Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park


Imagine a place where penguins move with grace among the waves, where the sea horizon merges with infinite skies, and where the fresh sea air revitalizes your spirit. That is precisely what awaits travelers at the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park (in Spanish: Parque Interjurisdiccional Marino Isla Pingüino), an extraordinary area of biodiversity within the Argentina National Parks system.

Introduction to the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park

Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park

Geographical Location and General Description

Located on the coast of Santa Cruz Province, Argentina, near the town of Puerto Deseado, in the Argentine Sea ecoregion, the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park extends across a pristine marine area of 159,526 hectares, hosting an impressive diversity of marine life at coordinates: 47°54′00″S 65°43′00″W. It is a cooperative area between the national and provincial governments, distinguished by its exceptional biodiversity and remarkable landscape.

History of the Park’s Creation

The Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park has an interesting history of creation. It began as the Provincial Reserve Isla Pingüinos, established on May 28, 1992, by Law No. 2274 of the Santa Cruz Legislature. However, it wasn’t until February 15, 2010, that a treaty between the province of Santa Cruz and the national government was signed for the creation of the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park.

Nature of Interjurisdictional Administration

The treaty establishes a unique interjurisdictional nature for park administration. Unlike national parks, the province of Santa Cruz did not relinquish the domain or jurisdiction that belongs to the national government. The treaty was ratified through various decrees and laws, both provincial and national, between 2010 and 2012.

Management Executive Committee

The implementation of necessary actions to fulfill the park’s objectives is overseen by a Management Executive Committee. This committee consists of two regular representatives and one alternate from the National Parks Administration and an equivalent number from the province of Santa Cruz.

Park’s Administrative Structure

As per Resolution No. 126/2011 of the National Parks Administration, the park is administratively classified as a Category III protected area. In terms of national jurisdiction, it has an appointed superintendent, overseeing four departments: Administration; Infrastructure and Maintenance; National Park Rangers; Conservation and Public Use; and Dispatch and Registry Division. The superintendent’s provisional headquarters are located in the town of El Calafate.

Ecological Significance

The park is renowned for its wide variety of marine life, from the whales frequenting its waters to the penguin colony that lends it its name. These mighty creatures provide a unique spectacle to visitors and underscore the importance of park conservation.

Diversity of Marine Fauna

The park serves as a breeding ground for a variety of marine species, from sea lions to dolphins and whales. Its rich biodiversity is a testament to the health of the marine ecosystem in this region.

The park hosts notable biodiversity in both marine flora and fauna, largely due to nutrients from the sea and the presence of phytoplankton, which serves as the foundation of sustenance for numerous animals.

Marine fauna plays a crucial role in the life cycle of economically and commercially important species like southern hake, Patagonian shrimp, and squid.

On the islands, especially on Penguin Island, diverse coastal-marine birds can be found. Among them are the South American tern, southern seagull, and gray and rock cormorants. Additionally, the island is home to the only Patagonian colony of yellow-crested penguins, although Magellanic penguins also visit for nesting.

The skies are inhabited by impressive migratory birds such as petrels and albatrosses. As for mammals, haul-out areas for South American fur seals and elephant seals can be observed, with the latter being the world’s largest seal species.

Special Mention: Penguin Colonies

As its name suggests, the park is renowned for being home to large penguin colonies. These fascinating creatures are a major attraction for visitors and offer a unique insight into life in the wild.

Southern Rockhopper Penguin

The southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome) is a bird with a charming personality. Although it is the smallest penguin in the Argentine Sea, it stands out due to its picturesque appearance. Its strong reddish beak and striking red eyes catch the attention, but what truly sets it apart are the long yellow feathers that form "eyebrows" on its head.

These penguins are skilled at moving nimbly among the rocks to reach their nests, which gives them superior agility. Their curiosity and natural behavior make them ideal subjects for capturing incredible photographs during your visit to the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park. Don’t miss the opportunity to get to know and enjoy the vibrant personalities of these adorable penguins.

Iconic Species

The southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome) is one of the icons of the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park. Despite being the smallest of the local penguins, it is known for its ability to hop between rocky areas and reach its nests, earning it the name "rockhopper." It has a strong reddish beak and long yellow feathers that form "eyebrows" on its head. It feeds on fish, crustaceans, and squid in the sea, and during the summer season, it nests in colonies where it incubates up to two eggs.

In the highest section of Penguin Island, there is an old lighthouse that was inaugurated in 1903. Constructed with masonry and iron, it stands at a height of approximately 22 meters. Initially, it was fueled by kerosene lamps and later by acetylene gas, but currently, it is powered automatically using solar panels.

Unique Geography and Landscapes

With its combination of vast marine waters and spectacular rock formations, the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park offers visitors a treasure trove of natural wonders to explore. Each view is a reminder of the untamed beauty of nature.

Description of the Park’s Geography

The park’s geography is primarily marine, with rocky islands providing habitat for penguin colonies. Cliffs and beaches offer stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Highlighted Geological Formations

The rocky formations and cliffs of the park’s islands provide a dramatic contrast with the vast ocean. These unique geological formations add an element of majesty to the park’s landscape.

Climate of the Region

The climate on Penguin Island is temperate cold, with arid to semi-arid characteristics. The average annual temperature is 9.8°C, with winters that can reach below freezing temperatures and summers with highs exceeding 35°C. Precipitation amounts to approximately 250 mm per year, mainly concentrated in autumn and winter.

Winds are frequent throughout the year, predominantly from the west. The average wind speed is 31 km/h, with the maximum recorded at 148 km/h in January, the windiest month.

Cultural and Historical Heritage of Penguin Island

The coastal area of the park has been inhabited and traversed by indigenous peoples for thousands of years, with archaeological evidence dating back at least 6,500 years. These archaeological sites and remains in the province of Santa Cruz are considered of great cultural significance due to their antiquity, state of preservation, and diversity of remnants, such as shell middens, burial mounds (chenques), stone structures, and artifacts.

Within the protected area, several lighthouses can be found along the coast, which played an important role in navigation during the past century. One of the prominent lighthouses is the Penguin Island Lighthouse, located at the southern tip of the island of the same name. It was inaugurated in 1903 and initially operated on kerosene, then on acetylene gas from 1924, and since 1983, it has been powered by solar panels, with a range of 16 nautical miles. These lighthouses bear witness to the maritime history of the area and are part of the park’s historical heritage.

Attractions and Activities

From wildlife observation to hiking trails and photography, the park offers a plethora of activities to enjoy. Regardless of your passion, you will find a way to connect with nature and learn about this impressive ecosystem.

Wildlife and Bird Observation

With its rich marine life and bird species, wildlife observation is a popular activity in the park. Here, you can observe penguins, sea lions, various bird species, and, with luck, whales and dolphins. The area provides an untouched environment on Penguin Island, attracting numerous migratory birds that choose this area for breeding and nesting, making it an ideal destination for observing South Atlantic birds. Visitors can enjoy observing a wide variety of birds in their natural habitat, creating a unique and enriching experience for ornithology and nature enthusiasts.

Hiking and Trekking Routes

Hiking routes allow visitors to explore the islands and enjoy panoramic views of the sea. These routes vary in difficulty, providing options for all levels of physical fitness. To hike the trails in the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park, participants must take a nautical excursion to Penguin Island, as access on foot is exclusively available through this mode. It’s important to note that the services of authorized nautical operators must be used.

The island’s landscape is completely rugged and dreamlike, guarded by an old lighthouse inaugurated in 1903, its light visible from the city at night. During the excursion, the island is traversed on foot along the designated trail, the only authorized area for visits, always accompanied by one of the three authorized nautical service operators.

Trekking on the island is classified as low to medium difficulty. The route passes through areas with gentle slopes, flat and open terrain, increasing in difficulty as it approaches the reproductive colony of the yellow-crested penguin, where there are sections with narrow stone paths and canyons.

Boat Excursions

Nautical excursions are the only way to fully experience and appreciate the biodiversity of the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park. These maritime excursions, covering approximately 25 km to the south, lead to the island that gives its name to the park and is recognized for its rich natural wealth.

The estimated duration of the excursion is 6 hours and includes a 1.5 km walk through the colonies of Magellanic and yellow-crested penguins, as well as nesting areas of common and brown skuas, kelp and brown-hooded gulls, steamer ducks, and sheldgeese.

During the excursion, the park’s wildlife can be observed up close. Penguins often approach curiously, and haul-out areas of one and two-haired sea lions can also be seen, sharing resting areas with elephant seals.

It’s important to consider that weather conditions can affect the departure of the navigation, so having several days available is recommended to ensure its realization.

Opportunities for Photography and Painting

The breathtaking natural landscapes and abundant wildlife make the park an ideal place for photography and painting. Photographers and artists will find plenty of inspiration in this truly picturesque location.

Practical Guide for Visitors

Whether you’re arriving by road or air, we’ll provide you with all the information you need to make your visit as easy and rewarding as possible. And don’t forget, the best time to visit is during the summer months, when the weather is ideal and wildlife is more active.

How to Get There

The park is accessible by road and by sea from the nearby city of Puerto Deseado. Most visitors opt to join a boat tour that offers the opportunity to get close to the islands and marine wildlife before accessing on foot.

Best Time to Visit

The park is accessible only through nautical excursions, which operate from mid-October to April due to favorable weather conditions. This time period coincides with the highest concentration of wildlife, as many species gather in the park for breeding and feeding.

It’s important to consider that the region where the park is located is subject to prevailing westerly winds, which are present almost year-round. Additionally, tourism activities in the park are always subject to weather conditions due to its open sea location. It’s recommended to check weather conditions and excursion availability before planning your visit to the park.

Visiting Hours

Access to Penguin Island can only be done through authorized nautical excursions. There’s no established schedule for accessing the beaches, but due to access difficulties and changing weather conditions, it’s recommended to always contact the Park Management in advance to get updated information and recommendations regarding beach access.

Park Access

To access the park’s beaches, you can reach them via Provincial Route 43, which is a gravel road. This route leads to the southern bank of Ría Deseado, where beaches such as Isla Chefers and Punta Guanaco are located.

If traveling by car, the main access to Puerto Deseado is via National Route 281, which connects the town to National Route 3. From there, you can continue south towards Río Gallegos and north towards Comodoro Rivadavia. Car rental services are available in these cities.

By plane, the nearest airports to Puerto Deseado are Comodoro Rivadavia Airport in Chubut province, approximately 290 km away, and Río Gallegos Airport in Santa Cruz province, approximately 750 km away. Both airports receive daily flights from Buenos Aires and, with less frequency, from other cities in Argentina. These airports are options for those who wish to travel by plane to Puerto Deseado and then access the park.

To reach Puerto Deseado by bus, you can use the transportation companies Sportman and La Unión, both of which offer two daily frequencies. These companies provide transport services from different cities in Argentina to Puerto Deseado, providing a convenient option for those who prefer bus travel. It’s advisable to verify schedules and availability of these companies’ services before planning your trip.

What to Bring: The Basic Kit You Need

To ensure a comfortable and safe visit to Penguin Island Park, it’s advisable to bring a basic kit that includes:

  • Layered Warm Clothing: It’s recommended to bring layered clothing to adapt to temperature changes. The winds can be cold, even during summer, and nights are often cool.
  • Waterproof and Windproof Clothing: These garments are essential as they provide protection against wind and potential rain. They are your best allies for exploring the Patagonia region.
  • Comfortable Footwear: It’s recommended to have comfortable shoes or boots suitable for walking and hiking on various terrains.
  • Hat and Gloves: To protect against cold and winds, it’s important to bring a hat that covers your ears and has a cord to secure it in case of strong winds. Gloves are also important on cold days.
  • Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is essential during navigation and trekking activities. Bringing a reusable water bottle will allow you to have water on hand at all times.
  • Binoculars and Bird Identification Guide: Since the park is great for birdwatching, bringing binoculars will enhance your bird observation experience. It’s also recommended to bring a bird identification guide to learn about the species you encounter during your visit.

These items will provide you with safety and comfort during your experience at the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park.

Rules and Suggestions for a Safe and Environmentally Respectful Trip

It’s important to remember that you’re visiting a delicate ecosystem. Visitors are recommended to follow established guidelines to ensure their safety and minimize their impact on the environment.

Access Fees

Entry to the Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park is free.

Accommodation, Restaurants, and Services

There are several accommodation options near the park, ranging from hotels to hostels and campgrounds. Additionally, the available services in and around the park ensure your visit is comfortable and convenient. Unfortunately, camping or overnight stays within the protected area are not allowed.

However, there are plenty of accommodation options in the town of Puerto Deseado.

It’s recommended to try kanikama, a food made from cured minced white fish, which is typical of the region. Also, enjoy prawns and products from the Argentine Sea. For those interested in meat, trying Patagonian steppe lamb is a must.

It’s advisable to bring drinking water to the park to have during your visit.

The nearest ATM is located in Puerto Deseado.

Accommodation Options Near the Park

The city of Puerto Deseado offers a variety of accommodation options for park visitors, ranging from hotels and hostels to campgrounds. Regardless of your budget, you’ll find a comfortable place to rest after a day of adventures.

Services Available in and Around the Park

In and around the park, you’ll find a range of services to make your visit more comfortable. These include guided tours, outdoor equipment rentals, and restaurants and shops in the nearby city of Puerto Deseado.

What to See Near Penguin Island

City of Puerto Deseado

Puerto Deseado is a charming coastal city with a picturesque and welcoming atmosphere. It offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty that you shouldn’t miss during your visit to the park, as you’ll likely be staying there.

Paseo Costanero (Evening Coastal Walk)

Enjoy a beautiful stroll along Puerto Deseado’s picturesque Coastal Walk at sunset. You can admire panoramic views of the sea, seabirds, and the tranquility of the surroundings as the sun sets on the horizon.

Mario Brososky Museum

Immerse yourself in the history and culture of Puerto Deseado at the Mario Brososky Museum. This museum offers an interesting collection of art, historical artifacts, and exhibitions about the 1779 wreck of the corvette Swift, allowing you to learn more about the region’s history and heritage.

Railway Museum

If you’re a trains and railway history enthusiast, don’t miss the Railway Museum in Puerto Deseado. Discover the history of old trains and explore exhibits showcasing the significance of the railway in the region.

Sport Fishing at Punta Guanaco, Punta Buque, Isla Liebre, and Bahía Laura

For sport fishing enthusiasts, the areas of Punta Guanaco, Punta Buque, Isla Liebre, and Bahía Laura offer excellent opportunities. Enjoy the excitement of catching marine species while surrounded by the beautiful natural environment.


Puerto Deseado’s beaches are an excellent choice for relaxation and enjoyment of the sun and sea. The calm waters and beautiful landscapes invite you to have moments of rest and fun on the coast.

Ría Deseado Provincial Reserve

Explore the Ría Deseado Provincial Reserve, a protected area that houses a great diversity of flora and fauna. Go for walks and birdwatching in this unique ecosystem while connecting with nature.

Los Miradores de Darwin (Darwin’s Lookouts)

Contemplate stunning panoramic views from Darwin’s Lookouts. These observation points allow you to appreciate the natural beauty of the landscape and enjoy panoramic views of the sea and surrounding coasts.

Conservation and Sustainability

The Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park is not just a tourist destination, but a model of conservation and sustainability. Learn how you can contribute to these efforts during your visit.

Current Conservation Efforts

Several efforts are being made to conserve the park’s unique biodiversity. These include research programs, species monitoring, and regular beach cleanups.

How Visitors Can Contribute to Conservation

Visitors can contribute to park conservation in various ways, such as following park guidelines, practicing Leave No Trace principles, and participating in volunteering programs or donating to conservation efforts.

Future of the Park

The future of the park looks promising, with plans to expand protected areas and improve facilities for visitors. However, climate change remains a real threat, and we all have a role to play in protecting this incredible place for future generations.

Projects and Plans for the Park’s Future

Plans are in place to enhance park facilities and services, as well as expand protected areas. The goal is to improve the visitor experience while increasing protection for the park’s ecosystem.

Impact of Climate Change

Climate change is a threat to the park and its biodiversity. Actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change are an integral part of conservation efforts in the park.

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