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Touring in Patagonia

Puerto Madryn, ArgentinaHmmm…Peninsula Valdes or Punta Tombo? I don´t like tours but don´t have many other options to avoid them in this part of Patagonia if I wanted to view the regional wildlife. The prices in Argentina make things that were once possible in Central America prohibitive. $150 for one dive?! $75 for a tour? Absurd. But, I´m here and [...]

Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Hmmm…Peninsula Valdes or Punta Tombo? I don´t like tours but don´t have many other options to avoid them in this part of Patagonia if I wanted to view the regional wildlife. The prices in Argentina make things that were once possible in Central America prohibitive. $150 for one dive?! $75 for a tour? Absurd. But, I´m here and will probably only be here once so I´ll have plunk down at least $75 for a tour to see this part of the world. Did I want to see sea lions, seals, foxes, possibly orcas and various other wild life in Peninsula Valdes or dolphins and penguins in Punta Tombo?
I opted for penguins and dolphins. Seeing orcas wasn´t a sure thing and the sea lions and seals were only viewable from a distance. I can view sea lions and seals from a distance at a zoo but when would I ever get to walk through a massive field of penguins again? I swallowed hard and paid the $75 for the tour and $9 entrance fee.

Before the penguins was a boat ride out into the Atlantic to view dolphins that looked like the offspring of an orca whale that mated with a bottlenose dolphin. More commonly referred to as Commerson dolphins. Twenty of us filed onto the boat all wearing bright orange life vests and camera´s in hand. The ´touristy-ness´ of the scene left me feeling like it was Sunday morning and I just woke up next to a stranger. Two 250 hp outboard motors roared to life and we were off into the Atlantic. It´s not guaranteed that you´ll see the dolphins but you have around an 85% chance. After 30 minutes into an hour and half tour I was begining to think my trip would fall into the improable 15%.

¨Delfín! A la izquierda!¨ cried out the guide followed by a mass of people hurdling themselves onto the left side of the boat shoving each other aside to get the best view.

¨Delfín! A la derecha!¨ The same mass of humanity darts to the right side of the boatt and I take my cue to move to the front of boat on the left side while everyone is drooling for a view on the right.

¨A la izquierda!¨ Suckers. I park myself in my location and stay for the rest of the ride enjoying the view of black and white dolphins effortlessly moving through the water.

From Patagonia 2011-02
Male Commerson dolphin swimming upside down

Off the boat and a two hour ride through the void land of Patagonia I was in the Punta Tombo Penguin Reserve. Each year penguins migrate to Punta Tombo in April and stay until September to breed and raise their young. It´s the largest penguin colony in South America with an estimated population of around 800,000 penguins. 800,000 penguins walking, sqauwking, sleeping, feeding, fighting and breeding.

From Patagonia 2011-02
800,000 penguins and no ice anywhere

For all the penguins care you might as well be one of the scrubby Patagoninan bushes dotting the landscape. They´re everywhere and your a foot away. Try touching one and risk getting bitten or scolded by one of the reserve workers. You can´t do that in a zoo.

Filed under: Argentina, Cubicle Ditcher

About the Author:

Sam Langley left a comfortable and profitable job with an insurance company in the USA to travel the world. He has been going for years, and has not stopped yet. Keep up with his travels on his blog at Cubicle Ditcher. has written 147 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.