Puerto Madryn (Argentina)
01.06.2011 - 03.06.2011 3 °C
You must go to Puerto Madryn is the message that I would like you to all take from this blog- if you´re bored already then please feel free to stop reading now. It has been so nice to spend a few days away from the city, with it´s museums and galleries, and just experience an environment that we do not have at home. Yes it´s a lot colder and I have put thermals, hats, scalves, gloves, coats etc, to good use, but you just don´t get the opportunity at home to wake up in the morning and head to the beach to sit and watch the whales. On my first morning I saw between 5-10 southern Right Whales and they came so close to the shore due to the beach being so steep. Annoyingly my camera just didn´t react quick enough to take many good photos, however that was probably a good thing as it made me just sit and watch the show with my eyes rather than through a lens. Although you obviously didn´t see the full 15 meters of whale at any point, just watching them dip in and out of the water, flashing a thin perhaps, was amazing. As I was watching the whales a group of 12 penguins then swam past, although heading in the wrong direction. They shouldn´t really be there at the moment, it´s a bit too southern for them, so hopefully they´ll turn around soon. You had to stop yourself from following them and trying to chase them along the beach as you were really fighting and loosing battle. They can swim a lot faster than you can run along a stony beach, so you just had to make yourself stand and wait to see them again.
That afternoon I then went with a guide to Pta. Ninfas to sit with about 30 elephant seals- you need to sit with them so as not to seem threatening. If you do scare them then they waste their energy by moving around, and they obviously don´t have enough energy otherwise they would be out swimming in the sea. They are huge, some males getting up to 4 tonnes, and it looks like a lot of effort for them to move around, only using their front flippers to drag their bellies across the beach. They also have such massive eyes and stare at you why they make noises that sound like belching. Elephant seals are surprisingly hairy and what I didn´t realise, until sitting with them, is that their flippers have little fingers with nails and when they scratch themselves it looks very human. They didn´t seem that put out by us sitting there, however the male sea lions were very quick to move away- they can move a lot faster as they use their back and front flippers.
My final activity with the wildlife of Puerto Madryn was to go scuba diving with the sea lions, they were pups so nowhere near as large as the males I had seen the day before, but still pretty robust. I´ve only been scuba diving once before, so it took me a little while to get used to the breathing etc., but after that I was completely distracted from the fact I was 7m underwater due to the many sea lions surrounding me. You don´t play with the sea lions, they play with you, nudging you, playfully biting you and tugging your wetsuit. It was great to swim alongside them as they twirled around you or holding them until they bounded off again, I just want to do it again now. It was such a privilege to be able to go into their home, into the sea, and see them all together naturally rather than entering something that is man-made. I was very cold when leaving the water but we made our second dive into a ship wreck. This allowed me to practice my diving a bit more as there were obstacles to contend with and holes to get through. The other guy that did the dive with me got stuck at one point, and I found it funny that this panicked me, who could move freely, nearly as much as it worried him. In a few seconds the instructor was there however to unhook him from a bit of the wreck and we were on our way back to the surface.
Next stop- Chile! I hope there will not be any obstacles..................