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Wildlife and wild beaches await those who adventure to the austere, windswept land jutting out into the fierce Atlantic Ocean. The untamed beauty of Valdez Peninsula is sure to awe and inspire animal aficionados and nature enthusiasts alike.

 

 

From November to March, a menagerie of migratory birds and sea mammals decorate the otherwise barren coast, while whales and dolphins play in the frigid waters offshore. From Puerto Pirámide, slightly reminiscent of a Mediterranean resort town, visitors can hop on a boat headed to out to observe whales. For “guaranteed” whale and dolphin spotting, head to Puerto Madryn, just south of the peninsula.

 

 

Slightly furrier friends can be spotted lounging along the peninsula’s shores from September to March, when sea lions, seals, and penguins arrive to mate beneath the towering white cliffs. On the roadside stretching away from the beach one can spot pups frolicking about, but be wary of these burly beasts (and their slightly larger guardians); male elephant seals can weigh as much as 4000 kilograms and their aggressive tendencies are best observed from a distance. A dominate male readily picks off weaker members of his sex, chasing “intruders” both on land and in the sea.

 

 

Feathered friends congregate at the aptly named Isla de los Pájaros (Island of Birds) located in the Golfo San José. Unless you’re prepared for a hefty swim, however, the birds are best viewed from observation stations mounted with telescopes at the neck of the peninsula.

 

 

On the peninsula and further south along the road weaving through Puerto Madryn toward Trelew, guanaco graze and rhea bound. Found across Chile and Argentina, guanaco entertain with their elegant appearance and ambling gait, the result of double jointed knees. Easily startled, these camel-cousins are a bit camera shy, so be ready.

 

 

A couple of hours south of Peninsula Valdés at Punto Tumbo is the world´s largest hatchery for Magellanic penguins. The birds arrive in November and by February the reserve is brimming with the million or so hatchery residents. There are other reserves in South American for the Magellanic, but none can top Punto Tumbo’s for sheer numbers. From the fenced-in observation area, one can observe hundreds of Magellanic penguin standing stoically, gazing towards the surrounding hills. Below the viewpoint, adults and youths (we’re talking penguins, of course) waddle to the surf to dive for food.

 

 

Signs forbidding visitors to leave the observation area are ignored by the penguins. Claire, then four and a half, discovered this when she found herself eye-to-eye with a half dozen tuxedo-clad birds This was perhaps the wildest encounter yet. What else to do but flash a smile and introduce yourself?



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