Welcome to Insider Out Travel, a blog about LGBT travel written by LGBT tourism professionals. Travel the globe and gain insight into the tourism industry (with a gay twist), brought to you by the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association.

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Friday, November 12, 2010

The Valdez Peninsula An Open-Air Zoo

Punta Delgada

By Roy Heale


Located about 1400 kms south of Buenos Aires in Patagonia, the Valdez Peninsula is an astonishing sanctuary of wild life, unique in the world. It is protected by a group of National and Provincial Parks know as the Reservations of Punta Norte, Caleta Valdés, Punta Delgada, Punta Pirámides and the Isla de los Pájaros (The Birds Island). It is home to an important breeding population of the endangered southern right whale as well as the southern elephant seals and southern sea lions. The orcas in this area have developed a unique hunting strategy to adapt to local coastal conditions.

The Peninsula is connected to the mainland by the narrow strip of land 35 kilometers long called Ameghino Isthmus with the Gulf San Jose on one side and the Gulf Nuevo on the other. Here you will find the entrance to the Park and an Interpretive Center where you can learn about all of the wildlife on the Peninsula before you begin the 400km journey around the coastline. The Valdez Peninsula has been called an “open-air” zoo where the close-up observation of wildlife is a unique experience. Around the Peninsula the land is flat, very arid and desert-like, with shrubbery and wildlife. But along the coast are white limestone cliffs dropping down to the clear blue Atlantic Ocean. This creates a spectacular rocky coastline with beautiful beaches where the sea mammals are in abundance.


Sea Lion Colony at Punta Piramides

The town of Puerto Madryn is just 200kms from the Peninsula and is the acclaimed center for all of the tours and excursions available for wildlife observation. The gay-friendly, and fellow IGLTA member,  Flamenco Tour agency with English speaking staff are experts when it comes to planning your time around the Peninsula. They organize daily tours for whale-watching, observing the sea lions, and learning all about this wildlife reserve. They can also assist with gay-friendly accommodations and other regional tours.

A typical day trip organized by Flamenco Tour begins at about 8AM with a pick-up at your lodgings. Your tour guide and host for the day will be fluent in English and Spanish plus they will be extremely knowledgeable on everything the region has to offer its visitors. The first stop will be the Interpretive Center to prepare you for the wildlife spectacle ahead. From there you will proceed to Puerto Piramedes which is the only village on the Peninsula and is the boarding point for the whale watching boats. Once aboard your Zodiac vessel the next two hours will prove to be an incredible experience as you will see the Southern Right Whale close-up and playful.



Boarding The Boats

Southern Right Whale Up Close

After your boat ride you will enjoy lunch at the Quimey Quipan---Friendly Welcome---ocean side restaurant, where you can enjoy authentic local cuisine plus of course the catch of the day! The view here is relaxing and peaceful with excellent home-cooked meals.

Next stop on the tour is Punta Delgada where a short walk down the cliffs is rewarded by Sea Lions and their cubs stretched out along the beach enjoying the sunshine. Then at Punta Cantor you will see more of these enormous mammals followed by the Magellenic Penguin Colony at Caleta Valdes. If you are lucky---as was the case on my tour---at Punta Norte you will catch a glimpse of the very rare Orcas.

This Flamenco Tour excursion is about eleven hours where the wonders of nature will constantly amaze you plus the beautiful cliffs and beaches will delight you. No wonder it is called an open-air zoo as the sights of so much different wildlife in its natural environment is truly unique to this region.

For More Information Visit: www.flamencotour.com

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