The Penguin Spotter’s Guide to the World

The Penguin Spotter’s Guide to the World

As anybody who has travelled anywhere will know, seeing exotic animals in a zoo or safari park just isn’t the same as seeing them out in their natural habitat, and no animal is this more true of than the comical yet glorious penguin – one of my all-time favourite animals.

But you might be surprised to learn that the adorable penguin can be found in a wide range of different habitats, and that it is equally at home in the equatorial heat of the Galapagos Islands as it is in the frozen wastelands of the polar regions.

If you’re set on seeing these lovable birds in the wild, you’ve got an exciting array of destinations to choose from…



Let’s get the really obvious one out of the way first – Antarctica is almost synonymous with penguins for many people. Six of the 17 species of penguins can be found in Antarctica, but the continent’s most southerly species, the Emperor, is perhaps the most famous. Remarkably, the female penguin spends two months feeding out at sea after laying her egg, and it is the male who incubates the egg, balancing it on his feet and nestling it under his feathers to stop it from freezing. Other penguin species found in Antarctica include Chinstrap, Gentoo and Adelie penguins. You can see these delightful birds on many Antarctic Cruises.


The Galapagos Islands

Technically, the endangered Galapagos penguin is the only one to live in the Northern Hemisphere in the wild, though not by much – it occupies a narrow band either side of the Equator, kept cool by the Humboldt and Cromwell ocean currents. The main Galapagos penguin colonies are on Fernandina Island and Isabela Island, and they’re so small that they have numerous predators, including (unbelievably) crabs.


Argentina and Chile

South America is home to three penguin species:  Magellanic, Southern Rockhopper and Macaroni penguins. The latter, with their distinctive tufts of facial hair, are the world’s most common penguin. Magellanic penguins are found only in the Falkland Islands and South America, preferring to nest in soily burrows. The Southern Rockhopper, as its name suggests, favours a rocky environment in which to nest, and colonies can reach a staggering size – sometimes as many as a hundred thousand nests.


Australia and New Zealand

Several breeds of penguin can be found in the Antipodes. One of them is known variously as the Little, Blue or Fairy penguin, and it’s under threat because of introduced predators such as foxes, dogs and ferrets. Other penguins found in this part of the world include the striking Snares Penguin, notable for its bright orange beak and tufts of hair; the very similar-looking but more shy Fiordland penguin, which makes its nest in rainforests and caves; and the Yellow-eyed penguin, one of the rarest penguin breeds in the world.


South Africa

South Africa is home to the aptly-named African penguin, which is also found in Namibia. It’s the only penguin to be found in Africa, and you won’t find it anywhere else. Its unlikely African home can be explained by the presence of a cold ocean current, the Benguela Current, which is full of great penguin food such as anchovies, herrings and sardines. There are 27 colonies left at various points along the coast and on islands near the shore, some of which can be seen by taking a boat trip from the mainland.


Written and contributed by RachelsTravels