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Our "Summer" Travels To South America, Part 13

Puerto Madryn, Argentina to see penguins

By Armando F. Sanchez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: March 17, 2013

Our "Summer" Travels To South America, Part 13

Puerto Madryn, Argentina is halfway between Buenos Aires and Cape Horn along the Atlantic coast. The city itself is very small but it has a harbor that can accommodate the cruise ships. We get off to to take a bus tour for more than an hour to see a penguin colony. At the height of the summer there can be up to a million of them on the beaches. Their predators are in the ocean so visitors get in their way but do not frighten them.

The penguins are on land to mate and lay eggs. They also come on land to change feathers (molting). They spend about half the year swimming in the ocean. Natures call to reproduce and have new feathers to sustain the cold is critical.

You can see several local guides and park rangers working feverishly to keep the visitors on the walking paths. If a visitor gets off the trail, one can accidentally step on their nest areas. Some make holes in the ground while on land and one can easily miss them and step on their little caves.

It's a mixed blessing that so many people come to see them. On the one hand, one sees them and appreciates their life and struggles. Nor the other hand, we interrupt their natural development on land as we trespass their rookeries.

As we are approaching the end of summer in 20 days these flightless birds begin to return to the ocean to follow the sardines in northern waters toward Brazil.

One cannot help be touched by the frailness of life in the oceans. Yes, the oceans are huge but they are delicate. We have the capacity to easily pollute. We put chemicals into our air and rivers and it will eventually be in the oceans. Oil, I understand, is one of the great threats. Overfishing is also a major issue.

One can see the penguins in a distance beginning their entry into the ocean as they begin their life at sea in the Fall and Winter months. There are signs all around that summer is quickly coming to an end. Now they must deal with avoiding to becoming a meal to seals and orca whales and always fighting off the cold in the water. Nature is amazing.

Seeing the penguins is one of the main attractions for the passages. It was explained that as we travel Southward that the number of penguin sighting, on land, will diminish very quickly. Their migration back into the ocean is seemingly synchronized throughout the region.

Apparently it only rains about 10 days a year in this area. Today it rained all day long. That's travel for you.

Next stop the Falkland Islands.

Photo by Armando F. Sanchez

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