Big Orca Photo Safari

Orca tour – Big photo safari through Patagonia’s wild south

Who is not familiar with the wildlife documentaries featuring the orcas at the world’s renowned hunting beaches at the peninsula of Valdés. Each year during the months of March and April the whales, also known as “beach hunters”, showcase their sophisticated hunting skills as they pursue young Southern sea lion pups playing on the beaches of the peninsula. The so-called “attacking channel” is not open to the public. Exceptionally photographers and film teams with a special permit issued by the Argentinian government are allowed to take pictures and videos of the orcas while lying in the recess. The attacking channel is only 50 meters wide which is why the number of participants is limited. For this program we have chosen the best travel time which is when the sea lion pups are in the process to wean from their mother. During their first swimming attempts they blithely play in the water. Not knowing yet what an orca is for many of them this game will be their doom. The channel is the area which the orcas use most in order to patrol and to hunt. Sometimes the whale may only be 20 meters away from the photographers.


The first part of the trip involves the exploration of remote islands and animal colonies where you have countless opportunities to catch unique moments with your camera. You meet Rockhopper penguins which usually can only be seen at cruises to the Antarctic and at the Falkland Islands. The rare Red-legged cormorant as well as the beautiful Commerson’s dolphins can also be seen on the tour. As this tour is specifically designed for experienced photographers there will be enough time during the excursions to get the best photographic conditions and situations. This is why this tour is also ideal for hobby video teams.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival at Comodoro Rivadavia

Arrival at the airport in the afternoon or in the evening where you are welcomed by your guide. Drive to the south to Puerto Deseado. Overnight at Hotel Los Acantilados.

Day 2: Boat safari in the course of Ría Deseado

During high tide boat expedition to the shallow river. There you have the opportunity to take pictures of many sea birds and the Commerson’s Dolphins, also called Skunk or Panda Dolphins due to their black and white colourings. With a size of about one meter they are one of the smallest species among whales and dolphins in the world and can only be found in two geographically separate areas in the Southern Hemisphere. As of late there have also been spotted Chilean Dolphins in the river. On the way you stop at Bird Island where breeding colonies of sea gulls, cormorants and penguins make fantastic photo motives. In the afternoon you return to the course of Ría Deseado for a photo safari in the sunset light. Photographers have the possibility to use drones. Overnight at Hotel Los Acantilados. (B)

Day 3: Safari by car along Ría Deseado

You drive along the course searching for nice landscape themes, wind trees and erosion valleys. If you are lucky you meet owls and foxes in the canyons and visit nesting sites of red-legged cormorants along the steep faces of the stream course. There it is time to search for a good position close to the nests as you spend one hour to take pictures of the arriving and departing animals. The feeding of the pups above the water is as well a theme. A drone can be used for photography. Overnight at Hotel Los Acantilados. (B)

Day 4: The Island of Rockhopper penguins

You visit of the Island of Penguins which is about 20 km away from the coast and which accommodates the northernmost and only accessible colony of Rockhopper penguins. Apart from around 60,000 Magellanic penguins there live also elephant seals, sea lions, skuas, cormorants, Commerson’s and Peale’s dolphins. Each year only 200 tourists are allowed to visit the island. You spent the whole day at the island in order to search for the best situation and the best light. Drones are allowed. The special photo permit allows you to visit the breeding ground of the more than 100,000 imperial cormorants which breed here. The photo opportunities are simply fantastic! You may get first impressions in our video clip. Overnight at Hotel Los Acantilados. (B)

Day 5: Drive to Sarmiento

You leave the coast and drive to the interior of the country. Today’s destination is Sarmiento, a village in the middle of the pampas. On route you stop at viewpoints along the coast and of course always when animals are crossing the way. Overnight in Sarmiento. (B)

Day 6: The petrified forests of Sarmiento

Around 20 km away from Sarmiento there is a breath taking nature park. Winds formed an erosion landscape where petrified trees and volcanic eruptions make fantastic themes. A special permit allows a hike and shoot in the areas of the national park that are usually closed to the public. Together with a ranger you enjoy the indescribable landscape. Drones are able to capture the landscape from the bird’s eye view. Overnight in Sarmiento. (B)

Day 7: Drive to Península Valdés

After a comfortable breakfast you head to the north to peninsula Valdés. On the way you visit the Museum of Paleontology Egidio Feruglio in Trelew. Here you marvel at the Argentinosaurus Rex and other great exhibits. In the evening arrival at Puerto Pirámides. You stay at The Paradise Hostería. The small, cosy rooms all have modern bathrooms with hot and cold running water. There is a good restaurant in the hotel where breakfast is also served. There, you can already possibly see the whales jumping in Golfo Nuevo. (B)

Day 8 to 14: The orcas of the Península Valdés

Early morning approximately one-hour drive across the peninsula to set up our equipment at the attacking channel at Punta Norte. You have to arrive there three hours before the highest level of high tide and stay there another three hours after the high tide. During this period the travel group is in contact with the researchers of the orca-project and with the nature conservation authority of the province of Chubut. When orcas are sighted by the observers, the researchers of PNOR (Punta Norte Orca Research) receive the details of the animals’ locations by radio. Then the individuals will be tried to identify. From the beach you observe the activities of the orcas. Very often you can watch the orcas patrolling the beach in order to check if young sea lion pups are playing in the surf. What everybody is really waiting for is the chance to observe the orcas when they are using their spectacular hunting techniques to catch a pup off the beach which is called an “intentional stranding” by researchers. At days when the orcas do not show up near the hunting beaches or when the weather and sea conditions prevent the animals from hunting, alternative programs are offered. Often you can also meet the other residents of the Patagonian coast at Punta Norte such as foxes, armadillos, various sea bird species, herons and turkey vultures. The huge colonies of sea lions, which count during that season approximately 1,000 pups are also spectacular. A visit of a local fishing village is also planned. Overnight at The Paradise Hostería. (B)

Day 15: Departure

In case of high tide in the morning you again observe the orcas from the attacking channel. Transfer to the airport Trelew in the evening. (B)

Travel dates

10.03.2018 – 24.03.2018

Rates

5,990 USD* per person in a double room
600 USD for single supplement

*Rates for film teams are calculated separately. Please contact us for further details.

Rates include

  • 4 nights in a double room at Hotel Los Acantilados including breakfast
  • 2 nights in a double room at a hotel in Sarmiento including breakfast
  • 8 nights in a double room at The Paradise Hostería including breakfast
  • All transfers from airport Comodoro Rivadavia/to airport Trelew
  • German guide and English speaking local guides
  • Photo permit for Puerto Deseado, Sarmiento and photo permit of the province of Chubut for the attacking channel at Punta Norte with ranger
  • Visit of the orca project in Punta Norte
  • All excursions as stated in the program
  • National park fees
  • All excursions as stated in the program
  • Group size: maximum 8 participants

Rates exclude

  • Flights to Comodoro Rivadavia/from Trelew
  • Bus transfers between international and national airport in Buenos Aires
  • Meals not mentioned in “Rates include”
  • Insurance (We strongly recommend a travel cancellation insurance and a travel health insurance.)
  • Gratuities

General notes

  • All transfers and nature observations are realized together with the participants of the Orca Nature Safari.
  • Please be aware that the excursions depend on the weather conditions and are therefore not guaranteed.
  • Accommodation and itinerary may change without prior notice due to unexpected circumstances.

Booking notes

  • Registration with documentation of the photo equipment. The booking can only be confirmed after authorisation of the equipment by the National park authorities.
  • 20% deposit of the rate on booking (non-refundable)
  • 30% deposit of the rate from 120 days prior to departure (non-refundable)
  • Final payment 6 weeks before departure (non-refundable)

For inquiries and bookings please click here.