Few countries in South America boast such contrast and variety. Widely diverse habitats such as Patagonia’s bleak steppe, soaring Andean snowcaps, lush rainforest around Iguazu Falls, the steamy marshlands of Iberá, and grasslands of the Pampas support an astonishing range of fauna – from penguins, whales, seals, condors and armadillos to guanacos.
Brazil is dominated by the Amazon basin and its swathe of rainforest. However numerous national parks contain varied habitats ranging from coastal forest, savannah and mountain to the world’s largest wetland – the Pantanal – that house the greatest biodiversity on the planet. Attractions include imposing Iguaçu Falls and dazzling Atlantic beaches.
Squeezed between the high Andes and cold Pacific Ocean, Chile is a country of immense natural beauty. From the world’s driest desert, the Atacama, to the cold southern steppe of Patagonia, topped by immense glaciers and fringed with stunning fjords, a mosaic of ecosystems and microclimates is populated by a diverse range of flora and fauna.
Costa Rica’s world-class protected areas offer exceptional biodiversity and enshrine a proud conservation heritage. The varied topography guarantees a wide range of wildlife and scenery. Highlights include egg-laying turtles, the call of howler monkeys resounding through the jungle, brightly-coloured toucans and parrots, plus exquisite tree frogs.
Straddling the equator, this land of startling contrasts extends from Amazon jungle across the desert-like páramo and snow-capped Andean volcanoes to the Pacific coastline. Wildlife enthusiasts can see a staggering number of species, many of which are endemic – there are 1,650 bird species alone.
Straddling the equator in the Pacific Ocean, submarine volcanic activity caused this archipelago to rise from the seabed. Millions of years of isolation then allowed species to evolve through natural selection, creating a unique biological identity. There are no predators, so the animals know no fear – allowing close encounters
Lying between the United States and the Central American isthmus, Mexico has Gulf of Mexico/Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, separated by extensions of the Rocky Mountains. The volcanic Sierra Nevada runs east-west with peaks reaching over 5,000 metres. This contorted topography explains the region’s remarkable biodiversity.
The Falkland Islands
This remote South Atlantic archipelago consists of two main islands, plus another 776 smaller ones, mostly populated. The beaches are home to seals and sealions – a delight for nature lovers and photographers –and well over 200 bird species include black-browed albatross and giant petrel, plus there are five species of penguin.