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Puerto Deseado: watching penguins, sea lions and bottlenose dolphins in a fascinating navigation


Among surprising landscapes, the experience of touring the Deseado estuary and seeing rockhopper and Magellan penguins.

You have to get up early to get on the boat in

Puerto Deseado

, where the conditions are optimal for the excursion: it is a sunny morning with no wind.

On the

northeast coast of the province of Santa Cruz

, the proposal for the first day is to navigate the

Deseado estuary

, a destination that is growing hand in hand with its natural and historical wealth, but which is still far from being among the traditional places to when planning vacations.

And the explanation is, surely, in the lack of a direct flight from the main cities of the country issuing travelers.

The jump of the bottlenose dolphins during the excursion.

PD photo

To get to Puerto Deseado from Buenos Aires, you have to fly to Comodoro Rivadavia, south of Chubut, and travel about 4 hours by car or by bus along Route 3. Between the steppe and the sea, it is also known as the Blue


, because it covers a large part of the Patagonian coast.

For this reason, sailing through the Deseado estuary is perhaps the best way to connect with an inhospitable, windy and fascinating place at the same time, with a surprising amount of fauna.

What is the estuary?

All tourists ask the same thing when they leave the Darwin Expeditions pier.

And this geographical accident is only understood when going through it, observing it from the top of a hill and comparing it with a map.

The zigzag of the Deseado estuary, in Santa Cruz.

PD photo

Strictly speaking, it is an arm of the sea that enters the continent along 42 km: the widest part is 3 km and is called Bahía Uruguay, while the narrowest is in the port and does not exceed 500 meters.

But there is the deepest zone, with 30 meters.

“This was a river that brought water from Lake Buenos Aires, that is, it was born in the mountains and flowed into the sea, also dragging minerals of glacial origin.

It was a sweet river.

But with the last glaciation, the ice advanced and the blocks of sediment blocked the passage of the lake in this direction: the river continued on its way but, some 42 km before reaching the sea, it dried up", explains Roxana -or Roxy, as she say everyone-, the guide that always has an answer when passengers ask him questions about the behavior of penguins, dolphins, bottlenose dolphins or sea lions that appear on the horizon.

“At the same time -he completes-, the river brought rocks and formed islands, to the happiness of the penguins.

And he separated canyons, which the cormorants took advantage of.

In other words, the perfect environment for the species was created and the sea brought the food”.

bird watching

Due to its geographical characteristics, Puerto Deseado is the

ideal destination for bird watchers

, who can easily spot more than 60 species.

And also for fans of photographic safaris.

Among the coastal and terrestrial seabirds that can be seen are petrels, black-browed albatross, terns and four species of cormorants (two nest on the rock).

When touring part of the

natural reserve

, upon arriving at Elena Island, travelers observe how the birds breathe quickly because it is very hot and discover the chicks that their mothers feed.

As the boat approaches the gray and rocky cormorants, Roxy impacts with a sentence: "It is a ravine with volcanic rocks and when they were formed there were dinosaurs."

Magellan penguins live in the wild on Isla de los Pájaros.

PD photo

Then, the boat stops in front of a colony of sea lions until it gets off at

Isla de los Pájaros

, home to a penguin colony where you can have close contact with

Magellanic penguins


“The penguins come in September: the male arrives first and goes to his own nest, then the female comes upstairs, copulates, lays the first egg and four days later she lays the second egg.

Both are incubated for 40 days and two chicks are born in November.

In February they go to sea for the first time, and the juveniles begin to come to change feathers”.

Roxy's voice is lost among the cries of the pigeons, which ask for food.

The ground is stony and the penguins have right of way when they march in single file towards the sea.

Towards the Van Noort Hill

On the north bank of the estuary there is an extensive pebble beach where in 1615 the Dutch corvette Hoorn of the Le Maire and Schouten expedition, later discoverers of the Strait of Le Maire and the mythical Cape Horn, burned down.

The landscape of the Deseado estuary, from Cerro Van Noort.

PD photo

On this excursion, passengers disembark for the second time and trek to the top of Cerro Van Noort, named in honor of Olivier Van Noort, who entered the Deseado estuary in 1599. It is worth the effort under the merciless sun: the

360 degree views of the turquoise estuary zigzagging

in the aridity of the Patagonian steppe are spectacular.

After the descent, travelers enjoy a snack at the foot of the hill, accompanied by the stories of explorers and navigators, such as that of the English corsair Thomas Cavendish, who arrived at Puerto Deseado in 1586 on the ship Desire, and the place was called Port desire.

The "rockhopper" colony on Penguin Island.

PD photo

To close the tour, during the return navigation through the estuary, dozens of black and white silhouettes surround the boat.

They are

bottlenose dolphins

, and some go with their gray young.

Heading to Penguin Island

The next day another excursion leaves, but this time it goes to

Penguin Island

, within the

Penguin Island Interjurisdictional Marine Park

, a protected area of ​​almost 160,000 hectares that is located about 22 km from Puerto Deseado.

It is a place full of fauna and history, since there is a century-old lighthouse and the remains of an old factory that processed the fat of sea lions to produce oil.

On the shore are the wolves but, in this case, do not approach: at the slightest movement they shoot into the water for fear of being hunted that was transmitted from generation to generation.

On Penguin Island there are also Magellanic penguins.

Photo Darwin Expeditions

They all roam free: Magellanic penguins, seagulls, terns, oystercatchers and skuas.

However, the star of the place awaits everyone on the other side of the island.

It is the famous little




penguin , distinguished by its yellow eyebrows and feathers on the sides of its head and red eyes.

The English name alludes to its ability to jump between rocks and into the sea.

Rockhopper and rock-eyed penguins.

dp photo


1,650 nests

, this colony is the only one that tourists can visit in the entire continent.

How many hours will have passed while waiting for some penguin to advance to the jumps?

How many photos and videos did they try to capture those who swam in that puddle formed between the rocks to cool off?

With the notion of time lost, a déjà vu

is experienced

at brunch time and, once again, a festival of bottlenose dolphins and dolphins sees off the boat upon returning to Puerto Deseado.

Rockhopper penguins, on Penguin Island.

Photo Darwin Expeditions

A brief experience but with intense nuances that will be processed over the weeks, when the body has already returned to its routine but the mind has not yet achieved it.


How to get.

By JetSmart, the flight to Comodoro Rivadavia costs from $8,400 per section.

Aerolíneas Argentinas and Flybondi also fly to that destination.

From there there is no direct transportation.

You can rent a car, hire a transfer or taxi, or take the La Unión bus for $4,000 with a change in Caleta Olivia.

From Buenos Aires to Puerto Deseado there are 2,020 kilometers by Ricchieri, Cañuelas highway, routes 3 and 281.

Trekking on Penguin Island, in Santa Cruz.

Photo Darwin Expeditions

Where to stay

In Puerto Deseado, the cheapest double room at the Los Acantilados hotel costs from $8,200 with breakfast.

Varies by date and availability.


-Ecosafari to the Ría Deseado: half-day excursion with a guide and snacks, $11,000 per person.

The trekking to Cerro Van Noort is an extension of the navigation through the Deseado estuary.

They are 17 km and it is a special departure for groups (

Encounter with sea lions in Puerto Deseado.

Photo Darwin Expeditions

-Excursion to Penguin Island (approx. 6 hours), with guide and lunch, $22,000 per person (

-Astrotourism outings in front of Quiroga Island “to learn about the sky listening to hundreds of penguins singing.

With low difficulty night walks and observation of planets with a telescope, for $2,500 per person (

Where to find out:

look too

Summer 2023: dolphin watching, snorkeling with sea lions and walks among penguins in Puerto Madryn

Summer 2023: 8 beaches in Bariloche to enjoy the landscapes and do water sports

Source: clarin

All life articles on 2023-02-20

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Life/Entertain 2023-03-06T09:48:57.663Z

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