Once a thriving seaweed farm on Patagonia’s Atlantic Coast, Bahia Bustamante was a ghost town by the 1990s. But now, the former owner’s grandson has transformed it into an eco-retreat and conservation project. Mark Stratton heads to Argentina to find out more.

There’s a briny smell of kelp in the air—I’m imagining the sweat and toil of halcyon days when Bahia Bustamante was the world’s largest seaweed harvesting operation. In 1954, one Lorenzo Soriano created a seaweed empire on the fringe of the remote Patagonian steppe on Argentina’s Atlantic coast.

“At its peak, 400 algueros (seaweed harvesters) were living here,” explains Matias, the grandson of Lorenzo Soriano. “It was a thriving community with a schoolroom and church. But by the time I inherited it in the late 1990s, it was a ghost town”.

He says his family called him crazy to even consider restoring the property. But like Matias, they had no idea what Bahia Bustamante would become: A lodge at the heart of a bay that the New York Times had once called… ‘Argentina’s Galapagos’.