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Penninsula Valdes, Nature in its Most Dramatic.

February 23, 2015

Punta Gales, Peninsula Valdez. 17.2.15

We missed out by a few hours witnessing one of nature’s great dramas. Peninsula Valdez is renowned for the place where orcas intentionally beach themselves to try and grab a sea lion or elephant seal pup that happens to be too close to the waters edge. At 9 pm the caretakers at Punta Cantor witnessed such an event. An elephant seal was snatched from the waters edge by one of a group of orcas. I have seen it on TV and it is an amazing spectacle. There were nine elephant seals sleeping on the sand when we visited, yesterday there were ten. At first glance all we thought we could see were these creamy rocks then Joan thought one moved. On closer inspection it was the animals. Gerard Durrell had a similar experience when he was on the peninsula in the 50s. He was standing next to what he thought was a rock giving a talk on elephant seals to a couple of his helpers, then the rock moved. They are an amazing animal: males can grow over 5 metres and weigh up to 4000kg. The proboscis on the male is to warn off other males than may try to grab one of the females of their harem. They can hold their breath for over 15 minutes, handy when diving deep. Unfortunately I had been mucking with my camera and the photos of them are in black and white.

Earlier, on the advice of the wildlife officer, we were up early for a one and a half hour drive to Punta Norte where there is a large sea elephant colony. High tide was at 9am, the animals would have little beach to sleep on, easier for the orcas to attack. There would have been over 500 of the animals in clusters right along the beach, the largest group would have consisted of at least 80. Most females were sleeping, the pups in creches, the males keeping a watchful eye on the younger males and willing to do battlle if they came too close. All this 40 or 50 metres away. There was no sign of the killer whales that morning.

The peninsula is large. Over 4000 sq kms. It is also home to a large number of Magellanic penguins or as the Spanish call them, pinguinis. Pretty critters and not afraid of us humans. In fact their burrows were often less than a metre from the walkway with the animals resting within arms length. There are also family groups of guanacos, a member of the llama/alpaca family. Very haughty as they look back on you, perhaps annoyed having to move off the road. We didn’t see any armidillos or the foxes that are on the in the area.

At the camp site on the peninsula we met a couple from Melbourne. Heather and Tim bought their vehicle in Santiago and also have a boat they use on the canals of France. Tim is a keen fly fisherman and was able to give me invaluable information on where to try in the deep south.

Argentinians are keen on their motor homes. Most are old buses that have been converted in all configurations to suit their needs. Then they drive them to where they want to go for their Jan/Feb holidays and that’s where they stay. Ours is a non event for the locals, it”s nice for a change.

Last night we were free camping amongst some of these RVs at a run down campsite. The wind was coming from seaward, a thick hedge protected the bakkie. At about 3am

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