Millions of years ago, the powerful forces that lie dormant inside the Earth pushed up the coast of the region of Patagonia, in Argentina. Today thousands of marine mammals come here every year to breed.
Millions of years ago, the powerful forces that lie dormant inside the Earth pushed up the coast of the region of Patagonia, in Argentina. The coast was transformed, and a new peninsula rose from the sea. The cliffs along this shore still today retain the traces of their past beneath the ocean, fossils that testify to the amazing variety of life forms which, already in distant times, inhabited these waters.
Today, this profusion of life still exists, and forms the basis of the diet of the thousands of marine mammals that every year come here to breed.
The Valdés Peninsula has become a unique refuge for those marine animals that require solid land on which to bring their young into the world. Sea lions and elephant seals periodically occupy its beaches, in an annual cycle which has continued, uninterrupted, for thousands of years.
Like them, the southern right whales also come here each year to procreate. The peninsula is today one of the last places on Earth where these colossuses of the sea can find refuge.
As every year, when June comes around, the southern right whales reach the calm waters of the Nuevo and San José Gulfs. They remain here until November, when they move to the cold waters of the South Atlantic, in search of krill, a tiny crustacean which forms their basic diet.
Fourteen metres long and weighing 35,000 kilos, they are the largest of the visitors to the peninsula.
The origin of such abundance lies in the strategic location of this land. The Valdés peninsula is in the region of North Patagonia, in Argentina, in an area where warm sea currents from the north meet colder ones from the South, thereby creating ideal conditions for the development of a great diversity of marine life. A very different situation from that on land, where the flora and fauna must struggle to survive in a far more hostile environment.
Over 100 species of austral birds nest along the coast and come to the beach in search of food. Alongside them live the South American sea lions, also called sea wolves, or fur seals, due to the clump of fur around the head of the males. The total population on the Valdés Peninsula is estimated to be around 20,000, the majority of them females who each year give birth to hundreds of pups on these beaches.
The beaches of Punta Norte are also a meeting point for another member of the seal family: the elephant seal.
The elephant seals are the largest members of the seal family in the world. The females can weigh up to 500 kilos, but even they are lightweights compared to the male. He is almost 5 metres long, and weighs around 2,500 kilos, almost ten times as much as a sea lion.
The Valdés Peninsula is today a unique and irreplaceable refuge for the wildlife of South America. Human presence, the first signs of which date back 3,200 years, has not managed to destroy this natural paradise. After many years of hunting and cattle farming, the Argentinean government decided to protect the Peninsula, and turned it into a Wildlife Reserve. Another Eden had been saved.
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) - Elefantes marinos - Rafael Medina