Interested in seeing a particular species? Welcome to the ‘Wildlife Calendar’ where we provide you a brief overview of which animals you might see and when they are likely to be visiting Estancia La Ernestina.
Every year, between late-February and mid-May the iconic orca come close to shore to hunt South American sealions on the beach. These orcas have developed the unique technique of intentional stranding. But they aren’t the only animals to be found at Estancia La Ernestina.
Please note: we do our best to provide accurate and realistic information. However, these are wild animals and we do not have control over the time they arrive or depart, nor the behaviours they may or may not exhibit.
We believe in giving you the best opportunity to see natural behaviours in a natural environment. We present an overview Wildlife Calendar and then more details for each species.
Orca (Orcinus orca)
February-May (intentional stranding to hunt)
October-November (hunting elephant seal pups)
La Ernestina is the host of Punta Norte Orca Research, established in 2004. Learn more about this unique population, including how to identify the individual orca who visit and hunt at the beach of Estancia La Ernestina. Join Juan Copello, co-founder of this research project and the owner-operator of the boutique accommodation at La Ernestina, as he heads out on excursions. After decades of conducting tours that respect the wildlife, he knows these animals like no-one else. Juan is arguably the most experienced person in the world when it comes to the orca of Punta Norte, as he has witnessed more than 2,000 attacks and knows each orca by name.
South American Sealions (Otaria flavescens)
December-May (pups born Dec-Feb)
All Year (adults/sub-adults)
The colonies of South American sealions found along the coastline of Estancia La Ernestina are some of the most important reproductive sites in Patagonia.
About three thousand adults come every year, with the males arriving first to establish and defend territories. Once the females arrive the males begin to defend them as well as the section of the beach they have staked out. The pups are born between December and February and most have departed by May. Sub-adults (of both sexes) can be found on the beaches all year.
Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis)
Southern right whales spend the austral summer in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean (including near Antarctica). They feed on krill and other small zoo plankton. They head north as summer draws to an end and every year over 1,000 of them arrive in the waters of Península Valdés. Calves are born, mating occurs and occasionally the orca will hunt these whales. At times southern right whales (who are large at approximately 15 m / 49 ft long and weighing up to 47,000 kgs/ 52 tons) can be spotted only a body length off the beach at La Ernestina.
If you are here during the whale season, we can also make arrangements for you to join a whale watching tour in Puerto Pirámides prior to, or after, your stay with us.
Elephant Seals (Mirounga leonina)
September-November (adults arrive, give birth and leave)
October-November (pups born, wean and leave)
Named because the adult males have a long proboscis, like an elephant trunk, the elephant seal is also the largest of the seal species worldwide. The males (4.2-5.8 m / 14-19 ft long and 2,200-4,000 kg / 4,900-8,800 lb in weight) are typically five to six times larger and heavier than females (400-900 kg / 80-1,980 lb and 2.6-3 m / 8.5-9.8 ft long).
A male elephant seal must stay in his territory on the beach during the breeding season to defend it, which could mean months without eating, having to live on his blubber storage. Some males can stay ashore for more than three months without food
Pups are born on the beaches around La Ernestina during September and October. They are born with black fur that is unsuited to water, but protects them by insulating them from the cold air. The period of suckling milk lasts an average of 23 days and during this time the mother does not eat and loses significant weight during this time.. Newborns weigh about 40 kg / 88 lb at birth and reach 120-130 kg / 260-290 lb by the time they are weaned. When they are weaned the pups moult and are then typically grey or brown in colour. Young weaned seals often gather in nurseries and at times they enter the water to practice swimming. It is these moments which make them very vulnerable to predation from orca.
Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus Magellanicus)
The Penguin colony on La Ernestina has over 50,000 pairs of penguins in a secluded section of the farm. Although penguins are present from September to April, the best time to see them is October and November when they are sitting on their nests and as the young are hatching.
The nests are built in shallow burrows dug into the dirt and they are often found at the base of the slow-growing vegetation of the coastline. When visiting the colony, La Ernestina guests can also sit on the shoreline and in the early evening during the nesting period it is common to see the penguins waddling along as they come and go from their nests.
For those who are interested in birds, La Ernestina has not only seabirds such as the giant petrel and the migrating shore birds, but also an amazing biodiversity of terrestrial birds such as Darwin’s reha, and Darwin’s tinamou. With more than 70 species recorded on the property so far, we encourage our guests to download the free Birds of Argentina app before they arrive.
Besides marine mammals there is a wide variety of terrestrial animals to be seen at La Ernestina.
Although not seen during the day, footprints and remote sensing cameras have shown that the largest cat of Argentina, the cougar or puma, roams the ‘canyons’ of the ranch. The pumas are thought to be hunting the guanaco, a relative of the llama. These long-legged camelids are native to South America and found throughout Estancia La Ernestina. In addition to these larger animals there are a number of smaller species such as the grey fox, cavies, two types of armadillos, the south American skunk, a number of tiny mouse and hamster-like creatures.
Landscapes (and we know this isn’t an ‘animal’ category! – but we just had to add in this aspect of our enchanted location)