The Elephant Seal Chronicles.

Peninsula Valdes Travel Blog

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Walking along the dune to our seal-side seats.

Our hotel on Punta Delgado is conveniently located near a beach where a large herd of Elephant Seals like to hang out during the month of September. Our timing couldn’t be better! After breakfast, a guide from the hotel took us and the two other guests to the beach. It was incredibly beautiful: sands, bluffs, cliffs… and the elephant seals, of course. From our height they looked like big lumps in the sand. They were so still that it took us some time to recognize that they were the animals we had come to see.

After admiring the view and getting some photos, we climbed down the bluff to a ridge above the beach… a perfect natural viewing area. The elephant seals lay like slugs across the sand. These guys really weren’t made for land travel, so they mostly just sleep.
Male, left, in hot pursuit of the female, right.
When they wanted to move, it was with great effort… a sort of caterpillar hop forward (with blubber jiggling like Jell-O), and then a rest. Then maybe two more scoots. OK, time for a nap.

On the right side of the beach was a male elephant seal with his small harem of four females. The male weighed about five tons, and the females were each about one ton. The male was feeling frisky and had his sights on a lovely lady who just wasn’t buying what he was selling. She tried to escape (scoot, scoot, rest) and off he went, in hot pursuit (scoot, jiggle, rest). The whole drama unfolded in slow motion, then the male finally managed to hop up on the poor little thing and gave her a big bite in the neck to hold her in place. How romantic.  

In the middle of the beach was a dead elephant seal, partially decayed and smelling about as nice as you would expect.
This little guy is in TROUBLE.
We moved past this and parked ourselves on the side of a sand dune above a large group of seals. The big blubbery alpha male here had about 30 or more females. There were many newborns lying near their moms, nursing, or flipping sand on their backs to protect from the sun. They were so tiny and cute! One little guy decided to make a break for it and was headed to the water, bleating loudly. His mom chased after him, roaring, “Get back here! You’re too little to swim! Get back here NOW.” It was amusing to watch, but I was worried about the determined little rebel.

On the fringes of the group, some smaller males waited, hoping to poach a female, and occasionally, a mini-fight would break out. The bigger guy always won, and the smaller one would scramble back to the water.
The newborn's first yelp!
Again, all this is in slow motion because they have to rest after they move even a little bit.   

Our guide pointed out two of the seals that were rolling crazily on the beach and rocking up and down. We were lucky enough to see seals in labor! Seagulls were standing close by, and when the first baby finally came out they squabbled over the placenta, flying off with pieces of it. Gross! We couldn’t get a good look at the newborn pup because his mom was blocking him from our view, but then I caught a glimpse of his tired little head, and I witnessed his first little yelps. Like a puppy barking! It was so exciting, and touching. I can't even describe how happy and sad it made me feel.

Steve and I watched the Elephant Seal Chronicles for about three hours in the morning, and then I returned in the afternoon for another hour.
A whale jump!
I had hoped to see the other baby being born during the second visit, but she seemed to have given up on labor and decided to sleep instead.  

+++

Later, I was in the room getting ready for our horseback ride, and Steve came storming in. “WHALES!!!!!”  I grabbed my camera (unfortunately I had changed the lens to a short one) and we ran, ran, ran to the lookout point. Boy, am I ever out of shape. But I eventually got there and sure enough, they were several whales at play, and one even jumped out of the water! Oh, I wished I had my zoom lens on at that point.

As if the day hadn’t been wonderful enough already, it was then time for horseback riding. Honestly, after 10 minutes on a horse I always feel the same way: like I really want to get OFF.
Riding off into the sunset.
But I am glad I stuck it out, though it was a long cold ride, because it was indescribably beautiful. We went along the coast (practically on the side of a cliff in fact), then across a huge field where we saw a skunk, and then along the other coast. The sun was setting as we came in and we were surrounded by yellow, orange and pink hues. The views of the water were breathtaking, and we could see a few of our Elephant Seal friends down below. Incredible. And just another day in Patagonia.




cmgervais says:
Yes, it was a GREAT day. THANKS.
Posted on: Sep 13, 2008
reikunboy says:
what an awesome day, great pics. I hope this gets featured
Posted on: Sep 13, 2008
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Walking along the dune to our seal…
Walking along the dune to our sea…
Male, left, in hot pursuit of the …
Male, left, in hot pursuit of the…
This little guy is in TROUBLE.
This little guy is in TROUBLE.
The newborns first yelp!
The newborn's first yelp!
A whale jump!
A whale jump!
Riding off into the sunset.
Riding off into the sunset.
Breakfast at Faro Punta Delgado.
Breakfast at Faro Punta Delgado.
Tryin to get some work done, but u…
Tryin to get some work done, but …
Ready to go seal watching.
Ready to go seal watching.
Me and that really heavy lens.
Me and that really heavy lens.
Our first look at Punta Delgado.
Our first look at Punta Delgado.
Punta Delgado. That lump on the sa…
Punta Delgado. That lump on the s…
Punta Delgado dunes.
Punta Delgado dunes.
Fabricio from Italy and the hotel …
Fabricio from Italy and the hotel…
Making our way to the beach.
Making our way to the beach.
Headed to the beach.
Headed to the beach.
A most unusual profile.
A most unusual profile.
Looks like he caught himself a gir…
Looks like he caught himself a gi…
Surprised to see me?
Surprised to see me?
Beautiful Punta Delgado.
Beautiful Punta Delgado.
The beach at Punta Delgado.
The beach at Punta Delgado.
Elephant Seal tracks.
Elephant Seal tracks.
Bellowing at the air.
Bellowing at the air.
I dont think the smile left my fa…
I don't think the smile left my f…
Steve watches seals.
Steve watches seals.
She seems to be sticking her tongu…
She seems to be sticking her tong…
The big lumps are adults, the smal…
The big lumps are adults, the sma…
They lead lazy lives, at least in …
They lead lazy lives, at least in…
She is pregnant, and coming to the…
She is pregnant, and coming to th…
She wakes up, yawns, then goes bac…
She wakes up, yawns, then goes ba…
Another female in labor. They roll…
Another female in labor. They rol…
NOW whats she bitching about?!
NOW what's she bitching about?!
Yada yada yada.
Yada yada yada.
He looks skinny. Eat something!
He looks skinny. Eat something!
Hes the head honcho.
He's the head honcho.
They are loud when theyre hungry!
They are loud when they're hungry!
Awwww. They remind me so much of d…
Awwww. They remind me so much of …
The alpha male sleeps on, unaware …
The alpha male sleeps on, unaware…
Shes still in labor. Then she too…
She's still in labor. Then she to…
Do you think Im cute??
Do you think I'm cute??
They cover with sand to protect fr…
They cover with sand to protect f…
Bright greens and blues.
Bright greens and blues.
She is about to give birth...
She is about to give birth...
Chick fight!
Chick fight!
The baby is coming out!
The baby is coming out!
The seagulls stand by...
The seagulls stand by...
Dont have your baby next to me!
Don't have your baby next to me!
All is does is eat, eat, eat. Im …
All is does is eat, eat, eat. I'm…
The newborn! On the right, the sea…
The newborn! On the right, the se…
Sea lions off in the distance. You…
Sea lions off in the distance. Yo…
Boo!
Boo!
Renegade child heads for the water.
Renegade child heads for the water.
Covering up with sand.
Covering up with sand.
A last look at the beautiful beach.
A last look at the beautiful beach.
Where Merino wool comes from.
Where Merino wool comes from.
I think its time for a haircut.
I think it's time for a haircut.
Cranky guy.
Cranky guy.
Visible all day long.
Visible all day long.
That bird is either very brave or …
That bird is either very brave or…
Three lonely males.
Three lonely males.
Hes waving at us.
He's waving at us.
Big splash.
Big splash.
Peeking out of the water.
Peeking out of the water.
Steve saddles up.
Steve saddles up.
Ride em cowboy.
Ride 'em cowboy.
My turn.
My turn.
Quite a nice view for our horse ri…
Quite a nice view for our horse r…
The hotel and lighthouse off in th…
The hotel and lighthouse off in t…
Thats us.
That's us.
Bad shot of a skunk.
Bad shot of a skunk.
Sunset on the sheep.
Sunset on the sheep.
Sunset silhouette.
Sunset silhouette.
Trying to get warm after the horse…
Trying to get warm after the hors…
Peninsula Valdes
photo by: cmgervais