Penguin watching can be immense fun as these endearing and frequently comical flightless birds are full of character. Our penguin watching holidays offer a wide range of trips, destinations and locations chosen to give the very best penguin experiences, such as…
Why our penguin watching holidays are so successful
And with over 25 years’ experience in creating tailor-made wildlife holidays, you can trust us to design a penguin watching trip that meets your specific requirements.
What penguins to see and where
Uniquely southern hemisphere species, penguins are found throughout the southern oceans. This means you can see them on land: Magellanic penguins along the coasts of Argentina and Chile; gentoo, rockhopper, macaroni, king and erect-crested penguins in the Falkland Islands; and king penguins on South Georgia.
Alternatively, you can see penguins galore on any expedition voyage that visits the Antarctic, and some trips to the Galápagos where you can see penguins of the same name. To see emperor penguins, however, you need to visit Snow Hill in the Weddell Sea – the only place where they can be seen.
The emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri), the largest and heaviest penguin, is endemic to Antarctica, exclusively between latitudes of 66° and 77° South. Adult plumage is mostly black, with white underwings and belly turning into pale yellow in the upper breast, and with bright yellow ear patches. The upper mandible of the long bill is black, while the lower one can be pink, orange or lilac, making a highly distinctive – and impressive – appearance.
Our Emperor Penguins of the Weddell Sea itinerary, provides the perfect way to visit these penguins in the remote regions of Antarctica. Three days are reserved to visiting, by helicopter, an emperor penguin colony, situated south of Snow Hill Island.
The macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus) is found from the sub-Antarctic to the Antarctic Peninsula. As one of six species of crested penguin, it is closely related to the royal penguin – indeed some authorities consider the two to be a single species. It has a distinctive yellow crest and red eyes, and its black face and upperparts are sharply delineated from the white underparts.The Falklands are an excellent place to view these penguins, with colonies being found on Pebble Island and Saunders Island.
The long-tailed gentoo (Pygoscelis papua), the third largest species, belongs to the same genus as Adélie and chinstrap penguins. First described in 1781 on the Falkland Islands, it identified by the broad white stripe that runs across the top of its head, and by its bright orange-red bill. It has pale-coloured webbed feet and a prominent tail that sweeps from side to side as it waddles on land. The most common of its various calls is a loud trumpeting when it throws its head back.
Although adapted to harsh cold climates, its breeding colonies are always on ice-free surfaces along or close to the shoreline, with nests often sited between tufts of grass. They breed on many sub-Antarctic islands and in the Antarctic Peninsula.
The rockhopper (Eudyptes chrysocome) consists of three closely related subspecies of crested penguin that are sometimes treated as a single species. With a global population of around one million pairs i.e. two-thirds of the total population, the southern rockhopper breeds in the Falklands and on islands around the tip of Argentina and Chile.
The related eastern rockhopper breeds on the sub-Antarctic islands of the Indian and western Pacific oceans. Outside the breeding season, rockhoppers can be found roaming the waters off their colonies, feeding on krill, squid, plankton, cuttlefish and crustaceans.
The Magellanic penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus) was named after Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who first sighted it in 1520, and is native to South America. These medium-sized birds breed along the coastline of Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands, although some migrate to Brazil and are occasionally seen as far north as Rio de Janeiro.
The world’s largest breeding colony of Magellanic penguin is found at Punta Tombo in Argentina, where you can walk amongst them and closely observe them building nests, feeding chicks and in courtship and territorial disputes.
The king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), the second largest species of all, breeds on sub-Antarctic islands between 45° and 55°S, at the northern reaches of Antarctica, as well as Tierra del Fuego, the Falkland Islands, and other temperate islands of the region. Where conditions are suitable, such as at Salisbury Plain on South Georgia Island, they can form huge colonies of over 100,000 breeding pairs, which – because of the long breeding cycle – are continuously occupied.