Patagonia: Tracking Pumas and King Penguins

From Tierra del Fuego to Paine National Park

Overview

Patagonia is a paradise for nature lovers, with its golden pampas, verdant forests, and granite peaks. The rugged topography and southern latitude make it a haven for unique fauna, from prowling pumas to fascinating wildlife usually found in polar latitudes, such as stately king penguins, Magellanic penguins, and enormous southern elephant seals. On our wildlife odyssey with WT Trip Leader Karen Lund Petersen, we’ll track pumas, the “ghost of the Andes,” with expert local trackers in renowned Paine National Park, thought to hold a higher concentration of pumas than anywhere else on earth. In addition to Paine’s big cats, we’ll keep an eye out for guanacos, native foxes (both Patagonian gray fox and Fuegian fox), armadillos, flamingos, soaring condors, and more. In remote Tierra del Fuego, we visit a colony of Magellanic penguins in the Beagle Channel as well as the only colony of king penguins found outside the sub-Antarctic islands. We’ll explore deep into Admiralty Sound aboard a motor vessel to experience soaring fjords, ice floes, glaciers, and Fuegian wildlife. Two special days will find us at a tranquil lakeside lodge on the edge of Karukinka Natural Park, a privately owned nature reserve with 1,100 square miles of soaring mountains, magnificent lakes, and rare wildlife—and few, if any, travelers! Karen, our long-time Patagonia leader, is an Argentine who lives in remote northern Patagonia with her family. She is a gifted professional naturalist and the ultimate guide to unlock the secrets of this realm. Our accommodations, including heritage estancias in stunning locations, are part of the charm of the journey, and we’ll be welcomed in each one with home-cooked Patagonian fare and fine Chilean and Argentine wines. Join us for the natural history trip of a lifetime!

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-6
Ushuaia, Argentina / Beagle Channel / Chilean Fjords / Karukinka Natural Park (2023 itinerary)

Travel by Zodiac in the Beagle Channel and walk the beach among thousands of Magellanic penguins. Crossing into Chile, we have two overnights aboard a private vessel to explore glacier-lined Admiralty Sound, keeping our eye out for leopard seals, black-browed albatross, and maybe even southern elephant seals. Vast Karukinka Natural Park protects the southernmost old-growth forest in the world, and here we enjoy forest hikes and optional kayaking.

Hotel Los Yamanas
Ushuaia, Argentina
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
Deseado Lodge
Karukinka, Chile
Days 5 to 6 (2 nights)
Days 7-8
King Penguins

A complete change of scene brings us to a pioneering sheep ranch on the Patagonian steppe to visit the only breeding colony of king penguins on the South American continent. Crossing the legendary Strait of Magellan by ferry, we head toward Paine National Park.

Estancia Caleta Josefina
Tierra del Fuego, Chile
Day 7 (1 night)
Hotel Simple Patagonia
Puerto Natales, Chile
Day 8 (1 night)
Days 9-14
Puma Tracking / Paine National Park

Paine’s famed peaks are known as “The Towers” for their vertical spires. Paine Grande, the highest tower, tops 10,000 feet, its dazzling rock pinnacles rising from snow and ice. We’ll explore the park, then head out with our team of puma trackers, who have a deep knowledge of the park’s puma population—Paine is thought to hold a higher concentration of pumas than anywhere else on earth. Throughout our tracking, there will be dramatic views of Paine’s landscapes and plenty of other wildlife, from foxes to armadillos, condors, and rheas. Our accommodation is historic Estancia Cerro Guido, a working sheep ranch. Depart on Day 14 via Punta Arenas.

Estancia Cerro Guido
Paine National Park, Chile
Days 9 to 12 (4 nights)
Hotel Yegua Loca
Punta Arenas, Chile
Day 13 (1 night)

Highlights

Highlights

Track pumas with expert tracker-guides in Chile’s spectacular Paine National Park
See the rare king penguins of Tierra del Fuego, cruise the icy fjords of Admiralty Sound
Discover private Karukinka Natural Park, 1,100 square miles of wilderness
Enjoy heritage estancias (ranches) and wilderness lodges in stunning landscapes

Details

Length: 14 days
Cost From: $11,495  
Arrive: Ushuaia, Argentina
Depart: Punta Arenas, Chile
Lodging: 11 nights lodges and estancias, 2 nights motor vessel
Meals: All meals included as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Walking, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level:

Wildlife viewing, easy to moderate hikes and walks, two nights aboard cruise boat, Patagonian weather changes may affect daily itinerary