You’re sitting on a wild, solitary beach, watching whales only a few yards away. You’re lying on the sand close to sea lions. You’re paddling the home bays of whales, elephant seals, sea lions, penguins — the safe havens where these animals mate and bear their young. There are so many whales that there’s a whale research station close by. It’s cool, silent and barren. The horizons are endless. This is our new trip to Patagonia.
We paddle in the wildlife refuge of Peninsula Valdes, in Chubut, Argentina, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Most nights we camp on the stunning, solitary beaches of Patagonia. Peninsula Valdes is best known as the nursery and sanctuary for the endangered Southern Right whale and is the only breeding ground for the elephant seal. On the gravel beaches, the sea lions mate and then raise their pups. Close to shore in the bays, the whales gather, mate, give birth, nurse and raise their calves.
In the barren Patagonian steppes, we can see guanaco, armadillos, foxes, cavy (a large rodent), Patagonian skunk, and the pampas cat. Birdwatchers can see the Magellanic penguin, kelp gulls, lesser rhea, cormorants, egrets, blackish oystercatcher, and flying steamer.
Because we paddle in remote areas, we carry all food and equipment in our sea kayaks. This is an expedition style trip, where we pitch our tents, camp out on the beaches and bathe in the ocean. We set up non-permanent camps and always try to leave no impact on the sites. Breakfasts include good coffee, cereal, eggs, juice and fresh bread. Lunches are sandwiches and salads. Dinners are international favorites with a fruit dessert.
On the first and last nights of the trip we stay in comfortable local inns with private bathrooms. And as always, we start and end the trip with special celebration dinners.
Patagonia’s dramatic solitude amazes visitors. It’s so remote and desolate that the early missionaries ignored it. Because of the dry steppes and isolation, the ruins of ancient Indian villages stayed undisturbed. The first Europeans in this area were – surprisingly — Welsh settlers who came in 1865, bringing their language and culture to their new world. The town of Trelew, where we start and end the trip, was settled by the Welsh. Even today, Welsh is the language of home and chapel in many Trelew homes.
This trip is our dream come true: lying on beaches just a few yards from sea lions and seeing whales close up. Come along with us on this year’s exploratory adventure!
Welcome at Trelew airport and transfer to the tourist village of Puerto Pirámides. Meet guide to review medical information, check on the equipment and answer any questions.
Accommodation in Puerto Pirámides.
Early in the morning we leave Puerto Pirámides to head towards Punta Buenos Aires, the northernmost edge of Golfo San Jose. After driving for about two hours on a gravel road we get to the place where our first expedition day takes place. In the afternoon we set up our camp, get our kayaks ready and receive from the guide a navigation safety briefing and instructions about our expected conduct in a protected area.
Time allows for a seaside hike to visit a small lighthouse.
DAY 3 – DAY 8
As we paddle along San José northern coastline we discover varied beaches, bays and coves. We visit Puerto San Ramón, Bengoa beach where there’s a small artisanal fishermen settlement, Punta Conos, Beach El 39, and Playa Fracaso to eventually arrive at Punta Tehuelche. We leave our kayaks in Punta Conos to walk this area. Conos, named after some cone-like hillocks, boasts a huge concentration of marine fossils dating back million years typical of Peninsula Valdés protected area. The wind blowing on the dunes uncovers and covers back again ancient Tehuelche settlements that existed along the Patagonian coast allowing us to recognize elements used by the natives such as utensils and arrowheads and to see the places where they used to eat. Beach El 39 is a research area for Southern Right whales for which the ICB, a local whale conservation organization reporting to the Whale Conservation Institute & Ocean Alliance, is responsible. We pay a visit to the scientist that work there and to their field lab.
We also visit Playa Fracaso wetland, a sanctuary for neartic migratory shorebirds such as red knot, white rumped sandpiper and Hudsonian godwit among others. This is where they stop for rest and food in their long trip from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego.
Early in the morning, after breakfast, we break off camp and start touring Península Valdés. Our vehicle takes us to the most attractive spots such as Punta Norte and Caleta Valdés eventually dropping us at Estancia Rincón Chico, located 3kms from Punta Delgada. During the tour, we visit colonies of Magellanic penguins and Southern elephant seals, and observe the steppe wildlife along our way.
Overnight and farewell dinner at the typical country Inn-style, Rincón Chico.
After breakfast we get ready to visit a southern elephant seal colony. Lunch at Rincón Chico and transfer to Puerto Pirámides to visit the small tourist village and board
the whale-watching excursion.
Transfer to Trelew airport where our adventure comes to an end.
Note: Whale watching tour at Puerto Pirámides is offered on day 1. If we have forced to cancel this tour due the weather conditions, the tour will run on day 6.