One night in December sitting around a camp fire in Northern Patagonia, our Swiss friend Simone told us about the famous Valdes killer whales. She explained that on the Valdes Peninsula orcas will swim up on the beach and strand themselves temporarily in order to catch baby sea lions. She told us it is the only place in the world where this happens and that to see it we would have to time our visits with the high tide schedule. We were totally intrigued and decided we had to try to see an orca eat a seal on a beach! So crazy!!!
We left the comfy tea houses of Gaimen and stocked up with a weeks worth of supplies for our time on the Peninsula. We were told by some friends that there was some great free camp spots on the Peninsula and we thought it would be an easy base camp for visiting the orcas. What we did not realize at the time was that to see the orcas, elephant seals, penguins and sea lions we would have a 100 mile round trip drive everyday on a gravel road because there is no camping allowed near the wildlife on the peninsula. 100 frikin miles!!!!!
The day we arrived in the park our Swiss friends who had arrived the day before us sent us a text message that they saw a stranding at Punta Norte!!!! It was the first one in over 30 days and they saw it on their first attempt (and we missed it…….). I was super happy that Simone got to see the stranding since she had been talking about it for months, the stars aligned for her. Determined to see a stranding the next day we set up camp and made our own attack plan of how to see the peninsula.
So after 100 miles of crappy dirt road on day two with no orca sighting we were a bit disappointed. Our Swiss friends saw it the first day and we were spending hours (two hours before and after high tide) baking in the hot sun, watching sea lions for hours. It was a bit disheartening. However, fate intervened for us and crossed our paths with some of the most amazing people we met during our travels. John and Betti are these amazing, adventurous people who just overflow with positive energy and life. As they walked by our camp, Betti said hello and then told us we should drive around the coast and join them at their epic camp spot for a drink, little did we know that we would hit it off and end up spending almost a week camping with them and becoming fast friends.
I think I have said it a million times, but the people we have met on this adventure have been the best part of it. Sharing these experiences with like minded people is really what it is all about, and as I look back even now, all my favorite memories are of the nights spent with friends drinking wine under the stars and talking about life, or exploring new places together.
So on day 3 we made yet another attempt to see the orcas and drove another 100 miles roundtrip to Punta Norte. This time we convinced John and Betti to join us. The conditions this day were really good, it was sunny and there was no wind which we learned was what the orcas were looking for on the days they attempted standings.
As we were watching the sea lion babies swim, we suddenly saw the fins of a pod of orcas!!!!!! It was so exciting. They began swimming up and down the coast, scoping out the baby seals. We watched them for about thirty minutes with baited breath.
The ranger told us that it was reported that they caught some food in the water, so they did not need to come up on the beach, we were bummed they did not do a stranding, but felt really happy to see them so close with John and Betti.
When we got back to our camp spot I sent a text message to our biker friends Michelle and Brian telling them that there was only one more high tide (the following day) and then high tide would be at dark, so there was only one more day for them to rush to Valdes to see the orcas or they would have to wait another week or so. We also told them how amazing the weather was and how there was zero wind (Note to self, if you celebrate no wind, it will appear out of nowhere and show you who is boss). The two of them literally hauled ass over 375 miles on motorbikes in a day and we made it out to try and see the orcas one last time. The orcas did not show, but we had a blast driving Michelle and Brian in the back of the truck and spending another day at Punta Norte with Betti, John, Michelle and Brian.
Oh, and if you want to see what the orca attacks look like, below is a YouTube video someone took at Punta Norte. WARNING: BABY SEA LIONS GET EATEN, SO DON’T WATCH IF THAT WILL UPSET YOU.