Penguins and whales in Patagonia

000Magellanic penguin colonies

The Atlantic coast of Argentina hosts the Magellanic penguin colonies, especially in Punta Tombo and Peninsula Valdes , in Chubut. This is a tour of protected areas that can be done individually or with guides.

Each reserve has walkways specially designed to avoid any deterioration of the environment, and from which you can see, from a distance-limited animals and their behavior.

The best time to visit these reserves is between September and April. Once fall begins, the penguins migrate to warmer shores such as Brazil.

In Argentine territory inhabited at least eight of the 17 penguin species identified, some of which just do it occasionally. The so-called white eyed penguin nests in the Sandwich Islands, South Orkney and Shetland; the chinstrap rarely approaches the coast of Patagonia; Rockhopper and breeds in the southernmost regions such as Puerto Deseado, Santa Cruz.

Penguins are faithful, monogamous and travel to reach 3000 kilometers to mate and give birth. On the coasts of southern Argentina, they made their nests and often try to occupy the same place as the previous season.
These areas are in proximity of the water and under the bushes, because the terrain is easier to work there. Time generally is intended to courtship and subsequent egg incubation. The couples stay on land and down to the sea in search of food only.

The chicks are born in November, with a thin layer of gray feathers. They are the most attractive day to wander around the penguin. The offspring quickly developed agile virtues for swimming and weigh up to five kilos. Petrels and orcas are their main enemies. However, fishing nets and fuel oil spills or years are the biggest predators.

It is breeding colonies that led to reserves as the Monte León National Park and Cape Virgin, in the province of Santa Cruz; Punta Tombo, Cape Peninsula Valdes and Two Bays, in Chubut; and, Hammer Island in Tierra del Fuego.
The largest colony

Punta Tombo colony, a few kilometers from the city of Puerto Madryn, is the main destination chosen for this activity. According to recent studies, between August and September they come there penguin populations over one million copies. The area constitutes the country’s largest continental colony.

The tour of the penguin colony and surrounding area is full day. Access to the reserve is by gravel road. This space, which was created in the ’60s, became a protected 19 years later, by controlling income and the constant presence of a ranger area.
The first place you get is a beach three kilometers wide, chosen by Magellanic penguins. While animals are alert to the visits, they not easily scared or abandon their nests. It is forbidden to touch them, but the interaction becomes very direct from the catwalks.

In the same reserve protected also you find gulls, gray or austral, skuas, real and black-necked cormorants, terns, ducks and oystercatchers.

Magellanic penguins (Spheniseus magellanicus) spotted by the first Europeans in Magellan’s voyage in 1520 were described by the chronicler Antonio Pigafetta as “Strangers geese”. It is one of the few flightless birds and their wings have become flippers swim.
Lives in giant colonies like Punta Tombo in Chubut, considered the largest continental colony, with half a million copies.
He is of medium height, between 50 and 60 centimeters, and weighing up to 5 kilograms. It is adorned with a white chest and a white band around the head, neck and wings.
Year after year, the males arrive in August to “penguin”. The females arrive in September and began a period of very violent–some territorial fights, processions with arched necks, short steps around each other, knocking peak with divesos purposes and copulations. In October they dig their nests legs, if possible under bushes. The couple incubated two eggs (twice larger than chicken) for 40 days.
Chicks born in November and force their parents to travel to the sea in search of food (fish and squid that regurgitate semi-digested) and extreme care from predators, gulls and brown on all.
Penguins nest very close to each other, which causes stress for lack of space, but also protect best among all. In January the chicks are encouraged to move away from the nests.
From December to April move plumage First juveniles, then the pigeons, preparing to enter the water, and finally the players. The winter in the warm waters of Brazil.

Whale watching in Puerto Pirámides

Valdes Peninsula is a triangular portion of land, located on the coast of the province of Chubut, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Puerto Piramides depart from most vessels coming to a few meters of these whales.
To get on one of these boats or inflatable boats, striking quickly the number of foreigners on board. To do this tour is an hour can be one of the most incomparable moments in the world. The peninsula and the magic of the whales attract tourists from around the world and everyone wants to live the unforgettable experience of approaching one.
It is ideal to visit between September and December. At that time the number of whales is large and fast-watching opportunities is greater. But even at the end of December you may be lucky enough to find some laggard specimen.
We leave the small port. The vessel is filled with adventurous dressed in raincoats that the company provides to stay dry, above which all mandatory life should be placed. Everything is organized so that one feels safe.
It is up to where the whale after sailing a while, usually no more than 15 minutes (the distance depends on the season). The captains exchange information so they know where the whales are every day.
The engine of the boat to avoid disturbing is then turned off, and for a moment seems to exist only nature. Right there at your fingertips, rears its skin. And looking beyond, we see that the length of the whale surpasses that of the boat. It’s awesome. Occasionally emits a sound that accompanies the blowing of the wind in this part of the sea. And the sky and cliffs in the distance frame this scene.
If we’re lucky (and no one can guarantee that this will happen in our watching) whale jump, showing off the water much of his huge body mass raising in a gesture so elegant it seems to defy gravity, or raise its tail giving us the classic photography.
Sure, the clicks of the cameras do not stop ringing, or comments astonished and movement of passengers seeking the best place not to miss a detail. The captain and assistants attend to tourists, organizing the movement of people so that nobody is left without seeing and giving explanations.
The last whale watching 45 minutes, this time is regulated to avoid disturbing animals and maximize the number of people who can make the crossing each day. These minutes in the middle of the Gulf, will be unforgettable.
Some developed at the beginning of the season, which runs from June to December-and the first copies of the southern right whale spotted from the promenade of the coastal city of Chubut. To hear and see the whales up close, more and more options: on solid ground, from the beaches of Madryn o Doradillo (Natural Protected Area 15 kilometers from the city); rides on board (can be in rubber boats or catamarans) from Puerto Pirámides, in Peninsula Valdes; and since last year, with the Yellow Submarine. It is a semi-submersible specially designed for watching whales and sea lions of a hair, allowing you to enjoy the movements of the animals underwater.

It is known as the whales “Giants of Valdés”. No wonder, since a male average is 15 meters long and weighs about 50 tons. Although whales are the most attractive convener, are not the only protagonists. In recent months, when many tourists come to know them, the Patagonian Atlantic coast also offers the chance to see elephants and sea lions as well as dolphins and birds.
In recent years, many more people have been encouraged to take a closer experience with the sea lions. For example, you can go snorkeling in Punta Loma reserve, 20 kilometers from Madryn. “Wolves are curious and are thrown into the water to greet visitors, who are absolutely seduced to the incalculable number of puppies”.

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