Field Journal: Patagonia Argentina Adventure 2015
Posted by Giovanna Fasanelli
in Americas and Expeditions
There’s no doubt about it: our Patagonia expedition was designed by madmen. Not only did the mission-plan aim for Orcas hunting seals on the beach but it targeted the third smallest seabird in the world, one that was only officially described to science in 2011. Also on the trip’s menu was the planet’s largest animal followed by the most widely distributed of America’s cats, yet also one of the most elusive. The four madmen at the helm of this ambitious odyssey are Peter Harrison, global seabird expert and the man to bring the Pincoya Storm Petrel to the world; Shirley Metz, the first woman to ski to the South Pole in an effort to raise awareness about conserving Antarctica’s pristine wonderland; Jonathan Rossouw, just about the most knowledgeable, animal-obsessed naturalist the world has ever seen; and Giovanna Fasanelli, half-woman-half-fish, marine biologist and submarine pilot. It’s no wonder they felt confident enough to take on four hard-to-get targets in one trip!
This extraordinary Patagonia adventure tour began in Argentinian Patagonia on the Peninsula Valdés. This other-worldly land is home to numerous wild denizens, some of which defy even the most creative of imaginations. But to witness the mighty Orca surge out of the surf and grab an unsuspecting sea lion pup from the shore is an event that needs careful planning of tide times and prey breeding schedules. Even then, you really need a whole lotta luck, more than anything else. This specialized feeding technique is only practiced by a handful of highly qualified individuals at two sites around the world: by the resident Orcas of Valdés and those living around Crozet Island in the southern Indian Ocean. The stage was set: perfect morning high tides, at a time in the season when the seal pups were big enough to be irresistibly drawn to the fun of playing at the water’s edge, like children to a theme park. Our eager team spent three mornings watching these gleeful pups, hoping for the sinister arrival of the giant pied predator pack, but alas, luck was not on our side. Yet we did not leave empty-handed, for the charismatic land beasties that call the peninsula home filled our hearts and memory cards! The Greater Hairy Armadillo, the Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk, the family trios of Mara (a gigantic member of the guinea-pig family, whose form suggests a previous hot date between a hare and a small antelope) and herds of pretty-faced Guanacos filled every spare moment, not to mention observing some of the fantastic birds: Magellanic Penguins, Darwin’s Rheas, Burrowing Owls and the “abundant” Tawny-throated Dotterels! We left our historic lodging at the lonely lighthouse hotel, “El Faro,” a little deflated that the whales had decided not to join our pre-planned party, but we were swimming with the memories of superb animal encounters of the bizarrely wonderful kind!
Our time in Argentinian Patagonia was perfectly concluded as we ferried and bussed our way across the border from the quaint lake-side ski village of Bariloche, in Argentina’s far western steppes, all the way to Puerto Varas in Chile. This unique and supremely scenic international crossing is better known as “The Lakes Crossing” and is famous for good reason. In perfect weather, travelers can enjoy a breathtaking conveyor belt of stunning mountain lake panoramas framed by snow-capped peaks and volcanoes lined with dense Southern Beech forest. We had nothing short of heavenly weather, with silken waters reflecting the surrounding mountain glory. A number of Andean Condors passed overhead, the very scarce Rufous-tailed Hawk whipped Jonathan into an exceedingly excited state, and the cherry on the top came in the form of a sublime male Torrent Duck preening in midstream, on a magnificent whitewater river. It was a long day that saw us crashing into our beds at the end, whilst Peter burnt the midnight oil stirring together some secret (and very smelly) ingredients for our next “Mission Impossible”: the Pincoya Storm Petrel! That story, and more, from our Chilean chapter to follow… stay tuned!
Learn more about our Patagonia Argentinaadventure tours.
More blog posts from our Patagonia expedition:
Field Journal: Patagonia Chile Tour 2015
Field Journal: Patagonia Puma Sightings
Patagonia 2015: In Images
Patagonia Chile Tours: One Guanaco; Two Guanacoes??