Patagonia, Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Penguin Land

We visited the fields of the San Lorenzo estancia which reach the sea shore and lodge an important colony of Magellanic penguins.

Very early in the morning, I was picked up at my hotel by Víctor, who is in charge of the environmental management of private undertakings in the San Lorenzo estancia and the Punta Delgada Lighthouse. Our plans were to see the Magellanic penguin colony located inside the estancia venue and then approch the Punta Delgada Hotel in order to watch the elephant seal colony.

On the way, Víctor commented that San Lorenzo, which has been chosen as model protected area, was the property of the Machinea family, who had settled down in the Valdés Peninsula in 1906. The entire field has a surface of 5,134 hectares, with 4,600 meters of coastline on the San Matías Gulf.

At the beginning, cattle exploitation was quite important and, years later, the estancia dedicated to sea lion hunting.

In 1918 and 1960, hunting and exploitation of South American sea lions represented the main activity in the area. Their fat was used for the production of oil for industrial use and their skin for leather works. Once this stage was over, the field was exclusively dedicated to sheep raising.

  • Model protected area

    Model protected area

  • Used to human presence

    Used to human presence

  • Feed mainly on little anchovy

    Feed mainly on little anchovy

  • Good grilled lamb

    Good grilled lamb

  • Colony of Magellanic penguins

    Colony of Magellanic penguins

  • Not feel uncomfortable as we passed by

    Not feel uncomfortable as we passed by

  • The Place Chosen by the Penguins

    The Place Chosen by the Penguins

Afterwards, the estancia took advantage of its natural resources once again in order to revert the crisis in the sheep market. This time, it was aimed at spreading scientific knowledge and preservation for educational tourism.

The Place Chosen by the Penguins

As we arrived, we headed straight for the first penguin colony. Pride of the San Lorenzo estancia, this is a reproduction colony and shelters an average of approximately 200,000 specimens. As in every season, the penguins start to turn up in August and leave in March. They comply with most of their life cycle in this place. The males form the nest and look for their mating partners. Then, the eggs are laid and, at the moment of our visit, they take turns to sit on them until their offspring are born. Both parents are in charge of feeding the young, which then form nurseries and change their feathers until they are ready to get into the sea.

We went along a trail laid across an area of the hill where the nests are spread to both sides of the way up to a distance of 1,200 meters from the sea. The penguins, used to human presence, did not feel uncomfortable as we passed by.

Alejandro Scolaro, a researcher from the Centro Nacional Patagónico (CENPAT) (Patagonian National Center), was a pioneer in the study of this colony, which would have been formed during the 1970's.

As we approached the beach, we made out a small group by the water. According to studies made in San Lorenzo, these penguins feed mainly on little anchovy and, after the reproduction period, they also fish small squid. Some petrels and gulls, two of the main penguin egg and offspring predators hovered above our heads.

As we retraced our steps, Víctor indicated the area where the remains of the boilers used to extract the fat from the hunted sea lions were located. On that very spot, the past and present of a Patagonian undertaking that continues to grow through its natural resources may be totally grasped.
Read complete Outing... Karina Jozami / Eduardo Epifanio

See more points of interest in Puerto Pirámides

Useful Data

Level of Difficulty: low

Duration: 1 hour

Recommendations: Try to get to the estancia around midday and stay for lunch, when good grilled lamb will be served. The estancia will be open from September thru April. Only 17 km from the Punta Norte wildlife reserve, travel 60km along Provincial Route 3 from Puerto Pirámides up to the estancia.

Contact: Estancia San Lorenzo
a 60 Km. de la ciudad (9121) Puerto Pirámides, Chubut, Argentina Tel: +54 280-4458444

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InterPatagonia - Touristic Information about Puerto Pirámides, Patagonia, Argentina: Activities and Tours
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