Peninsula Valdés in Argentine Patagonia is filled with incredible wild life; everything from penguins over sea lions, elephant seals, dolphins to whales – depending on the season you visit. However, the whales seem to be the big star of the show. Everything circulates around them – also when they are not there!
The whale season only runs from June to mid-December. Then, what to do when you didn’t take this into consideration when you planned your trip, and you ended up visiting when the whales had left?
Don’t worry! Here are some ideas on to what to do on Peninsula Valdés when the whales have left (... of course, this can also be added to your do-to list in the whale season):
1) Swimming with sea lions
By far my highlight of the trip! Swimming with sea lions was GREAT… like can’t get my arms down great! So of course, it ends on top of the list.
We went for about 15-20 minutes in a small boat from the beach of Puerto Pirámides with a small group of other visitors. For a long time, it was just the crystal clear blue water against the sides of the boat. Until then suddenly behind a curve in the cost on top of two rocks the colony of sea lions was taken a nap.
We were sent out in the water but after a while the sea lions got used to us being around, and started to swim closer and closer. Actually, they got quicker used to us than I got to them. A couple of times they scared the hell out of me, popping up just by my side. Otherwise, they were swimming around underneath us or looking curiously at us from their rock.
The guide said that we could touch them if they got close enough but honestly, I was a bit afraid to interrupt these huge animals. What if they got annoyed with me touching them? Maybe you dare more than me?
Good to know…
In Puerto Pirámides there are at least three operators that offer the snorkeling with sea lions (in Spanish: busceo con lobos marinos). The price they seem to have agreed pretty much on. All of them charges 2.000 pesos if you pay in cash and 2.300 pesos if you pay by credit card.
We went with Goos ballenas which fitted our needs the best. The guide spoke a decent English, was professional, and the tours run all year. They were the only one of the operators that offered the tour in boat. The others did the transportation over land. Goos ballenas are located on the street 2da bajada al mar (the last street in town if you enter from Puerto Madryn) or you can contact them on www.goosballenas.com.ar.
2) Trek to Punta Pirámides and spy on the sea lions
From Puerto Pirámides, a light trek through the surrounding landscapes of Peninsula Valdés will get to Punta Pirámides. A view point above a Lobería, e.g a part of the cost inhabited by sea lions.
The trek takes around an hour, and offers not only great views over the majestic landscapes and you might also be lucky enough to see some wild life of the area.
The Lobería at Punta Pirámides seems like a less touristic place. While we visited only a few others passed by, and the guardafauna (e.g. ranger) had plenty of time to drink his mate and chat with his chica.
How to get to Puenta Pirámides:
From Puerto Pirámides hit to the main road (Avenida de la Ballenas) heading out of town in direction of Puerto Madryn. Shortly after the main road crosses the street Primera Bajada al Mar (e.g. the first street down to the sea), on your left hand you have a hotel, and by the side a small house. By the side of the house there is a path leading up the hill, follow the path.
Shortly after, you meet a sign saying Lobería pointing upwards. Follow the smaller natural path leading further up the hill. Follow this path for around 20 minutes until you meet a bigger road. This road is called Acceso a Lobería (e.g. access to the Lobería). The road is connected to the main road, and can be used to access the Loberia by car if you are not up for walking (check out the map below).
Follow the road for the remaining approximately 40 minutes. First you get to an area with a small house, a light house and a public toilet. A little bit further down the road ends, and you have the entrance to the Lobería.
3) Minivan trip to visit elephant seals, penguins and sea lions
Like everywhere less in Argentina, the distances are huge at Peninsula Valdés, and it takes a good amount of time to get around. Either you can rent a car, and go around on your own. Or you can go on an excursion in minivan. We went for the minivan tour. It is difficult to reach the whole peninsula in a day, however, the most points of interests for animal lovers are in the northern part.
Punta Cantor and Caleta Valdés
We drove from Puerto Pirámides to Punta Cantor where are is a colony of elephant seals. Around 5 km north from Punta Cantor by the beginning of Caleta Valdés there is a small colony of penguins. Caleta Valdés is the long geographic formation which looks like a river. Check out the map above to get a better idea about where each point is located.
Finally, Punta Norte is about 85 km from Puerto Piramides. At Punta Norte there are colonies of sea lions and elephant seals living side by side.
Most of the places we visited, the sea lions and elephant seals were far down on the beach away from the viewpoints but the penguins were “hanging out” just around the view point, and there are plenty of possibilities for getting a great picture if you are patient.
A note about visitors and animals…
I was shock when our guide told us stories about how some visitors have not only tried to touch and pet the animals but also hiting and kicking them just for the fun of it. Please accept the animals when you visit.
Leave them alone, do not feed them, take only pictures – and do not disturb them to get the right and perfect picture. Remember that you are visiting their home, not the other way around.
4) Relax on the beach in Puerto Pirámides
And then lastly the obvious thing to do when visiting a town by the cost: grab for towel and swimsuit, and take a relaxing day at the beach.
The beach at Puerto Pirámides is pretty clean, and it has lifeguards most of the time during the day.