Going ashore in San Antonio Este, Argentina

The small port of San Antonio Este is situated in the Gulf of San Matias, very close to the northern limit of Patagonia and belongs to the Province of Rio Negro, Argentina. It is one of the smallest ports you will ever see and it can accommodate only one vessel at a time (and few small fishing vessels).The port lacks shore cranes and for this reason unloading and loading of the vessel are operated with vessel’s cranes – which can take a longer time than in the case of big port gantries.

Slow cargo operations means longer stay alongside and more time for you to wander around the port and establish a relationship with the territory of North Patagonia.

To go out of the port is just like you want to step outside your home garden. You come down the gangway, cross over the pier and over a small bridge and you find yourself at the gate in less than two minutes – unless you need some more minutes to have a view of the port and say ‘hello’ to some funny creatures living on the metal pier where the fishing vessels are docked. Just on the left side of the bridge, you can enter the small area where the fishing boats are moored and make your first encounter. Especially during sunny days, you will find here 10 -12 sea lions, lying sleepy on the pier and enjoying the sun.

Sealion San Antonio Este port

Sea lion family inside San Antonie Este Port

From time to time, they may jump into the water to have a snack or just to cool down, but they will always come back on the pier, although this task can require a lot of work (sometimes).

Funny sealion inside San Antonio Este Port

Sealion feeding time San Antonio Este Argentina

You will see here even small cubs because sea lions spend a lot of time with their babies … until they become adults and they like to stay close to their families. You can also witness some quarrels between the members of the group which are not too much different than the normal domestic fights you can overhear coming from your neighbors at home. Sea lions enjoy quarrelling for many different reasons like food, taking some other’s place (even the other’s ‘girlfriend’) or just because the others are all quarrelling. It is really funny to watch them especially when they make up after that and become real good friends by embracing each other with their fins. You can spend few minutes watching these funny creatures, trying your best to make yourself as invisible as you can. They don’t get easily scared, so they will not feel any threat coming from your side, but they can feel uncomfortable and agitated if you get too close or make too much noise. They will simply leave the scene and dive into the water, waiting for your departure so they can reclaim their peace and quiet.

You can continue your walk along the pier and pass through the gate – after you had shown your required papers to the security officers. From the gate you have three opportunities to continue your visit, all of them requesting walking.

Taking into account the reduce distance between these three destinations, you can cover all of them within few hours, allowing more time to one of them.

The small port of San Antonio Este has also a small village connected to it and you can walk around it, from one side to the other in less than half an hour. The village is crossed by only 2-3 roads and its center is outside the port gate. If you want to meet some locals, you can wander around the streets, visit the 3 shops available and the small park which is located in front of the local school. You’ll also have a chance to test your Spanish because almost nobody here speaks anything else but the native language.

San Antonio Este Village - Argentina

If you continue your journey to the left (on the left side of the port), you will get a real image of what Patagonia looks like – shallow seas rolling over the white sand covered with shells, open fields blown by the winds and thousands of birds. You can walk along the tidal beach or across the fields, among the thorny bushes, shrubs and different kind of grass and mosses. Everywhere around you there is only water, sand and a vast semiarid land covered with bushes and small grass.There is a great chance for you to spot some interesting animals, also rattle snakes. So, be careful!

Pay attention to the tide. In this area the tide is very strong and you can have some unpleasant surprises. If you find a small island very close to the shore, or just a narrow path of sand growing out of the water, this can happen only because of the low tide. You can wander around these shallow waters and tiny islands, but be sure to cross back on shore in time, unless you want to find yourself prisoner on the island, once the connection with shore is lost due to high waters.

A gimpse of North Patagonia - San Antonio Este


You will notice these differences in tide even in the port when you climb up or get down the gangway. The water level will fall and rise few meters every six hours and you will be able to notice it very clearly if you watch the position of the gangway.

Watching the tide inside the port of San Antonio Este– High tide –

Watching the tide inside the Port San Antonio Este– Low tide –

To continue your tour of the area, you can follow the road from the right side (immediately after leaving the gate). As a matter of fact, it is not a road, but only a sandy pathway along the beach. This beach can be only few meter wide when the sea is at its high tide and 40 meter wide at low tide. It is not very animated except during summer and sunny Sundays when locals gather here for picnics and fishing parties.

San Antonio Este Beach at low tide

Along the beaches of San Antonio Este North Patagonia


The best thing is coming after a 2 km ride from the port when you will meet the real masters of the beach. A big community of sea lions has been living in this area for many years and there is a good opportunity for you to study them from close distance. Between the months of October and May, some nice young volunteers are accompanying the sea lions during daytime, in order to protect them from noisy and misbehave tourists, but also acting as guides and very reliable sources of information. The big family includes more than 120 members and every spring it is renewed with many young cubs that can be very playful and funny.

All day long you will find them lying on the sand, jumping in the water from time to time to feed themselves and changing position only according to the tide. You can approach them at 25-30 meters and watch them for as long as you like. They will not bother you as long as you will not bother them and you can establish a very good connection by observing them quietly and without rapid movements.

They can get a little nervous – especially if they have their babies around – and the last thing you want is to annoy a 300 kilo sea lion male. Do not try to irritate them, just watch, take photos and keep distance.

San Antonio Este Sealion colony

Sealion colony San Antonio Este Argentina

The Sea lion colony on the shores of San Antonie Este Argentina

If the naturalist volunteers are there, you can find many interesting things about the colony – things regarding their way of life, breeding, feeding, but also the rules you’ll have to obey while visiting this protected area.

Keep in mind that, despite their funny and friendly faces, these creatures are wild animals and you must approach them with caution.

The best time to inspect the colony is in the afternoon because they are more active during morning hours and so are the visitors. It’s better to enjoy the view in perfect silence and not surrounded by tourists, so you can choose to spend the late hours of the afternoon in the company of these animals if you want to make the best of it.

If you have more time available, you can try and pay them a visit at different times of the day in order to observe their rituals and notice their behaviors.

San Antonio Este Argentina Sealion colony

Sunset in San Antonie Este Argentina

If you are also a bird lover, you will have the opportunity to see thousands of different seabirds along the beach, a little further from the place where the sea lion colony lives.

Bird watching San Antonio Este

Birds San Antonio Este


Enjoy your visit in San Antonio Este!


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