SA: Punta Arenas, Chile

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

We had reservations for 7:00 at the Canaletto Restaurant tonight as part of our booking promotion. It is an Italian restaurant that has an upcharge. On this ship, the Canaletto is part of the Lido restaurant. During the day, anyone can sit in the section. However, at night, tablecloths and special settings are brought out for the section, a maitre’d is stationed at the entrance, and part of the Lido cooking station nearest the restaurant is set aside for just the Canaletto meals.

We were seated at a table for two next to a window. They always bring out bread (unless you tell them no bread – we never say no bread) with three dipping sauces and a few olives.

The menu consists of a section called small plates (appetizers) and a section called large plates. The large plate section also features the Special of the Day. There is a note that the large plates are made for sharing. If you don’t want to share, you can ask for a small portion. I asked for a small portion of my osso buco (the special) and still had enough to give some to Chuck. He had the braised beef short rib with Gnocchi and gave some of it to me.

osso buco
braised beef short ribs with gnocchi

While we were eating, I saw the end of a rainbow which made a nice touch for the evening. However, it also distracted me from getting a photo of our gelato and cheese plate desserts. 😕

We didn’t stay up much past the end of dinner in order to get everything ready for the early morning tour.

Guess I just don’t trust alarms – woke up just about every hour. Finally, just got up at 4:00. Got Chuck up at 4:45. It was an important day for me – my first chance to see penguins and I definitely did not want to oversleep.

We had gotten a note yesterday that since many of the tours were starting early, the Lido would open at 5:00. I was not going to deal with the chaos of trying to get something to eat in there at such an early time, so I brought a banana to the room last night and ate it with a granola bar and some water this morning. I did miss not having coffee.

Our tour today was a HAL tour entitled “Off the Beaten Track: The Magdalena Penguin Reserve” and its brochure description states:

About the Excursion – 5.5 hours

Begin with a motorcoach transfer to a city pier and board a boat to cross the famous Strait of Magellan. You will be plying the very same waters as Sir Francis Drake and Charles Darwin.

Upon arrival at Magdalena Island, declared a Natural Monument in 1982, you will see one of the largest penguin colonies in southern Chile, and get acquainted with the unspoiled habitat of penguins, cormorants and many other birds. A substantial colony of Magellan penguins nests and breeds here. These penguins return every year to this spot between October and March to lay eggs and raise their young. They bury their eggs in the sandy burrows and under shrubs; at this time of year most of the chicks will have hatched. The animals are naturally curious and untamed; if approached too quickly they will scamper into their burrows or try to reach the water.

snack pack is provided.

After ample time to observe the birds it is time for the invigorating walk back to the ferry and the navigation back to Punta Arenas, where your coach will be waiting to take you back to the pier. You will have about one hour on the island to observe the curious and entertaining penguins before returning to Punta Arenas.

Notes: Do not attempt to touch the penguins as their strong beaks can inflict serious wounds. Since this is a wildlife reserve, visitor facilities and restrooms are not available. Walking is on mostly flat, marked pathways with approximately 30 minutes on uneven terrain. Wear sturdy, comfortable walking shoes. It is essential that you wear warm layered clothing in order to fully enjoy and participate in this excursion. The ferry is a local vessel that may differ from the style you are accustomed to at home. Seasonal migration, which is somewhat unpredictable, can affect the operation of this tour from March to April. The ship will liaise with the tour operator prior to arrival in Punta Arenas and, in the event that the penguins are no longer present, guests will be given the chance to substitute an alternative shore excursion.

We met at 5:30 at the main stage to get our tour stickers and wait for our tender to be called. Were put on the first tender at 6:00. The tender took us to the port where we walked up a steep gangway to the pier. We walked down the somewhat long pier and entered the “passenger building” to meet with the tour organizers. There was no motorcoach. Again, all bags were scanned. If you weren’t going on a HAL tour, there was a door on the opposite side of the building that you walked out to the town or to meet your independent tour organizers.

Once we were all assembled in the building and checked off by the tour company, we then filed out the same door we came in at, walked back down the pier on the other side of it to the double decker ferry boat. Again, you had to walk up a steep gangway to the top of the boat. Once the top of the ferry was filled up, the rest of us had to walk down more stairs to the lower section of the ferry. The tour description didn’t mention mobility issues but there were clearly people already having a tough time with the situation.

Inside the ferry, there were 3 rows of tables and six seats at each table – 3 facing forward and 3 facing back. The seats were crammed together like airline seats. We got seats that were facing backwards. Each seat had a life jacket.

The ferry had 2 small restrooms. It also had a snackbar that served snack foods, coffee, tea, soft drinks, and alcoholic drinks. They only took debit and credit cards even if you had local currency.

We were each given a large reusable bag and that held our “snacks” for the day – cold ham/cheese sandwich, two mini muffins, a juice box, a bottle of water, small bag of trail mix, cereal bar, and a chocolate bar. I was mostly excited about getting to keep the reusable bag. I did go buy us some coffee and we ate our mini muffins.

Once we were underway, we were allowed to go outside on the small decks as long as we wore our life vests. I chose to stay inside. Chuck went outside. Sitting in that cramped space was aggravating his knee. We were blessed with a beautiful day. The crew told us that yesterday the waves were too high for the ferry to navigate so the excursion they had planned for people on another cruise was cancelled.

The ride to the Island was about 2 hours. The guides came around with a map to show us where we were at and where we were going. They also gave us a brochure. The brochure was in Spanish and English.

During the ride, we saw both whales and dolphins and a number of sea birds, but they were always too quick for me to get any photos from inside the ferry. I’m sure the people who were on the outside decks got photos.

I got so excited when I got the first glimpse of the Lighthouse. There would soon be penguins!

Author: mmmtravelmemories

A retired college administrator who loves to travel. I write to remember the experiences and, I hope, to inspire others to make their own travel memories.

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