Our first full day in Tierra del Fuego was PENGUIN DAY! I’ll save information about the tour for the very end of the post so that we can pretty much head straight into pictures.
The day started with leaving Ushuaia by boat. On the way to Isla Martillo (where the penguins live) we stopped by three separate islands, one filled with Cormorants, one housing a Sea Lion colony, and the famous Ushuaia lighthouse:
Here’s another magnificent beast I caught on camera as he looked out over Chile from Argentine waters:
Once we reached Estancia Harberton (the oldest ranch in Tierra del Fuego and still owned by descendants of the original owner), our group was split into two smaller groups. One would remain at the Estancia for lunch while the other would take a smaller boat out to see the Penguins. Then the groups would swap. We were in the first group to go see the penguins.
We had an hour on the island, starting on the side where the Magellanic penguins hang out on shore, then walking to the higher ground of the nesting area, and finishing off on the other shore of the island, populated primarily with the Gentoo. The pictures will do the experience far more justice than anything I could say about it, so I’ll just leave you to enjoy all the cuteness:
This guy had something to say to the world:
I could watch them all day. They are so stinkin’ cute! But eventually our time was up and we headed back to the Estancia for a delicious lunch while enjoying this view of the Ranch:The Estancia no longer functions as a working ranch. During the winter of 1998 (I think), the area was hit by a 21 day storm that dumped three meters of snow, killing all of the remaining cattle on the ranch. They opted to be finished with farming and continue solely in the tourism industry. There is also have a Marine Mammal museum on site where ongoing research continues. When whales are beached or marine mammal bodies wash up on shore, scientists and interns from the museum collect the bodies. After the extremely tedious work of meticulously cleaning the bones, everything is cataloged and stored on site. The museum features full skeletons of a wide variety of whales, dolphins, sea lions, and penguins common to the area. Here is the shed where carcasses are kept before the process of cleaning off the bones takes place. I just thought it was pretty:
The return to Ushuaia was via bus, with a stop to see the flag trees:
The other side of the road was no less beautiful. None of our pictures do the area justice but here’s proof we were there:
After returning to Ushuaia with plenty of daylight left (It helps when the sun sets at 9:30) we decided to drive to the base of the Martial Glacier hike so Andy could play around with the drone. It attracted plenty of attention of hikers coming back down the trail and we had a few fun conversations. Managed to snap this photo while hanging out:
Not a bad spot to hang out while Andy practiced with the drone. Eventually we headed home for pasta and wine…which proved more challenging than expected when we realized our airbnb had no wine bottle opener. Andy painstakingly removed the cork with the pliers from his utility knife. His dedication deserved to be documented:
We are nothing if not classy, amIright?? Hey…whatever works. And we finally managed to sip some wine and watch our view go from this:
And so ended our second day at the end of the world.
Tour information: We scheduled a tour through PiraTour. Normally we are not fans of group tours but we’re willing to do them for experiences we couldn’t otherwise have and would highly recommend this one. PiraTour is the only company licensed to take people onto the island to walk around with the penguins. The number of people allowed each day is limited, so my advice is: book early. We saw boats pull up to the island for people to take pictures and were SO thankful we weren’t stuck on a boat. The experience of walking around on the island with the penguins was once in a lifetime and totally worth it.