November 25, 2018
We had planned to do a few things in Puerto Madryn, but it was Sunday and they weren’t open. So instead we headed directly to Peninsula Valdés for the next few days.
At the entrance station we paid our entry fee, plus an unexpected surcharge of 80 pesos for having a rental car. Just down the road was the interpretive centre, a new-looking building with a variety of good displays. We stayed there looking around for quite a while.
Puerto Pirámides view
We arrived in Puerto Pirámides around noon, quite a bit ahead of plan. But we could check into our hotel, Del Nomade Eco Hotel, which was very comfortable. Our room was spacious and the staff was friendly. Paul was feeling tired and feverish so he slept for much of the afternoon after lunch. Rosemary and Karen went out to look around the town.
Whale-watching is a big industry in Puerto Pirámides, and we had planned to go on a trip at some point. The clerk at one of the operations told us that it would be windier tomorrow, so Rosemary scheduled a trip for later in the day.
Right Whale, spouting
Right Whale, diving
Later in the afternoon Paul felt a bit better, so all three of us went out on the whale-watching trip. It was a great trip, the weather was calm, and we encountered several Right Whales at close range. Some of them were mothers with calves. And we saw a Kelp Gull fly down to try pecking the whales—apparently they actually pierce the skin of the whale rather than just picking off parasites.
Mother and calf
Kelp Gull attacking
Right Whale, waving goodbye
Paul wasn’t hungry at all so he stayed at the hotel while Rosemary and Karen went out to dinner. They went to a restaurant overlooking the harbour and saw some whales come close in to the shore.
Sunset at the beach
November 26, 2018
This was our first full day on the peninsula, another sunny day, and after breakfast we all set off to see some of the sights. The peninsula is rather large, so getting from one place to another usually involves driving 60 or 70 kilometers on gravel roads. For the most part, though, they are pretty good gravel roads.
We headed out along Highway 2 towards Punta Delgada, our first destination. There wasn’t much to see while driving through the Patagonian scrub, so when we saw a Turkey Vulture on the ground we paid attention. It was accompanied by a Chimango and we could see that they were sitting next to a dead sheep. But the interesting thing was that something was throwing up dirt from a hole next to the sheep.
Armadillo chewing a dead sheep
In just a moment an armadillo popped out of the hole! It was a Large Hairy Armadillo, which was indeed large and hairy. It continued digging for a while and then started to tear at the sheep. We thought it might be looking for worms in the carcass, but later we learned that they do sometimes eat carrion.
Just a bit farther on we came to Salina Chica, where the settlers used to harvest salt. Access was via a sketchy track but Rosemary steered the car down and back with no problem. The salt pans are dry at this time of year and there was a sign describing hiking trails across them. The trails were usable but they sure didn’t look very interesting!
At Punta Delgada there is a hotel and a colony of elephant seals. We had lunch there and then went to their overlook to see the elephant seals. At this time of year they just lie on the beach like giant slugs so we didn’t feel it necessary to take the guided tour to the beach for a closer look.
Elephant Seal colony
Farther up the coast was a small penguin colony right next to a parking lot—the penguins were so cute! And there was an outlook over Caleta Valdés, where there is a sea lion colony. This is the place which is famous for orcas snatching sea lion cubs off the beach, but there were no cubs now and no orcas. Although we were told there was a family of orcas in the area.
We headed back to Puerto Pirámides for a siesta and then at 7:30 pm we went out for dinner at a restaurant just down the street. Paul managed to eat most of his spaghetti but his stomach was still misbehaving.
November 27, 2018
Another day on Peninsula Valdés, this one with some clouds and with possible rain in the forecast. Our first stop was Caleta Valdés, but just before that we found out first rheas on the peninsula. There was a pair, then an adult leading about ten chicks.
At Caleta Valdés we watched for the orcas for quite a while, but none showed up. While we were there several heavy-duty German overland trucks showed up, also to look for orcas. We hadn’t seen them anywhere before.
Penguins heading out to sea
We had ordered a packed lunch from the hotel, and it turned out to be chicken quiche. Finally, something without cheese!
Giving up on the orcas, we headed up the coast towards Punta Norte, where there are more sea lions and elephant seals. The German panzerwagens were already there but they left soon after we arrived.
The sea lions and elephant seals were just lying there and moulting, and there were no orcas to be seen offshore. We checked more closely and found some sandpipers and plovers along the shore, plus some other birds like a Black-crowned Night-Heron in a tree.
Liolaemus fitzingeri (probably)
There was a little café at the point, so we had tea and coffee there before heading back to Puerto Pirámides. There were a surprising number of guanacos beside the road today, a lot more than yesterday.
Tame armadillo at Punta Norte
For dinner we went to a restaurant overlooking the main street and the bay and sat on the outside terrace. Paul was feeling better now so he went for “salmon blanco” and so did Karen. It was a white fish which was probably totally unrelated to the salmon family but nevertheless it was excellent. And it was served with Salicornia, which we had never seen on a menu before. Rosemary had a steak and said it was one of the best she had ever had.
Downtown Puerto Pirámides
November 28, 2018
Today we were moving on to Trelew; spending two full days on Peninsula Valdés was a good idea. One day would have been far too rushed. But before leaving the park we took the short side trip to Isla de los Pájaros, Bird Island. It was low tide so shorebirds, if there were any, were far away. But in the garden by the Coast Guard station we found a Tufted Tit-Tyrant and a large number of cavies. There were even tiny baby cavies!