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Valdes Peninsula Wildlife

Patagonian Maras in the Valdes Peninsula,  Argentina

Patagonian Maras (hare/rodent) in the Valdes Peninsula.Photo by @N03.

 

Things to See on the Valdes Peninsula

This is Argentina's primay wildlife destination and a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Valdes is famous for one thing only, wildlife. Otherwise this barren lump of land punching into the South Atlantic from central east Argentina is devoid of scenic interest - no great hikes, no soaring snowy peaks, no crystal lakes, just an arid landmass that is a pain to get to but home to various interesting and occasionally endangered animals, such as the Patagonian Mara.

Near Puerto Madryn the penguin colony at Punto Tombo is massive, probably bigger than anywhere outside the antarctic. It's an easy taxi ride from Trelew.
Other animals generally seen at Valdes and Punto Tombo are rhea (small ostriches), guanacos (small llamas), armadillos. Southern Right Whales can be seen from Valdes in season but also from El Doradillo beach near Puerto Madryn.

The Ecocentro in Puerto Madryn is a fair museum that only opens in the afternoons and then a bit erratically. It has good views, interesting information about local marine life and cool interactive pools that are fun for children but unless you're really interested in marine biology or you're traveling with kids it's not the most exciting excursion.

Punta Loma, 20 minutes south of Puerto Madryn, also offers a terrific viewpoint for wildlife watching at low tide, especially sea lions.

Gaiman town is a cute little Welsh settlement nearby that offers tourists very expensive Welsh teas.

 

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A Patagonian armadillo, Valdes Peninsula, Argentina

A Patagonian armadillo.

 

The Peninsula - practically an island as the neck bridge is so narrow - is a sizeable 3,500 sq kms in size but houses on one small town, Puerto Piramides, and a handful of equally small sheep farms. The nearest large town is Puerto Madryn.

 

Seals and pups on the coast of the  Valdes Peninsula, Argentina

Plenty of seals and pups on Valdes.Photo by Reinhard-Jahn.

 

The curves and enclosed bays of the peninsula's coast offer protection to sea creatures from the Atlantic's furious storms so various large marine creatures spend time here for mating and giving birth, including sea lions, elephant seals, fur seals Southern Right whales, Orcas and penguins.

 

Penguins, Valdes Peninsula, Argentina

Penguins having a moment. Photo by EberhardtT.

About 120kms (80 miles) south of Puerto Madryn and Trelew is a truly massive Magellanic penguin colony at Punto Tombo from September to April, bigger than anywhere outside the Antarctic. It's a easy to negotiate a taxi ride from Trelew.
Other animals generally seen at Valdes and Punto Tombo are rhea (small ostriches), guanacos (small llamas), armadillos. Southern Right Whales can be seen from Valdes in season but also from El Doradillo beach near Puerto Madryn.

 

Southern Right whale getting close to a tourist boat, Valdes Peninsula, Argentina

A Southern Right whale gets awfully close to a tourist whale-watching boat. Photo by jbgeronimi.

 

Whales hang out near Valdes Peninsula between May and October for mating and birthing.

Note that a few visitors who go to Valdes outside whale-watching months are disappointed by either the number of animals visible or the fact that almost all of them are frequently seen elsewhere (and in greater numbers), such as the half a million penguins at Punta Tombo as opposed to a handful on Valdes.
On shore there are birds to be seen, some migratory, along with foxes, rheas (a kind of small ostrich), guanacos (a kind of llama), burrowing owls, along with the animals on this page. Binoculars are a useful tool!

 

Other Things to Do in the Area

There are a few more attractions in the neighbourhood, with Puerto Madryn's Ecocentro at number one, a lively, modern interactive museum of wildlife studies and marine specimens from the vicinity, including whale breeding information, seal and dolphin studies, stories and much more. Ecocentro only opens in the afternoons and even then a bit erratically and some visitors feel the place is fun for children but unless you're really interested in marine biology or you're traveling with kids it's not the most exciting excursion in the area.

A little south of Puerto Madryn is Trelew town which hosts a natural history museum, Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio, featuring the most important fossil finds in Patagonia along with superb life-sized dinosaur exhibits and videos.
And a touch east of Trelew at Gaiman there's a bizarre and entertaining little park of folk art constructed out of 80,000 recycled bottles and cans called Parque el Desafio. Gaiman is a cute little Welsh settlement that offers tourists very expensive Welsh teas.
Punta Loma, 20 minutes south of Puerto Madryn, also offers a terrific viewpoint for wildlife watching at low tide, especially sea lions.