Penguins, elephant seals, sea lions, oh my!
The Valdes Peninsula is an important nature reserve that was first listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. After passing the El Desempeo checkpoint, the tour arrives at the Carlos Ameghino Interpretation Center at the Isthmus Ameghino, 40 miles away from Puerto Madryn.
The center has an excellent collection of and information about historical events that took place here, the ecosystems of the area, and the regional flora and fauna.
The excursion continues on gravel roads heading to Caleta Valds, where you can see the southern elephant seals, considered to be the world's largest seals. There are different hiking paths and several levels of balconies where you can position yourself to enjoy the landscape and the animals to the very fullest. You will be provided lunch here, and there may be an opportunity to see penguins nesting on a cliff nearby (time permitting, please note that they can only be observed through a fence).
At Caleta Valds and Punta Norte, you may be fortunate enough to watch orcas hunting for sea lions or seal pups on the shore, with a unique technique they developed by stranding themselves on the beach.
On the return trip, typical terrestrial fauna species that inhabit the region (guanacos, maras, choiques, foxes, armadillos, etc.) can be observed, as well as the salt flats - the most important depressions of South America. There may also be a short visit to a Sea Lion reserve (time permitting).
Reviewer: Beverley Allen
We took this tour in a mini-bus (18-20 persons) which was clean and in good condition. Our guide spoke excellent English and our very professional driver made every effort to provide a smooth ride over rough roads and to stop at every opportunity to view wildlife. This is a full day tour but most of it is travel to and from the peninsula, with short stops for bathroom breaks and to keep to the schedule. We did see Guanacos, Rheas, Armadillo, a burrow-dwelling Owl, Magellanic Penguins, Sea lions and Elephant Seals. You definitely get a feel for the very harsh, dry and inhospitable land that is this part of Patagonia. A box lunch (ham & cheese sandwich, granola bar, cookie and water) was provided. There is some walking, stair climbing, and rough terrain so this tour is probably not advisable for those with mobility concerns but over-all a very worthwhile excursion.
Reviewer: Sid sapakie
Great guide who stopped whenever we asked for picture opportunities . Saw a lot of wildlife including rhea and Mara which are less common. A lot of driving but well worth it.
Reviewer: Charles Schmidt
Viktor was very knowledgeable and approachable and made the whole trip one to remember
Reviewer: Diane & Gene
We were picked up right off our ship and driven by our guide (just us in a small car with her) to the National Park. She was a former Park Ranger and knew the best places to look for wildlife. We saw ostriches, guanacos, snakes, quail, owls, cavy, seals, penguins, and many more. She shared so much good information. It was a very pleasant day!
Reviewer: E.S. Verona
We were delighted with the very personal attention and expertise of our guide, who for many years had served as a park ranger on the peninsula. She was able to point out wildlife that we would never have seen without her trained eye. We were privileged to have our guide to ourselves and felt sorry for those who took the large tour buses. This was a highlight of our cruise experience.