Watching Whales, Sea Elephants + Penguins in Patagonia

Valdes Peninsula, Argentina - 2002

Flapping tail-fins as whales leap and splash – mother and calf at play.

whale collage valdes peninsula argentina
Whales play in the sea near Valdes Peninsula on the Patagonia coast of Argentina.


City of 350,000 – penguins (and at the height of the season, there’ll be 1.5 million).

They live on the coast.

Some live a kilometre inland, commuting to the beach daily to eat, socialise and swim.

Every year, between October and January, they return to the same burrow.

They named these penguins after Magellan

When his expedition encountered them in 1520, his botanist called them “silly birds.”

To me, they’re cute, even cool.

I mean, who doesn’t love penguins?

They’re so nonchalant, staring back at the larger staring species.

penguin collage valdes peninsula argentina
Penguins – Valdes peninsula in southern Argentina.

Actually, ‘penguin’ is a Welsh word given by the early settlers in Patagonia.

It means ‘white head’.

(But in English, ‘whitehead’ translates as “F*ck, gotta ‘nother pimple on me nose”).

Penguin’s squawking at me. Charges in my direction!

What have I done?

I dodge away for its beck’s sharp and because a swift-kick to its head will not win any points as an eco-tourist. (Particularly with a half-finished bottle of red in my hand).

It races past and into a hole.

The Argentine guide says he’s never seen behaviour like it.

penguins valdes peninsula argentina

All’s explained as we turn around.

Aware that of all the million burrows around us, I happen to be blocking his home. Blocking the path to his loved one.

It seems, even penguins get jealous.

Yet I’m certain his babe didn’t glance my way; Magellanic Penguins remain monogamous for life.

Other inhabitants of the Patagonian coast are sea elephants

The freedom of these slothful creatures is enticing.

Unfortunately, the males are fat. With flappy wrinkles and a stubby trunk; only a mother could love such a face.

They grunt and roar like distressed Harley’s.

Male sea elephant with harem of females.
Male sea elephant (TOP) with harem of females.

Their onshore movement is an obese belching-forward on their bellies.

As a consolation, the dominant sea elephants—the fattiest and ugliest – each have a harem of 40 to 50 females!

To be a Sea Elephant emperor…

But for them, there’s work to be done.

During the mating season, superior males lose about half their weight.

Shedding about 1500 kg.

seal valdes peninsula patagonia argentina

They achieve this by staying with their harem 24/7.

Not even leaving to eat, always defending their babes from sex-starved rivals.

These warriors are passionate about fighting and f*cking.


After watching the creatures of coastal Patagonia at play, I understood their passions as human.

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