So there we were—soaking wet and cold huddling together to form a human wall against the relentless wind, when all of a sudden frantic shouts in Spanish and pointing signaled approaching whales. I looked over just in time to see a whale fly out of the water and slam down with a gigantic thud, cheers erupting from fellow whale watchers.

On arriving to Puerto Madryn, Argentina, we knew that we wanted to see the Southern Right Whales in Puerto Pyramides and the Magellanic penguins in Punta Tombo. This time we did something a bit unusual for us; we thought ahead, researched our options, and compared prices of many tour companies. We were determined to get the best price for this tour. My frugality (Jodi has less desirable words for it) persuaded my better half to skip the traditional Peninsula Valdes tour and give the DIY whale tour a try in order to save us US$70.

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The “better half” of this expedition feels compelled to note that she always researches our best options and presents the “other half” with her conclusions as was done in this instance as well…But whatever, everyone has their own reality…
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Thankfully, our whale watching excursion went off like a charm. We caught a local bus from Puerto Madryn to Puerto Pyramides with a bunch of other gringos and arranged for our whale watching trip upon arrival. The tour company warned us some spray might come over the boat and advised us to make use of their ponchos. Decked out in a heavy-duty, bright yellow poncho and fire-orange life preserver, we thought we were ready for any spray that may come our way. It soon became apparent why they gave out the ponchos as the boat plowed through the Atlantic Ocean. Waves of water soared over the bow and soon we felt the cold water drench everything from the waist down.

During this time of year, the whales begin their migration to Antarctica. However, there were a few mothers and their calves remaining in the area. After 45 minutes of wind and waves bearing down on us, we reached a mother and her calf. Watching them made the cold, wet boat ride worth it; they breeched, spy hopped, tail slapped, played, and fed just a few meters from our boat. Southern Right Whales are huge, grey creatures with clusters of white that look like barnacles encrusted on their bodies (a stickler for details, Jodi’s informed me it’s lice, not barnacles though). They migrate in winter to the protective waters of Puerto Pyramides to mate and give birth.

Unfortunately, time seems to fly in these situations. Within no time, we found ourselves headed back to shore. I wish I could say that the trip back to port was better than our trip out, but I can’t. The thing about ponchos is that they have openings, and when spray comes from every direction it’s quite likely water will seek its way into those exposed locations. Needless to say by the time we got back to port, we were drenched.

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