Talking about Whale Watching in Valdes Peninsula, Mariano Van Gelderen is an alive legend of it. He has an important skill that has helped him to be always one step advanced : he knows how to observe, plus he has knowledge about what he talks about.Incurable bohemian, uses his verborragic personality to always give alerts in environmental areas and telling how things should be. In this small article while we summarized in a few lines its last 40 years in Peninsula Valdes, we try to do a tribute to him as a pioneer of the revolution that tries to bring us back to consciousness and cheer us to “Return to the Nature”. Nowadays it is dedicated also to paint the patagonik fauna and its landscapes.
At the beginning of the ´70 his uncle from Buenos Aires, gave Mariano a job selling Yerba Mate in Patagonia. He accepted, and he inmediately moved to Trelew. At his second day in Trelew, some rugbiers from the area took him to a beach 160 km from Trelew. "it was an amazing adventure" he remember " we have water til our necks and looking down we can still see our feet...I discovered a new world".
Soon Mariano met Eugenio Cora, the owner of a groceries store in Puerto Pirámides, who told Mariano that by those days people from United States were studying the whales, and is in that moment when Mariano also met Roger Paine, from the ICB; world known because of his works about the Whales. Knowing Roger Payne, Mariano realized about the diversity in Peninsula Valdes: Elephant seals, Whales, sea lions, penguins, Van Gelderen says " and I started thinking; What people from Buenos Aires do that they don´t know this place?". There was no clue the Yerba Mate selling was not for him.
By the time he did his first flight by helicopter in 1972 with Jacques Ives Cousteau, he was already took people to the LOberia for fishing the summer before. The focus of the flight was to identified whales in Golfo Nuevo, but the just could see some swimming really fast or settled down in Golfo Nuevo.
Next year he found the firts mothers with their calves established in Golfo Nuevo, and started to take 2 o 3 tourist to see whales in a small boat. It was the beggining of the Whale Watching Era, as happened in other places of the world.
That´s how a young man established himself inside Peninsula Valdes, in a small village called Puerto Pirámides where by those times lived less than 100 people.
If you come to Puerto Pirámides during whale watching times, you will hardly find him in other place than is office and atelier at the Primera Bajada al Mar, is the Hydrosport Whale Watching Office, that Mariano shares with Rafael Benegas.
Lucia, his daughter came to visit him for a couple of days, now she lives in Buenos Aires but he spent her childhood in this wonderfull village. Lucia and her sister come frequently to visit their father who is no more tham "The King of the Whales".
Captains Guides and Rangers
Whale Watching Captains - Mariano Van Gelderen The "King of the Whales"