IN PENÍNSULA VALDÉS AREA
THE SOUTHERN RIGHT WHALE, ORCAS, PENGUINS, SEA LIONS, ELEPHANT
RIGHT WHALE: PUERTO MADRYN AND PENÍNSULA VALDÉS AREA The southern
right whale (Eubalaena australis) is a cetacea, belonging to the Mysticeti
or ballen whale suborder. The mysticeti have baleen instead of teeth.
The whale fossils found are 55 million years old. Most of the whales show
ventral grooves and a dorsal fin, but the southern right whale lacks both.
The top jaw is long and thin, measuring a quarter of its total body. Some
parts of the head are covered by callosities and a large number of crustaceans
(parasites). On the top of their heads, they possess two external blowholes.
One of the outstanding characteristics of the southern right whales is
the way in which they exhale, two columns of air and water particles emerge
forming a "V" which can be observed from some km away. The southern
right whale has been considered a "Natural Monument" by the
law number 23.094 and the population, distributed in the seas of the southern
hemisphere, in mild and Antarctic water does not amount to more than 4.000
individuals. Every year 600 individuals reach the Nuevo and San José
gulfs (March through December) though the population of the Peninsula
Valdés area is calculated in 1,200 animals. This whale bears a
calf every three years, being sexually mature when they are between 7
and 17 years old. Females reach a length of 13 meters when they are sexually
mature. Males are shorter. Calves are about 4.5 and 5.5 long and approximately
three tons when they are just born. They grow at a rate of 3.5 centimeters
a day and will reach a length of 12-16 meters and a weight of 50-55 tons.
THE ELEPHANT SEAL: PUERTO MADRYN AND PENÍNSULA
One of the biggest sanctuaries in the world: Peninsula
Valdés offers the chance to watch elephant seal (Mirounga leonina)
without having to travel to remote islands, since this in the only continental
territory where this species is found. The southern elephant seal has
a sub Antarctic distribution and it is estimated that the elephant seal
population is of 700 thousand individuals, among which 20 thousand arrive
between August and March to breed and change their skin. The elephant
seal belongs to the family of the focidos, they differ from other pennipedians
since they have no external ear and their hind flippers are turned backwards
and on land they can only creep. The male differs from the female as its
nose looks like a trunk. They attain a length of 5 metres and some of
them weigh between 3 and 4 tons. The females, however, are only 3 metres
long and they weight less than 1 ton. The pups weigh 45 kilos when they
are born and they are black, but after 23 to 30 days of suckling they
become grey and they weigh 250 to 300 kilos. The elephant seals are polygamous.
At the end of August the first males arrive to form harems, while the
females reach the coast at the beginning of September, and after 5 days
they give they give birth to their pups. During the suckling period the
female fast and consumes her fatty reserve. After this period and the
reproduction period, the elephants go to the sea searching for their food.
It is known that they usually dive till 400 metres and some of them have
reached 1500 searching for food. The elephant seals spend 90 % of their
sea life under the water. After December they come back to the shore to
change their skin.
PENGUIN: PUNTA TOMBO PENGUIN RESERVE
In 1979 the province of Chubut created a reserve in Punta Tombo (181 km
away from Madryn) which is 21 hectares big, so as to protect magellan
penguins (Spheniscus maellanicus). One of the biggest colonies of sea
birds in the world and the biggest continental penguin colony, apart from
Antarctica, with more than 500 thousand birds from September to mind-April.
Penguins build their nests under the bushes, in caves and in open places.
Most of the caves are found near the coast, where the soil is softer for
digging. The usually return to the same nests. The male is sometimes bigger
and has a thicker and longer beak than the female. Both of them defend
their nest, incubate the eggs and feed the nestling with fish and squid.
Penguins spend most of their lives in the sea and they even sleep in it.
In winter they usually reach Rio de Janeiro, in a 3000 kilometer journey.
They are able to swim at a speed of 8 km an hour and they use their fins
as propellers and the feet as rudder. In February thounsands of young
penguins can be seen molting on the beach. Marine predators, such as the
giant petrel and the orcas, wait to feed on the young and sick penguins.
THE HAIRY SEA LION
The whole year in the region. The
hairy sea lion. (Otaria flevescens) is a species that can be found in
Atlantic and Pacific coast, from the South of Brazil to Peru, and it is
usually seen in the Peninsula Valdés the whole year round. These
pinnipeds belong to the family of otarids; they move on land using both
their front and back limbs. The males are dark grey and they have a mane.
They attain a length of 2.3 m. and the females 1.80 m. The males weigh
359 kilos and the females 100 kilos. The pups are born at the end of December,
beginning of January; they are black and they bleat like sheep. They weigh
13 kilos, but after a year suckling they double their weight. The sea
lions perform a short migration the sanctuaries in Golfo Nuevo and Peninsula
Valdés. During the reproduction period the males move to Punta
Piramides, next to Puerto Pirámides, and also to Punta Norte. From
April through November sea lions can be seen in other meeting places,
one of the most important being Punta Loma (a provincial reserve), which
is 17 km. away from Puerto Madryn. Young sea lions, which are not sexually
mature can be seen during the whole year, and from April onwards we can
also find sea lions which migrate from Puerto Piramides.
DAY 1 - Arrival to Trelew Airport and transfer
to hotel in Puerto Madryn. 03 nts of accommodation with breakfast
- Excursion to Peninsula Valdès Reserve
- Excursion to Punta Tombo Penguin Reserve. Later we visit Trelew and
MEF Museum (Dinosaurs of Patagonia) and later Gaiman (Welsh Colony)
- Transfer to airport
This is a basic program to visit Peninsula Valdes Area. Please visit our
tour list to see more tours combining this area and others place in Argentina