Whale watching

Trip Start Sep 19, 2005
1
9
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Trip End Mar 19, 2006


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Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Puerto Madryn and Peninsula Valdes

Wow, what a day! Today I have managed to do one of the things I most wanted to do in Argentina - whale watching in the Patagonian nature reserve of Peninsula Valdes. I am staying in Puerto Madryn, the nearest decent sized town to the peninsula, in a hostel. I organised the trip through the hostel with a couple of other people, and we set off early this morning for the peninsula. Its a really, really huge area sticking out horizontally into the Atlantic, with a tiny town called Puerto Piramide at the centre. Only about 200 people live here, and apart from that, there are a few estancias and lots of sheep, and thatīs it!

The whale watching itself almost didnīt happen as the entire port of Puerto Piramides was closed when I got to Puerto Madryn yesterday, meaning none of the boats could go out at all. I talked to a few people from the hostel last night and their daytrip yesterday had not been able to include the boat ride out to see the whales. When we arrived this morning, the port was still closed, and the wind, which was blowing from the Antarctic (v v v cold!) was too high to get any boats out. Apparently it could change for the better in the afternoon. So we continued with our tour of the peninsula, with the hope of going out in a boat in the afternoon. The whole stretch of land is huge, windy, scrubby and almost completely flat Patagonian landscape, which not a tree in sight. At some points, the air is so clear, you can see for 80km. We did see a fair amount of animals, including rheas (small ostriches), guanacos (kind of llama-y things), penguins (very cute and good at posing for pictures) and a skunk!! Another brilliant bit was the elephant seals, lolling about on the beach doing a very good impression of being dead, at least until they flick some pebbles over their backs and make maaaaa noises! There were loads, apparently each male has a harem of about 40 females, and there were quite a few babies around too.

After lunch, the wind dropped a bit, changed direction and cleared the sky, so we headed back to see if we could take a boat out. Well, as you can tell, we could, (hurray!) and it was such a brilliant experience. For about an hour an a half, we bobbed about in a little boat with about 15 of us in it, with the engine cut whilst huge barnacled whales circled us. They popped their heads up out of the water lots, and one of them was very fond of waving its tail about above the water. There were two mothers with babies about 2-3 months old bobbling about. I reckon we saw about 10 altogether, although it could have been the same one twice a few times!! Its amazing how close they came to the boat, they didnīt seem bothered by us at all, in fact came towards us quite a lot as if to see what on earth we were doing. It was quite hard to get pictures but I got a few which Iīll put on here as soon as I can. Altogether an amazing day.

I am a bit windswept and knackered now, so going to bed early. Iīm going to try to plan where to go next tomorrow, bus schedules etc permitting. The last bus from Viedma to Puerto Madryn was rubbish so will try to get a better one next time!
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