Pingüinera Seno Otway
Burrowing Magellanic penguins abound along Argentine Patagonia’s Atlantic shoreline, but they are fewer in Chile. Barely an hour from Punta Arenas, though, the Spheniscus magellanicus colony at Seno Otway (Otway Sound) is the closest to any major city. From October, when the first of 8,000 breeding pairs arrive, to April, when the last stragglers toboggan to the sea, it draws up to 40,000 visitors. The peak season, though, is December–February.
While the site is fenced to keep human visitors out of critical habitat, the birds are curious and easy to photograph; on the down side, this did not prevent stray dogs from killing more than a hundred birds in 2001.
During the season, several Punta Arenas operators shuttle visitors to and from the Otway site for about US$10–12 per person, not including the US$4 admission charge. Half-day tours take place either in morning (better for photography) or afternoon.
Otway is about 70 kilometers northwest of Punta Arenas via Ruta 9 and a gravel road that leads west from a signed junction at the Carabineros’ Kon Aikén checkpoint; the gravel road passes the Mina Pecket coal mine before arriving at the pingüinera.
While the Otway colony is a worthwhile excursion, visitors with flexible schedules and a little more money should consider the larger Isla Magdalena colony in Monumento Natural Los Pingüinos, in the strait.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition