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The Lighthouse and its Elephants

 Estimated reading time: 2 min.Texts Karina Jozami   Photos Karina Jozami (1) y Marcelo Sola (2)
Elephant Seals at El Arenal, Puerto Madryn

Along with the whales and the penguins, they represent a great attraction for tourists from all over the world.

Hundreds of elephant seals dwell on the exclusive El Arenal Beach. This zone concentrates the largest population of females with their young in the spring. Reaching this spot requires great effort to go down a significant slope.

Upon reaching the beach, visitors are advised to walk about crouching and quietly in order to prevent the elephant seals from feeling intimidated.

Males are easily identified. The leader of the herd or harem of 160 females is referred to as Alfa. Betha and Gamma are also males but with a lower rank. The latter are in charge of fertilizing the females Alfa has left aside.
Elephant Seals at El Arenal, Puerto Madryn
In general, there are larger younger males with no experience in fighting. These young specimens steal or try to mate with the neighboring females. Males are characterized by reaching a weight of 3.5 tons and having a large trunk-like nose.

The Elephant Path

Male elephant seals reach the region in August and settle along the shores of the Valdés Peninsula, from Punta Norte to Punta Delgada. No sooner have they arrived than they mark their territory, which will not be accessed by any other male. If this sector is not respected, bloody fights and cruel confrontations start in order to defend boundaries.
Elephant Seals at El Arenal, Puerto Madryn
The females, on the other hand, arrive on the beach a month later. They are already pregnant from the previous year. The males must remain waiting for the females during that period and may not leave the portion of shore they have marked because, should they get into the sea, their place might be occupied by another male.

The place presents an optimum ecosystem for each female to bear one pup per year. After the birth, they suckle their pups for 30 days and then are fertilized again by the male. Thus, they spend their entire life pregnant.
Elephant Seals at El Arenal, Puerto Madryn
The elephant seals may be seen in the Valdés Peninsula until late in November. Afterwards, they return to the Falkland Islands, the Georgias, the Orcadas and the Southern Sandwich Islands, where they spend the rest of the year.

We stayed there watching them in silence for a while. The petrels felt a little intimidated by our presence at first, but then, they went back to their job and attacked a dead female elephant seal that was lying on the sand. The guide told me that some days before, the park ranger had witnessed to a fight between two males in which one of them accidentally hit a female who was hanging nearby and killed her instantly. Those are Nature’s ways.
Useful Data
How to get here
After paying access to the reserve, continue along 70km more towards Puerto Pirámides until you reach the beach.
Stay at the hotel to relax in this pleasant natural environment.
Inter Patagonia

Level of Difficulty
1:30 hours
Tour Kind
fauna watching
Other Characteristics
accommodation and restaurant at the hotel.
Useful DataUseful Data


The Detail

The Centro Nacional Patagónico, whose venue is in Puerto Madryn, studies the elephant seals on this beach. As the shores is easily accessed and there are no fences or specific vantage points, El Arenal is chosen as one of the most appropriate spot to share the elephant seals' habitat.

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