Sea Lions and Penguins and Dolphins OH MY! - Puerto Madryn
Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Day 3 - Swimming with Sea Puppies and Making Mama Proud.
We arrived in Puerto Madryn on time and without any mishaps. Phew. If you missed the chaos of Buenos Aries day 1 & 2 click here
Our reserved hostel was Che Patagonia a cute little place right along the coast. We had written our ahead of time to make sure we knew our options of tours and attractions as soon as we got there, especially now that we were a day behind. We had decided on swimming with the sea lions (Lobos Marinos) today as it was the whole reason we were headed to Puerto Madryn and easy to do in a half day.
Our hostel recommended Madryn Buceo and they were fantastic. A family owned business, Mom runs the shop, Dad runs the boat, Son is the dive instructor. Very kind and they spoke English well but were very patient when we tried to speak some Spanish.
We were fit for all of our gear top to bottom wet suits, cap over our head and everything. Since it is not high tourist season now, they paired up with another company’s boat to take us out.
Before leaving we were instructed on the rules of the preserve and how to interact with the animals. Punta Tombo is a natural reservation, and no one is allowed on the land where the sea lions harbor, however people are allowed to swim in the water around them. Being the curious creatures they are they sometimes come out and play with you. You are asked not to scream or go over to them and try to pet them but if they come to you, you may pet them. To pet them though you must make a fist and they you may touch them. You make a fist as they are “water puppies” and may playfully bite you, including biting and taking your glove! Ha! They say they are harmless and just want to play like a puppy would! But a fist is too big for them to grab so that prevents them from stealing your glove!
I won’t lie I was a little nervous at first with all the gear on floating in the waves. Waves scare me quite a bit, and I don’t like not being able to breath in water. Even holding my breath kinda freaks me out. So with the mask preventing me from breathing through my nose and head suit so large it covered so much of my face it almost closed over my mouth! I got a little anxious at first but never felt in danger. You hold onto a floating ring first thing in the water, so its very controlled. But the second I put the snorkel in my mouth it stopped the mask and cap from ganging up on me and I was fine the rest of the time. So if you’re someone like me who gets nervous with open water don’t be, it was so wonderful to join these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat and not just view them from a boat afar.
When we arrived most were sun bathing, a few pushing each other around or climbing over each other, and a couple swimming. I will find a way to attach videos to show how cool they were and just how close we got! We were able to swim almost right up to the rocks next to them! It was very cool. During our swim we got to see a young male attempt to steal an alpha male’s ladies. The alpha male saw him and took action. He puffed up his chest from afar and told the other male to get lost and the young male surprisingly did immediately. But the alpha male came over to his girls anyways and checked on them. He jumped into the water and regardless of how big he was jumped back up onto a huge rock and climbed up. It was very impressive. He talked a lot and made some boisterous sounds to let everyone know he was in charge and eventually went back to his spot before after a bit of a swim. He didn’t care we were near AT all.
A few seals posed for some pictures and eventually a handful came out to swim around us, getting pretty close and swimming underneath us but none close enough for me to touch. It was still and amazing experience all together and I was completely in awe of them. My mother would have absolutely adored something like this. Before she passed away she worked in a sea lion and seal rescue near San Francisco called Marine Mammal Center. Who have done wonderful work for the marine life in the Bay Area for years. When my mother passed away she wanted her ashes spread in the ocean so she could be near the ocean, sea lions and seals she loved so much. We took her ashes to a point near our town where seals and sea lions are known to perch on a small island and spread her ashes in the water there. From a small hike up we can sit on a hill side and listen to the sounds of these beautiful animals and remember her. This was a trip very special to me in her memory. The second I heard of it this was my #1 priority in Argentina. And it didn’t disappoint. Although I did ask her to send some more down to play with us and they didn’t listen. I was happy with the experience regardless.
We kept the rest of the day simple and healthy, as the last two days had been a malnutrition whirlwind.
Day 4 - Sea Lions, Penguins and Dolphins OH MY.
Bright and early we set out to go see the colony of Penguins that nest on a reserve along the coast during summer time. Summer penguins! Penguins who like warm weather, who knew! I always thought of penguins as cold and liked icy weather but they are not the only kinds! The Punta Tombo Protected Natural Area is the largest continental reserve of Magellanic Penguins. It was created for its conservation in order to ensure benefits for present and future generations.
The land preserved for them was donated by the original landowners and farms solely to the protection of these wonderful creatures. Hundreds of thousands, approximately 400,000, live on land preserved for their nesting complete with barriers and strict guidelines to keep from disturbing them in their natural habits and routines. The reserve consists of a trail of about 3 km (round trip) right along the beautiful coast line.
They were everywhere and nest in the ground digging and building shallow holes. Penguins are monogamous each breeding season and take turns to go to the ocean and bring back food. Very modern relationships these penguins. Haha!
The landscape was also beautiful and scattered penguins everywhere just made it that much more magnificent. Many were waddling to and from the ocean and taking a dive for food while others stayed back with the nest, and chicks or just sunbathed everywhere.
Our next stop was dolphin watching! As we pulled out of the harbor with numerous fishing boats we got to see more sea lions up close dancing among the boats waiting for fish scraps they will throw off the boats as they go through their catch. Very magnificent curious creatures playing with each other as they waited and checking out our boats just to be sure we did not have scraps too.
Then we made it out into the open water and founds some playful dolphins. Dolphins down here are a beautiful black and white pattern like an oreo. They love to swim and play with the waves from the boats. It was beautiful and so elegant to watch them swim here and there, under the boat, by the side of the boats and jump in and out of the water as we drove around the open ocean. Wonderful captivating creatures, it broke my heart at how much plastic I saw on the shores and even in the ocean knowing how much more there was out there infecting these glorious creatures and more wonders of the ocean more and more every day. Sigh. I wish everyone could see all of these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat and maybe then we would desire to do more to save their homes but things as simple as bringing a water bottle, or refusing to buy one. And if we are stuck in buying one, at least making sure it is properly recycled. Please think of these wonderful creatures every time you buy plastic and know it ends up in their home, destroying it and appearing as food.
Speaking of food, I had not eaten anything since breakfast and breakfast was only a bowl of oatmeal and some coffee. And lets just say I was losing my wits and needed some sustenance. As soon as we got back to the tour office we walked around and grabbed some delicious steak, mashed potatoes and vegetables in a garlic pure….. noommmmm. After that it was back to the hostel for a quick change, and off to the bus terminal for our next overnight adventure. Bus leaves at 8pm and arrives the next day at 11:30 in Bariloche. The land of chocolate and gauchos.
QUICK TIPS AND NAMES OF TRANSPORT USED, HOUSING STAYED IN AND SITES TO SEE:
Alfoncina Storni, 16, U9120
Puerto Madryn, Chubut, Argentina
Phone: +54 280 445-5783
B. Brown 1900 - Bajada 5 - Balneario Sara
Puerto Madryn - Patagonia Argentina
Phone:0280 15456 4422
Av. Marcelino Gonzalez, s/n,
Puerto Rawson, Argentina
Phone: +54 9 280 459-1514
TAXI! Its very cheap and easy in Puerto Madryn. There is a taxi station at the bus stop, and your hostel or hotel will gladly call you one for anything you need as well. They were very friendly and professional here!