From Buenos Aires, we took a long (~18 hrs) but comfortable bus to Peninsula Valdes. The bus stopped in Puerto Madryn, the nearest city, and from there we took a taxi to Puerto Piramides, the small town on the actual peninsula. Peninsula Valdes is the most important natural reserve of Argentina, famous for the abundance of sea mammals. I’d recommend staying in Puerto Piramides; it’s a quite charming town, and you can easily organize any activity directly here.
I quickly found a diving operator and headed out on a fast boat to a sea lion colony. It was freezing, as we were in the middle of austral winter, and I really didn’t feel like jumping in the water (or even worse, coming out wet :S ). But once we reached the cliffs, completely crowded by funny animals, I forgot about the cold. The moment I descended, sea lions started to surround me, play with my fins and poke me in the head… it was awesome! After a while, the alpha male came over too; he was huge and looked unfriendly, so the dive master signaled us to retreat. We swam for a bit longer, looking at the gracious sea mammals, and trying to keep up with them. They’re so clumsy on the land and so gracious in the water. The dive was shallow and easy, perfect for PADI beginners, and the visibility was fairly good despite the weather. Once we surfaced, the captain offered us a much needed hot mate, and we headed back to the shore.
We crossed a whale watching boat, and they signaled us to pull over to their side… My mom and her friends were on it (they’re doing a route parallel to mine these days), and they were telling me to jump over! I was wet and freezing, but wanted to spend time with my mom and make the most out of the limited daylight hours, so I switched boats. As the whether was getting worse and worse, we just had time to spot a couple of southern right whales, easy to distinguish by the callosities on their heads. They swam close to the boat for a while, letting us enjoy their imposing presence. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to see them jump of flash their tails like in so many pictures. But, hey, this is nature, not the zoo.
Our second day in Peninsula Valdes woke up sunny to our joy. The four of us hired a car with driver (“remise”) to tour the whole peninsula, starting in Punta Norte and driving south along the Caleta Valdes coast to Punta Delgada. Along the road, we stopped numerous times to observe the sea lion and elephant seal colonies, some native mammals and birds, or simply the breathtaking views of the ocean.
The northern hemisphere summer is probably not the best time to visit Valdes and spot fauna, although you guarantee whales. Conversely, in the austral summer, especially in December, you can enjoy good weather and see orcas (killer whales), dolphins and penguins, in addition what we saw.