wildlife is so incredibly diverse that you can spot the Big Five on safari one day, and watch penguin on the beach the next! Boulders Beach is just outside Cape Town, and it is part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area. Here you can find the endangered African penguin, walking and even swimming amongst them. Don’t get too close, however: their beaks can be rather sharp!
The African penguin - also known as a jackass penguin on account of its braying - is the only species of penguin on the continent. By 1982, there were only two breeding pairs left at Boulders Beach, but thanks to a proactive, successful conservation programme, the colony is now much more stable, containing around 3,000 birds.
Fact: Generally, penguin mate for life. There are, however, occasional female penguin who buck the trend, flirting and even mating with several males.
4 — King Penguin in South Georgia
Sailing from South America towards Antarctica, South Georgia and the South Sandwich are situated halfway along your voyage. There is a maximum of 35 people living here at any one time, all of them conducting research or providing support to the scientists. The wildlife and landscape are therefore completely undisturbed.
You can reach South Georgia on a polar cruise ship, a yacht, or an expedition ship. The Akademik Sergey Vavilov, built in Finland in 1988 for the Soviet Union's Shirshov Institute of Oceanography, is one of our favourite vessels, as the spacious decks are provide a 360 degree view of the landscape around you. It’s estimated that there are more than 100,000 king penguin in the South Georgia archipelago, with the largest breeding colony in St. Andrew’s Bay.
Fact: Penguin come in all shapes and sizes, from the 16” little blue penguin, to the 4’ emperor penguin.
5 — Antarctic Peninsula: A Penguin Paradise
There are seven species of penguins in Antarctica, and when you voyage here with Journeysmiths, it is likely that you will see them all. The tabular icebergs which dot the sea are dramatic, and you can come ashore by Zodiac in multiple bays to get close to the penguin colonies. The penguin rookeries of Cuverville Island are enthralling, and if you are a fan of David Attenborough's Dynasties, then the emperor penguin colony on Atka Bay is a must see.
This Penguin Awareness Day, let Journeysmiths plan your perfect penguin themed adventure. Whether there is a specific species you want to spot, or you dream of seeing a variety of these entertaining flightless birds, call us on 01604 637332 and we’ll be delighted to help.