Patagonia: Puerto Madryn and a Plethora of Penguins

IMG_6022Patagonia is never going to be a budget destination. However since I have travelled all this way I thought I deserved to at least see a few penguins and a mountain or two before I turn round and head back up the continent.

So my first stop after Buenos Aires was Puerto Madryn. It’s a small city on the Atlantic coast, with a beach and some odd Welsh connections (Madryn is not a Spanish name; it was named by the Welsh settlers).

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Beach at Puerto Madryn

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Reasonably comfortable seat for the journey.  Maybe could lose the red curtains?

 

I got a bus from Buenos aires, which took 21 long hours and cost around £60/US$90. A flight would cost at least double that, although there were many times during the bus journey where I told myself ‘right, next time I get this choice I will fly’.

 

Like I say, there is a beach but the main attraction (for me anyway) was the variety of nearby wildlife. The two main side trips to do from Puerto Madryn are to the Valdes Peninsular, where you can see (depending on the season) a few penguins, sea lions and elephant seals amongst others, and a trip to Punta Tombo  Penguin sanctuary.

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Peninsular Valdes.  Those are sea lions down there.   A ‘proper’ camera (i.e. not my iPhone) would have made a better job, but I still got to see them with my eyes (and hear them too; they make the most amazing noises).  Take a sweater would be my advice.  It wasn’t exactly cold but there was a strong wind.

Is that enough penguins for you?  I said at the beginning that I could never get enough penguins but I do feel that I was nearing my penguin limit after Punta Tombo.

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I was told there was in the region of 1,800,000 penguins at Punta Tombo.  I can believe that.  By February they’ve had their babies and the chicks are waddling and swimming by themselves.  Next month they will head for warmer water (like me).  They can be vicious little things if cornered, so you have to watch where you walk to make sure you don’t annoy one of them.  I saw a penguin attack a wheelchair, after it was wheeled too close. 

If you are in a group you could probably hire a car and do it yourself but car hire is never economical for one person so I took excursions, which were actually surprisingly good. The main street in Puerto Madryn is full of tour companies offering these trips. I randomly picked one and we were taken in a car (just four of us) with a knowledgable driver/guide, and so it didn’t feel so much like being herded round on a tour. There were lots of larger tour groups on the circuit.

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Puerto Madryn beach. The water was a bit cold but the temperature on land was good.  By next month the beach season will be over here until next December.

My tours cost £35/$50 each, although there are park entrance fees, food and tips (last one obviously optional) on top of that. Don’t trust that the guide will speak English, even if the sales person says they do. Mine only spoke a few words. I don’t mind; I look on it as another opportunity to practice my Spanish, but if you don’t speak any Spanish you will want to make sure to get an English speaking guide.

Whale watching is another popular activity in the area, but the season had finished when I got there. No biggie. I’ve been whale watching before and to be honest I’ve always been a little disappointed. You spend hours on a boat getting there, only to see a couple of tails disappearing into the water up in the distance. If you’re lucky.

 

6 replies »

  1. Hi Sarah. How cute are these penguins! It looks a fabulous place. I knew that there were connections with Wales but never got to the bottom of how this happened. The beach looks lovely but you are so lucky to have come up close and personal with penguins. That is so cool. I am not envious of the 21 coach journey mind. I hope, for your sakes, the time went by quickly and that you were able to walk at the end of it. Or is one of those photos you lying on the beach with the sea lions …… just joking. Safe travels my friend xx

    • Yeah these bus journeys are exhausting me. There’s a rumour I”m not so young anymore to be doing long bus journeys, but I don’t believe it.
      Yeah a bunch of Welsh came out to Argentina in 19th century because the English were stopping them practicing their language, apparently. I do have a post about it if I ever get a strong enough internet connection to put it up.

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