On this excursion, we drive to the Valdés Peninsula, designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, which comprises over 1,500 square miles of headlands, saltwater lakes, depressions, and rocky cliffs jutting 30 miles into the Atlantic. The surrounding shallow bays, gulfs, and beaches make the peninsula an incredibly diverse bio-habitat. Over half of the world's southern right whale population frequent the waters off the Valdés Peninsula, which are also home to major colonies of seals, sea lions, and seabirds. Puerto Pirámide, the peninsula’s only village and located 59 miles east from Puerto Madryn, is an excellent base for exploring the peninsula. Visited by southern right whales between mid-June and mid-December, the peninsula's sandy white beaches, cliffs full of fossils, and the clear waters of the Golfo Nuevo will be of great interest to all who go here.
The incredible experience of whale-watching aboard a boat is done from these shores, close enough to admire the whales' beauty, size, and activity. They are gentle and friendly creatures, as they swim gently under or alongside the boat, stick their heads out of the water, or show off their beautiful sculpted tails. Sometimes we see a mother and cub swimming together, the cub learning and playing, or see whales breaching, an astounding sight. In the 19th century there were more than 700 whalers sailing in these waters. An international protection treaty was signed in 1935, and since then the recovery of the mammals has been slow but steady. Naturalists estimate the present population to be only 2,000 strong. Averaging almost 40 feet in length and weighing more than 30 metric tons, southern right whales are baleen whales. They feed on plankton and krill (small crustaceans) as seawater filters through plates in their jaws. On this excursion you will also observe the sea lions and cormorant colonies at the foot of the pyramid-shaped cliff that gives this location its name, and incredible sunsets. Killer whales (Ornicus orca), their bodies black with white underbellies, also frequent the waters around Valdés Peninsula in pods. Their dorsal fins can be over 6 feet high. Before returning to the ship, we will enjoy an appetizer with local wine or beer at one of the paradores of the village.