Yes, that’s what the name Orca is derived from…sea wolf. It was once believed that Orcas were descendents of wolves that had gone to the sea. For quite some time now I have counted these amazing creatures as my favorite animal and ever since seeing them snatch a living seal off of a Patagonian beach on the BBC’s Planet Earth last year…well, I wanted to see it for myself.
And that is just one of the many reasons we found ourselves finishing off our trip in Peninsula Valdez and the little town of Puerto Madryn in Patagonia. Having already headed to Punto Tombo the day prior it was time to head to Peninsula Valdez to see basically everything else: sea lions, elephant seals, more penguins, the southern right whale, and of course my friend the Orca.
The first stop was the proper whale watch for the Southern Right Whale (Ballena Franca Austral) where whale sightings were virtually guaranteed. We were a bit hesitant to even go on the trip because no boat trip could ever really beat how we started 8 months ago in Mexico but we ultimately signed on and really enjoyed ourselves. We saw a number of whales breach and several came quite close to the boat, nearly close enough to touch although not quite there. We watched as the seagulls tried to eat the skin off the babies and as their mothers taught them to dive to get away. I think the best part was seeing how many Southern Right Whales there are as its Northern brother was all but obliterated by commercial whaling. In fact the name “right whale” is derived from those days when the sailors would ask each other if they got the right whale or the wrong whale.
After that our group knew it was time to search for some Orcas. The Orcas that live here off the coast of Argentina are the only ones in the world that have developed this practice of eating seals as they “roast” on the beach and there are only a handful of places where this normally takes place. As luck would have it though, this is not the season for them to do this and we were warned by virtually everyone that we wouldn’t get to see the hunting Orcas. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t try…
We went to one lookout along the first of the two beaches, all we found there were more penguins. The second lookout, lots of roasting seals. The third, more of the same. No Orcas but we did see plenty of seals which was even a bit upsetting in itself. I’m not so sure that we have seen an uglier animal than the elephant seal on this entire trip…and we’ve seen a ton of wildlife.
Alas there were no orcas and no seal feasts. Maybe next time….