I think I’m drunk on creature happiness! Everywhere we turn in this strange, empty scrubland, there seem to be more creatures tumbling and trundling past. It’s our second day in Puerto Madryn and we’re bouncing along a dirt track on the peninsula with our guide, Hugo. Six of us are gaping out the dust-streaked windows as Hugo provides a brilliant running commentary while pointing out the strange and wonderful local beasts. We see herds of woolly, caramel-coloured guanacos, giant Darwin’s rheas, skunks and, to my huge delight, hairy armadillos! It’s a creature wonderland!
The Isle of Naboombu?
Later, we struggle through the thick Patagonian mud and hike down some crumbling cliffs to a sheltered beach where the most wonderfully odd monsters are lying on the shingle. Elephant seals. They are enormous. The elephant seal bull can grow to a length of 6 metres and a weight of 4,000 kilogrammes. They fully develop their trunk-like “nose” at the age of 3 and their facial expressions are beautiful. Ignoring the copious amounts of seal poop, Damien and I take turns inching forward on our elbows to photograph them. We bundle back into the 4×4 incredibly happy and stinking to high heaven!
Happiness is a frank, blue look from a sea lion pup.
The next day, we are up at the crack of dawn, we pour ourselves into 7mm thick wetsuits complete with hoods, gloves and shoes and brace the chilly Atlantic waters for an early morning encounter with some sea lions. Sea lions!! As the boat drops anchor off the shore of the colony, my tummy flips over with nerves. The males are massive and their barks seem to be abit threatening. I’m pretty positive I won’t be able to outswim them! Well, the day is clear and bright and the water is a transparent green so I decide not to think too much about it and hop overboard. Our instructor has us exercise some underwater turns telling us to use our arms as little as possible so that our movements are more seal-like. Our small group links arms, we lie on our backs and using our flippers, kick as hard as we can. Almost immediately a crowd of young, curious pups appears, attracted by the bubbles. The water is churning with them as they edge closer and closer, eager to bump us with their noses and nuzzle our faces with their whiskers. They sit on our chests and wind between our legs as we swim with them. Their looks are strikingly blue and frank. It is an incredible experience and I don’t want to leave!