Having a Whale of a Time!

Trip Start Jun 16, 2007
Trip End Nov 13, 2007

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Saturday 8th September - Thursday 13th September

Caught an 14 hour overnight bus from Bariloche to Puerto Madryn, on the east coast of Argentina. Puerto Madryn is a coastal city close to the Peninsula Valdes, and the base for whale watching! 

We arrived at our hostel early on Sunday morning and as our room was not yet ready, we headed to the beach to find some breakfast.  Amazed to find whales just 100m from the shore!  Had breakfast in a cafe on the beach and watched the whales playing, then we took a long walk along the coast to the site where the Welsh settlers allegedly first arrived.  Watched the whales jumping out of the water along our walk, and saw our first penguin - headless washed up on the beach! 
01   I spy something beginning with W........03 Whales leaping......04  Whales everywhere....
The next day we took a tour of the Peninsula Valdes.  First stop was Playa El Doradillo, where the whales were known to be closest to the shore as the water is much deeper.  It is breeding season for Southern Right Whales between June and December, and so there were loads of whales to see, jumping out of the water and crashing back in with a big splash!  Fantastic sights! 
05 ppppfffffffhhhhhh...........06 Sharpen up the harpoon.....
Next we headed onto the peninsula itself, a national park and so highly protected that not even the park rangers are allowed onto some of the beaches.  We stopped next at the only village on the peninsula where we took a boat out to sea to watch the whales close up.  The whales were bigger out at sea and very close to the boat. Took loads of pictures!

Next stop was a beach with an Elephant Seal Colony.  This is only the start of their breeding season and so only a few had already come ashore.  The highlight here was a 3 day old pup!   (At the height of the seal breeding season, killer whales arrive and can be seen throwing themselves up on the beach to snaffle the seal pups)
09 Mother and baby.......11 Elephant seal beach.....10 Taking it easy.....
During the trip we also saw a couple of penguins (alive this time!), a Mara (a Patagonia hare), burrowing owls, lots of birds, and a complete whale skeleton in a museum on the peninsula.  All fantastic!
12 Southern Right Whale.....08  Hello Mara
Our next trip from Puerto Madryn was down the coast south of the peninsula.  First stop was at a village called Rawson where we caught a boat trip to find Commerson Dolphins.  This was in a dinghy with an outboard engine, and we went far out to sea!  Tore over the big waves and spotted our first dolphins.  They played near the boat, chasing the boatīs spray, and doing jumps. We also saw a sea lion who swam right up to the boat, and a penguin swimming along. 
14 Note the happy captain !......15 Curious sea lion17 Showing off for the cameras.....
Next stop was at the penguin colony at Punta Tombo.  Around the beginning of September the penguins begin to arrive from Brazil for their breeding season.  The boys arrive first to find their nest from the previous year, and do a bit of a spring clean.  The girls arrive around 2 weeks later and if nest is up to scratch they stay and lay 2 eggs, if not they find a better nest and penguin!  At peak breeding time, there is up to half a million penguins on the shore.  As we were at the start of the season, we saw the male penguins arriving.  It was really exciting to see them swim in and waddle up the beach after their 6,000k journey! Some had already found their nests and had started work, and others were having a well deserved kip! 
The final stop on this trip was a "welsh" village called Gaimen.  Patagonia was the home of the first welsh settlers, and they still teach Welsh in the local school.  We had a "traditional" Welsh tea in a cafe, with lots of cake!  Nothing like the wales I know (apart form the rain!), but fun all the same!  
18 Hello Mr Penguin......19 Found my nest.....21 Just arrived......24 ppppppppp penguin!..........
These trips have definitely been one of the (many) major highlights of our trip and we hope you like the photos.

Next stop, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, a mere 22 hours south by bus............. 
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