Wild Patagonia & Central Chile: Nov 02—17, 2017
Pumas, Penguins, Condors & More!
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Magnificent Andean scenery, Patagonian steppe, towering southern beech forest, world-famous Torres del Paine and Tierra del Fuego National Parks, Pumas galore, King Penguins, and condors are hallmarks of this tour to majestic Chile. Outstanding photographic opportunities.
Chile! Whether exploring wild Patagonia for Pumas against a backdrop of snow-capped spires, or enjoying the antics of a fantastic King Penguin colony in Tierra del Fuego, or observing a hulking Magellanic Woodpecker in a towering Nothofagus beech forest, or sipping fine wine in a comfortable lodge, this lovely South American country is destined to captivate you.
On this exciting tour, we will experience the magnificent scenery and abundant wildlife of Chile, widely regarded among the most beautiful countries in the world. From Talca in south-central Chile to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego in the far south, we will seek the special birds, mammals, and landscapes for which the country is justly famous. Our visit is timed for the southern spring when the weather is at its best, wildflowers are in ablaze, birds are singing and easier to find, and photographic opportunities are at their peak. Perhaps most exciting, we will have the unique opportunity to view wild Pumas in famed Torres del Paine National Park; we saw seven on our 2016 tour!
We begin with an exciting but relaxed day close to the Chilean capital, exploring the wondrous Andes for many endemics, with Andean Condors galore and great photo ops. Then we’ll head south to Talca and the chance to see Burrowing Parakeets, and then on to Altos de Lircay National Reserve, home to sensational mountain scenery, our lovely lodge, and extensive beech forest—the home to Chestnut-throated Huet-Huet and Rufous-legged Owl—and where Magellanic Woodpeckers are common.
We then migrate south to Puerto Montt, jump-off point for Chiloe Island and exploration of the old-growth beech forests of Alerce Andino National Park. These beautiful forests hold such gems as Black-throated Huet-Huet, Chucao Tapaculo, Green-backed Firecrown, Des Murs’ Wiretail, and rare Chilean Hawk. We’ll take a special boat trip for the recently described Pincoya Storm-Petrel before crossing on the ferry for our stay on the charming island of Chiloe. This crossing should produce sightings of Flightless Steamer-Duck, Southern Giant Petrel, and attractive Red-legged Cormorant. Exploring Chiloe’s rolling hills and rich estuaries will provide exposure to a profusion of colorful wildflowers, hordes of shorebirds, and specialty Valdivian forest birds, including the endemic Slender-billed Parakeet, plus an exciting visit to a mixed Humboldt and Magellanic penguin colony.
A short flight south takes us to almost the tip of South America, Punta Arenas, gateway to wild Patagonia. Here, the landscape is dominated by the giant granite walls of the Paine massif rising dramatically above the barren Patagonian steppe. After an exciting ferry crossing we will explore the famous Tierra del Fuego, the “Land of Fire,” visiting a thriving King Penguin colony. Beyond penguins, these wild barrens hold many other enticing species, with a range of beautiful waterfowl including Silvery Grebe, Ruddy and Ashy-headed geese, flamingoes, the much sought after pink-legged Magellanic Plover, Rufous-chested and Tawny-throated dotterels, Least Seedsnipe, the incredible Chocolate-vented Tyrant, stunning White-bridled Finches and much more.
For a grand finale we’ll travel to the famed Torres del Paine National Park where breathtaking scenery abounds, with vast glaciers, ice fields, snow-covered mountains, and turquoise lakes providing sensational panoramic scenery at every bend in the road. Amid such splendor we will seek our prime targets: the powerful Puma (almost guaranteed, with 7 in 2016), herds of wild Guanacos, flocks of Darwin’s Rhea, White-throated Caracara, Austral Rail, Yellow-bridled Finch, and with luck, Hooded Grebe.
An optional extension based in the vicinity of Santiago explores its stunning mountains, rich wetlands and coast with an exceptional pelagic trip (for several albatross) for a marvelous suite of other birds not likely on the main tour. These include several neat endemics and localized species such as Chilean Tinamou, White-throated Tapaculo, Crag Chilia, Seaside Cinclodes, White-sided Hillstar, and of course, the gorgeous Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, and many more.
Accommodations good to excellent; high quality food and wine; tour moderately paced with a couple of action-packed long driving days and easy walking on varied terrain, but mostly on roadsides and forest trails; Puma excursions entail up to 2–3 kilometers of walking on rolling terrain; weather conditions mostly sunny and pleasant to rather cool and sometimes windy in the far south.