Panoramic Patagonia

Chile and Argentina

March 3 - 16, 2019
Cost: $7,400
Leader: Rodrigo Tapia
Group Size: 8
Days: 14

Safari Overview

Patagonia, stretching over southern Chile and Argentina, is a sparsely populated, arid region with superb wildlife viewing opportunities. This breathtaking area encompasses the Andes Mountain Range and presents an image that is unmistakably South American. You’ll begin your adventure outside of El Calafate, Argentina with spectacular Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. Then you’ll take in the beautiful vistas of Torres del Paine and explore the most southerly Chilean islands. Visiting a colony of King Penguins, viewing soaring Andean Condors, searching for Guanaco herds roaming the plains of Torres del Paine, and perhaps encountering shy female Pumas that are busy feeding their cubs are all highlights of this magical land. Soak up majestic scenery while appreciating the diversity of animals Patagonia has to offer.

HIGHLIGHTS:
• Track female Pumas while they search for food and care for their young.
• Explore a King Penguin colony in beautiful Tierra del Fuego.
• Experience the astounding wingspan of an Andean Condor as it soars above the mountains of Torres del Paine.

Itinerary Updated: May 2017



Print Trip Safari Options
Date Description Lodge Meals
Mar 3 Depart home.
Mar 4 Arrive in El Calafate, Argentina. Enjoy a welcome dinner together. Kau Yatun Hotel, El Calafate D
Mar 5 Los Glaciares National Park to visit Perito Moreno Glacier. Hotel Kau Yatun, El Calafate B, L, D
Mar 6-7 Two days taking in the views of the spectacular Paine towers and great wildlife in eastern Torres del Paine National Park. Hotel Las Torres, Torres del Paine B, L, D
Mar 8-9 Puma tracking on a private ranch located at the eastern border of Torres del Paine National Park. Hotel Las Torres, Torres del Paine B, L, D
Mar 10 Birding and photography en route to Puerto Natales. Hotel Remota, Puerto Natales B, L, D
Mar 11 Explore Cerro Benitez in search of Andean Condors. Hotel Remota, Puerto Natales B, L, D
Mar 12 Drive to Punta Arenas and visit Olga Teresa Ranch for Andean Condor roosting sites. Hotel Diego de Almagro, Punta Arenas B, L, D
Mar 13 Take a Ferry to Tierra del Fuego Island to visit a King Penguin colony. Hosteria Yendegaia, Porvenir B, L, D
Mar 14 Spend the day exploring Tierra del Fuego. Hosteria Yendegaia, Porvenir B, L, D
Mar 15 Morning in Tierra del Fuego then fly to Punta Arenas and connect to homeward flights. B
Mar 16 Arrive home.

Our Trip Leaders

Rodrigo Tapia

Rodrigo developed his lifelong passion for birds at the early age of ten, which led to his studies of Biology at Universidad Católica de Valparaíso and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. He spent years researching birds for different organizations throughout Chile and Antarctica and also worked as a birding guide, guide instructor, independent researcher, and birding consultant. He is also interested in increasing public awareness of birds through children’s education, lectures, and birding festivals. Since 2006 he has led birding, wildlife and wildlife photo tours. Rodrigo has done it all!

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Depart home

Mar 3

For most, you will travel through Santiago, Chile on your way to El Calafate, Argentina.

Arrive in El Calafate, Argentina

Mar 4

El Calafate is the main Argentine gateway to one of the most spectacular landscapes of Patagonia: the Austral Andes Glaciers. If continuing from Antarctica, you will fly the short distance from Ushuaia to El Calafate. See the Antarctic Peninsula itinerary and details.

Los Glaciares National Park

Mar 5

Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina.

The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the few glaciers on this continent that constantly advances and recedes (at present, it is the only advancing glacier in Argentina). One huge vertical five-kilometer ice wall of this glacier sinks into the Canal de los Témpanos (Channel of the Icebergs), which connects an arm of Lake Argentino, called Rico, to its main body. Once every four to five years, the Moreno Glacier fully crosses the channel, forming a dam that causes a rise in the waters of the Rico Arm. The pressure of the water will finally rupture the ice dam, providing a spectacular show that attracts hundreds of enthusiasts from around the world. (The last collapse occurred in March 2016) The glacier was named after Francisco P. Moreno, a famous Argentine explorer who discovered Lake Argentino and is also well known as the father of the national parks in this country. The 1,770 acres (717,800 hectares) of Los Glaciares National Park harbors this amazing glacier plus another 47 huge glaciers. This park has been declared a Worldwide Natural Heritage Site.

Guanacos and Lesser Rheas are likely to be seen while you are in the open areas driving from El Calafate to the glacier. Watch carefully along the edge of rocky cliffs and up above the snow-covered peaks of the majestic Andes for the Andean Condor, the “Master of the Sky.”

Torres del Paine National Park

Mar 6-7

Torres del Paine National Park by Debbie Thompson

On the east side of Torres del Paine National Park, which is the leeward side, the weather is usually quite sunny and clear. You’ll walk beside the impressive Towers of Paine granitic formations with wild Guanacos roaming in the foreground.

At the eastern corner of Sarmiento Lake, you will reach a location that commands the most incredible views of the pinnacle peaks of Las Torres, the towers, from which the park takes its name. As you move around the park, you’ll encounter herds of Guanaco, the Lesser Rhea (a ratite like Ostrich and Emu), and impressive Andean Condors soaring above. On the eastern side, enjoy the views of one of the impressive waterfalls of Paine River and, if it is clear, the fabulous granite columns of the Paine Massif from Laguna Amarga.

Puma tracking

Mar 8-9

Puma (Cougar) cub by Claudio Vidal

You will have an experienced tracker on private land adjacent to Torres del Paine National Park to track female Pumas. March through July are the best months to attempt to find Puma as females are continually hunting to provide food for their almost fully-grown cubs. At this season, they are active during the day as well as at night and the twilight hours. To see a female Puma and her cubs against the magnificent mountain backdrop and glorious skies is one of the most impressive wildlife spectacles.

Scenic drive to Puerto Natales

Mar 10

You’ll have a scenic drive that allows time for plenty of photography stops from Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales.

Cerro Benitez in search of Andean Condors

Mar 11

Austral Pygmy Owl

Andean Condors are abundant in the Cerro Benitez region, as they have communal roosting sites on the surrounding cliffs. Seeing Andean Condors soar right above you is quite a remarkable experience. Andean Condors are the world’s largest member of the vulture family with a 10-foot wingspan.

The wild landscape of rolling hills, moorland, and lakes has many species of birds and we hope to see some special ones like the very localized Ruddy-headed Goose, the handsome Chocolate-vented Tyrant, Long-tailed Meadowlark, and Patagonian Yellow-Finch. The scrubby roadside vegetation provides concealment for a few species of skulking passerines, such as Austral Canastero. This area is prime to see rails, seedsnipes, and other lovely waders, such as Rufous-chested Plover and Tawny-throated Dotterel.

Olga Teresa Ranch for condor roosts

Mar 12

Andean Condor

Olga Teresa Ranch boasts the largest concentration of Andean Condor roosts. The steep cliff sides host as many as 100 birds with excellent access for viewing and photography. Olga Teresa Ranch is a protected space for these beautiful birds, as well as an important research site.

King Penguins on Tierra del Fuego Island

Mar 13

King Penguins

Take a ferry across the Straits of Magellan to Useless Bay, Tierra del Fuego Island to visit a colony of approximately 100 King Penguins, located at a small river mouth near the Straits of Magellan. This is a private nature reserve, which aims to preserve the small numbers of Kings that remain year-round and breed here, attracted by the bounty of food in the surrounding sea.

Here the vegetation is mainly wind-swept dwarfed bush and tussock grass, and you may spot common seabirds, especially Southern Giant-Petrel plus Kelp and Dolphin gulls. Look for landbirds along the shore, such as Dark-bellied and Gray-flanked cinclodes. Other common species we may see include Upland Geese plus Chimango and Southern Caracaras.

Tierra del Fuego National Park

Mar 14

Torrent Ducks by Debbie Thompson

Tierra del Fuego Island is dominated by several of the most unique Patagonian habitats, especially Nothofargus or southern beech forest and Patagonian steppe. Aquatic habitats, including lakes, ponds, rivers, and rocky seashore add to the excitingly distinct Subantarctic scene.

The avifauna of the southern-most region of Chile also has a distinct subantarctic influence. Typical birds found on the shore and on open water at this latitude include Black-faced Ibis, Flightless Steamer-Duck, Crested Duck, Ashy-headed and Kelp geese, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Chilean Skua, and Dolphin Gull. Other attractions in the area include Torrent Duck, Austral Parakeet, White-throated Caracara, and Magellanic Tapaculo.

You’ll have the chance to experience the typical Tierra del Fuego steppe along the shoreline of small lakes. Perhaps you’ll find the rare Magellanic Plover, a strange southern wader that looks almost dove-like, as it picks away at the muddy edges. These birds frequently 'paddle' with their feet to disturb the animal life in the mud, a habit that often draws attention to them! Other birds that thrive in this windy terrain are Least Seedsnipe, Short-billed Miner, and Correndera Pipit.

Fly from Porvenir to Punta Arenas

Mar 15

Spend the morning in Tierra del Fuego then take a late afternoon flight from Porvenir to Punta Arenas to connect with your flight homeward.

Arrive home

Mar 16

Arrive home today, depending on your flight schedule.

Chile and Argentina

Discover Patagonia: beautiful glacier-covered Andes Mountains, Tierra del Fuego island, and surprisingly diverse wildlife.

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Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Cost Per Person
Trip cost, double occupancy $7,400
Single Supplement (subject to availability) $1,750

We reserve the right to charge for cost increases that occur between when we set tour prices and the date of travel, for example, changes due to the cost of lodging and transportation. If you are a single traveler and you desire, we will find a roommate for you. If we cannot find you a roommate, we may charge you a single supplement fee. Single rooms are subject to availability.


Payment Schedule

Payment Due Date Amount Per Person
Deposit Due now to reserve your space $500
Second March 1, 2018 $1,000
Final October 1, 2018 Remaining Balance

Payments will be due based on the schedule above. All reservations require a deposit to confirm reservation of your space. For reservations made after a due date, all past payments will be due with registration. By sending your initial deposit, you agree to accept our payment schedule and cancellation policy as a contract. If payments are still outstanding two weeks after the due date, your space may be forfeited.


Cancellations

Until the Final Payment due date, deposits are refundable except for a cancellation fee of $150 per person, which can be applied toward another tour if reserved within six months of the cancelled trip’s departure date. Cancellations are non-transferrable. No refunds are given after the Final Payment due date.

Included

  • All activities, leaders, transport, park entry fees, and accommodations as described in the detailed itinerary.
  • Airport transfers on March 4 from El Calafate Airport and on March 15 to the Porvenir Airport.
  • Flight from Porvenir to Punta Arenas on March 15.
  • All meals from dinner on March 4 through breakfast on March 15.
  • Lodging the nights of March 4 through March 14.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.

Not Included

  • All airfare, except flights listed as included, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees.
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • Gratuities – tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $20 to $25 per participant per day for March 5–14 with our leaders (about $200 to $250 total per participant).
  • Emergency medical and evacuation insurance, and trip cancellation insurance. Read more about travel insurance.
  • Items of a personal nature such as laundry, telephone calls, medical costs or hospitalization, room service, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, and items not on the regular menu, etc. If you have special dietary needs, please indicate them on your Reservation/Release Form.

Climate

This is a tour where the extremes of climate match each change of scenery. Because March is late summer in Argentina and Chile, it’s a good time to visit the country. We’ll mainly be in the chillier southern region so dressing in layers is best, including a waterproof outer layer to guard against windy or cold conditions anytime during the tour. Torres del Paine is notorious for its unpredictable weather conditions, but average temperatures range from lows in the mid-40s °F (7 °C) to highs in the upper-50s to mid-60s °F (14-18 °C).

Fitness Level

Most walks are short distances less than three hours at a slow pace, allowing time for observation and photography. Most walking is on relatively level ground, but occasionally we may take short, steep walks to look for animals.

Flights

All airfare, except flights listed as included, is not included in trip costs. Detailed logistical information and the contact information for our recommended flight-ticketing agent are included in the Trip Materials we will send you. Please let us know if you are arriving earlier or staying later as we are happy to assist you with any extra overnights that you might want to arrange.

Flights you (or a travel agent) book: Arrive in El Calafate, Argentina (FTE) by afternoon on March 4. Depart from Punta Arenas, Chile (PUQ) after 7pm on March 15.

Flights we book for you: Flight from Porvenir to Punta Arenas on March 15. This flight is included in the trip cost.

FAQ

Accommodations

Seasickness

Transportation

Conditions

  • Non-smoking policy: We have a strict non-smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted at any time or any place during our tours.
  • Maximum time in the field: We try to spend as much time in the field as possible, sometimes resulting in long days but giving you a more in-depth experience.
  • Itinerary route: The itinerary route, stops, and plans are subject to change by unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, such as weather or road conditions.
  • Additional forms: For some of our tours, you may be asked to fill out additional forms (e.g., medical questionnaire).
  • Medical conditions and travel risks: Travel to remote places is exciting, but it is important to understand and accept the risks, both medical and logistical. Minor medical problems can usually be treated, but because we are often far from medical facilities, there can be no expectation for immediate medical treatment or evacuation, even in cases of trauma. Anyone with health problems needing close medical supervision should not consider going on this tour. Bring enough medication for the duration of the trip for any chronic medical needs, since pharmacies are usually not available. When you send your deposit and signed Reservation/Release Form, you certify to us that you do not knowingly have any physical or other conditions that would create a risk for yourself or for other trip participants.