20th January marks Penguin Awareness Day – a day to pay tribute to this precious and adorable flightless bird. Sadly, the numbers of many penguin species are dwindling but conservation efforts have stepped up to protect them. You can support this conservation work, in addition to celebrating Penguin Awareness Day, by visiting one of these five destinations.
Punta Tombo, Argentina
With more than one million penguins, Punta Tombo is home to one of the world's largest colonies
With more than one million Magellanic penguins nesting in the dunes of the Punta Tombo National Reserve, it is one of the largest penguin colonies in the world. The birds remain at Punta Tombo from September through till March, but the best time to visit is in November once their chicks have begun to hatch. Stroll along the Reserve’s boardwalk, where trails will take you past penguin nesting areas.
Less than a 20-minute drive from Punta Tombo, Estancia La Antonieta offers sea views andorganized excursions for guests.
Oamaru, New Zealand
Little penguins stand at a height of only 33cm
The seaside town of Oamaru has earned itself the nickname of ‘Penguintown’ thanks to its colony of little penguins, the world’s smallest species of penguin. These adorable creatures stand at an average height of 33cm and are easily recognisable by their blue flippers and head. They nest on land but travel to the sea daily to feed – time your trip right and you can see these tiny birds on their travels.
The Harold House is a historic villa with an onsite restaurant, located just outside the centre of Oamaru.
Boulders Beach, South Africa
The design of Boulders Beach allows you to view these rare birds at a close distance
The endangered African penguin is the only species of penguin to live on the African continent, having made a home for itself on Cape Town’s Boulders Beach. What started as two breeding pairs of penguins in 1982 has turned into a full colony in just a few decades. What makes Boulders Beach special is that you can view these rare birds from a close distance without disturbing them or their environment. For mobility-reduced travellers, the neighbouring Foxy Beach offers accessible boardwalks with the same, up-close-and-personal views.
Just 500m from Boulders Beach, the Magellans Passage Guest House is an eco-friendly guesthouse that runs on renewable energy.
The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos penguin prefers the cooler waters around Isabela and Fernandina islands
The Galapagos Islands are known for their astonishing array of animal species, one of which is the Galapagos penguin. It is the only species of penguin found north of the equator and there are currently less than 2000 remaining in the wild. They prefer the cooler water brought by the Humboldt and Cromwell currents around the Galapagos islands of Isabela and Fernandina, so these are the best places to spot them.
Walking distance from the ferry terminal, a stay at the Bay View House makes it easy to hop from island to island.
Sir Nils Olav is one of the king penguins at the Edinburgh Zoo
Edinburgh doesn’t have an abundance of penguins but they do have a particularly special one; Brigadier Sir Nils Olav, a resident penguin of the Edinburgh Zoo, who was adopted in 1972 thanks to the efforts of Major Nils Egelien and the then-King of Norway, King Olav. After his adoption, Nils was appointed as the mascot of the Norwegian Guard and has moved up the ranks throughout his lifetime. Most notably, Nils was approved by King Harald V of Norway to be awarded Knighthood during a lavish ceremony at the zoo in 2008.
The Dalmore Lodge Guest House is located directly opposite the Edinburgh Zoo, with easy access tothe rest of the city’s sights.