If a Patagonia trip in Argentina is not taking place within the breathtaking Andes mountain range, it is certainly by the sea. The Patagonian coast teems with life and is relatively devoid of human exploitation, making it a wild and enjoyable trip. Visits to the Patagonian coast focus on Puerto Madryn and the Valdes Peninsula, a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site in large part because the wild life congregates here to mate, nest, hunt, and hang out. The list of animals features a large number of bird species, the largest rookery of Magellanic penguins in Argentina, many different types of seals and sea lions, as well as guanancos and more—but the species that attracts visitors the most is by far the whales that come into the protected waters around the peninsula.
Going on an excursion to get close to the whales will no doubt prove to be a highlight of any Patagonia trip and even a trip to Argentina. In the Valdes Peninsula one has the chance to get an intimate view of these charming creatures. There are two types of whales to watch, south right whales and orca (or killer whale). Both have their season in the region: the south right whales appearing in herds from late June through to December, and the orcas residing in the area in larger numbers in the periods between October – December and February – April. These latter are known to hunt in the waters by Punta Norte, and can even be seen beaching themselves in order to catch seals and penguins.
If in the town of Puerto Madryn at the peak of the whale watching season, one need only stroll down to the town beach and dock to catch a glimpse of them frolicking out in the sea. As impressive and rare such a view is, it hardly compares to a day spent out on the water with the whales. Whale watching excursions are carefully regulated in order to ensure a safe, non-invasive experience for the whales, so it is necessary to enter the peninsula’s nature reserve to the reserve’s only village, Puerto Piramedis, to begin the excursion. Tours out to this spot enjoy several stops to take in the narrow Ameghino Isthmus, the Isla de los Pajaros (an island named after the large number of resident sea birds), and the sea lion colony of Punta Piramedis.
Once in the village, it is only a matter of minutes before beginning the whale watching navigation. Kitted out in orange life vests, and safely aboard one of the speed boats known as Zodiac boats, it is a good idea to have the camera ready. These agile, modern craft zip around the whales, and frequently get within meters of them. Describing the experience takes some doing—the whales are friendly, playful and much given to showing off by slapping their dorsal fins, rolling, jumping and spouting bursts of water in the air. Make sure to not only get good pictures—get to know these majestic, intelligent and personable creatures. It will prove to be a lasting memory on your Patagonia trip, and Argentine adventure in general. The whale watching boats do have a tendency to fill up, so be prepared to take turns in the best photo-taking positions, however no place is without a good view. The experience is so enriching and enthralling that the two hours seems to fly by.
Tours may continue by land along the loop through the peninsula, and include seeing elephant seal colonies, while inland there are several salt lakes, and a good example of the flora and fauna on the dry Patagonian plain. Stopping at the Punta Norte Lighthouse is the chance to see orcas hunting on the beach as well as a tremendous view. Finishing the tour at dusk, one will probably feel exhausted but content. Returning makes one grateful that there is still a chance to see the friendly whales from the town coast; their dorsal fins rising from the water as if in farewell.
Don’t let the whale watching trip be the end of your Patagonia trip, however. In Puerto Madryn there is still the opportunity to see one of the largest colonies of Magellanic penguins in the world, spending time on an estancia, along the grey cliffs in the region, or the adventure could continue south to Calafate, Chalten, Ushuaia, or indeed back north to Buenos Aires.
For further information about tours in Patagonia, Argentina vacations or tours in Iguazu Falls, contact Argentina travel experts, Say Hueque – Tours in Argentina www.sayhueque.com