This morning, we headed for Puerto Pirámides and Estancia San Lorenzo, both on Península Valdés. We made an early start to get ahead of the winds that are so characteristic of this part of the world. The winds tend to pick up throughout the day and could jeopardize our planned navigation to observe southern right whales.
The buses left Puerto Madryn and headed for the isthmus of the famous peninsula, which looks like Thor’s hammer from space. To the north, we observed the San José Gulf, and to the south, Nuevo Gulf, which we entered yesterday.
After an hour drive, we arrived at Puerto Pirámides. We donned our life jackets and climbed in the boats, which were driven out of their cradles by a tractor. We were finally on the beautiful, calm waters, and we headed off in search of whales. Soon enough, our whale spotters announced that they sighted one of the giants, a female with her calf. Over the next hour, we were in awe as we witnessed tail-lobbing, breaching, animals turning upside down, and pectoral fins slapping the waters. We enjoyed many close views of giant heads covered in callosities as the whales rose to the surface to breathe. On one occasion, a boisterous calf nudged one of the boats. The warm sunshine lit up the scene perfectly.
Nobody wanted to leave. As we traveled back to the ship, we passed by a small cormorant colony perched on a cliff, and we spotted several haul outs for South American sea lions. Many giant males were surrounded by females, who were often closely bunched around the male. Suddenly, another male tried to get on the rocky slabs that jut out to the sea, but the dominant male grunted to dissuade the possible aggressor.
Once back onshore, we boarded the buses and headed north for our lunch venue. Along the way, we observed much wildlife, including maras quietly grazing alongside Merino sheep, elegant-crested tinamous, an occasional Darwin’s rhea, and many herds of guanaco, the largest of the South American camelids.
All these creatures inhabit this arid and treeless region. Abundant low bushes and grasses were bright green from a recent rainfall.
After an hour and a half, we arrived at Estancia San Lorenzo, where we were treated to a traditional lamb asado (barbecue) accompanied by wine and fresh salad. For dessert, we enjoyed traditional homemade flan with dulce de leche.
After a wander around the estancia, we headed for the afternoon program. A short ride offered us commanding views of the San Matías Gulf. Magellanic penguins walked to and from their burrows all around us. An 800-meter circuit took us past hundreds of the delightful birds, almost all of them sitting on eggs. Along the way, we caught sight of guanacos, an elephant seal, and a few South American sea lions along the shoreline.
Our return to the ship was uneventful and included a stop at an interpretation center at the entrance to the Valdés Peninsula Reserve.
What a day! Tonight’s cocktails tasted especially delicious!