Seals of approval

This World Heritage Site in the north of Patagonia has an incredible collection of animals – all on view for visitors within the Peninsula Valdes.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina

Baby seals frolic in the surf where the small waves meet the sand. A rocky outcrop at one point on the shoreline creates natural pools where they play in groups.

Small, black and shimmering in the sunlight, the pups look like they’re in a nursery. Nearby their mothers keep a watchful eye on them as they play.

For the sea lions of Peninsula Valdes, this is the closest they get to a community – families living together as the youngsters grow up and develop.

Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina
Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina

It’s a safe environment for the sea lions here on the peninsula near Puerto Madryn, which is protected by both UNESCO and the Argentinian authorities.

It’s one of the most important breeding grounds for marine animals in South America and home to a variety of species.

Sea lions at the north, elephant seals further down the coast. On the beaches and dunes live penguins over the summer breeding period. During some months, whales and orcas inhabit the waters nearby and use the peninsula as protection from the rough seas.

Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina
Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina

Patagonian animals

Visiting Peninsula Valdes feels a bit like going to a zoo. It also feels nothing like a zoo. And it feels exactly how you wish zoos felt.

Each species seems to have its own particular spot on the peninsula it uses for its colony. Rarely do they mix. So to see the whole selection of animals you drive from place to place.

“Our next stop will be the elephant seals”, our guide tells us.

And she was right – there they were on the beach, just as promised.

We drive to one particular cliff to look down and see the penguins. And the highlight of the day – the sea lions – were at exactly the beach we had expected them to be at.

Creatures of habit, they come back to the same location every year during this season.

Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina
Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina

Being a protected area, Peninsula Valdes is a sanctuary for wildlife and it’s not just the marine animals that benefit. On land, creatures rule this domain.

We see armadillos, foxes, guanaco, and dozens of different species of bird. Even our guide gets excited when she sees a breed of wild cat that she has never spotted before, despite guiding groups through the peninsula for seven years.

Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina
Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina
Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina
Peninsula Valdes, Patagonia, Argentina

It says a lot about the place that you can find such a sense of wonder after just one visit or even after hundreds.


Staying in Puerto Madryn makes a fantastic base to explore the natural wonders in this part of Argentina.


There’s a wonderful laidback atmosphere at El Gualicho Hostel, with a large common area, a lovely garden, and free breakfast.


For space to yourself, Complejo las Catalinas is an affordable modern one-bedroom apartment in a great location.



It may feel like a rustic house with its brick walls, but Los Tulipanes Apart de Mar is actually quite modern, and has a garden and pool.


Overlooking the beach, Dazzler by Wyndham is still close to the city centre and includes a delicious free breakfast.


This site is on the UNESCO World Heritage List!
I'm on a mission to visit as many World Heritage Sites as I can. Only about 800 more to go... eek!

18 thoughts on “Seals of approval”

  1. Great shots, Michael! I especially love the wild cat and the fox. We were actually talking to a tour company today about a new tour they’re doing to this region of Argentina starting later this year. Looks like a place we’d love…

    • Oh, if you get a chance you have to go! I know you’ve seen a lot of amazing places in the world, Bret, but I think you will find Patagonia hard to top for the scenery!

    • The baby seals looked like they were having so much fun playing around in the water. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that orcas can actually launch themselves onto the beach and snatch them!


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