Are Seeing Penguins on Your Bucket List? Take These Tours Down South

Holland America Line cruises travel all over the world, and some of the most unique and exciting shore excursions are the many wildlife tours highlighting native species unique to an area.

If you’re cruising to South America or Australia and New Zealand, keep your eyes peeled for an adorable little bird unique to the South Pole. With their tuxedo-like coloring, playful antics, wit and signature waddle, people travel from far and wide to see these birds up close.

That’s right, we’re talking about penguins! And lucky for Holland America Line cruisers, we offer a number of enriching shore excursions focused on penguin sightings.


Magdalena Island & Penguin Reserve by Covered Speedboat
Hop on a speedboat from Punta Arenas, Chile, and ride across the Strait of Magellan. You’ll drive past a 1,000-member colony of sea lions on Marta Island before going ashore at Magdalena Island. There, you’ll spend time walking among one of the largest colonies of more than 150,000 Magellan penguins.

Magdalena Island is home to Magellan penguins.

Magdalena Island is home to Magellan penguins.

Guest AnneElizabeth rated the tour five stars:

“This was our favorite shore excursion on our South American trip. There were lots of penguins and the guides were professional. We spent a little more than an hour on the island with the penguins and about 25 minutes offshore seeing the sea lions. There was plenty of opportunity to view the wildlife and get photos – great tour!”

Punta Tombo Penguin Adventure
Puerto Madryn is the stepping-off point for at least two of Argentina’s most exciting Natural Parks: the Valdes Peninsula and Punta Tombo. Punta Tombo Nature Reserve, which you will visit on this tour, is world renowned as perhaps the finest spot from which to view Magellan penguins, and indeed is home to the world’s largest colony of that species. It is estimated that more than a million penguins come here each year, and from November onwards it is possible to also see baby penguins leaving their nests. As you quietly stroll along the footpath through the colony, the lovable and endearing penguins will not be afraid of you. They are used to having visitors, and the visitors’ code of conduct, explained by your guide, ensures that disturbance to the birds is minimal. You will learn about how the Magellan penguins mate for life — the female lays two eggs each year, which the male and female then brood and raise together.

Get close to Magellan penguins at Punta Tombo Nature Reserve.

Get close to Magellan penguins at Punta Tombo Nature Reserve.

Patagonian Experience: Otway Sound & Penguin Reserve
Also from Punta Arenas, this tour takes in the beauty of Patagonia with a brief stop at a penguin colony. Head northeast by motor coach across huge sheep farms bordering Otway Bay. You will have magnificent views of the Pinto Range. Skirting Otway Bay, you will reach the caves where Magellan penguins live and nest. To reach the nests and beaches where the penguins live, you will leave the coach and walk approximately three quarters of a mile. Your guide will be with you to help answer questions. Bring your camera for some great close-up photos of these majestic birds.

Wildlife-Lovers’ Paradise
From Callao (Lima) Peru, board an uncovered boat for transportation to the Palomino Islands. En route, and at the islands themselves, you will observe rocky islands, dung birds, fishermen at work on their boats and a Humboldt penguin colony. A huge group of sea lions will likely meet your boat. They live in complete safety because there are no predators here, and they will play, swim, jump and dive around you! Heading back to the pier, your boat travels past shoals and rocks that are crowded with bird colonies, rounding out your marine nature experience.

Bluff Cove Penguin Rookery
Off the coast of Argentina lie the Falkland Islands, home to more penguin tours than any other port! One of these tours heads to the Bluff Cove Lagoon where you’ll travel through rugged beach terrain via a Land Rover 4-by-4. Stroll down the lagoon’s white, sandy beaches, home to thousands of king and Gentoo penguins, sea lions and a number of other bird species. Stop at the Sea Cabbage Café for warm drinks and pastries before taking time to browse the Bluff Cove Museum and gift shop.

The Blue Cove Penguin Rookery.

The Blue Cove Penguin Rookery.

Joe’s Gentoo Penguins
On this fun-filled adventure in the Falkland Islands, you will see a colony of approximately 200 breeding pairs of Gentoo penguins just 30 minutes from Stanley. Take an off-road 4×4 vehicle for the 20 mile off-road drive to Beach Point. At the Gentoo penguin rookery, you will enjoy time with the penguins, observing them going about their business with little regard for your presence. Other birds to watch for are southern giant petrels, skuas, rock cormorants, upland geese, turkey vultures, kelp gulls and, occasionally, flightless steamer ducks in their natural environment.

Great visit to Joe’s Gentoos. The van ride driver was full of many Falkland facts, which made the trip go quickly. Surprised how close we could get to the penguins, even saw a handful returning from the sea, no doubt with tasty morsels for their little ones. So I’ve got on video my own march of the penguins. Also have a pic of me digging peat … Joe is a character! — Guest Myacchico

Gentoo penguins can be found in the Falkland Islands.

Gentoo penguins can be found in the Falkland Islands.

Elusive & Exclusive: Rockhopper Penguins
The funniest members of the incredibly comedic penguin world are undoubtedly Rockhopper penguins in their natural environment. Due to new road construction, visitors to the Falklands now have the chance to view these funny little penguins, rarely found in other locations. You’ll travel by minibus and take in the main sights of Stanley, then change to 4×4 transportation at Murrell Farm. From here, an experienced overland driver/guide will navigate the terrain en route to the Rockhopper penguin colony where wardens will be on hand to offer information and assistance. This is a unique opportunity to take amazing, once-in-a-lifetime photographs and experience the joy these penguins naturally and effortlessly bring to any audience.


Antarctic Encounter & Auckland Sky Tower
After docking at Auckland, New Zealand, a scenic drive down a waterfront road will take you to Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, home to an 80-member colony of king and Gentoo penguins. The aquarium is also home to many different species of fish, sharks and stingrays.

This tour doesn’t stop with the penguins! After your done at the aquarium you’ll be transported to the famous Sky Tower. A 1,072-foot elevator ride to the top promises awe-inspiring panoramic views of the city.

Nature’s Wonders: Wildlife Cruise & Penguins
Also in New Zealand lies the charming city of Dunedin. Board a 55-foot wooden launch for an hour and a half scenic cruise to Taiaroa Head. Sip on a warm beverage and enjoy cookies while keeping an eye out for fur seals and albatross. Then head to Nature’s Wonders where you’ll have the chance to jump in an all-terrain Argo vehicle for an exciting ride through the rolling farmlands. Discover a fur seal colony and a yellow-eyed penguin nesting area on the Otago Peninsula. Finish off this excursion with a brief orientation tour of Dunedin, renowned for its fine Edwardian-era stone buildings.

Otago Peninsula Yellow-Eyed Penguin Reserve
Penguin tours are in abundance in Dunedin. At Penguin Place — an award-winning penguin-conservation project — you will have the privilege of entering a protected yellow-eyed penguin nesting area. A carefully controlled and informative tour begins with a talk about the penguins and their conservation before a guide takes you to the beachside colony where well-camouflaged trenches and hides among the dunes allow excellent proximity to the penguins and great photographic opportunities. Proceeds from the tour are used to fund the conservation work and a unit that looks after injured penguins.

The yellow-eyed penguins at Penguin Place.

The yellow-eyed penguins at Penguin Place.

International Antarctic Centre & Canterbury Boutique Winery
Depart Akaroa, New Zealand, for a scenic drive over Banks Peninsula to the outskirts of Christchurch city. Since the 1950s, Christchurch has been the main staging center for Operation Deep Freeze — the US. Government’s Antarctic project. During the Southern Hemisphere’s summer months, numerous American Starlifter and Galaxy aircraft fly south to McMurdo Station in Antarctica. But Christchurch’s Antarctic links go back much further, to the time when Captain Scott sailed from Lyttelton on his final journey to the South Pole in the early 1900s.

Visit the International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch to see the many informative displays depicting life and work on the frozen continent. You can even experience sub-zero wind-chill conditions in a specially designed blizzard room. A highlight includes the new 4-D Antarctica Experience and the Penguin Encounter enclosure where you can see the cute and entertaining little blue penguins swimming and roaming about in their specially re-created marine environment. After you leave the Antarctic Centre you will stop for lunch at a local winery before returning to Akaroa and the ship.


Whether it’s food, architecture, museums or wildlife, when traveling to a new part of the globe you’ll want to take in the aspects unique to the area. A trip to the South Pole just wouldn’t be complete without visiting the exclusive resident penguin, and we guarantee they’ll steal your heart at first waddle!


If you’re interested in visiting these locations, remember that the shore excursions can be pre-booked so you’re sure to get the tour of your choice.

Have you ever had the chance to see penguins in person? Tell us about it in the comments below!

December 2015 UPDATE: Take Advantage of View & Verandah
We want to make your dream cruise even dreamier with our new View & Verandah promotion. We’re offering stateroom upgrades, up to 10 percent off shore excursions and up to 25 percent off Collectors’ Voyages on 2016-2017 sailings when booked by Feb. 29, 2016. Check out the offer to see if you dream cruise is included and book now!


Join the Discussion


  1. Christina Lou Sakamoto May 1, 2020 at 4:21 pm - Reply

    Looking for a trip to experience penguins as well as other wildlife

  2. […] Source: Are Seeing Penguins on Your Bucket List? Take These Tours Down South […]

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