The road from Puerto Santa Cruz to the marine fauna reserves goes through the typical rugged, windswept but nonetheless fascinating Patagonian landscape.
From Puerto Santa Cruz
, we decided to visit Isla Monte León
(Lion Mount Island) and Estrada
penguin colony to learn more about these spectacular mammals inhabiting the south coast of the Atlantic. Isla Monte León Isla Monte León
was our first destination, so we set off towards Estancia Monte León
, an old, renowned cattle breeding establishment from where we took the road towards the sea.
Although the steppe is considered arid, we were pleased to discover some low growing plants with a few tiny, colorful flowers. The road took us along ravines and valleys, past Cañadón de los Guanacos
(Guanaco Gorge), where a few animals were peacefully grazing.
Before reaching the coast we came to Monte León
and called up our imagination to make out the outline of a ‘lion’ (as pumas are called in the area) at rest. The wind, the water and time itself have carved the figure of a puma in the rock, and lent its name to the national park we were visiting.
We had arrived at last, the sea and the sea lion colony lay before our eyes. Hundreds of South American sea lions were basking on the cliffs and on the beach, taking a break from their nomad life after arriving from another colony at Pico Quebrado
As we watched these massive bulks, we discovered inlets, high cliffs and the amazing movement of the tide constantly displaying or concealing beaches. When the tide is low, La Olla
, a beautiful cave carved in the rock by the water with an opening at the top which lets in sunlight, may be visited.
Cormorants, southern black backed gulls, blackish oystercatchers and neotropic cormorants are but a few of the sea birds that inhabit the island. Sea fishing is also popular as there are good specimens of sea bass, sand smelt and butterfish.
Estrada Penguin Colony
We took a whole day to visit the penguin colony. The road across the steppe is very similar to the one to Monte León and just as delightful.
Between August and April Punta Estrada is in full splendor. During the rest of the year the colony is not at its best. A walk along the sand and gravel beach while looking at the infinite shapes of the cliffs and the ‘native stations’, historical heritage of the area, leads to the colony.
Punta Estrada is also a popular fishing destination with excellent sea bass and other species.
After both outings we realized that when we spoke about the solitude of the landscape it referred only to the absence of man, as there are many species of flora and fauna living there, proof of the strength of nature in its pure state.
How to get here: To reach Isla Monte León, go 54 km south along National Route 3, past Estancia Monte León and turn into Province Route 63 to the coast.
To reach Estrada Penguin Colony, go to Punta Quilla (17km) and take the road from Estancia Monte Entrance to the coast.
Bear in mind: You can camp in summer. It is important to ask when the campsite is closed because of bad weather conditions. There is a game warden, tourist information, chulengas (portable grills) for barbecues and public toilets.