The Wild life of Penguins

By Luna Allani

To get personal with penguins, you've got to be smart. First of all, keep in mind that visitor regulations to Antarctica require that you remain at least five meters (a little over five yards) away from penguins in order not to disturb them.

If a penguin is trying to move away from you, even if you're farther than five meters away, you must stop what you're doing and back off.

You could easily become responsible for the death of a penguin chick or the destruction of an egg, if your too-close presence should distract a penguin parent. Penguin predators like skuas and giant petrels are only too ready to seize any opportunity to feed themselves and their own offspring.

The rules, however, don't preclude a curious penguin from approaching you closer than five meters - as long as the bird makes the move, not you.

Penguin chicks, in particular, are quite curious. I've seen several lucky tourists who were astonished to find that chicks came right up to them. One chick even climbed onto a woman's lap. Even if a penguin comes extremely close to you, however, remember: you're not allowed to touch or hold them.

Tips for getting up close to the penguins:

1. Ignore the smell. A penguin rookery is filled with guano (feces) and the ammoniacal smell takes some getting used to. Think of a rookery as a polar barnyard.

Majestic penguin

2. Be quiet. Loud noises make penguins nervous.

Another majestic penguin

3. Slow down. Fast or sudden movements signal predators to penguins, and they react accordingly.

Example of mad penguin

4. Stay low, or sit down. You can use your life jacket as a cushion on the rocky ground.

A penguin with a baby penguin

5. Be patient. It may take half an hour or more before the penguins get used to you.

Penguins having a meeting

6. Find a place of your own. Get away from the crowd, although there's no need to hike to the far edge of a rookery. Just don't stay in a clump of people who may or may not be as good as you are at being quiet, slow, low, patient, etc.

Penguin refreshing himself

7. Put away your camera. Too often people are so focused on getting the "money shot" that they forget to look with their own eyes. It's a different way of observing when you're not looking through a viewfinder. Most of my most memorable experiences in Antarctica are imprinted in my mind, not on a memory chip or roll of film.

Penguin practicing traditional dance

Finally, one last suggestion. Go down to the beach at your landing site and wade out in the shallow water a bit - without letting the water overtop your boots, of course! If you wait a few minutes, you may well be rewarded with a close view of penguins swimming close by in the clear waters.

As they rocket past, you'll see for yourself how penguins really can fly.

Check out this video if you want to know more about the exciting everyday life of a penguin

Penguin city

The remote Antarctic island of South Georgia is home to numerous penguin species, including king, macaroni and rockhopper penguins.

In January 2015 wildlife photographer David Tiplin, travelled to this busy island by boat with a team of biologists to take images for his new book Seabirds of the World.

He said: “The journey out on the 80-foot-long Hans Hansson was uneventful.

Penguins chilling

"However the return journey back to the Falklands a five day crossing was horrendous as we battled against 40 knot winds and eight metre swells.

“As the boat lurched and rolled the view of churning water from my porthole made it feel like we were stuck in a washing machine."

The huge penguin colonies along the east coast of South Georgia are some of the most spectacular concentrations of wildlife found anywhere on the planet.

Penguins going on a school trip

The award–winning photographer said: “Navigating through the waist high tussock to reach my vantage point to create this image, I was assaulted by the strong stench of guano and the sounds of thousands of peeping chicks and trumpeting adults.

"An estimated 300,000 birds crowd together here in surely one of Earth's most spectacular seabird cities.”

And while the sheer number of penguins may come across intimidating, according to Tiplin these flightless birds are very docile and inquisitive animals

He said: “They are often curious, and if you sit quietly at the edge of a colony individuals will often approach and look at you as if you were a fellow giant penguin.”

Penguins ready to jump off an iceberg

Tipling has travelled the oceans and visited remote islands across the globe to reveal the secret lives of some of earth’s most enigmatic species of bird.

His new book ‘Seabirds of the World’ is a celebration of these remarkable birds, many of which have populations in crisis.

"Never before has such a large group of birds needed such urgent action to save them from the brink,” he added.


Created with images by Christopher.Michel - "Chillaxing" • Pexels - "animal avian bird" • alisdair - "Penguin!" • Maren1900 - "penguin zoo" • Christopher.Michel - "Penguin Parents" • D-Stanley - "King Penguins" • hslergr1 - "penguin humboldt penguin bird" • nachans - "imgp5769" • - "Jan2009AntarticaSailTrip022"

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