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|Peninsula Valdez Wildlife Haven|
|November 16-17th, 2006
Chubut Province, Argentina
| A bulge of land connected to the mainland of Argentina by a thin isthmus, just north of Puerto Madryn (800 miles south of Buenos Aires), is the wildlife preserve area of Peninsula Valdes. We were told that it was given to an Englishman as a “severance package” from his company who had been doing business there, but had decided to abandon its operations. He was given the choice of returning to England in his old job capacity, or leaving the company and taking the peninsula. Wise move!
Our first destination was the port town of Puerto Piramides, location of the whale watching tour companies. Due to the strong winds, the trips had been cancelled for that morning. We stroll along the beachfront and can see the spout of a couple Southern Right Whales. The cliffs are composed of a whitish chalky material with seashells solidified into the material. It is difficult to tell if they are fossils or still shells.
The first whale-watching tour leaves at 3:30, and we are on it. Our boat, the Hydro Sport, has 3 different viewing areas at varying elevations. We spot the first Southern Right Whale mom and calf within 5 minutes. The engines are stopped, and we drift along beside them as they play, turning circles and blowing. When the next pair is spotted I am up on the bow viewing platform. We sit and watch this mom and calf for 10-15 minutes as they swim in front of us. We were so close that when the mom spouted, we got a shower! On the return, we slowed to see a small Sea Lion colony. Great trip! Our day is completed by a simple, but very delicious fish and chips dinner, and a couple hours of Internet.
The municipal campground is sleeping place for 2 nights, at the whopping sum of $3, (10 pesos).
The peninsula had a circuit road around it. Friday morning, we headed to Punta Norte. A sleepy colony of elefante marinas (elephant seals) was sunning themselves at the water’s edge. This is definitely NOT a site for a video camera, as there is very little movement in the blubbery leviathans. Due to their lack of legs, and I suppose their huge amount of fat, it appears to be almost impossible for them to maneuver into the water. The only thing that provided proof of life was the occasional swat of their arm fin to flip sand onto their back, or the all to energetic lifting of their head to see what was going on around them. All that the big male can seem to muster is 1 or 2 heaves at a time toward the sea. Finally after about 1 hour, he has moved 3 feet, and is part way into the water, where he uses the push of the tide to roll him into the water where he flits around like an aquarium fish.
A Hairy Armadillo greeted us, as we were grabbing a bite to eat at the snack shop. He must be used to being fed by people, as he was attempting to navigate the 3 steps up to the patio where we were eating. I don’t mind sharing my lunch, but NOT with an Armadillo!!
Traveling south around the peninsula, there is a penguina colonia, just before the Caleta Valdez stop. There were a few penguins nesting right at the fence of the observation area. Their nests consisted of a shallow horizontal hole either under the bushes or just right in the bank above the ocean. Both male and female take turns sitting on the eggs while the other partner goes to the ocean for bathing and food. Some birds were out of their nests standing at attention, but with eyes closed, and tottering a bit every once in a while. I guess they were soaking up some sun to stay warm.
During the circuit road drive, we saw a fox, some quail, and many guanacos (a relative to the llama). But the elusive rhea (emu-like birds) were no where to be seen.
Caleta Valdes is at the opening of a very thin finger of land that follows the mainland for about one-third of the East coast of the main peninsula. The opening to the ocean is very narrow here and provides calm, sheltered water for the animals. We arrived at low tide so we were able to see the anchor and mast remains of a sunken ship. More penguins were along the shores in the distance. The elephant seals and sea lions lined the closer shores. There were quite a few of them in the water playing and feeding.
Evening found us back at Puerto Piramides, as due to the large amount of private ownership on the peninsula, this is the only designated camping area. Parking is also allowed at Punta Pardeles, but registration is required with the police station in Piramides, so we just ended our day there, rather than register and back-track to Pardeles.
Peninsula Valdes Gallery
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