Puerto Piramides and Peninsula Valdez
My intention for riding to Puerto Madryn was to visit Puerto Piramides and the Peninsula Valdez. The Peninsula Valdez is known for being a prime location to observe marine life such as sea lions, elephant seals, fur seals, southern right whales, dolphins and orcas.
All I really wanted to see was the orcas.
In March and April the orcas are known to hunt sea lions and elephant seals in an area of the Peninsula Valdez called Punta Norte. At times, they beach themselves on shore to attack their prey. Pods teach their young how to hunt in this manner. It is the only place in the world where this style of orca hunting occurs.
It was the first week of May, so it was rather late in the season to observe this behavior. It was late in the sea lion breeding season and late in the orca migration season. I still thought that it was worth the effort to ride across Argentina for the chance to see this phenomena. I was hoping that everything would come together.
I arrived in Puerto Piramides and planned to stay for a few days. It was a pretty small town made up of two cross streets. The population of Puerto Piramides is supposedly around 200 people. The population of the entire Peninsula Valdez is supposedly around 400 people.
On my first full day on the peninsula I thought that I'd take a ride around the area to familiarize myself with the roads. The roads were all ripio (gravel). The peninsula may not look so big, but it is about 1,400 square miles.
There were elephant seals lounging on the beach. Not much else going on.
It was getting late in the day, so I headed back toward Puerto Piramides. It would be another hour and a half of riding. The sun was starting to set in the west. Again, I had the road all to myself.
For a chance to see the orcas I would need to be at Punta Norte at high tide. I checked the tide charts online and high tide was forecast to be at 9am. It took 1:30 hours to ride from Puerto Piramides to Punta Norte. So, the next day I got up at 7am and left the hotel at 7:30am to ride back to Punta Norte. It was dark when I started. Luckily it was not too cold. It was a little tricky riding on the gravel in the dark, but I got accustomed to it. After about an hour there was sunlight. I arrived at Punta Norte at almost exactly 9am... just in time for high tide. And then I waited. I was surprised at how high the tide reached up the beach.
Looking south, this was low tide from the day before.
This was high tide.
Looking north, this was low tide from the day before
And it happened. I believe the adult caught a sea lion and chewed it up.
I also caught a glimpse of this Patagonia grey fox.
All in all, it was a pretty memorable experience.... traveling to the peninsula, scouting the area, riding the ripio, spotting some unusual wildlife and observing the orcas hunting. I definitely felt like I was out there. One park ranger said that I would have about a 3% chance of seeing orcas hunting so late in the season. Well, a slim chance is still a chance. Glad I took it.