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Kayaking with the Whales in Patagonia

Kayaking with the Whales in Patagonia Hot

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The water parts just a few yards ahead. You gasp in awe and grin as a mother whale surfaces and breathes, whooshing and puffing. At her side, at a 45-degree angle, her calf nurses. You’re close enough to see their individual markings. When they’re done, the mother slaps her tail four or five times or maybe rolls onto her back for a break. Apart from the whales, the only sounds are quiet waves lapping the nearby shore and sea birds in the distance. Argentina’s Golfo San Jose is the remote, protected bay where the Southern Right whales come every September -- their springtime -- to bear their young. It’s a protected area without motor boats, and the paddling is easy because it’s all shore paddling.

On the pebble beach, 18-foot-long elephant seals roar as they battle over harems, and furry black seal pups sunbathe. This is the wildlife refuge of Peninsula Valdes, in Chubut, Argentina, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The huge mammals are easy to see. We can get within 20 feet of the elephant seals, and the sea lions are curious and play near our kayaks, popping up to take a close look at us. We camp along the beach and fall asleep to the sound of the whales blowing. Even though we’re camping, we eat elegant meals on remote beaches, made fresh by a gourmet cook. For example, for lunch, in a cooking area she has carved out of the sand, she scoops bubbling lamb stew out of a 20” flat iron pot. It’s a heavenly mix: hot stew and fresh bread with fresh sea air on a cool spring day. Typical hors d’oeuvres would be salmon and capers on fresh bread or scallops in a local sauce.

Imagine sitting on a quiet beach in the early morning, drinking strong, hot coffee, nibbling a fresh roll and listening to the quiet waves and the whales blowing. We also go on hikes in the barren Patagonian steppes to see guanaco, armadillos, foxes, cavy (a large rodent), Patagonian skunk, and the pampas cat. Birdwatchers can see the Magellanic penguin, kelp gulls, lesser rhea, cormorants, egrets, blackish oyster catcher, and flying steamer.

We spend a week exploring the bay. Four nights are jeep-assist, and three nights are expedition style, where we carry the tents and all supplies in our kayaks. Some campsites can only be reached by kayak. We set up non-permanent camps and always try to leave no impact on the sites. Breakfasts include good coffee, cereal, eggs, juice and fresh bread. Lunches are usually sandwiches and salads. Dinners are international favorites with a fruit dessert. On the first and last nights of the trip we stay in comfortable local inns with private bathrooms. And as always, we start and end the trip with special celebration dinners.

Patagonia’s dramatic solitude amazes visitors. It’s so remote and desolate that the early missionaries ignored it. Because of the dry steppes and isolation, the ruins of ancient Indian villages stayed undisturbed. The first Europeans in this area were – surprisingly -- Welsh settlers who came in 1865, bringing their language and culture to their new world. The town of Trelew, where we start and end the trip, was settled by the Welsh. Even today, Welsh is the language of home and chapel in many Trelew homes. This trip astonishes even the most savvy paddler. Veteran guests says it’s the very best of all our trips. So imagine paddling slowly, feeling the cool water just under your thighs. Just ahead the water parts. Reverence fills you as a huge whale surfaces with a loud whoosh. Join us for that moment of wonder.

Departure Months
Number of Days
Travel Dates
September 1 - 14
September 16 - 29
Group Size Limit
Approximately 10 Travelers

A very important feature on all of our trips is the limited group size that we allow. We feel Adventure Travel as a whole is best explored in small groups.
Difficulty
Easy to Moderate
Price
2014 Pricing: $5,295.00
Services Included
  • Accommodations in mentioned hotels or hotels in similar category
  • All entrance fees and licenses
  • All meals mentioned in the Itinerary: B: Breakfast, L: Lunch, D: Dinner
  • An English speaking in country guide
  • One of our very own U.S. based guides
Services Excluded
  • All services not clearly mentioned in the Itinerary
  • Drinks during meals
  • International Flights and Airport Taxes
  • Meals not mentioned
  • Personal Insurance
  • Tips and Personal Expenses
  • Visa Fee
Trip Highlights
Kayaking with Southern Right Whales
Visiting a large Penguin Colony
Close encounters with Sea Lions

Itinerary
Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires, you will be picked up by your driver at the airport and delivered to the hotel. Enjoy some leisurely time around the hotel and Buenos Aires and we'll have a welcome dinner in the evening when everyone arrives.

Day 2 (D)

Welcome at Trelew airport and transfer to the town of Puerto Piramides. Meet guide to review medical information, check on the equipment and answer any questions. Enjoy a free afternoon to wander around Puerto Piramides afterwards we'll enjoy dinner and watch a short movie about Patagonia and it's wildlife. Accommodation in Puerto Piramides.

Day 3 - Day 10 (B, L, D)

Early in the morning we leave Puerto Pirámides to head towards Punta Buenos Aires, the northernmost edge of Golfo San Jose. After driving for about two hours on a gravel road we arrive to where our expedition begins. In the afternoon we set up our camp, get our kayaks ready and receive a navigation safety briefing and instructions about our expected conduct in the protected wildlife area from our guide.

Time allows for a seaside hike to visit a small lighthouse.

As we paddle along San José northern coastline we discover varied beaches, bays and coves. We visit Puerto San Roman, Bengoa beach where there's a small artisanal fishermen settlement, Punta Conos, Beach El 39, and Playa Fracaso to eventually arrive at Punta Tehuelche.

We leave our kayaks in Punta Conos to walk this area. Conos, named after some cone-like hillocks, boasts a huge concentration of marine fossils dating back million years typical of Peninsula Valdés protected area.

The wind blowing on the dunes uncovers and covers back again ancient Tehuelche settlements that existed along the Patagonian coast allowing us to recognize elements used by the natives such as utensils and arrowheads and to see the places where they used to eat.

Beach El 39 is a research area for Southern Right whales for which the Wildlife Conservation Society is responsible.

We also visit Playa Fracaso wetland, a sanctuary for arctic migratory shorebirds such as red knot, white rumped sandpiper and Hudsonian godwit among others. This is where the birds stop for a rest and food on their long trip from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego

Day 11 (B, L, D)

Early in the morning, after breakfast, we break off camp and start touring Península Valdés. Our vehicle takes us to the most attractive spots such as Punta Norte and Caleta Valdés eventually dropping us at Estancia Rincón Chico, located 3kms from Punta Delgada. During the tour, we visit colonies of Magellanic penguins and Southern elephant seals, and observe the steppe wildlife along our way. Overnight and farewell dinner at the typical country Inn-style, Rincón Chico.

DAY 12 (B, L, D)

After breakfast we get ready to visit a southern elephant seal colony. Lunch at Rincón Chico and relax time – Hike Overnight and farewell dinner in Rincón Chico.

Day 13 (B, L)

Breakfast and Lunch at Rincón Chico and Transfer to Trelew airport where we fly back to Buenos Aires. You'll have the evening to explore Buenos Aires. Overnight at hotel

Day 14

Our driver will take everyone to the Buenos Aires airport in the morning and our adventure will officially come to an end.

Note: Whale watching tour at Puerto Pirámides is offered on Day 1. If we are forced to cancel this tour due the weather conditions, the tour will run on day 12.
Eco friendly Bed & Breakfast
Multi site Camping
Ranch Guesthouse
Swap Start/End

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This trip was truly a sea mammal safari. Camping along the shores of Peninsula Valdes sea lions gamboled around our kayaks, pods of orcas cruised out in the bay, elephant seals hung out on their beach, moms nursing their babies, old beach masters trying to keep control of their harems. The Southern Right whales were the real stars of our trip. At high tide pairs of moms and babies swam back and forth along the beach, breaching and rolling over, a circus parade of whales thirty feet from our tents.
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Reviewed by Cynthia February 23, 2014

Sea Mammal Safari

This trip was truly a sea mammal safari. Camping along the shores of Peninsula Valdes sea lions gamboled around our kayaks, pods of orcas cruised out in the bay, elephant seals hung out on their beach, moms nursing their babies, old beach masters trying to keep control of their harems. The Southern Right whales were the real stars of our trip. At high tide pairs of moms and babies swam back and forth along the beach, breaching and rolling over, a circus parade of whales thirty feet from our tents.

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I thought the trip was the most amazing adventure and have told so many of my friends about it. Thank you to all for making it a great adventure and for being wonderful companions.
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Reviewed by Judi Duveen February 06, 2014

Amazing Wildlife

I thought the trip was the most amazing adventure and have told so many of my friends about it. Thank you to all for making it a great adventure and for being wonderful companions.

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