The focus of this exceptional small group trip is tracking and photographing pumas and other wildlife in Torres del Paine National Park in the company of a local wildlife photographer and expert.
This once-in-a-lifetime photographic adventure allows you to explore the Torres del Paine area and see its remarkable wildlife, accompanied by leading Chilean photographer and wildlife professional Diego Araya, supported by a team of trackers. Each day you try to locate Patagonia's most elusive animals, and enjoy moments of intimacy with the enigmatic Andean puma and endangered South Andean deer while enjoying the park’s impressive mountain topography, and its native flora.
The base for your stay in Torres del Paine is the innovative, award-winning EcoCamp Patagonia, in its sustainable geodesic Suite Domes.
Day1: Depart UK
Day2: Arrive Santiago & fly to Punta Arenas
On arrival in Santiago, connect to an onward flight to Punta Arenas and transfer to your hotel. Once you have checked in, the remainder of the day is free.
En route you stop to visit the Cueva del Milodon, a 200-metre-long cave discovered in 1895 by a German explorer who came across a large and seemingly fresh piece of skin from an unidentified animal. The following year the skin was identified as belonging to a mylodon – a large prehistoric herbivore that became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene Era, meaning that the creature died between 10,200 and 13,560 years ago! The remnants of other extinct animals, as well as human remains, have also been found in the cave and other caves in the immediate area. Nowadays there is little to be seen other than a life-size replica of the bear-like prehistoric giant ground sloth which stands in the entrance.
On arrival at Torres del Paine National Park, head directly to your unique accommodation. After dinner this evening, your photographer-wildlife expert, Diego Araya, will give an introductory briefing and talk about the programme.
Days4-7: Explore Torres del Paine National Park in search of puma
During this photographic adventure you explore in the company of Diego, supported by a team of wildlife trackers. The plan is to set out early each day to photograph sunrise, with a hearty breakfast and coffee on the go, then focus on a different species and/or a different area of the park. The tracking team will already be hard at work, and will advise the location of any wildlife they spot by radio, so you can head immediately to the appropriate site. It goes without saying that puma sightings take priority over all others, and the actual itinerary will depend on sightings, weather conditions and the interests of the group. The animals you are likely to see include the shy and reclusive Andean puma (a.k.a. mountain lion or cougar) and the endangered huemul (South Andean deer), as well as ñandus (a large, flightless, ostrich-like bird), Andean condors, and culpeos (Andean foxes). There is also ample opportunity to enjoy and photograph the area’s stunning scenery – with spectacular sunrises and sunsets amidst dramatic mountain landscapes. You will visit Laguna Amarga, Laguna Azul and Los Cuernos (the Horns) – for the most dramatic scenery of all – and can photograph Patagonia’s unique flora as well as its wildlife.
You generally start close to camp, in the park’s eastern sector, making the most of the beautiful morning light and whatever wildlife activity you happen to come across. Thereafter you may be out for as long as six hours, watching, learning about and photographing native flora and fauna – with tips from Diego – before heading back to camp for lunch and a chance to relax in the middle of the day. In the afternoon – after peak daylight hours, during which there is little or no animal movement, have passed – you head over to the western sector of the park to enjoy its impressive landscapes, visiting Grey Glacier and other striking natural landmarks. Diego will introduce you to the area's different habitats and ecosystems, and show you Torres del Paine's unique and colourful wildlife in an ecologically sensitive manner. After capturing iconic images of the sun setting over the Paine massif, you return to camp for dinner and a well-earned rest.
N.B. in the event of bad weather impeding wildlife tracking, alternative activities such as a visit to the scenic waterfall of Paine Grande or to Laguna Azul will be planned..
Day8: Transfer to Punta Arenas
After a final morning’s activity in the national park, following lunch you retrace your route back to Punta Arenas, where you check into a hotel for an overnight stay. On arrival, what remains of the day is free to explore the town.
Accommodation: Hotel Cabo de Hornos, 1-night
Day9: Depart Punta Arenas
This morning, transfer to Punta Arenas airport to check in for a flight back north to Santiago and onward overnight connections to the UK.
Day10: Arrive UK
You should note: The price indicated is based on a minimum group size of 4 people joining the tour, and subsequently may increase in the case of smaller group sizes.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 10 daysfrom £5,395 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 8 daysfrom £4,395 pp
Single supplement: From £820
Group size: 4
Included in the price/package:
Domestic flights between Santiago & Punta Arenas
2 nights hotel in Punta Arenas (bed & breakfast)
5 nights at EcoCamp (full board)
National Park fees and activities
Services of expert photographer wildlife guide, plus team of wildlife trackers
Chilean Patagonia’s premier attraction is a scenic mix of craggy peaks, glacial lakes, icefields and green valleys – a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The omnipresent Paine Massif, a magnificent set of rocky spires formed from granite and sedimentary rock, dominates the landscape.
Where: Magallanes Region
Ideal for viewing: Andean condor, South American grey fox, guanaco, puma, South Andean deer
Excellent for: Wildlife photography
Designed to withstand the elements of the Patagonian wilderness and minimise environmental impact, EcoCamp Patagonia is an innovative complex of geodesic dome tents on wooden platforms. The accommodation is warm and comfortable and offers a perfect compromise between a hotel and camping.