Atlantic Patagonia is a natural paradise that fascinates for its unique in the world marine fauna. It has a particular geography: wild and isolated landscapes, cliffs, salt deserts and an immense deep blue sea that draws a line against the pure steppe. No wonder Península Valdés has been declared a World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
The ideal moment to visit it is from June to March; when its coasts get crowded with whales, penguins, elephant seals, sea lions and killer whales that return every year to these calm waters to mate and look after their offspring. Plus the cute Commerson’s dolphins which stay all year round, not to mention the hundreds of species of steppe and marine birds.
From June to December, the whales settle in Puerto Pirámides, the only town in the Peninsula Valdés, one hour car drive from Puerto Madryn. It is from this spot that all the ships set off for the most awaited watching of the southern right whale. The show they give so close to you is marvellous, they are serene, curious and generous, they always leave you longing for more.
The end of August marks the time for the arrival of the elephant seals to these coasts. First, the males arrive, who mark their territory and defend it if any other male ever approaches. Later, the females arrive, most of them already pregnant, to form a harem of up to 120. In only one week they all give birth. Twenty-five days later, the females return to the sea and the offspring stay on the coast for six weeks more until they change their pelage and gain some weight to become independent. You will find them between Punta Delgada and Caleta Valdés or in Punta Ninfas.
Mid September is the moment of the arrival for the Magellanic penguin. They form long-life couples and come to these shores to nest, lay their eggs, take care of their chicks. Believe it or not, penguins are monogamous. The male arrives first and finds the same spot where he was the previous year, then the female arrives and together they nest for 40 days. It is marvellous to witness their shared work as a couple to feed and look after their babies. They will stay in these coasts until April when they change their feathers and go back to the sea until next year.
Killer whales stay all year round close to Punta Norte in Peninsula Valdés, although you need to be patient to get to see them. Your best chances to witness a tough but unique in the world natural spectacle is between March and April, when they swim ashore to feed on baby sea lions.
In Punta Loma, pretty close to Puerto Madryn, you can find the largest colony of sea lions that doesn’t migrate. Like the elephant seals, the sea lions maintain their harem but in a less ambitious way, even if males often fight to defend their females.
There is a lot to enjoy in this remarkable destination that fascinates people and deserves at least a three-day stay:
Unforgettable whales watching tours from Puerto Pirámides:
Traditional whale watching: from 15th June till mid December. An hour and a half navigation every two hours, considered the best natural enjoyment of the Peninsula Valdes. Companies that offer this activity: Bottazzi, one of the pioneers in the area and Southern Spirit Cruises.
Submarine whale watching tours: from 1st July up to 31th October in the Yellow Submarine vessel to have a unique and different perspective, watching the whales while they are under water. Company that offers this experience: Southern Spirit Cruises.
Sunset Whale Watching: two hours navigation at the best time to enjoy the whales in the quietness of sunset with groups of no more than 12 to 15 people. Company that offers this experience: Bottazzi.
Ph. Hernan Romero
Witness the first months of the baby whales together with their mothers from El Doradillo:
August and September give us the possibility to see newly born baby whales from a beach and protected area called El Doradillo, 17 kms from Puerto Madryn.
Scuba diving and snorkeling with friendly sea lions, and fall in love with nature all year
round: It is an unforgettable experience to witness the wonderful sub aquatic world at Natural Reserve of Punta Loma, 30 minutes away from Puerto Madryn.
Penguin watching: from September to April in Punta Norte, Península de Valdes; Punta Tombo 110 km from Trelew; El Pedral a private penguin rookery in Punta Ninfas.
Ph. Lobo Larsen Buceo
Favourite lodging in the area:
Océano Patagonia, a lovely and modern 11 suites eco friendly lodge with the best location in Puerto Pirámides where you can enjoy watching the whales even from your bedroom balcony. They are outstanding for their true commitment to sustainability and the preservation of the ecosystem.
Loreto Lodge, located in Península Valdés, 15 km away from Puerto Pirámides. This lodge has 6 double rooms and offers all-inclusive service upon arrival at the airport. They provide access to unique experiences, always in the company of its owner, Alejandro Ferro. It only opens on demand. Their programmes are superb with unexpected surprises. Excellent gastronomy. All programs are tailor made based on ages and group profile. They also offer horseback riding, a beach lunch, fishing day-trip topped with snorkelling with sea lions, kayak during whale season and visits to private penguin and elephant seals colonies in Punta Norte and Caleta Valdés.
Reserva El Pedral – Hotel de Campo, a very special and exclusive place in a unique scenery with high cliffs and fauna in its natural habitat, overlooking the sea. The main house is an antique manor built in 1923. It is located in Punta Ninfas, province of Chubut, 80 km far from Puerto Madryn Airport and 99 km far from Trelew Airport. The lodge has eight very comfortable and cozy rooms. They offer all-inclusive service. In this magical place guests have exclusive access to:
- Punta Ninfas’ lighthouse: to enjoy breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the gulf, as well. Very special at sunset or when the moon rises over the sea.
- A walk among penguins in the private rookery with 5,000 individuals. The best time of the day to visit the penguins’ colony is during sunset, as animals are more active in beautiful natural scenery. This is the closest rookery to Puerto Madryn – It’s also open for travelers to enjoy a day tour.
- A walk among elephant seals 15 minutes from the lodge. The beach at the foot of Punta Ninfas’ cliff is the natural habitat of an important rookery of elephant seals where you can watch these animals closely.
- Beach programme: The beach of El Pedral is a dreamlike place to enjoy the Patagonian sea. The pebble shore [pedral] is a unique geological formation in Patagonia.
Depending on the time of the year, you will be able to watch from the beach the wonderful show offered by southern right whales, which get close to the seaside due to the profound depth of those waters especially in August and September. During the summer and if you are lucky enough, you will also be able to watch killer whales at Punta Ninfas.
In the summer, you can also sunbathe and dive in the sea. Days are very warm (25 °C / 32 °C) and the temperature of the water in the coast is about 18 °C / 20 °C.
Self-guided circuits: you can ride a bike or just go for a walk to enjoy fauna observation and discover the different panoramic views of El Pedral. There are several marked circuits across the field for the travellers.
El Pedral is 2.30 hr from Puerto Pirámides, whale watching navigation is not included but it can be arranged.