This area is the biggest continental reserve of Magellan Pinguins in the world.
Every year, early September first males then females come to Punta Tombo. They settle the nests around 800 meters from the coast. The pinguins are born in November and both parents take care of them and feed them. Pinguins are monogamists :)
The young ones are born with dark gray dawn which they loose in February and are left with juvenil plumage. They change to adult black and white plumage next year.
Also in February they start becoming independent and start walking to the sea.
They all leave Punta Tombo in March/April to be back in September again.
The entrance ticket to Punta Tombo reserve costs 20 pesos.
One of the fave activities of Manu and I is the sailing, then we rented a short trip (no more than two hours because the strong wind) wandering close to the shore, just for fun and if it is possible for watching some of the various inhabitants of the southern seas. Fun, healthy and cheap, don't miss this ancestral pleasure.
There is a Bungy facility located on the seaside pedestrian boulevard, a kids bungy, I should say.
And believe me, they enjoy it like mad goats, screaming, jumping among laughters and wide open eyes. What a pleasure.
The Ecocentro opened its doors in 2000. Its located at the edge of a cliff, looking at the sea. The Ecocentro is a "museum" dedicated to showing the fauna of Peninsula Valdes. It's a great place to learn about the local fauna, its habits, etc. There are also auditoriums where you can hear dissertations on different topics.
Punta Tombo is the largest continental reserve of Magellanic Penguins (Spheniscus magallanicus). This fauna reservation was created in 1979, by means of a decree of the Chubut Province, with the purpose of protecting one of the sites with the most diverse fauna within Argentina, and the greatest continental Magellan Penguins colony.
Every year from september through March, the magellanic penguins come to this place to mate, hatch their eggs, and teach the first things to their baby penguins. In March they migrate to the south of Brazil. This colony has, at its peak, more or less 800,000 penguins.
When you get in the reservation you can actually walk among the penguins, but you have to be careful not to disturb them. They are always coming and going to the sea to feed, and their nests are not always close to the shore, some of them are 1km away. Both male and female penguins hatch the eggs, so while one is hatching, the other is at sea eating, some times for many days.
This was one of the most amazing things I've seen in my life. We arrived in Peninsula Valdes and the boat was already waiting for us. We sailed with two excellent guides who explained us everything we needed to know about the southern right whales and their habits.
The southern right whale ( Eubalaena australis ), can be seen in Peninsula Valdes every year from june to december when they come to give birth and mate. This is a lonely animal, so most of the times they are seen either alone, with their calf or with another adult whale when mating.
We were lucky to see a whale with her calf, and a couple mating, although it was late for mating, so we were really lucky!
The whole Peninsula Valdes is a huge Natural Reservation, and if you want to get a complete idea about it you'll need three or four days wandering in there, so, to be surprised by the guanacos (a camel cousin) armadillos, seal colonies, sea Lions colonies, seagulls, albatros, right whales, orkas, dolphins, penguins, etc..
The boundless impression is strong, those plain steppes and the blue horizon are feelings that you'll never forget.
Of course you'll pay a fee (cheap indeed) and you can get reservations in some of the hotels or estancias of the Peninsula. But do it with enough time in advance, there aren't too many accomodations facilities here.
The ocean waters are not too warm late afternoon in March but once you come here all over from Europe you just need to put your feet in southern hemisphere Atlantic Ocean water. Do a little swimming too, it feels great.
When the tide is low, the beach in Puerto Piramides gets extremly wide. It's surrounded by the rocks which are made of sand and shells.
In wintertime the main reason to visit the town is watching the Right Southern Whales. The boat trips start here and the season goes from June to December.
The direction of the current changes every 6 hours and the difference between high and low tide in Peninsula Valdes goes up to few meters. Watching the ebb flow you can see some great formations that are usually under the water and you can also spot some sea elephants playing in the water.
Sea Elephants are the largest seals in the world. Males have 4-6 meters and weight up to 4000 kilos, they are also easily distinguished by their large trunk-like nose, which is about 40 cm long. They have 40-females harems. When they are in the beach, they don't eat anything, so they spend a lot fo energy every time they move.
Females feed the pups for about a month - not eating anything at this time.
Punta Norte (171 km from Purto Madryn) is where the only Sea Lions continental colony is. An adult weights up to 300 kilos. They come here every August for matting and you can see them on the place all year round. In March you can also see Killer Whales hunting for the Sea Lions, they usually come once a day.
Guanacos live only in South America - from northern Andes to its sothern tip. They are reddish-brown on the back, and almost white on the underside and they are closely related to the camel. Guanacos live in small herds made up of a male, several females, and young of various ages. You will most likely see many of them along the road. Be careful if you're the driver!
The animals you will certainly see in the "estancias" of Peninsula Valdes are Merino Sheeps. This breed is very easy to raise as Merino sheeps can spend few days without drinking water and they can drink salty water. Quite efficient considering that Merino wool is one of the best and the warmest kinds.
As the whole peninsula is a Natural Reserve, the estancias are devided into 6 parts and sheeps are being relocated every 6 months so they come back to the same place in 3 years. This way the grass and the ground are being kept in a good condition.
Puerto Madryn is a base for all trips going to Peninsula Valdes. You can get a tour in every tourist agency in the city and they all have the same price. In march 2005 it was 95 pesos plus the entry to the national reserve - 35 pesos for the foreigners.
It's a 400 km full day excursion including stops in Interpretation Center (entry to the reserve), Puerto Piramides, Punta Norte or Punta Delgada and Caleta Valdes (Punta Cantor). You can go for a boat trip from Puerto Piramides and if it's wintertime you'll experience the Whale Watching.
You can also get to Puerto Piramides by regular bus and find some group you could join. The tour would cost you 65 pesos then and you'll be able to stay more time in Puerto Piramides as the regular bus leaves later. (To find out more see the transportation tips.)