There are a variety of day tours and excursions that take you out to Península Valdés and today I’m going to be sharing about our tour focusing on the eastern part of the peninsula.
Our 4 days touring Península Valdés were action-packed to say the least, first visiting Punta Norte in search of penguins and then taking 2 days to explore the town of Puerto Pirámides. For our fourth and final day, we decided to visit a part of the peninsula we had completely overlooked with stops in Caleta Valdés and Punta Delgada, plus we finally got to see elephant seals, which we had only spotted from afar up until then!
Our small group tour was once again organized through Argentina Vision and though the tour officially departs from Puerto Madryn, they do pick up passengers from Puerto Pirámides should you choose to stay there like we did.
Now here’s a look back at how our last day on Península Valdés unfolded.
A boat tour to see sea lions
Puerto Pirámides was the first stop of the day and we had two options: spend some time exploring the town and browsing the colourful storefronts, or join a 1 1/2 hour boat tour to Punta Pirámides to see the sea lions! This second activity had an additional cost (750 pesos or $20 USD), but since we had already spent a couple of days in the town, the excursion sounded like a great option.
We strapped on our lifejackets, hopped aboard the zodiac, and were rolled into the water. Fun fact: even though this town has the word ‘port’ (puerto) in its name, there’s no actual port or dock, so boats have to be pre-loaded with passengers and then rolled backwards into the water using a trailer – that was a first!
We had beautiful weather that day and the seas were fairly calm, so it was a nice ride out to the lobería to see the sea lions. Along the way, we stopped in a small cave where we saw layers of marine fossils stacked on top each other, and we also came across lots of seabirds, namely cormorants.
We then reached this outcrop where the sea lions like to hang out and that spot was pure magic. Because we visited in February, there were lots of newborn pups playing and clumsily climbing around the larger sea lions. It was so fun to just sit back and watch them be.
We also saw the alpha male strutting on his flippers, body arched upwards, observing his harem and eventually approaching a female. It was quite the scene and camera shutters were going off like crazy!
I’m glad we opted to do this additional excursion because it provided a completely different vantage point and allowed us to observe the sea lions’ behaviour up close. We’d had some great sightings at Punta Norte on our first day on the peninsula, and then again when we hiked out to the lobería, but on both of these occasions, we had been viewing the sea lions from a much greater distance, so this was rather a unique experience.
A geographic accident at Caleta Valdés
Once we finished the boat excursion, we met up with the rest of our group and drove to our next destination: Caleta Valdés.
Caleta Valdés is referred to as a ‘geographic accident’; it’s basically a long and narrow body of water that’s been naturally closed off by a strip of land, with only a small opening connecting it to the sea.
Here we came across penguins who had made their nests on the bluffs – a rather steep location, but they didn’t seem to mind as they waddled up from the beach. This is a much smaller rookery than the one we had previously visited at Estancia San Lorenzo, but there were still lots of penguins to admire.
Caleta Valdés is typically a great place to see elephant seals, but to our surprise, we spotted guanacos! Our guide was as surprised as we were. She explained that these guanacos would’ve had to walk at least 40 kilometres to reach this point and it’s not exactly prime grazing land, which left us all stumped.
We did manage to see a small group of elephant seals off in the distance, but we’d get an even better view later that afternoon.
Lunch at Punta Delgada Lighthouse
Lunch that day was at Punta Delgada Lighthouse, a former post office and military building turned sheep farm, countryside hotel and restaurant. The lighthouse on this estancia can be seen from 40 kilometres at sea and was painted red and black to stand out from landscape. This is one of three estancias you can visit on Península Valdés.
We ordered some baked empanadas as a starter, followed by a hearty Patagonian stew with melt-in-your-mouth chunks of lamb, carrots, onions, rice and parsley. It was a simple recipe, but truly delicious.
Of course, we couldn’t resist having some more flan and dulce de leche – our kryptonite! – and then it was time to get back on the bus and continue to our final stop of the day.
Finding elephant seals at Punta Delgada
Punta Delgada is a beach with steep sandy cliffs and it typically witnesses a high concentration of elephant seals during mating and moulting season (when the seals shed their hair but also the upper layer of their skin). We were visiting towards the end of the season so most elephant seals had already gone out to sea, but there were a few still left on the shores.
We hadn’t planned our trip to coincide with the best times to view wildlife, however, this is something you may want to consider if that’s the main reason behind your trip.
There was one particular elephant seal who decided it was time to go back to sea just as we were standing there, so we got to witness his slow movements – a bit like the worm dance with lots of drawn-out pauses in between.
There was lots of encouragement from our little tour group for that lone elephant seal, and after what felt like ages, he finally reached the water and was on his way.
My photos don’t do the elephant seals justice, so if you’re a photographer, take that as a tip and pack a zoom lens!
And just like that the day was over and it was time to drive back to Puerto Madryn. The drive back took us down dirt roads, past salt lakes, and we even managed to spot owls, snakes and a hairy armadillo along the way.
I definitely feel like I got to explore the peninsula thoroughly with our four days there, but hopefully I’ll be back one day to experience the magic of whale season!