Baby seals frolic in the shallow water of a bay, while on the next inlet penguins burrow into the sand to lay their eggs, with guanacos looking on. The Valdes Peninsula in Argentinian Patagonia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the conservation of marine mammals. Its sheltered coves and bays, along a 400-kilometre coastline, create perfect natural locations for sea animals that come here in large numbers to reproduce. Breeding populations of endangered southern right whales, southern elephant seals, orcas, dolphins, and southern sea lions are only some of the numerous marine animals that congregate here. Close to a million migrating Magellanic penguins also migrate here each year. Though a semi-desert region ploughed by rough winds, the land area of the Valdes Peninsula also hosts a wide variety of wildlife. Birds, armadillos, grey foxes, skunks, Patagonian hares, guanacos, and even wild cats occupy the stark terrain.

The orcas of the region have adapted to this abundance by coming almost to shore to grab their prey: sea lion and elephant seal pups. This orca hunting is one of the Valdes Peninsula’s most famous and unique phenomena.

Whale-watching between June and mid-December is surely one of the most popular activities for visitors. Abundant nutrients in its waters allow the Valdes Peninsula to be a wildlife-rich destination all year round. Depending on the season though, a different dramatic spectacle will be on display.

The Valdes Peninsula is almost an island surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean. It is connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. Hundred-metre high seaside cliffs, sandy or gravelly shores, and Patagonian scrub dominate the habitat, yet it supports a wealth of wildlife.

Diving and swimming with the friendly South American sea lions or fur seals has to be among the most enjoyable activities in the sea. The curious creatures are interested in humans and tend to come close to divers. These Patagonian sea lions live in the Valdes Peninsula all year round, unlike other migratory marine creatures that may only come here to breed.

Diving and swimming with the friendly South American sea lions or fur seals has to be among the most enjoyable activities in the sea. The curious creatures are interested in humans and tend to come close to divers. These Patagonian sea lions live in the Valdes Peninsula all year round, unlike other migratory marine creatures that may only come here to breed.

In the daytime, fur seals enjoy lazing on beaches. At breeding colonies, pups play around while adults keep an eye on them. Sea lion pups are fair game for orcas and sharks, that wait for the high tide to come close to the shore to grab a pup frolicking on the water’s edge.

Some 20,000 southern elephant seals migrate from the sub-Antarctic to the Valdes each year, for a short time between August and October, to give birth. During this period, the coastline of the peninsula will have about 500 different groups of them. Male southern elephant seals are enormous and some can grow up to 4,000 kilos; females on the other hand don’t get bigger than 900 kilos. The females deliver calves, nurse them, mate again, moult, and spend two months feeding in the waters around. They can be seen here lying on a beach near a vertical cliff, resting comfortably, and giving the occasional yawn.

Close to one million Magellanic penguins breed in seven large colonies in the Valdes Peninsula. The largest of these colonies is at Punta Tombo. Adults of this species of penguin are about 1.5 feet in height and weigh around four kilos. Magellanic penguins emit a loud, harsh braying sound to communicate with each other. The vocalization is heard more often in the mating season when the male calls out seeking a mate.

Close to one million Magellanic penguins breed in seven large colonies in the Valdes Peninsula. The largest of these colonies is at Punta Tombo. Adults of this species of penguin are about 1.5 feet in height and weigh around four kilos. Magellanic penguins emit a loud, harsh braying sound to communicate with each other. The vocalization is heard more often in the mating season when the male calls out seeking a mate.

Newborn Magellanic penguins start growing a basic layer of feathers when they are about three weeks old, to help them maintain their body temperature. A month later, with the breeding season done, the adults (and chicks from the previous year) moult, dropping all their old feathers as new ones emerge. This takes place over about three weeks, getting them ready to return to the ocean.

Magellanic penguins in the Valdes Peninsula nest in hidden burrows in the soil. They sometimes dig up to one metre in depth and end in a round chamber. Two eggs are laid, and the parents take turns incubating them, while the other forages in the ocean. Once hatched, chicks are brooded for 3-4 weeks, during which time the parents leave them in the burrows, only coming back to feed them every two or three days.

Magellanic penguins in the Valdes Peninsula nest in hidden burrows in the soil. They sometimes dig up to one metre in depth and end in a round chamber. Two eggs are laid, and the parents take turns incubating them, while the other forages in the ocean. Once hatched, chicks are brooded for 3-4 weeks, during which time the parents leave them in the burrows, only coming back to feed them every two or three days.

The hairy armadillo is a solitary creature that finds shelter in shallow burrows. They often come close to the beach in search of food. Their diet is quite varied, including anything from worms and insects to seed pods. When necessary, they can also swim by inflating their stomachs and intestines for buoyancy.

Building nests in underground tunnels in the open grassland or burrowing by the side of the road, this rather unusual owl is true to its name. The burrowing owl is widespread in the Punta Delgada region of the Valdes Peninsula. It is an essential part of the ecosystem, feeding on insects, including scorpions, and small mammals including rodents.

The flightless steamer duck lives on the Valdes Peninsula’s rocky coasts, moving to sheltered bays in the breeding season. This well-built waterfowl has wings but cannot fly. It uses its wings like paddles to help glide through the water while also kicking with its feet.Males are recognizable by their distinct orange beak and are famous for being extremely aggressive, especially during the mating season.

The flightless steamer duck lives on the Valdes Peninsula’s rocky coasts, moving to sheltered bays in the breeding season. This well-built waterfowl has wings but cannot fly. It uses its wings like paddles to help glide through the water while also kicking with its feet.Males are recognizable by their distinct orange beak and are famous for being extremely aggressive, especially during the mating season.

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