One criticism that you often read about Valdés is, that you can’t get really close to the animals. And it’s somewhat true. Beach access is very restricted. There are only a few points throughout the peninsula where you are allowed to go down to the beach like in Puerto Piramides. The viewpoints, although perfectly built and maintained, are often 100 m or more away from the sea. But there is one way around these restrictions, albeit not a cheap one.
Some of the land on the peninsula is still privately owned, like the Estancia San Lorenzo in post #17. On this private land, you often have more options and fewer restrictions. Close to Caleta Valdés, you can find the Estancia La Elvira.
It’s a nice farm that offers accommodation for a handful of guests. Sadly it’s not cheap. A room for three costs about 300€ per night including breakfast and dinner. Despite that it was way above our average daily budget we decided to stay there for three nights. I will soon explain why. The rooms are small but comfortable and the food was good. The people at La Elvira were all very friendly and gave great tips about the location and interesting explanations about the local wildlife. In the evenings we often relaxed playing pool at the Estancia.
If you stay on this farm you have two big advantages: First, you can be at one of the most interesting places on the peninsula, the Caleta Valdés, in the early morning or late evening without having to drive in darkness (which is not recommended due to the gravel roads and many animals). La Elvira is just a few minutes away from the Caleta viewpoint. Second, and more importantly, if you stay at the Estancia you have access to a private beach.
On this beach, you can find a large colony of elephant seals. On the first visit to this beach, we were accompanied by a guide and a couple of rules were explained to us (like always keeping a low profile and never ever getting between an elephant seal and the sea). On the following visits, we were completely on our own. Since no other tourists were allowed on this beach and you could get really close to the animals the wildlife experience was very different from the other viewpoint on Valdés.
Often we were just a few meters away from these huge and fascinating animals.
Since we spent many hours on all three days at this beach we were able to observe some very interesting behaviors of the elephant seals.
We have often seen that they were shuffling stones on their body. We don’t know whether this is because they can’t scratch their bodies with their fins or they want to regulate their body temperature or they do this for some other reason. If somebody knows it, please post it in the comments.
Although most female seals had already left the colony there were still a couple of them breastfeeding their pups.
Since there were very few females left, the males often fight about the remaining ones. The typical procedure is, that a male approaches from the sea and challenges the one next to the female.
Normally they don’t really attack each other. After many threatening gestures from both sides, one of them accepts the defeat and retreats.
Then the female decides whether she likes the male or not.
On one occasion we were even able to watch a fascinating mating scene of elephant seals from an extremely close distance. If you don’t like to watch elephant seal porn please skip the remaining part of this blog post. It will get very explicit.
Isn’t it cute how tender they are to each other and how they relax together afterwards?
Just a few minutes later we found ourselves very close to the next mating scene. We definitely hadn’t expected this.
That’s it from Valdés. Altogether we spent two full weeks on the peninsula. Far more than we had originally planned. But we loved this place. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip so far.