Whales, penguins, and sea lions – oh my! Find your inner sea animal at Puerto Madryn, a quaint little beach town on the coast of Argentina’s patagonia. There you will find a plethora of tours offering up close encounters with whales, penguins, sea lions, dolphins, and elephant seals. Being a lover of all things animal, Puerto Madryn was a must for me. We arrived in Puerto Madryn at the beginning of January, so unfortunately it was not the right season for good whale watching or sea lion encounters. But we did get to visit the penguin mecca [known as Punta Tombo] and bask in the sun with some elephant seals. Do your research and plan your trip accordingly to the season that will give you the best odds at seeing your top animal choices.
Hostel of choice: http://hipatagonia.com/
Hi Patagonia was a great stay. The host was very welcoming and he went out of his way to help us make the most of our trip in Puerto Madryn. There are a lot of tours that you can book directly through him and avoid the hassle of doing the research yourself.
Punta Tombo – October to March
We took a stroll through Punta Tombo’s penguin colony and it was incredible. Punta Tombo offers an experience that you can’t find anywhere else. During Argentina’s summer months, thousands of penguins return every year to the dry sandy beaches of this peninsula to raise their young – and you are able to witness it all up close and personal! Many of the burrows [nests] are placed right next to the gravel path so it was easy for us to peek in on a snoozing penguin or a couple of sleepy chicks. Along the way, penguins would waddle right across our path and we of course would quickly try to photo bomb this opportunity. I could have spent all day snapping shots of these adorable little guys, it was hard not to when they were just SO CLOSE! The photos you see below are not taken on some high intensity zoom lens, they were simply shot just a couple feet away from me.
I absolutely love this photo because it gives you a really good idea on just how many penguins there were on the beach!
Fun fact: The penguins return to the exact same nest every year to raise their young. Among the 1000’s of nests scattered along 3 km of sandy terrain, I wonder how they can even distinguish their own burrow from the others, let alone find it!
Penguins aren’t the only animals that can be spotted at Punta Tombo!
Want a few tips on how to be the ultimate beach bum? Observe elephant seals up close [as close as they will let you] while they bask in the sun for hours on end. You might even spot two bulls duking it out for the “King of the Beach” title. These elephant seals were a lot more shy than the penguins. It took me an hour of carefully creeping along the beach to get a good spot next to them. If you come up on them too quickly, they won’t hesitate to retreat into the water.
Looking for something a bit more adventurous? Take a dip in the chilly waters and catch some waves with Puerto Madryn’s most friendly creature – the sea lion! These playful pups are just as curious about you as you are of them, so you will have no problem with making a friend or two in the water.
Tour company of choice: http://www.lobolarsen.com/
Unfortunately, we went to sign up for this excursion, but quickly got turned down due to the fact that I was pregnant and therefore, a liability. Luckily, I wasn’t missing out on too much because it wasn’t high season for the sea lions and our odds of swimming with them were much lower during the summer than in the winter.
Whales and Dolphins
Again, it’ll depend on the season, but I know that there are lots of whale/dolphin watching opportunities in Puerto Madryn. We did not take any boat tours during our trip because whale season is primarily in the winter time – with the exception of a couple species who can be spotted during the summer months.
A friendly reminder: You are entering these critters’ homes – be respectful and avoid any disruptive behavior! Keep a comfortable distance between you and the animals and take a step back if any of them appear to be agitated by your presence – especially moms watching over their young. These incredible animal encounters are made possible by everyone who respects the rules and allows the animals to feel safe and comfortable in their environment.