Península Valdés is an oddly shaped peninsula on the Atlantic coast about 1000Km southwest of Buenos Aires. It offers two protected bays utilized by whales, sea lions, elephant seals, penguins and other marine life.
It is one of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites found in Argentina. Cueva de las Manos, and Los Glaciares National Park are examples of others.
The peninsula itself is a barren flat landscape no different than the Patagonian Steppe found on the mainland. It is sparsely populated with the private lands divided by just a few large sheep farms.
According UNESCO, the reason Península Valdés was named an UNESCO natural world heritage site was:
it is a site of global significance for the conservation of marine mammals. It is home to an important breeding population of the endangered southern right whale as well as important breeding populations of southern elephant seals and southern sea lions. The orcas in this area have developed a unique hunting strategy to adapt to local coastal conditions.
The photo above is by Tony Galvez on Flickr and it shows a Southern Right Whale in the protected bay to the south of the Peninsula. The Southern Right Whales use the bay to birth their pups and rest before the long journey home at the end of Feb. We just missed them.
We were also a little too early to witness the "unique hunting strategy of the orca whales". In March and April, they will swim up onto the beach in the northern bay where hundreds of sea lions have just given birth to their pups.
The orcas use the unusually deep shoreline to spring up on the beach and surprise the pups for an easy lunch. It is pretty gruesome to watch. I'm almost glad we missed it. Here is a link if you really must see it for yourself
The, biggest colony of Magellanic Penguins is in Punta Tombo further down the Atlantic coast. However, there are some large colonies on the peninsula too. We were surprised at how close to the road these guys were.
If you visit, you will want to fly to Trelew (pronounced tree-lough) and rent a car. You can stay in Puerto Madryn, the closest city to the peninsula or you can stay in Puerto Pirámides, a small beach town on the peninsula where you can easily catch a whale watching tour in the bay.
We recommend you stay at one of the estancias on the peninsula. We stayed at Estancia Rincon Chico which allowed us onto their private, protected beach where we could walk right up to a large colony of elephant seals. I'll have a full review of the estancia in a later post.
Here are a few more photos of the elephant seals at Rincon Chico's beach.