Journey to Puerto Madryn, Argentina
Puerto Madryn’s wildlife—both on land and in the sea—draw visitors to this coastal Patagonian port city. Located on the Golfo Nuevo, this fast-growing city serves as a commercial port, a home base for ecotourists, and a weekend beach getaway for porteños, the residents of Buenos Aires.
Puerto Madryn dates back to 1865 when 150 Welsh immigrants arrived here aboard a ship named the Mimosa. The Welsh, in search of independence and autonomy for their Welsh customs and their language, landed here and founded a town named for Sir Love Jones-Parry, the Baron of Madryn. Eventually those early colonists moved on and founded other towns in the region. Welsh customs continue in practice today in communities such as Gaiman, just over 30 miles away, where traditions such as Welsh tea, Welsh building styles, and more live on. In Puerto Madryn, however, little remains of the early Welsh heritage.
Eventually a railway was constructed linking Puerto Madryn with the larger city of Trelew. The result was growth in Puerto Madryn, which became Argentina’s second largest fishing port as well as home of the country’s first aluminum plant.
Today tourism is another growing business in this city, known as Argentina’s top scuba diving destination. Good visibility and plentiful marine life draw divers as do numerous shipwrecks such as the Emma, a ship used by Sir Ernest Shackleton in a rescue attempt during an early Antarctica exploration. Another very unique dive site features a time capsule sank by the citizens of Puerto Madryn, it is to be opened in 2100 by local residents. Divers can sign an underwater guest book at the site.
In Puerto Madryn, several land attractions showcase the region’s undersea life. One of the most extensive is Ecocentro, where interactive displays highlight many of the sea’s residents: right whales, dolphins, elephant seals, and more. The nonprofit educational institution is also home to a living tidal pool display. Also in the city, the Museo Provincial de Ciencias Naturales y Oceanografico highlights the region’s marine ecosystem with hands-on displays and preserved specimens.
Along with diving, one of the most popular activities in the Puerto Madryn region is whale watching in the Golfo Nuevo. The rare Southern right whale can weigh as much as 100 tons and, although they’re slow swimmers, they’re known for their acrobatics with spectacular jumps out of the water.
The other side of the Golfo Nuevo is the Valdés Peninsula, a top stop for ecotourists in Argentina. This peninsula, protected as the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve of Península Valdés, is home to about 40,000 elephant seals, as well as sea lions, fur seals, and guanaco, a camelid that resembles a llama. This arid area is also home to the mara, a large relative of the guinea pig that’s considered the world’s fourth largest rodent. Visitors to the peninsula also have a chance of spotting over 180 bird species including burrowing Magellanic penguins, pelicans, cormorants, the flightless rheas, and oyster catchers. Special observatories on the peninsula help visitors see the protected wildlife.
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