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Archive for November 19th, 2009

Penguins! Whales!

Puerto Madryn, located on the east coast in the Patagonia region, was not on our original itinerary for Argentina. However, when we learned of all of the wildlife we could see here, plus the fact that it is prime whale-watching season, we decided to make a very long detour (24-hour bus ride) to walk among penguins, see elephant seals and hopefully spot some whales.

Our first outing was a day trip to Peninsula Valdes. This national park is HUGE and is home to penguins, whales, seals, guanacos (basically, llamas), rheas (like an ostrich), armadillos, and other creatures. We drove around the park and checked out some of the elephant seals lounging on the beach, saw some Magellan penguins from afar and finally, arrived at the port to wait for our boat. June through December, Southern Right Whales mate, give birth, and the mothers are with their calves so we had high hopes of seeing them in their natural habitat.

On Peninsula Valdes

Elephant Seal

Standing on the shore, we knew we would not be disappointed, as we could see whales jumping and spraying out in the ocean from the beach! I could hardly wait to get on that boat and see them up close. Once we were out into the water, the real show began. We could see whales popping up all around us, spraying and showing off their tails.  At one point, we had four or five whales about 10 feet from our boat (I think one or two even swam under it) and we saw a mother and calf together.  It was truly an incredible experience and one that I will never forget. I’ve done some whale watching in the past and seen a couple from afar, but nothing compared to what we saw in Peninsula Valdes.

Whale tail! This was right next to our boat.

Up Close

Showing off

The next morning, we took a drive to Punta Tumbo, the largest Magellan penguin colony on the continent. I hate birds, but penguins are cute and therefore okay in my book. In this park, you can actually walk among the penguins, which is pretty fricken cool. There are boundary markers that you cannot cross, but the penguins walk anywhere they please, including on the trail with you. This time of year, all of the mother penguins are in nests with their eggs and we were told that if we were lucky, we may be able to see a baby penguin. Fingers crossed!

We spent around an hour and a half wandering through the penguin colony, giggling at how they waddled, peaking at their eggs, watching them swim, and even witnessed two penguins getting it on. It was so crazy to be standing mere inches away from these birds. Although they are cute little things, you don’t want to touch them or get too close, because they will peck your eyes out.  Not kidding.

Cute

Don't get too close!

On the beach

Finally, on our way out, we saw a guy crouched down, peaking into a nest and snapping photo after photo. We moved closer to get a look at what he was photographing and we saw it…a baby chick! The mother would raise up every now and then to reveal the fuzzy little guy and let him squirm and chirp for a bit.  A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

Can you see the baby chick? Look closely...

Kelly took a couple of videos of the penguins walking around and swimming if you want to check them out on our Flickr page…see the ‘photos’ tab for the link!

We spent our last day in Puerto Madryn strolling along the beach pier and getting tipsy with our new friend Sarah from Belgium before we had to catch a bus to the ‘Swiss’ mountain town of Bariloche. Was Puerto Madryn worth a 24-hour detour and the money we lost out on with the bus ticket fiasco? Absolutely!

Puerto Madryn from the pier

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