Peninsula Valdes: Kayaking in search of whales, Argentina

by on 4th December, 2015

Kayaking in Peninsula Valdes

Salty sea dogs and jumping sea wolfs in Tom’s blog about kayaking and exploring Peninsula Valdes, Argentina’s prime whale-watching destination.

Watch the video here.


He writes:

“An old, old sight, and yet somehow so young…There’s a soft shower to leeward. Such lovely leewardings! They must lead somewhere — to something else than common land, more palmy than the palms.”

The words of Captain Ahab, chasing his nemesis whale Moby Dick in the Pequod ship in Herman Melville’s classic novel. Words that bobbed in my head as my kayak gently canted towards a sea lion colony.

Kayaking in the San Jose gulf of Peninsula Valdes chasing whales can do much to incline a person’s mind a la Ahab.

It was hot, a beautifully clear day and a zephyr provoked the sea into waves that susurrated as they slipped past my kayak.

Curious sea lions flopped from their ocean rock home, which smelt a bit like an old wet dog, into the sea and poked their heads up, inspecting us, coming within a metre before submerging into the depths.



Sea kayak in Peninsula Valdes, Argentina


Oyster Catchers chirruped past, accompanied by the occasional Shearwater, along with Terns, Gulls and my new favourite aerial swooper – the Giant Petrel.


Water water everywhere

But not a whale in sight…

Up to 1,500 Southern Right Whales populate the two gulfs around Peninsula Valdes – San Jose and the New Gulf – from June onwards.

July and August often see great displays of whales leaping from the sea, while September to December is when mothers and calves play and jostle close to the shoreline, before departing Valdes before Christmas.

I knew they hadn’t left yet – I’d seen some from the seafront hotel in Puerto Madryn as well as on a guided tour from the laid back Puerto Piramides – but this day was too warm, too still to coax them to the shoreline where we paddled.

Pablo, sea kayaking expert and guide, gazed constantly into the distance, looking for signs of the beasts. I spent a glorious day paddling next to dramatic sea cliffs, watching sea lions and finding the inner peace that evaded Captain Ahab.

Kayaking on Peninsula Valdes, trying to come eye to eye with one of the world’s most enigmatic and enormous animals in its own environment, while at the same time protected only by a fibre glass shell, definitely gives a bit of perspective.


More than meets the eye

“Fin ahoy!” shouted Pablo.

There it was…a glimpse, in the distance, or merely a wave breaking, or perhaps a sea lion leaping.

Had I seen it? I think I wished I had, more than I actually did.

Melville wrote this of the Pacific, but its Atlantic cousin bore the same for me that day.

“There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seems to speak of some hidden soul beneath…”



Southern Right Whale, Peninsula Valdes


Andean Trails offers a number of kayaking options across Patagonia and South America, from 1-7 days.


Contact us for more.


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