After a night of nerve wracking sleep, we woke up feeling more tired but we only had to drive a couple of hours so we pushed on. We went back to the national park, hoping it would be open and it was! The rangers are bilingual and gave us a tour of the estancia (ranch) that used to operate on the now protected lands. It used to be a wool farm so we saw where they harvested the wool and how to shave the sheep, it was really interesting.
Then we went to the real entrance of park, about 6 km down the highway and turned onto an unpaved road and drove about 15 km towards the coast. There is no entrance fee for this park which is a huge bonus for this adventure.The biggest attraction of the park is the penguin colony that is a 2km walk round trip from where you park your car, which takes about 2 hours walking. It is a very easy walk because it is just flat steppe lands that lead to the coast. Once you arrive you will see lots of info about the penguins and then you will see them!
There were thousands of them, all with babies, and they were Magellan penguins, the same that we paid CLP$28,000 to see in Punta Arenas. We also learned that the biggest predator for this particular colony is the puma, who eat little helpless penguins. Though we didn’t see a puma, because it was around midday and they are nocturnal creatures, we did see fresh puma tracks on the way back to the car from the penguin colony. It was the closest thing we could get to a real puma and it was really cool!
The next stop in the park was the sea lion colony. You must park and walk on a 400m wooden walkway to the “Lion’s Head,” a large rock formation that resembles its namesake. I advise you to bring binoculars because it’s a bit hard to spot the colony but you can see them playing and resting on the rocks below. There are no predators of the sea lions in this area but the rock is also not big enough to breed so they just use it as a resting ground.
After the sea lion colony, we drove a bit more into the park to the Mirador of Isla Monte Leon, which houses a very large blue-eyed cormorant population. There is no access to the island but it is very close to the coast so you can see them without binoculars.
From there you head to the campsite, which is not functioning at the moment, that is situated right behind a very nice rock beach. When you register at the park office they will tell you if the tide is low enough to walk on the beach. The time we went it was so we walked around a bit and snapped some pictures. You can also fish in this area but you must get a permit, which is free, from the park ranger’s office.
All-in-all this park was very nice and you saw a lot of fauna that you normally have to pay for but in this case it was free. This park, however, is not pedestrian friendly. It’s right off Ruta 3 with nothing nearby except the park ranger’s office 6km from the entrance. Once you are within the park you also have to drive to all of the attractions, so if you don’t have a car it would be very difficult to get to the places. The park is open from 9AM to 7PM to prevent dangerous encounters with the pumas, though you still may spot one!
After the park we headed to Puerto San Julian , which we heard was a very nice city, with intentions to look around a bit. The city is no big deal, it’s relatively small and sits on the coast. We found the municipal campsite, which cost us AR$100 ($50 for the car, $25 per person) and decided to nap a bit because of the horrible sleep we got the night before.
We awoke around 5:30PM and it was too late to do any touristy things so we just drove on the coast and went to the market. When we got back to the campsite we had to rush a bit because the showers were only open from 4pm to 8pm. It is a strange campsite and definitely not worth the money but we really had no other choices and we were very tired so we didn’t care too much. So we showered and made dinner and cuddled in the tent. At this point the weather was starting to get warmer as we were going north so the temperature at night wasn’t so bad.
- Arrived @ Parque Nacional Monte Leon @ 9:30AM
- FREE = Park Entrance
- Left for Puerto San Julian @ 2PM
- Arrived at Puerto San Julian @ 4PM
- AR$100 = Municipal Campsite (AR$50 = car, AR$25 per person)
- AR$91 = Market
- AR$280 = Gas [AR$7.14/L]
- Total = AR$471