Small group trip to observe and photograph the unique array of mammals and birds of the southernmost regions of Chile: Patagonia’s Chiloé Island, Torres del Paine, and Tierra del Fuego.
This comprehensive itinerary enables a unique chance of exploring Patagonia and its mammals and birds.
Most of the tours coming to the area are focused on beautiful landscapes and on the bigger animals that are the easiest to watch; with us, besides exploring and admiring the landscapes you will see a significant part of the endemic mammals and birds of the region; several of which are very rare and/or difficult to observe.
Ferry crossings and pelagic trips in Chiloe Island and the Magellan Straits are both very good for seabirds and marine mammals: Blue and Humpback whales and other cetaceans such as Chilean and Peale’s dolphins, South American Sea Lion, two species of local and highly range-restricted otters. Magnificent seabirds including several tubenoses like Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Southern Fulmar and Pincoya and Wilson’s Storm-Petrel and up to three penguin species including Humboldt, Magellanic and King.
Inland, up to three species of fox including Darwin’s, Chilla and Culpeo, Puma and Guanaco, Huemul Deer, Hairy Armadillo, Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk, Patagonian Weasel as well as other mammals of the Valdivian temperate rainforest such as the tiny Pudu Deer and hopefully Kodkod, one of the world’s rarest cats.
Forest birds can be seen such as the magnificent Magellanic Woodpecker and endemic tapaculos, also rare waders including Magellanic Plover, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Rufous-chested Dotterel, Two-banded Plover and seedsnipes.
As you can see, the variety of subjects on this quest for the mammals and birds of Patagonia is almost endless… like the memories that you’ll keep forever of this memorable experience.
Departing from Puerto Montt, we will take a ferry across the Chacao Channel to the magical island of Chiloé, a place full of traditions, legends, customs and unique wildlife, where we will explore several different locations and environments. After a few hours, we will arrive at the lush Tepuhueico Park, a magnificent, untouched example of Valdivian Temperate Rainforest. Overnight: Hotel Tepuhueico, Tepuhueico (Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
We will have the whole day to explore the pristine Tepuhueico woodlands, which are part of the unique ecosystem known as Valdivian Temperate Rainforest. Tepuhueico Park has the reputation of being a highly reliable place to see the critically endangered Chilean endemic Darwin’s Fox. A few hundred individuals of this fox survive in the ecotone between the dense temperate forests and the coast. We will have interesting walks in search of Darwin’s Fox, Pudu Deer (the second smallest deer in the world) and the Kodkod or Guigna (a very rare woodland cat). While searching for this array of enigmatic and little known mammals, we may find several endemic birds of the Patagonian woodlands such as Black-throated Huet-huet, Chucao, Ochre-flanked and Magellanic tapaculos, Patagonian Tyrant, Des Murs Wiretail, Chilean Pigeon, Magellanic Woodpecker, Chilean Hawk and Green-backed Firecrown. Overnight: Tepuhueico Lodge, Tepuhueico (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
We will drive down to Quellon, Chiloé’s southernmost town, and from here we will visit Yaldad inlet and its scenic surroundings in our quest for the endemic Chilean Dolphin. After spending the whole morning and early afternoon on this search and studying the several species of seabirds, waterfowl and migratory waders, we will drive to Castro. Our base here is Hotel Quilquico, a delightful facility built in the traditional construction style of the archipelago. If we have time we will explore the famous wooden churches of Castro and Dalcahue, a striking part of the cultural heritage characteristic of Chiloe. Overnight: Hotel Parque Quilquico, Castro (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
Today we will take a boat to explore two groups of islets that are home to a surprisingly diverse ensemble of seabirds and marine mammals. We will start with the closest to shore, Puñihuil Islets, where we’ll find Magellanic and Humbodt penguins, Flightless Steamer Duck, Kelp Goose and Red-legged Cormorant, among other seabird species, and Southern Marine Otter. Next we head south to Metalqui Islets, where we can watch a South American Sea Lion colony and small groups of South American Fur Seal. A careful inspection of the beaches might produce sightings of Southern Elephant Seal. On our way back to our departure site we will first sail into offshore waters to look for the largest animal that has ever lived on our planet, the magnificent Blue Whale. There is a recently discovered nursery area for them in this region and the presence of a few hundred individuals has been documented in the whole archipelago, particularly on its western coast and around the Gulf of Corcovado. Blue Whales can be recognized at a distance by their impressive spouts, their bluish-back coloration and their very small dorsal fins. We will also have great chances of seeing pelagic seabirds such as Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, and Pink-footed, Sooty and Little Shearwaters. Overnight: Hotel Parque Quilquico, Castro (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
Early in the morning we will explore Chepu River. This meandering and pristine water course is bordered by lush, dense rainforests and its clear waters are home to a critically endangered species, the Southern River Otter. We will look for it and hopefully our patience and efforts will be rewarded. We will also have chances with the rare Rufous-tailed Hawk and the endemic Slender-billed Parakeet. On our way back to Puerto Montt we will stop at the mudflats of Caulin Bay, which holds an important part of the world population of Hudsonian Godwit, which winters here and in other extensive bays of Patagonia, along with Red Knot and a variety of other shorebirds. From here we board the ferry back to Puerto Montt and drive to the beautiful town of Puerto Varas by Lake Llanquihue, where we spend the night. Overnight: Hotel Cabañas del Lago, Puerto Varas (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
Today we take another morning boat trip to the Gulf of Reloncaví where we have the exciting opportunity to see and study the newly-discovered Pincoya Storm Petrel that breeds somewhere in Chiloé archipelago. Back to Puerto Montt, we drive to the airport to take a 2-hour flight down to Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost city, located at the very tip of the South American Continent in the Northern shore of the Straits of Magellan. Overnight: Hotel Diego de Almagro, Punta Arenas (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
Today we take a ferry across the mythical Straits of Magellan into a land of legends, the vast Tierra del Fuego Island. After landing we drive along the huge embayment of Bahía Inútil – Useless Bay – Large numbers of Kelp, Brown-hooded and Dolphin gulls and South American Tern live here, and may see other seabirds and aquatic birds like Flightless and Flying steamer ducks, Kelp Goose and King, Imperial and Rock Cormorants. We will visit a nature reserve holding the only continental South American King Penguin colony, and later drive back to Porvenir to spend the night there. Overnight: Yendegaia House, Porvenir (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
Today we will drive across the windswept Patagonia in search of steppe specialties including Ruddy-headed Goose, Least Seedsnipe, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Short-billed Miner, Band-tailed Earthcreeper and Chocolate-vented Tyrant. A short ferry ride will take us to back to mainland and if we are lucky we’ll have the striking Commerson’s Dolphin following the wake. Chilean Flamingos, Upland Goose, Coscoroba Swan, Silver Teal, Black-headed Duck and Rosy-billed Pochard are all found here. Waders such as Wilson’s Phalarope, Baird’s and White-rumped Sandpipers will be common at the roadside ponds while we explore and enjoy the beauty of this “big sky”, open country. From here you will be transferred to Torres del Paine National Park. During our journey to the park, we might find Guanaco, Southern Grey Fox, and Patagonian Skunk, while enjoying our first contact with Southern Beech (Nothofagus) forests. While visiting the valleys we will be given a geological interpretation of the origins of the dramatic backdrop of Torres del Paine, one of the finest natural spectacles in Patagonia. Overnight: tel Las Torres Patagonia, Torres del Paine (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
We have planned a busy day and night schedule in search of Puma in the area. We will inspect the immediate surroundings of our hotel at night as well as the puma hunting grounds located in the eastern part of the park. The area between the northern coast of Sarmiento Lake, Laguna Amarga and Laguna Azul, is known for holding one of the largest concentrations of puma in the wild. February through April is a particularly good period to look for them as the females are actively hunting to provide food to their growing cubs; at this time they are not active -just by night but also in the twilight. To see a female puma and its large-sized cubs against this magnificent mountain backdrop and dramatic skies is one of the most impressive sights in this wilderness. In the company of our guide and puma tracker we will follow puma family groups and watch them from a safe distance with the help of binoculars and spotting scopes. We will also look for other mammals around, including the ubiquitous Guanaco, Andean or Huemul Deer, Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk and the two foxes present in the park, Chilla and Culpeo. Overnight: Hotel Las Torres Patagonia, Torres del Paine (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
This morning we will explore the ponds on the eastern side of the park in search of more waterfowl, including Spectacled Duck, Chiloe Wigeon, Speckled Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail and Crested Duck among others. Black-necked Swan and Great Grebe are also found here. Cinereous Harrier and Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle are often seen hovering in search of prey. Chilean Flicker, Striped Woodpecker and Austral Pygmy Owl will be our targets around a patch of secondary woodland. We will scan the white water rivers for the remarkable Torrent Duck. In the eastern side of the park, we should find groups of the southernmost representative of the camel family, the charismatic Guanaco. The reed-fringed lagoons can be very interesting: Andean Duck, Silvery and White-tufted grebes, and with luck the elusive and recently re-discovered Austral Rail, are all present here. We will visit Lake Grey to enjoy the dramatic sight of its southern shore dominated by stunning blue icebergs, and the surrounding sub-Antarctic forests will provide with chances to see Thorn-tailed Rayadito, White-throated Treerunner, Austral Parakeet, Austral Blackbird and the striking Magellanic Woodpecker. Overnight: Hotel Las Torres Patagonia, Torres del Paine (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
Early in the morning we will explore the Baguales Range, located northeast of Torres del Paine. Along the road, in the scrubby gullies, we will look for interesting passerines such as Patagonian Mockingbird and Gray-bellied Shrike-Tyrant. As we continue exploring this montane habitat we might find the local White-throated Caracara, Grey-breasted Seedsnipe, Cinnamon-bellied and Ochre-naped Ground-Tyrants, Patagonian and Greater Yellow-Finches and the stunning Yellow-bridled Finch. During the afternoon you will be transferred to Puerto Natales to spend the night. Overnight: Hotel Weskar Lodge, Puerto Natales (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) (Guide)
End of services after breakfast. Complimentary transfers to Punta Arenas airport for connecting flights to Santiago and home. (Breakfast)