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An island full of penguins

Located off the coast of Valparaíso, Cachagua is a small island with a large colony of endangered penguins. This protected natural environment is uninhabited and off limits to visitors. However, visitors may circumnavigate the island on a fishing boat or by canoe for a close-up look at these waddling creatures.

Penguins live not only at the South Pole but also on Isla Cachagua, a tiny rocky islet of 150 by 300 metres in central Chile. The island is located on the Costa Esmeralda, north of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. This is a paradise for sea otters, dolphins, sea lions and sea birds, such as the endangered Peruvian pelican. But the main attraction of this rocky islet, nicknamed ‘Penguin Island’, is the noisy colony of over 2,000 Magellan and Humboldt Penguins.

KLM - Isla Cachagua
Isla Cachagua

Santiago de Chile

Magellan Penguins

Named after an explorer

The Magellan Penguin is named after the 15th-century Portuguese explorer Fernão de Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan). These animals feed on squid, krill and shellfish, and are also a tasty meal for sea lions and birds of prey themselves. The penguins live in large colonies along the coast of Chile, on Tierra del Fuego and the Falkland Islands. There are several million Magellan Penguins, but overfishing, climate change and oil spills are reducing their numbers fast. That is why the animals have been added to the ‘threatened’ Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Threatened with extinction

The Humboldt Penguin is named after another great explorer, 19th-century German scientist Alexander von Humboldt. This endangered penguin species lives along the coast of Peru and Chile, where the cold Humboldt Current brings large schools of anchovies and sardines. The animals breed in holes filled with guano (bird manure), but the extraction of guano has caused a large part of this natural habitat to disappear. The number of Humboldt Penguins has reduced to only 50,000.

Humboldt Penguin

“Rent a motorboat for a penguin excursion”

Penguin Island

Isla Cachagua lies 100 metres off the coast by the seaside resort of Cachagua, 75 km north of Valparaiso and 165 km from Santiago. From the capital, there are various day trips to the region. Kayak Australis organizes a day trip that includes a canoe tour around the island. You may also organize your own tour by renting a motorboat in the fishing village of Caleta de Zapallar. The penguins may also be spotted from the beach in Cachagua - but be sure to bring a pair of binoculars for a good look.