Adorable creatures that look like they are wearing black tuxedos to waddle around the icy waters – penguins, are truly charming animals that they can put a smile on your face. And a great thing about penguins is when you see them in their natural habitats, you don’t just see one or two; they usually congregate in thousands. If you want to see these guys in action, make your way to Otway Sound in Southern Chile, one of the best places to watch a colony of Magellan penguins in the world!
Otway Sound (Ping¸inera de Seno Otway) is home to a penguin sanctuary, which is considered to be the most easily visited area on earth to visit these amazing creatures. The Spheniscus magellanicus or Magellan penguins are relatively small penguins that thrive in slightly warm weather. Almost 10,000 penguins migrate to Otway Sound during the month of September, which is the beginning of the Patagonian summer period. All of the penguins come here in couples! Why? They choose Otway Sound as a place to build their nests and lay most of their eggs. October is the month to lay these eggs. And when late November sets in, the eggs hatch and gray chicks make their out into the world.
The penguin couples usually have 1 or 2 offspring. The male and female penguins take turns to feed and watching over their young. If you want to see baby penguins up close, plan a visit to Otway Sound in November and December, which is also the most common months for tourism. During this time, the adults are fishing for food for their babies. The fishing time takes most of the day so the best time to visit the sanctuary is after 5 pm, when you can witness how the penguin parents come back from the sea to feed the little ones.
The Otway Sound penguin sanctuary is situated northwest of Punta Arenas town, which sits on the Straights of Magellan. Punta Arenas houses the Carlos Ibanez Airport (PUQ), which facilitates direct flights from key cities. From this airport, you need to travel approximately 40 miles or 65 kilometers to reach the sanctuary. You can easily catch a bus from Carlos Ibanez to Puerto Natales, which is the prime gateway to Otway Sound.
There are also a couple of tour operators that conduct visits from Punta Arenas to Otway Sound. The tours are usually conducted from 4 pm to 8 pm. Both Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas are equipped with the usual tourist facilities. You can opt to book an accommodation in either of these towns as they have a wide range of lodging options.
The colony usually set their breeding ground on Otway Sound’s wide shore. When you get here, you can access part of the colony as it is open to visitors. This section features a few hundreds of adorable penguins going about their day! Because the sanctuary stands on private property, there is an entrance fee for visitors. The other parts of the colony are closed to the public for conservation reasons.
Part of Otway Sound’s popularity is its easy accessibility. In some cases, you can come as close as a few feet to the penguins on the beach. If you cannot get enough of penguins, you can also proceed to Magdalena Island, where you have the chance to see penguins by the thousands.