One of the things I like doing is meeting penguins. They're pretty good fun, and better company than some humans I know! I've been to penguin colonies in southern Chile and on the Falkland Islands, and I've seen penguins pottering about around the Antarctic Peninsula. I guess the Falklands is the most accessible place to go and visit penguins - the best places for penguins I found there were Saunders Island, Pebble Island, West Point Island, Sea Lion Island and Volunteer Point. If you go I recommend using Tenacrestours to get to Volunteer Point.
There are 17 or 18 different species of penguin. Without wanting to sound too much like an obsessive completist I've met 7 of them in the wild, and one in a zoo. I'm not sure it's appropriate to count meeting a species of penguin in a zoo, and let's face it would it not be more fun to meet penguins in a zoo or on the sands, in the case of these African Penguins, near Cape Town. So, I've seen plenty of Gentoos, Magellanics, Kings and Rockhoppers on the Falklands. I've met some Macaronis on the Falklands too and happened upon some Adelies on the Antarctic Peninsula.. There's an Erect-Crested Penguin who lives on Pebble Island, Falklands. I invested a great deal of time meeting him, more than in some ladies I've tried to snare, and nearly succeeded in failing to meet him. Fortunately the eagle-eyed (should that be skua-eyed??!!) chap who came to pick me up from the colony pointed him out to me (ta!).
Gentoos I find are pretty timid, but I did have one of my best penguin experiences with them. Kings look incredibly beautiful, but came across as a bit aloof and superior, as though like a glamorous model they're aware of how good they look. Adelies and Rockhoppers were the best fun...their eyes make them incredibly photogenic and they have enough of an attitude to be curious about humans. Magellanics I'm not that fussed about. They're not quite penguiny enough for me, but they do have a nice smile...they seem to have an almost saintly expression when smiling. The Macaronis I met were nesting and sitting on eggs when I saw them, so there wasn't much opportunity for interaction, whilst the Erect-Crested I met was in the middle of a colony so there wasn't much opportunity for interaction there.
The colonies are great to visit, but make sure you don't get too close and scare the penguins, especially if they are sat on eggs...if you scare a penguin off it's nest a predator could nip in and steal the egg. Similarly if you meet a penguin on a beach, don't get between the penguin and the sea, or cut off a penguins route to his/her colony - would you like someone blocking your way home or to food you want on a supermarket aisle?
The trick with penguins appears to be to sit still and wait for their natural curiosity to come into play...if they're curious enough they'll come to you. That said, if they're busy, or nesting they're unlikely to make too much effort to take notice of you!
Here are some good penguin
links I've found:
pinguins.info - lots of information about penguin species etc.
Annemarie's Pinguinweb - Dutch site about penguins.
Official IPCWG Guide to Penguins - the International Penguin Conservation Work Group's website.
Pete and Barb's Penguin Pages - lots more penguin info.
Links to more penguin pages - speaks for itself really!
Mike Bingham has written two books about penguins. His website is well worth looking at. There's loads of info about penguins there.
One of the best books I've seen about penguins is Penguins of the World by Pauline Reilly (1994) - I suspect it may be out of print, but the ISBN number is 0195535472 and it can be tracked down quite easily at Amazon.co.uk or Abebooks.
Obviously there's loads more penguin pages on the web, but I've not started to look that closely yet!
Anyway, enough rabbit, this is what you really
want - here are some of my better penguin photos. Click on the photo to
make it bigger!
Dan Suri, 16 September 2008.
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