Patagonia encompasses the vast southernmost regions of South America shared by Argentina and Chile. This sparsely populated region split by the southern section of the Andes Mountains is a wild and rugged landscape composed of deserts, steppes, glaciers, fjords, icefields, temperate rainforests and endless grasslands. There are few places left in the world where one can feel such great isolation and vast emptiness virtually untouched by man. Itís a land of endless coastlines punctuated with numerous bays, inlets and peninsulas abounding with birds and marine wildlife. With two coasts, the Pacific bordering western Chile and the Atlantic along the south eastern coastline of Argentina the area abounds with marine mammals.
Our visit was to Peninsula Valdes in Atlantic Patagonia where the low pampas meet the Atlantic Ocean. As a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site Peninsula Valdes is a massive mushroom shaped peninsula that forms two large protected bays as it juts out into the Atlantic. Initially settled by sheep farmers the peninsula is still home to very large private estancias (ranches) some of which have established small eco-lodges which focus on the amazing diversity of both terrestrial and marine wildlife. In addition to being an important breeding ground for the Southern Right Whales the region is home to several large Elephant Seal, Southern Sea Lion and Magellanic Penguin Colonies. One of the more unique elements of the region are the Orcas that have learned how to intentionally strand themselves on the beach to catch sea lion and elephant seal pups. A unique behavior not found anywhere else on the planet. On land one encounters flocks of flightless Rhea, herds of Guanaco along with over 100 species of birds, armadillos, grey fox, pumas, pampas cats, mara, cuis and many other unique creatures. We stayed at a couple of rustic eco-lodges on the Peninsula putting us in the heart of this wild country with its endless dirt roads where you wonít see another person or vehicle for hours. Our visit to Peninsula Valdes was more like an African safari then anything else.
Photos by Bill & Linda Klipp