Love penguins? Doesn’t everyone? You can make your diving dreams come true by visiting these three places in the world to dive with penguins.
Before you get in the water with them, here are some fun facts to keep in mind. While penguins are in fact birds, they do not use their wings to fly. Instead, their wings have adapted for swimming into something more like flippers – making them incredibly agile underwater. These ‘tuxedo-wearing’ ocean lovers can spend up to 75% of their lives in the water. They even have a built-in BCD/wetsuit combo in the form of a thin layer of air trapped within their feathers that allows them to expertly maintain buoyancy and keeps them warm in frigid water temps.
There are 17 species of penguin worldwide, all of which live in the southern hemisphere (except for the Galapagos penguin). In general, penguins closer to the equator eat more fish and penguins closer to Antarctica eat more squid and krill. Because penguins are very social birds, many species feed and swim in groups – so if you visit any of the three penguin diving destinations listed below, you’ll most likely have the chance to see a group of penguins swimming and feeding together underwater.
There is only one place in the world to dive with penguins at the equator – the Galapagos Islands. Here you’ll find one of the smallest and cutest penguin species in the world – the Galapagos penguin. The cold, rich waters of the Humboldt Current that flow around this group of islands is what makes it possible for penguins to survive here. While the water is a bit chilly, it’s nothing compared to ocean temperatures off Antarctica. If you’re looking to dive with penguins but want to skip the snow and ice, then this is the place for you. Spots like Academy Bay, Isabella Island, Bartolome Island, Pinnacle Rock, and Cape Douglas can be great dive or freedive sites to watch penguins ‘fly’ past. Visit PADI Travel’s ‘Diving in the Galapagos‘ page to start planning your dives with Galapagos penguins.
In South Africa you’ll find another small and adorable species of penguin – the African penguin. Funny enough, they are also locally known as the ‘jackass’ penguin for the loud donkey-like braying sounds they make. You can easily identify African penguins by their distinctive pink patch of skin above their eyes and their rounded black face masks. Whether you do a shore dive right off of iconic Boulders Beach (a no-take marine protected area in Cape Town), or you take a dive boat out to St. Croix Island (just off of Port Elizabeth), you’re bound to come across some of these playful and curious penguins while beneath the surface. Visit PADI Travel’s Diving in South Africa to learn more about this location.
Home to seven different species of penguins, Antarctica is obviously a top destination for getting in the water with these adorable animals. Being a massive continent encircled by ice, Antarctica is a beautifully vast frozen wilderness that continues to entice explorers – including divers. Tour operators that depart from South America, Australia, and New Zealand bring adventurous individuals to a myriad of different parts of the Antarctic coastline. With the proper cold water diving gear and training (PADI Dry Suit Diver and Ice Diver certifications), you can actually slip below the surface of the Southern Ocean to find a myriad of wildlife in crystal clear water including penguins. Depending on the species you encounter, you’re bound to get an amazing view of penguins jumping in and out of the water or feeding on krill. Be sure to keep a respectful distance at all times.
We hope this article inspires you to celebrate the unique characteristics of penguins on World Penguin Day and everyday. According to the IUCN’s Red List, three species of penguins are listed as ‘least concern’, five are ‘near threatened’, five are ‘vulnerable’, and four are ‘endangered’. The top issues facing penguin populations are warming ocean temperatures, overfishing, and pollution.
Hopefully with the help of ocean-lovers around the world, penguins can get the conservation attention they need to ensure their continued existence. With the opportunity for diving with them in locations like the Galapagos, South Africa, and Antarctica, we hope our global PADI community can be part of making positive change for penguins into the future.