Kayaking with the Whales in Patagonia
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.
Arrive in Buenos Aires, you will be picked up by your driver at the airport and delivered to the hotel. Leisurely time around the hotel and Buenos Aires, welcome dinner in the evening when everyone arrives.
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. Free afternoon.
Welcome dinner. Accommodation in Puerto Piramides
DAY 3 - DAY 10
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 get to the place where our first expedition day takes place. In the afternoon we set up our camp, get our kayaks ready and receive from the guide a navigation safety briefing and instructions about our expected conduct in a protected area.
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 neartic migratory shorebirds such as red knot, white rumped sandpiper and Hudsonian godwit among others. This is where they stop for rest and food in their long trip from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego
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.
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.
Breaskfast 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
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 have forced to cancel this tour due the weather conditions, the tour will run on day 12.
September 1 - 14
September 16 - 29
14 Days / 13 Nights
2012/2013 Price: $5,295
|Lodging & Accomadations|
5 Star Hotel
2 Nights at a Private Sheep Ranch where a large Elephant seal colony stays
This trip consists of a variety of accomadations or various days. Please read the itiniery for more detail and specifics.
This trip is rated easy. It involves light hiking each day, 2 - 3 hours of Kayaking each day and staying at remote campsites.
|Services Included||Services Excluded|
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- Relaxing at Camp
- Southern Right Whales
- Observing the Penguins
- Elephant Seal Battle
- Watching the Whales
- Setting up Camp
- Whale Tale 2
- Kayaking along Patagonia's Coast
- Penguin Strolling