Thursday, March 14, 2024

On the penguin trail: fascinating tours go far into the southern hemisphere for treasured viewing opportunities


Gentoo penguins are recognized by their bright orange feet and their reddish beaks.
They are a bit over three feet tall when mature and keep their single egg, then their young chick
warm in the folds above their feet. It's an ingenious, generations old technique that mostly works. 

 Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Bruce Keller tour at Bluff Cove
in the Falklands (Las Malvinas), surrounded by Gentoo Penguins


I HAVE A LOVE affair with penguins. Since childhood, I've admired these beautiful and complex creatures.
Years ago, near Three Forks, Montana, my parents paid 50 cents a head for our family to step inside a large trailer and view two forlorn penguins on a block of ice.

King penguins are distinguished by their
bright orange markings. Here they are
communicating with one another. Each
has a unique sound and pitch so parents
and young can find one another in crowds.
They just sat stoically on the ice and I envisioned them free, doing what penguins do. This wouldn't happen now -- it shouldn't have happened then. But it propelled me into a lifetime of animal advocacy, animal love and respect. It encouraged me to travel thousands of miles -- twice -- to view penguins in their native habitat of the vast Antarctic.
PENGUINS ARE charming, resilient, and adorable.  They make us laugh as they move, and their young are captivatingly cute.  We chose a Celebrity cruise out of Buenos Aires to travel to Buenos Aires and on south.  The purpose was to see wildlife, primarily penguins. Penguins are at the top of my "favorite wildlife" list.  Of the 18 species on the planet, 11 are threatened, so we wanted to see them again while we're still agile enough to make the difficult 8,600 mile trip from San Diego.  

WE BOOKED a two-week cruise out of Buenos Aires, aboard the beautiful Celebrity Eclipse.  We choose it because we love the ship and it went where we wanted to explore, with a fine focus on wildlife.
Our driver's jacket
shows "penguin pride."
The largest colony of Magellanic penguins is found on
Punta Tombo, where this pair seems content and healthy
and did not shy away from our cameras.
The route allowed us to spend several days watching three main species, although we saw others. Today's feature will focus on the King, Gentoo and Magellanic -- the latter named after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who led five ships to South America in 1519, eventually opening trade routes across the oceans to the East Indies.
Getting to penguins involves a long journey to the southern
hemisphere, then a cruise out of Buenos Aires, then boarding
tenders or zodiacs to search for the penguin colonies.

There are 8 species of penguins in Antarctica and the surrounding region: Emperor, Adélie, Gentoo, Rockhopper, Macaroni, Magellanic, Chinstrap and King. All are devoted to their young, and mostly monogamous, at least during pregnancy and until the youngster is able to fend for himself. "Then it's up to them," our guide said. 

PENGUINS ARE amazing animals. Their characteristics have long fascinated millions of us, that brotherhood of animal lovers around the world. They go incredible distances to find food for their young, sharing responsibility for maturing each precious egg. 
"Keller and Cookie" enjoy communion with
the Magellanic penguins of the Falklands.
The Emperor penguin marches -- some say "waddles" -- 75 miles one way to find food for his or her baby. In all the species we viewed, both parents participate in the care of the egg and feeding of the chick once hatched. Among other fascinating evolutionary traits, their stomachs have adapted to allow them to drink saltwater.
Each species is unique its appearance and habits.
THE FIRST ones we met were the Gentoo penguins. With flamboyant red-orange beaks, white-feather caps, and peach-colored feet, Gentoos stand out against their drab, rock-strewn Antarctic habitat.
 At Bluff Cove, they share the space with King 
A mother King penguin tends to her plump little chick.
The parents may lose up to half of their body weight
during the first year of feeding their young
penguins, the second largest species of penguin, slightly smaller, but similar in appearance to the Emperor penguin. We found these guys and gals irresistible with their shiny black heads, chins, and throats.  A distinctive mark is the vivid orange, tear-shaped patches on each side of the head. This striking tangerine hued coloration extends to the upper chest. 
Most of them came up to my shoulder -- about 38 inches. The young are furry, and develop the waterproof skin as they get closer to their diving and swimming debut with the water. 
What is magical about being with penguins is the rapport with these splendid creatures. As Keller said, "Viewing them in a majestic place,  we feel the remote locale and the unique experience of communion."  The tranquility and order -- with everything in place as nature takes its course -- lingers in our hearts, minds and memories.

More information:


From a distance, these resemble penguins, but they are
cormorants, great divers, near the town of Ushuaia.

UP NEXT: While we're way south of Buenos Aires, we take readers on our next foray to Ushuaia, which beckons us to explore and enjoy the wildlife there. Ushuaia is a pretty resort town in Argentina, where residents crave the sun which seems to visit only occasionally. It's located on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, the southernmost tip of South America, nicknamed the “End of the World.” The windswept and tidy town, perched on a steep hill, is surrounded by the Martial Mountains and the Beagle Channel. It's the gateway to Antarctica, where we took a day-long boat trip from our cruise ship. The nearby Isla Yécapasela is known as “Penguin Island” for its penguin colonies and stunning cormorants.   Join us, remembering to explore, learn and live. Soon, we'll visit stately Colonia in Uruguay, the magnificent opera house, Colon, in Buenos Aires, and the turtles of Poipu on the island of Kauai. 

BEST BET:  An ensemble of gifted 
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must see theater experience. It's provocative, funny yet
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actors brings "Hand to God" to life in a hilarious yet poignant production by Roustabouts Theatre Company in San Diego. It's a sardonic, over-the-top study of morality, faith and the human condition. Eye-popping antics unfold on the intimate Diversionary Theatre stage. It's an adult comedy with dark undertones featuring an x-rated puppet whose foul mouth expresses a sardonic flip side to its mild-mannered owner.  Roustabouts founder Phil Johnson employs his evocative direction to bring New York playwright Robert Askins's work to southern California. An exceptional cast of five shines with perfect timing and physical innuendo. Rebecca Crigler, Adam Daniel, Samantha Ginn, Dave Rivas and Devin Wade obviously enjoy their craft as they fine-tune each move and wisecrack. "Hand to God" is thought provoking, asking its audience between laughs, to consider the hypocrisy of religion and moral codes which ultimately contradict themselves.  The characters' body language and facial movements create a vernacular of their own.  Don't miss it if you're anywhere in the state, country or planet. A must for the thinking theater goer. (619) 569-5800 or visit


  1. Baton Rouge NaturalistsMarch 16, 2024 at 7:59 AM

    Such magnificent creatures. Great story and wonderful photos.

  2. Penguin Lovers in PhillyMarch 16, 2024 at 11:10 AM

    These guys are precious.

  3. Tennessee NaturalistsMarch 17, 2024 at 7:26 AM

    On our bucket list!

  4. What a life! Playing w/the penguins must be a real highlight! Miss u dear sis!
    Hugs to bro!😎