Wildlife Guide to Peninsula Valdes

by on 8th November, 2023

Wildlife Guide to Peninsula Valdes

The wildlife guide to Peninsula Valdes will help you decide the best time to visit Argentina’s number one animal haven.

Peninsula Valdes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its role as a marine mammal and bird sanctuary. The peninsula offers some of the world’s best whale-watching opportunities.

There’s also the chance to see unique orca hunting techniques, where adults beach themselves while hunting sea lion pups.

There are sea lions, birds, and elephant seals, among other animals, that call this unique slice of Argentine coastline home. You can even walk among some of the world’s largest penguin colonies in this Patagonia wildlife paradise.


What Is the Valdes Peninsula Famous For?

Peninsula Valdes is famous for its beautiful coastline and its fantastic wildlife. Highlights include:

  • Whale watching from the shore or boats.
  • Spotting orcas beaching themselves while hunting sea lions.
  • Walking among huge Magellanic Penguin colonies.
  • Enormous sea lion and elephant seal populations.
  • Kayak, snorkel, and diving tours among the wildlife.




When Is the Best Time To Visit Peninsula Valdes?

The best time to visit Peninsula Valdes is between June and March. There are various ‘best times’ to travel to Valdes, depending on your wildlife interests.



Here are some highlights:

Southern Right whales reproduce and care for their young in Peninsula Valdes from June to December. Visitors may see mothers and calves, plus whales leap from the water, a truly spectacular sight.

Magellanic Penguins begin arriving around September to start their breeding season, staying until March. January and February are when the chicks hatch, and sea lions chase them along the beach.

Orcas patrol the shoreline of Peninsula Valdes from September to April. The main attraction for visitors happens in March and April; orcas beach themselves while hunting sea lions.

The best time to see the most wildlife in Peninsula Valdes is from November to January. However, some experts say it’s more like October to December. Most marine mammals are present, and many animals are in the middle of their reproductive cycles.




What Wildlife Can I See in Peninsula Valdes, Argentina?

Peninsula Valdes is home to more than 1,000 southern right whales, orcas, and over 300,000 Magellanic Penguins that live in burrows or under bushes. Other wildlife highlights include:

  • Southern elephant seals spend around 80% of their time in the water, with the most significant number on land from August to March.
  • Sea lion colonies, with up to 3,000 individuals living across Peninsula Valdes’ coast.
  • The distinctive black-and-white Commerson dolphins arrive in mid-November to reproduce. There are also scores of dusky, or Fitzroy, dolphins that love to pirouette out of the ocean.
  • On land, you will find armadillos, guanacos, grey wolves, hares, skunks and more.

The birdlife in Peninsula Valdes is extraordinary, with more than 180 species year-round. The flightless Darwin’s rhea, which looks similar to an ostrich, royal cormorants, flamingos, hawks and burrowing owls are among the highlights.

Bird watchers love to visit Isla de los Pajaros in the Golfo San Jose. Migratory birds that visit include the Antarctic pigeon.

Lesser Rheas, Bahia Bustamante, Patagonia, Argentina


What Are the Best Wildlife Spots on Peninsula Valdes?

There are plenty of wildlife-spotting opportunities throughout Peninsula Valdes. Most people base themselves in Puerto Madryn or Punta Piramides and explore.

The best wildlife-spotting areas in Peninsula Valdes are:

Punta Norte: With its lighthouse as a reference point, Punta Norte is home to more than breeding pairs of Magellan penguins on the shore of Golfo San Matias.

Orcas beach here at high tide in March and April to hunt sea lion pups. There are also elephant seals here.

Punta Canto/Caleta Valdes: This pretty place often has penguins and orcas (Sep-Nov) to see at high tide, and there are usually some elephant seals hanging around.

Punta Delgada: Elephant seals, southern right whales, and orcas may be seen from the shore from September to November.

Punto Tumbo:  This is a wildlife highlight for many. Punto Tumbo is a 2-3 hour drive south of Puerto Madryn and home to almost 500,000 Magellanic penguins from September to March. Such a significant attraction does draw a lot of people. October is popular because the males fight for females’ attention.

Punta Piramides: Whale-spotting boat tours—there’s even a yellow submarine with submerged viewing windows—leave from Punta Piramedes. There are also kayak tours and beautiful coastal walks for those who stay overnight.

A two-hour walk takes you to a loberia viewpoint to see sea lions and birds. A tidal-dependent five-hour walk leads you through fossil-filled dunes to a lookout point. A bracing and refreshing dip in the sea is recommended for the hardy.




What Are the Best Wildlife Spots in Puerto Madryn?

Puerto Madryn has several wildlife highlights. You can even see whales from the shore, sometimes leaping from the water, from June to December.

El Doradillo: This beach is just north of the town. From here, you can look for southern right whales swimming in Golfo Nuevo.

Puerto Madryn: Take a  snorkel or kayak with sea lions tour straight from the town or scuba diving for experienced divers.

Punta Loma: Just south of Puerto Madryn, Punta Loma features sea lions and a large colony of rock cormorants.




When Can You See Whales in Valdes Peninsula?

You can spot southern right whales in Peninsula Valdes from June to December. However, May and January sightings are also possible.


Are There Penguins at Peninsula Valdes?

There are more than 300,000 Magellanic Penguins living in Peninsula Valdes. The majority are found in Punta Norte.


Magellanic Penguins, Bahia Bustamante, Patagonia, Argentina


Where Can I See Orcas in Argentina?

Peninsula Valdes is an excellent place to spot orcas when visiting Argentina. They are present at Valdes from September to April. Many people come in March and April to spot their unusual hunting technique of beaching themselves while pursuing sea lion pups.


How To Get to Peninsula Valdes?

Puerto Madryn is the main access point for Peninsula Vales. Argentina is vast, and travel distances are enormous, so most people fly into the area.

There are two airports servicing Puerto Madryn: the nearby Puerto Madryn El Tehuelche Airport (code: PMY) or Trelew (REL), with most flights coming from Buenos Aires. Trelew is around a 45-minute drive from Puerto Madryn.

Buses stop at Puerto Madryn. Example journey times:

  • Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn:        18-20 hours
  • El Calafate to Puerto Madryn:            22-24 hours
  • Mendoza to Puerto Madryn:              23-25 hours


View of Aconcagua from plane, Argentina


What Activities Can I Enjoy Visiting Puerto Madryn?

There is a lot more to Puerto Madryn than wildlife. Other attractions include:

  • Visit the Museum of Paleontology Egidio Feruglio for fantastic dinosaur fossils.
  • Visit Gaiman and enjoy a Welsh tea in this historic Welsh-speaking town.
  • Enjoy the sandy beach, funky cafés, and bars of Puerto Piramidies.
  • Visit the historic El Pedral Estancia with its private penguin colony and fantastic food.


The Complete Wildlife Guide to Peninsula Valdes

Whales, orcas, Magellanic Penguins, and sea lions are among Puerto Madryn’s iconic wildlife. Visiting from September to December gives you a great chance to enjoy abundant marine wildlife in this UNESCO World Heritage site.

We can help organise day trips, kayak tours, birdwatching, and many other fantastic activities in and around Puerto Madryn. Check our Puerto Madryn guide or contact us for more.

Ask our travel consultants for travel advice in Patagonia and South America.




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