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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Puerto Madryn - Day 1

We spent last week brushing shoulders with nature in Puerto Madryn, and I have to admit, it was incredible.  To plan this trip we used a tour company called Sundance Spirit, which has been highly recommended since the day we moved to Buenos Aires, and they were worth their weight in gold for us.  Allan and his staff listened to the type of trip we were interested in taking, they executed quickly and they provided us with a very thorough packet of information prior to leaving - which were all things that I expected from a tour company.  The beauty of booking through Sundance was that when things did not go according to plan, all of the local folks that we had tours book through automatically rearranged schedules and reworked our trip on the spot.  Considering that the weather was uncooperative to the point of ridiculous, this was a huge bonus for keeping our trip on schedule.  Here's the rundown:

We departed for Puerto Madryn on a direct flight from Buenos Aires to Trelew airport on Wednesday afternoon.  This was the smoothest experience that we've had with Aerolineas Argentinas airlines, which is currently the only option when traveling to Trelew.  The flight was quick and easy, it was only 2 hours or so, no big deal.  From Trelew, it is about an hour trip into Puerto Madryn, which is the main town in this area, but we continued on another 40 minutes or so to Puerto Piramides, where we opted to stay during our trip. 
Puerto Piramides has far less to do, the town is literally one short street, but it is located right where all of the whale watching boats depart and alleviates the need to drive to and from Puerto Madryn each time you want to see whales.  We stayed at Las Restingas, which was easily the nicest hotel in town.  Located on the water, we were able to get insanely clear photos of whales from our hotel room - photos like this baby whale tail on the right.

Jon is ready to scope some whales
On our first full day, we had a whale watching excursion planned with Bottazzi, one of the handful of tour companies lining the streets.  We were able to walk over to the tour office and sign up for any of the tours offered that day, although beware, the excursion times are subject to change.  We originally expected to leave at 11am, it was moved to 12pm and we actually left around 12:30pm.  It was a great tour (with an English speaking guide), with the exception of the fact that the boat was a bit crowded and at times it was difficult to get unobstructed photos.  Eventually, I got brave (or just frustrated) and started requesting people sit down when we were close to the whales.  This was a beautiful, but extremely windy day, so we had lots of whale activity and even saw a few sea lions.  We were out on the water for just under 2 hours and I took no less than 1,000 pictures, but with the wind and choppy water I had just about reached my sea-sickness point when we headed back to shore. Nothing describes it better than the pictures, so I'll stop rambling and just show some of the shots from the trip. 

The main reason that the whales come to this bay is to breed, so we saw many mother/baby pairs.  This young whale has not yet learned to breathe out of their blowhole so he kept bobbing to the surface for air.  
This little guy was just popping up to say hello.  And to breathe.
 There is a huge problem now with an overpopulation of seagulls in the area.  The birds have taken to biting the fatty backs of whales and leaving horrible scarring marks.  It became one of the easiest ways to spot the whales, just look to where the seagulls were congregating. 

This is a mother and baby pair, and the baby has a slightly open mouth, probably because they are starting to eat krill.  Before the babies adjust to eating krill, they drink up to 300 liters (~80 gallons) of milk per day.

We got pretty close.

Here is a whale adapting to the seagull problem.  The whales have started lounging with their bellies up, to discourage the seagulls from biting.  Apparently this is a highly unusual behavior for whales.  It looks pretty cool to see them from head to tail though. 
This was the first of our whale watching tours, and each of which were quite different.  We were amazed at the number of whales that we saw in this short period of time, with even more to see from our hotel.  Day 1 = Success!

1 comment:

  1. HOLY MOLY!!! So many whale sitings! I'm so jealous :) Great camera work!!