Peninsula Valdes: a Unique Marine Fauna Heaven

  • See the largest continental colony of southern elephant seals in the entire world

Peninsula Valdes is one of the largest marine wildlife reserves in the entire world and a prime spot for viewing wildlife. It was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its global significance as a marine wildlife refuge for several threatened species.

The scenic Peninsula Valdes, where arid lands contrast with the blue crystalline sea, is home to an important breeding population of the endangered southern right whales (whales season is from May to early December), southern sea lions, orcas (also known as “killer whales”), Magellanic penguins (the penguins season is from mid September to mid April), and the largest continental colony of southern elephant seals in the entire world.

The inner part of the peninsula is inhabited by rheas, guanacos (American Llama), hairy armadillos, ostriches and maras (very similar to a hare). A high diversity and range of birds live in the peninsula as well; at least 181 bird species.

Our tour starts in the morning, when we head to the Peninsula Valdes, which is like an island united to the continent by a long strip of land called Carlos Ameghino Isthmus. After 48 miles (77 kilometers) we make our first stop at the small interpretation center.

We continue our journey to our second stop: Puerto Piramides (Port Pyramids town) from where we’ll depart on a navigation to enjoy close-up views of sea lion colonies and to see caves rich in marine fauna fossils.

We then head to Caleta Valdes, a natural channel, which lodges a large variety of marine fauna. Caleta Valdes has the most spectacular panoramic views of the Peninsula Valdes. Elephant seals can be seen from a viewpoint that overlooks the sea, and there is also a small colony of Magellanic penguins.

Peninsula Valdes has the largest continental colony of elephant seals in the world. The elephant seal is the largest pinniped (seal) on earth, with adult males weighing up to 4000 kilograms (4 tonnes) which is around 8 times heavier than a polar bear! They get their “elephant” name from their massive size and also the proboscis (the inflatable trunk-like snout) of the males that are used to make a loud roaring sound to assert their dominance against other males, to establish their territory, and defend their haram (group of females). During mating season, they can be very aggressive with each other. Elephant seals are excellent divers who are able to dive up to 4900 feet (1500 meters) beneath the ocean’s surface and can stay underwater for more than an hour and a half.

An outlook balcony located near a cliff will give us the chance to enjoy a panoramic look at the elephant seals colony.

Depending on weather conditions, orcas can be seen from October to November and from February to April, when they feed on young sea lions. Please note that they are definitely not easy to see, even when they are present in the area.

Orcas are the greatest predators of the seas and also among the fastest marine animals in the world, as they are able to reach speeds of 35 miles (56 kilometers) an hour! They eat several fish species, sea lions, sea tortoises, elephant seals, sharks and penguins.

In the Peninsula Valdes, orcas exhibit a unique behavior while hunting, where they climb up onto the sand of the shore in order to prey on sea lions. The orcas in Patagonia are the only ones in the world who use this dangerous hunting method where they leave two thirds of their body exposed on the beach. They then grip their prey in their strong jaws and slide back into the water.

After an exciting day exploring the wildlife of the Peninsula Valdes, we will return to your hotel.

Important: the tour’s exact itinerary and duration may change subject to weather conditions and decisions of the tour guide to optimize your tour experience.

Difficulty: none.

Duration: full day (approximately 10 hours from the time you leave your hotel until you return). Time for lunch is included but lunch cost is not included. Your tour guide will suggest places for lunch.

Guide: group guide. The maximum group size for this tour is approximately 20 travelers.

Vehicle: group vehicle. The total driving distance is 250 miles (400 kilometers) long. Half is done on paved road, the rest if done on unpaved, gravel roads.

Includes: entrance fee to Peninsula Valdes Reserve.