Interview with Puerto Madryn Tour Guide Doug Neathery

August 28th, 2009 Posted in fauna, travel

Written by Shanie

As we wrote about before, we were able to visit Puerto Madryn a few months ago. The trip turned out to be spectacular because of the amazing and awe-inspiring up-close-and-personal interaction with Mother Nature’s creatures in their natural habitat.

One of the reasons that our trip was so mesmerizing and unforgettable was because of a United States-born Puerto Madryn resident and tour guide, Doug Neathery, who gave us the inside tip on where, when and why. His invaluable information literally made our trip much more impressive than it would of been without his local knowledge.

ocean view

Ocean view

I was able to sit down and ask Doug a few questions on his chosen home and the animals around the area. Here is what he had to say:

SM: What initially brought you to Argentina and Puerto Madryn?

DN: I first came to Argentina in 2005 and visited a friend here in Patagonia. I found the landscape interesting and thought that the opportunity to be near all of the other great places in Patagonia would be a great experience. I had been living in Costa Rica at the time and my work there came to an end. Everything worked out and I moved here.

SM: Were you involved with marine life before moving to the area?

DN: I have always been interested in marine life. I was able to have some great contact with the ocean living on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. The incredible variety of life there really stimulated my interest to learn more.

SM: One of the very special aspects to Puerto Madryn is being able to be a part of their natural environment. Do you have any stories you would like to share with us about inspiring animal interactions?

DN: Walking among the penguins at Punta Tombo is one of my favorite things. I am able to observe them in their habitat without disturbing them. Late August is when the males arrive to freshen their nesting burrows for the females and the upcoming breeding season.
One particular time I was watching a male walking around, intently looking on the ground. I had been watching him for several minutes and finally he found what he was looking for, he picked up a small pebble (among thousands) in his beak walked back to his nesting burrow and dropped it inside. He then resumed his search looking for the perfect rocks to decorate his summer home. So much better than going to Home Depot!

SM: Do you have a favorite Puerto Madryn animal/mammal?

DN: That is difficult to answer as I am continually impressed by how all of the animals here are perfectly adapted to live in what many of us would consider uncomfortable conditions. But if I had to choose it would be the Orcas.

elephant seal rainbow

Elephant Seals enjoying their home

SM: Out of the animal and marine life that thrives in the Puerto Madryn area, which has the strangest instinctual habits, in your opinion?

DN: The intentional stranding hunting technique used by several of the Orcas here is the most dramatic thing I have ever seen. This last April I saw the old male Mel hunting young sea lions at Punta Norte on the Peninsula. He has perfected the skill in this type of hunting. For example, he swims on his side when he is near the beach so the sea lions do not see his 6 ft dorsal fin. He then selects his target and charges the beach very quickly. It is truly amazing!

SM: What are some of your favorite star attractions in the Puerto Madryn area?

DN: The animals, the ocean, and the geology all interest me. I have found fossil oyster shells the size of dinner plates.

fossilized sea life

Fossilized sea life

SM: When is the best time to visit Puerto Madryn?

DN: The best times to visit and see the most wildlife would be between September and the beginning of December. During these dates visitors can see both whales and penguins.

SM: What is your advice when it comes to accommodations?

DN: Puerto Madryn has the full range of places to stay and plenty of rooms to choose from. My advice would be to determine your budget and start collecting information. If someone is planning on visiting during the peak season of late December to mid-February advanced reservations are a good idea. During other times visitors will be fine making reservations about one month before their trip.

Fully equipped apartments are an interesting option for people who would like to get away from the hotel scene. They are similarly priced to a good hotel.

SM: Would you recommend renting a car?

DN: That really depends on how and what you want to visit in the area. Renting a car does give you independence and makes the most sense when visiting Punta Tombo. The roads are hard surface nearly the entire way.

Visiting Peninsula Valdes is different. Roads are gravel and it is common to see sheep grazing right beside the road. Drivers should really pay attention and keep speeds down, 60kph (around 35mph) is the recommended top speed.

Land animals like the guanaco, mara and rheas tend to congregate in certain areas. People who are unfamiliar with the area don’t necessarily know where to look. Hiring a private guide or joining up with a good tour is my recommendation here.


Rhea enjoying the open land of Peninsula Valdés

Rental cars are more expensive here in comparison with the States. Figure about US$100 per day for a small, manual transmission car (automatics are not available). In addition, the rental company will charge US$ 1000 to your card as a damage deposit. When the car is returned undamaged they will then credit the amount back to your account.

SM: What would be important advice that all visitors to Puerto Madryn should know?

DN: English is spoken at all of the better hotels, less so at the restaurants. Dollars are accepted at all hotels and most restaurants. Make sure to bring bills that are as new as possible. Another important thing to note is that Andes airline flies directly from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn three times a week.

Puerto Madryn Night Lights Color

Puerto Madryn at night

Thanks Doug for taking the time to give us the inside scoop into one of the planet’s special places.

Doug can be reached at

  1. 6 Responses to “Interview with Puerto Madryn Tour Guide Doug Neathery”

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