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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Puerto Madryn - Day 2 "The Flood"

Our second day in Puerto Madryn was the real proof as to why a tour company was really worth it for this trip.

Thursday night we were told that rain was in the forecast for the next day, the day we had planned to visit the Estancia San Lorenzo, a penguin and sea lion colony located on Peninsula Valdez. This colony is unique because it's one of the only places in the world where Orca whales have been observed beaching themselves in an aggressive hunting tactic. The whales work in teams to isolate sea lions and then when the prey seeks refuge on the beach the whales thrust themselves out of the water (essentially beaching themselves) in order to trap their victims and bring them back to the water for dinner. Super smart whales.

Anyways, when the rain started, it didn't stop. To put it in perspective, the average amount of rainfall this area sees per year is 236mm, for 1.5 days during our visit we had over 70mm of rain - a little less than a third of the rain they will get all year. I mean seriously, we were in the desert, who would have thought that it would rain? According to our tour guide "You have brought us the lucky!" which was great for the area, crappy for our vacation. Enter Sundance Spirit.

The vendors that Sundance reserved our tours with religiously called us in our hotel room the night before each tour to ensure our departure time or to alert us of any plan changes. On Thursday night they called to inform us that the only road (which happens to be made of dirt/clay) to Estancia San Lorenzo would be closed due to rain all day Friday (the day of our tour, total bummer). They also informed us that we could just switch our tour days and take the 2nd whale boat tour on Friday and go to the Estancia on Saturday. Score! A Solution! They reworked our reservations on the spot, communicated to the second tour company what we needed and the changes were seamless - Everybody's a winner!

So - here is an update on our revamped, rescheduled, rain-delayed day.
Note the McGyver-style bag + hairclip combo guarding my camera
We went on a second whale watching tour with Botazzi, and this trip was quite different from the previous day. Starting off, we had about 3 additional layers of rain-repellent clothing, making us look even more attractive than our Thursday attire and then the rain scared most of the other tourists off so our trip was much less crowded. The best part was that whales were ambivalent to the rain, and the wind was much calmer the second day so we saw our fair share of whales. I should probably mention that the whales we observed are Southern Right Whales, which are on the endangered species list. They come to Peninsula Valdez/Puerto Madryn bays each year between June and November to breed before heading further south, to the Antarctic, to feed during the summer months of December - March. Full grown whales can be up to 60 feet long and can weigh up to 80 tons. They're pretty hearty animals.

Here is a pretty small calf breaching. Our guide explained that it is believed breaching is a form of communication among adults, but the calves breach much more often, which is thought to be a way to attract their mother's attention.

Another attention-craving calf.

And yet another...

Our boat's captain was insistent on finding this mother/calf pair because the calf is so distinctly colored. This gray/white baby is pretty unusual coloring for the Southern Right Whales.
One of the last stops that we made was right near a different mother/calf pair. We were able to get within 100 feet of the mother who was floating on the surface, so the captain cut our engine and let us just float and take some pictures. It didn't take long for the mother whale to get curious and swam right into our boat while "nudging" it with her big whale nose. We literally could not have gotten any closer. My long distance lens could not zoom out enough to get a full picture.

I was amazed.

Our guide showed us a little favoritism and we got some of the best seats in the house.
Captain Jon
I'll leave you with this short video, in case you haven't gotten the full extent of our whale trip. This was when the mama whale was swimming over towards our boat. You can see the little baby next to her mirroring her movements. Pretty incredible. It was absolutely worth going, rain and all, and we saw enough whales to carry us through years to come.


  1. I am really enjoying the pics of the two of you all geared up :) It looks like an awesome trip though!

  2. AMAZING VIDEO!!!!!!!!!!! and that picture of you two in the rain gear is a classic. you should frame it and put it on the shelf next to the picture from your junior high school dance. :)

  3. This is INCREDIBLE! Grant and I are so jealous and I've now added this to my list of things I want to do someday. So happy for you guys that you're getting to chance to go on so many fun adventures! Miss you!