Boats cross the Strait of Magellan to reach these islands of enormous biodiversity. A visit to the Magellanic fauna in an extreme place.
Northeast of Punta Arenas, the islands of Magdalena and Marta make up the Los Pingüinos Natural Monument, created in 1982. There the Magellanic penguin, the sea lion, the Dominican gull, the black-eyebrowed albatross and the imperial cormorant are protected.
Ecological wealth, penguins and sea lions
The trip starts at Magdalena Island, a 45-minute drive from Laredo Bay. There you can disembark and walk along a path demarcated for visitors. This trail leads to the lighthouse, where there is an environmental interpretation center to learn a little more about the marine fauna of the Strait of Magellan and the ecological wealth of the islands, such as Magellanic penguins and sea lions. Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) are found only in South America, with breeding populations in Chile, Argentina, and the Falkland Islands. Magdalena Island is home to the largest colony of its distribution, more than 100 thousand individuals. These penguins are monogamous and return in early spring to mate, and the eggs open in October. The female can recognize the male's call among thousands of neighbors. They usually lay two eggs and the parents take turns incubating them and then also in breeding.
The best time to discover this giant penguina is from December to the end of February. In these months the colonies are full and you can also see the babies, already with their waterproof feathers. On land Magellanic penguins have no predators, so they can be seen at ease on Magdalena Island, but they get nervous when humans approach and seek the protection of their caves. For this reason, the effects of tourism are monitored to ensure a sustainable use of this destination. After a walk of an hour or so, the excursion continues to Marta Island, about 25 minutes of navigation to the north. There is no disembarkation there. A sighting of the sea lions and the birds that occupy it is carried out. The colony is estimated at 1500 individuals. The sea lion found on this island is the species Otaria flavescens, a fur seal. Males can weigh up to 360 kg, twice as much as females, and are characterized by a reddish mane, so they are also known as "sea lions". The male has a harem of about 15 individuals. Between December and January, the young are born and the breeding cycle begins again. On Marta Island there has been a growth in the population for some years. During the navigation you can enjoy the company of southern dolphins and toninas overas, playing with the wakes of the boats. The expeditions depart by transfer from Punta Arenas, in the early morning, and the boats, from Laredo Bay. Wear warm and waterproof clothing and a hat with earmuffs.