The Southern Right Whale: beautiful, enormous, astonishing, and definitely not shy. When you travel to Peninsula Valdes you will witness just what I mean aboard one of the daily whale watching tour boats.
The whales seem to appreciate the tourism just as much as we appreciate visiting them. All on board and full of emotion, our boat of tourists headed out into the Atlantic waters. Whales, as we learned from the well-informed guides, are highly vocal and rely on a variety of different sounds for underwater communication and navigation. Among the chatty sounds of the calls, clicks, buzzes, and water blowing that they produce, the sound of a boat motor is distinct. The other sounds may be used to communicate about where to find food, or when its time to change locations; but when they hear the boat motor, it can only mean one thing…it’s show time.
Within minutes there were huge black shadows appearing in the water surrounding us. The whales approached like submarines coming to the surface and they stuck around to get the attention and star treatment they were looking for. Some would swim along side our boat, others splashed around in the near distance, and one that was especially excited to see us, put on a performance of jumps and splashes.
The crowd responded with approval. Camera flashes lighting up the sea and a boat full of oohing and aahing was just what the whales were wanting. It was an incredible experience and an insight into nature at its best in Patagonia.
Of course, like all whales, there comes a time when they must migrate to find fresher food and a better climate. So a visit to Puerto Madryn is best scheduled from May to December when they are still present. From Puerto Madryn there is an unlimited supply of tourist agencies that will gladly reserve a spot for you on their Peninsula Valdes tours. However, if wanting to experience just the whales, one can also take a bus to Puerto Piramides, crash a night or two in the hostel there, and go on whale watching boat ride from the small beach town. If you make it to Patagonia, make sure you don’t miss the whales.