A Wildlife Bonanza on Peninsula Valdes

Maybe you’ve seen one of the nature program specials that show orca whales literally beaching themselves in order to feast on seals. It’s pretty freaking cool. Well, at least it looks that way on television. Though we recently visited Peninsula Valdes, where this survival of the fittest feat plays out, we didn’t see it. First of all, it’s not the right season. And second of all, you have to have the patience of a saint…or a Planet Earth videographer…to actually witness it as it doesn’t happen all that often.

But before you feel too sad for us (sob, sob, I know), let me just show you a few photos of what we did see on our day on Peninsula Valdes.

While on a large zodiac boat, we had a close encounter with two southern right whales, a mother and her baby. These majestic animals, which come to Peninsula Valdes to breed and give birth, were in their very last days in the area, as they are setting off any day now for the feeding grounds of Antarctica. These two whales hung out with our boat for nearly an hour, gradually getting closer and closer until they were practically right beside us. At 16 meters, the mother whale was larger than our boat. The baby, drinking 200 liters of milk each day, was well on its way to catching up. Though I’ve seen whales in the wild before, this was the closest I’d ever been, and I couldn’t help but ooh and aah every time they surfaced, which was approximately every 2-3 minutes.

While whale watching, we also saw a large colony of sea lions, who all seemed to prefer this one rock, though there were others nearby. We also spotted four bottlenose dolphins, which were hanging out with the whales.

The day involved a lot of driving on really bad roads as we hit wildlife hangout after wildlife hangout. Luckily the driving was made less boring by several wildlife spottings along the way, including a fox, some crazy rabbit thing, guanacos, and this father rhea and his baby. Actually, there were about 14 other babies with him. Apparently male rheas care for their offspring instead of the mothers, and not only do they care for their own, they also actively try to acquire others to care for by fighting other fathers and then stealing their chicks. Weird, huh?

The elephant seals proved a bit of a disappointment, as we didn’t see any with extremely prominent noses. We also didn’t see them do much. A few sets of them were fighting (or maybe just hugging), a couple were trying to bully others into fighting, but most were just laying there, looking awfully close to dead.

The penguins, however, didn’t disappoint. They completely amused us as they wandered around, looked at us bewilderdly, gathered together in little groups, and seemingly attempted to fly. We were also enamored by the little chicks that had already emerged and curious about the eggs not yet hatched. I just don’t think it’s possible to be around penguins and not smile (or for that matter, hold your nose, because phew for being so cute they sure do smell something awful).

So, sure, we didn’t see an orca attack, but we did get to see a lot of cool animals. Not a bad day, I’d say.

5 thoughts on “A Wildlife Bonanza on Peninsula Valdes”

  1. The sea lions pic is the best posted pic so far. You know, if there’s an (un)official reader photo poll going on that I don’t know about.

    You see, if you “hired” me as a blog advisor, you’d have all kinds of cool-ass interactive polls going on. You may not like a few of them, though.

  2. Wow! Showed PZ these photos today on my sweet new cell phone and she really liked the photo of Theresa zip lining the river. She said Hello! Mark and I decided that we are going to have to get her a computer and send her for lessons at the library.

    Hope you all are doing well. It’s exceptionally warm in Louisville today.

    Also I have a weird affection for penguins so any pictures that you get i can’t wait to see! Have a great day!

  3. Wow your whale and penguin pics are amazing! I am so envious you were that close to whales! I have always wantd to see them in person.

    Great Pics! You should enter them in the Smithsonian Wildlife photo contest when you get back — if they still have it!!!!

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