A King Penguin colony in Antarctica.
A King Penguin colony in Antarctica.

Is Antarctica the Only Place To See Penguins in the Wild?

A King Penguin colony in Antarctica.

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If the thought of seeing a real life march of the penguins gives you happy feet, then you’re in luck. There are actually a number of places you can witness the exultant event, and they’re not all in Antarctica.

Although the earth’s icy, southernmost continent does contain a number of prime spots for eyeing these flippered flyers, there are a host of other penguin-viewing places, too. And some spots don’t even require snow boots.

Simon’s Town, South Africa

One such locale is the Boulders Penguin Colony, located south of Cape Town in Simon’s Town. Part of the Table Mountain National Park, the colony is comprised of several beaches and boardwalks. Here, you’ll find African Penguins, now an endangered species, waddling around and taking a dip in the cove. By the way, humans are free to swim in designated areas in the cove as well, but the national park service does ask that visitors refrain from touching the penguins. 

Oamaru, New Zealand

The Blue Penguin Colony in Oamaru, a coastal city in southwestern New Zealand, boasts the world’s smallest penguins: the Blue Penguin. As full-grown adults, these aquatic birds only reach about 12 inches tall and will weigh just over two pounds. Their blue backs, in addition to their compact size, also make them some of the world’s most adorable penguins.

Isla Magdalena, Chile

Chile’s Isla Magdalena plays host to an enormous population of Magellanic Penguins. The island, which is located in the heart of the Strait of Magellan, is estimated to house more than 60,000 pairs of the black and white creatures. And as you might’ve guessed, these aquatic birds were named after the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who first locked eyes on the penguins in 1520. You can get a good look at them too by booking an excursion with Comapa or another tour company.

Keep in Mind
More than half of existing penguin species are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Unfortunately, these tuxedoed cuties face a host of trials that range from climate variation to pollution to an overharvesting of their food sources. Dr. P. Dee Boersma, an expert in penguin conservation and an endowed chair at the University of Washington, recommends that tourists take ownership of the penguin plight. 

“Tourists can, through their actions, foster penguin conservation,” Boersma says.

One way to do this is to support a conservation organization such as the Global Penguin Society (GPS), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), or the Penguin Sentinels Project, which Boersma helms at the University of Washington.