If you are interested in seeing penguins and learning more about them through contact with nature, then it is well worth visiting one of the penguin colonies located in Atlantic Patagonia. The two main locations are Punta Tombo and Península de Valdés. The best time to visit these areas is between September and April, because once autumn starts, the penguins begin migrating to warmer shores.
Tours can be taken individually or in groups with the assistance of a guide. Each reserve has walkways that help avoid altering the natural environment. They also allow spectators to watch the penguins up close while they nest, court, incubate their eggs and forage at sea.
The chicks are born in November with a thin layer of gray feathers. The little ones quickly develop swimming skills and end up weighing up to 11 pounds. Petrels and orcas are their main enemies. However, fishing nets and oil spills have been the greatest danger posed to them for many years.
The Punta Tombo colony, located a few miles from Puerto Madryn, is the main penguin watching tourist destination. It is the country’s largest colony (more than one million penguins). A tour of the rookery and its vicinity takes an entire day and departs from Puerto Madryn. Access to the reserve is by gravel road. The first stop is at a 1.8 mile wide beach full of Magellanic penguins. In the same reserve you will see gray or southern Dominican gulls, skuas, royal and black-necked cormorants, terns, ducks and oystercatchers.
Another popular destination is Península de Valdés where in addition to seeing Magellanic penguins you will see giant whales. The peninsula has several protected areas: the Gulf of San José Provincial Marine Park which is an excellent location for scuba diving among reefs; the Punta Norte Wildlife Reserve with sea lions, elephant seals, skuas and penguins; the Punta Delgada Wildlife Reserve with penguins and elephant seals; the Lobería Puerto Pirámides; the Golfo Nuevo Provincial Wildlife Reserve; and the Isla Pájaros Reserve.
Puerto Pirámides is the only town with tourist services in Península de Valdés. Most travel agencies offer a visit to the town of Gaiman, a former Welsh village, during the return trip to Península de Valdés (which is usually taken from Puerto Madryn). There you will be able to enjoy delicious teas with homemade cakes and sweets.
Cabo Dos Bahías is the other major coastal reserve in Patagonia, located approximately three hours south of Trelew and 19 miles from Camarones. Here you will find penguin colonies, guanacos, foxes, rheas and sea lions. The town of Camarones integrates the brand new Ruta Azul (Blue Route), and is also the starting point of the bi-oceanic corridor. Fishing and scuba diving are the most popular activities that attract tourism to this area.
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