Only two-hour drive separates La Serena from Pingüino de Humboldt National Reserve, where some of the smallest penguins in the world – the Humboldt penguin can be seen. However, the local fauna does not consist only of penguins. Thousands of birds – several types of cormorant, pelicans, peruvian diving petrels and albatrosses are among the many inhabitants of the islands Damas and Choros. Seals and sea lions most leisurely lounge on the rocks, while several meters away the little chungungos dive.
A ship for a tour around the islands can be hired from the nearest fishing harbor. We avoid mentioning the flora on purpose – there are only small bushes and cacti. Amid this desert-like landscape with moist air all the aforementioned species live companionably and get along perfectly.
Several big rock formations serve as a home for hundreds of little animals. The most famous is the rock of friendship where the penguins hold court while the cormorants are practicing their diving. What could spoil their pleasure? The humans. They are the reason why this area has been made into a reserve after the widespread fishing of anchovy left many penguins without food. Now another problem is rearing its ugly head – a mining company is polluting the air and even the people are abandoning the area. What a shame! This is the main habitat in Chile of the Humboldt penguin. Several other endangered bird species nest there each year. Humboldt National Reserve even shelters a bird species from Peru which refuses to fly back and lives in the reserve all year round. And they are about to lose their home…
On the Damas Island there is a nature trail, about 2 km long, which has great views and it feels like being a guest to all the birds.
We are in luck – the season of brooding and hatching of the albatross’ eggs has begun. We tiptoe along the paths so not to disturb the caring mothers who hide their eggs between the cacti. They are most definitely not pleased by our visit. The mothers make weird and loud noises and refuse to let us in their home. Thankfully, they don’t attack us and continue with their daily activities.
We felt so free. We swam with bottle-nosed dolphins, also local residents. We dove with the small chungungos. We relaxed with the seals. We walked around like the penguins despite the icy ground. We flew like a flock of birds. We became one with the reserve.
This article was brought to you in English by Marta Petrova.
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