“Whatever a penguin does has individuality, and he lays bare his whole life for all to see…sometimes solemn, sometimes humorous, enterprising, chivalrous, cheeky – and always a welcome and, in some ways, an almost human friend.”
The Worst Journey in the World
Apsley Cherry-Garrard


For me, a visit to Tierra del Fuego – the island nestled at the foot of South America – wouldn’t have been complete without a trip to the recently re-established King Penguin colony between Porvenir and Camerón. As a long-time admirer of this funny little waddle machine, I was looking forward to the visit with great expectations. (And it would take all of my self-control not to sneak one of them into my panniers before leaving).

Second only in size to the Emperor Penguin, the King is usually found in the much more southerly regions of South Georgia and Antarctica. As these areas are only accessible by long and expensive boat trips, we were keen and privileged to be able to access their colony by bike.

We were also lucky to have the place to ourselves. Camping there with three other cyclists, we had the last of the evening’s sun to nip down and pay them a visit and then the following morning, we returned to watch them stretch, wake and explore – a little more closely than we could ever have anticipated…


Penguins territory on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

Magical Patagonian evening light is the perfect time for viewing…

Penguins preening themselves on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…as the penguins busy themselves with preening…

Calling penguins on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…calling to one another, and not-so-gracefully flopping down on the grass.

Penguin standing alone on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

These are the penguins that grace the cover of well-loved paperback books…

Penguins on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…or the shiny red packets of school-day chocolate bar snacks.

Penguins walking across the pampa in Tierra del Fuego, Chile

There’s something about the way they move that seems so human. Perhaps they feel the same – that we seem so ‘penguin’, and so over they come to investigate.

Two penguins approaching Karen on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

Karen is the first target. Once one has decided to check her out…

Penguins lining up to meet Karen on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…the others soon follow…

Penguins gather around Karen on Tierra del Fuego, Chil

…and before long it’s a veritable penguin party.

Penguins approach James on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

Then they’re headed James’ way.

Penguins bowing in front of James on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

First, they respectfully bow…

Close up of penguins on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…before they invade his space. “Does he have a beak like us?…

Close up of king penguin feathers, Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…Are his feathers as beautiful and smooth as ours?…

Close up of two king penguins on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…and can he carry off ‘regal’ like we do?”

Penguins approaching Sarah on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

“How about the female over there…

Penguins appraoching in a line, Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…let’s check her out!

Penguin feet close up, Tierra del Fuego, Chile

Are her feet like ours?…

Penguin biting a shoe Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…hmmm, clearly no good for Antarctic swimming.” 

Penguins with Sarah on Tierra del Fuego, Chile

And finally they decide we are no longer interesting…

Four king penguins, Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…and off they waddle…

Three king penguins standing together, Tierra del Fuego, Chile

…to discuss more pressing things.


6 Responses to “P-p-p-p-p-p-pick up a penguin”

  1. Sinéad Says:

    How amazing?!! Think that’s my favourite blog! That must have been incredible to see up close xx


  2. Laura T. Says:

    Beautiful shots!! What amazing creatures. :)


  3. Ma and Pa Says:

    Oh Hurrah! What gorgeous pics of your all-time favourites! Aren’t they wonderful and not at all afraid of you. Fascinating. You are so lucky to have seen such lovely creatures! All love to you both.


  4. Inge Says:

    Just amazing! Well worth the trip I’d say


  5. David Sutton Says:

    ‘Bloody Hell’ Sarah – Massive respect!! (I’m not surprised I couldn’t track you down!!)-Please contact me when you get back, if you need a DB job. Davidx


  6. The King Penguins of Tierra del Fuego | Swoop Patagonia's Blog Says:

    […] Photos Courtesy of Big Sur. […]

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