Patagonia: Tracking Pumas and Cruising the Fjords

Wildlife Adventures from Paine to Tierra del Fuego

Overview

Patagonia is a paradise for nature lovers, with its golden pampas, verdant forests, and sheer granite peaks. Its rugged topography and southern latitude make it a haven for unique fauna, including prowling pumas. In remote Tierra del Fuego, magnificent tumbling glaciers descend right to water’s edge and the wildlife ranges from Magellanic penguins to austral parakeets. On our wildlife odyssey with WT Trip Leader Karen Lund Petersen, an Argentine naturalist and long-time WT Trip Leader, we begin with a four-day cruise by expedition ship. We’ll voyage through Tierra del Fuego from Ushuaia, Argentina, to Punta Arenas, Chile, into a realm of soaring fjords, ice floes, glaciers, and marvelous Fuegian wildlife. We then enter a completely different world as we head to Chile’s renowned Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a surreal landscape of iconic granite towers carved by ice. Here we’ll set out to track pumas, the “ghost of the Andes,” with expert local trackers. Paine is thought to hold a higher concentration of pumas than anywhere else on earth, and to spot one in the grandeur of Paine National Park is a spine-tingling experience. 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. Our accommodation in Paine is a historic estancia (ranch) on the edge of the park. Karen lives in remote northern Patagonia with her family and is a gifted professional naturalist. She’s the ultimate guide to unlock the secrets of this realm. Join us for the natural history trip of a lifetime!

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-6, Feb 26-Mar 3, 2023
Ushuaia, Argentina / Beagle Channel / Cruise Tierra del Fuego

After exploring Ushuaia, the capital of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago at the southern tip of South America, we board the Ventus Australis with our Trip Leader on Day 3 and set out for an exciting 4-day expedition cruise with explorations by Zodiac. We first voyage south along the Beagle Channel to Cape Horn National Park, one of the most legendary settings in the world, where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet, then visit Wulaia Bay, with its Yagan archaeological site. Entering Pia Fjord, where the spectacular Pia Glacier cascades down to water’s edge, we’ll explore by Zodiac in “Glacier Alley” and navigate between high rocky walls.

Hotel Los Yamanas
Ushuaia, Argentina
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
Days 7-12, Mar 4- 9, 2023
Puma Tracking / Paine National Park, Chile

We disembark in Punta Arenas, Chile, and head across the pampas to Paine National Park, whose 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 around the park, then join our team of puma trackers, who have a deep knowledge of the park’s puma population. Paine National Park 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 and guanacos to armadillos, condors, and rheas. Our accommodation is the historic Estancia Cerro Guido, a working sheep ranch on the eastern edge of the park. Depart on Day 12 via Punta Arenas, Chile.

Estancia Cerro Guido
Paine National Park, Chile
Days 7 to 10 (4 nights)
Hotel Yegua Loca
Punta Arenas, Chile
Day 11 (1 night)

Highlights

Highlights

Track pumas with expert tracker-guides in Chile’s spectacular Paine National Park
Cruise the icy fjords of Tierra del Fuego aboard a comfortable expedition ship, explore coves by Zodiac, hike along glacial lagoons
See Magellanic penguins, guanacos, condors, foxes, and rheas
Stay on a heritage estancia (ranch) in the iconic landscape of Paine National Park

Details

Length: 12 days
Cost From: $11,695  
Arrive: Ushuaia, Argentina
Depart: Punta Arenas, Chile
Lodging: 3 nights hotels, 4 nights estancias, 4 nights expedition cruise ship
Meals: All meals included as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Walking, Wildlife and Natural History
Trip Level:

Wildlife viewing, easy to moderate hikes and walks, four nights aboard expedition cruise ship, Patagonian weather changes may affect daily itinerary