Panoramic Patagonia

Chile and Argentina II

March 3 - 15, 2019
Cost: $6,900
Leader: Matias Ballarini
Group Size: 8
Days: 13

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 Punta Arenas, Chile with spectacular Tierra del Fuego Island. Then you’ll take in the beautiful vistas of Torres del Paine and make your way to Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park. 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.
• Witness the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park.

Itinerary Updated: August 2018



Print Trip Safari Options
Date Description Lodge Meals
Mar 3 Depart home
Mar 4 Arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile Hotel Diego de Almagro, Punta Arenas D
Mar 5 King Penguins on Tierra del Fuego Island Hostería Yendegaia, Porvenir B, L, D
Mar 6 Tierra del Fuego National Park and drive to Puerto Natales Hotel Remota, Puerto Natales B, L, D
Mar 7 Cerro Benitez in search of Andean Condors Hotel Remota, Puerto Natales B, L, D
Mar 8 Scenic drive to Torres del Paine National Park Hotel Lago Grey, Torres del Paine B, L, D
Mar 9 Torres del Paine National Park Hostería Tercera Barranca, Torres del Paine B, L, D
Mar 10-11 Puma tracking Hostería Tercera Barranca, Torres del Paine B, L, D
Mar 12 Scenic drive to El Calafate, Argentina Hotel Kau Yatún, El Calafate B, L, D
Mar 13 Los Glaciares National Park Hotel Kau Yatún, El Calafate B, L, D
Mar 14 Morning at El Calafate and flights homeward B
Mar 15 Arrive home

Our Trip Leaders

Matias Ballarini

Originally from Santiago, Matias moved to Patagonia in 2004 and now lives in Punta Arenas so he can spend more time enjoying nature and the outdoors. He has guided trips to King George Island, Buenos Aires, Brazil, the Chilean Lake District, and Patagonia. He works with nonprofit organizations that help conserve the local environment and ecosystems. Because he loves to expand his knowledge of biodiversity, photography, environmental interpretation, and conservation, you may find him in a course offered by the local universities.

Detailed Itinerary

A glimpse into our journey

Depart home

Mar 3

For most, you will travel through Santiago, Chile on your way to Punta Arenas, Chile.

Arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile

Mar 4

The flight from Santiago is particularly scenic if the skies are clear enough to see the snowy mountains and glaciers slipping below. Punta Arenas is the main Chilean gateway to the spectacular landscapes of Patagonia. If joining from our Antarctica Peninsula expedition, you will drive 6 to 7hrs from Ushuaia to Porvenir, changing drivers and guides at the border, for an overnight at Hostería Yendegaia.

King Penguins on Tierra del Fuego Island

Mar 5

King Penguins

For those who joined from our Antarctic Peninsula expedition and overnighted in Porvenir, spend the morning at the local museum learning about the Fuegian culture. These indigenous people had a long history with colonization along with gold and cattle exploitation in the Magallanes Region. Midday, you will meet the rest of the group arriving on the ferry from Punta Arenas.

For those in Punta Arenas, take a ferry across the Straits of Magellan to Useless Bay, Tierra del Fuego Island.

Once the group is all together, you’ll 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 you may see include upland geese plus chimango and southern caracaras.

Tierra del Fuego National Park and drive to Puerto Natales

Mar 6

Austral Pygmy Owl

Tierra del Fuego Island is dominated by several of the most unique Patagonian habitats, especially Nothofagus 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. In the afternoon, you’ll have a scenic drive that allows time for plenty of photography stops from Tierra del Fuego to Puerto Natales.

Cerro Benitez in search of Andean Condors

Mar 7

Andean Condor

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.

With a landscape of rolling hills, moorland, and lakes you will have the chance to see unique species of birds 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 also a prime location to see rails, seedsnipes, and other lovely waders, such as rufous-chested plover and tawny-throated dotterel.

Scenic drive to Torres del Paine National Park

Mar 8

Torres del Paine National Park by Debbie Thompson

You will drive to Torres del Paine National Park, which includes 600,000 acres (242,242 hectares). The omnipresent Paine Massif, a magnificent set of rugged peaks, formed out of granite and sedimentary rock, dominates the landscape. The long-gone Indians of Patagonia called it paine, meaning blue, presumably from its remarkable blue hues when observed at a distance.

Torres del Paine National Park

Mar 9

Torres del Paine National Park by Debbie Thompson

You will have the opportunity to explore the Nothofagus or southern beech forest and its diversity of plants and animals. You may find Magellanic woodpecker, austral parakeet and, if you are lucky, the shy southern Andean deer (guemul). Marvel at the contrasting mosaic of towering mountains, glaciers, wetlands, steppes, and forests. See Lake Grey's colossal icebergs that are stranded on the southern shore after a long, slow transit from the glacier front.

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. Enjoy stunning 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 10-11

Puma (Cougar) photo by Claudio Vidal with Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris

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 El Calafate, Argentina

Mar 12

South American Gray Fox

You’ll take a scenic drive that allows time for plenty of photography stops from Torres del Paine to El Calafate, Argentina.

Los Glaciares National Park

Mar 13

Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina.

Visit Los Glaciares National Park to explore the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the few on this continent that constantly advances and recedes (at present, it is the only advancing glacier in Argentina). A huge 5km ice wall, at the end of the 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 4–5 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 (last collapse occurred 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. A total of 48 glaciers lie within the 1,770 acres (717,800 hectares) of Los Glaciares National Park, a declared 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.”

Morning at El Calafate and flights homeward

Mar 14

Spend the morning wandering around the charming town of El Calafate on your own, or take an optional guided tour of the Glaciarium, a museum and interpretation center with comprehensive displays and exhibitions about the Southern Patagonian icefield and its many glaciers (additional cost). You’ll find this a great source of information after your experience at Perito Moreno Glacier. Then transfer to the airport for your flights homeward.

Arrive home

Mar 15

Arrive home today, depending on your flight schedule.

Chile and Argentina II

Patagonia, stretching over southern Chile and Argentina, is a sparsely populated, arid region with superb wildlife viewing opportunities.

-50.942326, -73.406788

Cost & Payments

Costs (in US$)

Type Cost Per Person
Trip cost, double occupancy $6,900
Single Supplement (subject to availability) $1,650

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 leaders, transport, park entry fees, landing fees, and permits for all activities unless described as optional.
  • Accommodations for the nights of March 4 through March 13.
  • Meals from dinner on March 4 through breakfast on March 14.
  • All Airport transfers on March 4 from Punta Arenas Airport and on March 14 to El Calafate Airport.
  • Trip Materials – information about flights, packing, entry and departure requirements, airport transfers, gratuities, etc.

Not Included

  • All airfare, airport and departure taxes, and excess baggage fees. Airfare is approximately $1,100–$1,800 from the USA to Punta Arenas, Chile fees.
  • Transfer from Ushuaia to Porvenir for those joining from our Antarctic Peninsula expedition.
  • Passport and visa fees.
  • We can arrange divergent airport transfers and extra hotel nights for an extra cost.
  • Optional guided tour of the Glaciarium, which is approximately $15 per person.
  • Gratuities – tipping is, of course, discretionary, however we suggest budgeting about $20 to $25 per participant per day for March 4 to March 13 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 daytime 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

Unless listed as included, airfare 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 Punta Arenas, Chile (PUQ) by the afternoon on March 4. If you are arriving from our Antarctic Peninsula expedition, you will transfer by land from Ushuaia to Porvenir, Chile on March 4. Depart from El Calafate, Argentina (FTE) anytime on March 14, but if you want to visit the Glaciarium, depart in the afternoon.

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 nature: We try to spend as much time in nature 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 you 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.
  • Use of Drones/UAVs on Tours: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), AKA drones, are not suitable for use on most Cheesemans’ Ecology expeditions due to logistical constraints and in many cases, local and national laws or regulations. In some cases, such as on our polar voyages, we operate under environmental regulations that ban the use of recreational drones. Do not bring a drone on safari without contacting us first.