Pumas Of Patagonia

Overview

The Untamed Pumas of Patagonia Expedition takes you to the very end of the South American continent in search of one of the continents two large felines. Despite its large size and range spanning from Canada to the southern tip of America, this is one of the few places where you can reliably observe wild pumas, and not just any observation, but an up close and personal experience with these beautiful cats that you wouldn’t believe possible, but with us it is!

This expedition is for wild cat lovers, wildlife enthusiasts and nature photographers. Not only will these cats mesmerise you with their enigmatic personality, but they live in one of the most stunning places in the world – the Torres del Paine National Park is a backdrop of soaring Andean peaks, glacial fields and stunning blue glacial lakes, not to mention home to a special collection of plants and animals.

Minimum expedition length to ensure Puma sightings is 3 full days (5d/4n), and for photographers 5 full days (7d/6n).

 

Highlights

 

 

  • Small groups to allow intimate experience with pumas with minimal impact
  • An experience guide and tracker team to find and bring you to puma sightings
  • Guides with knowledge and personal interest in photography to enable you to get the most out of the experience
  • Accommodation located in the centre of the best puma sighting locations, on occasion you don’t even have to leave the hotel!
  • Stunning setting of the Torres del Paine National Park
  • Other wildlife such as large herds of wild Guanaco, Lesser Rhea, Grey Fox, Chilean Flamingos, Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk, armadillo and many other birds including Andean Condors soaring overhead searching for puma kills.
Itinerary

We offer flexible expedition lengths to suit your requirements, but we suggest one of two expedition lengths:

Untamed Puma Expedition (5d/4n) (7d/6n)

Pumas can have vast territories which they patrol to exploit different food sources and other resources. This can make their movements from one day to the next difficult to predict, which is why our experience guides with knowledge of the habits and favourite places of local pumas are so important. Even so, weather and other events can make them difficult to find, so to ensure you have an unforgettable puma experience we suggest a minimum of 3 full days of puma searching.

Day 1 Punta Arenas – Torres del Paine

You will be met at the airport by your guide, or collected from your hotel if you have arrived prior to the start of the expedition, and transferred in a private vehicle to your accommodation on a private ranch boarding the national park. Punta Arenas – 3hrs – Puerto Natales – 1.5hrs – Torres del Paine.

After lunch, you will set out with your guide and tracker on the hunt for your first puma sighting in the surrounding area. This area of the park and surrounding area is thought to have the highest density of pumas anywhere in their range.

Even though the private ranch still has a small sheep heard, they do not kill pumas, unlike many of their neighbours, creating an additional refuge for pumas.

(Lunch, Dinner, Accommodation, Transport, Guide & Tracker)

Day 2 – 4/6 Puma Tracking

Early morning outings, with pre-prepared boxed breakfast, to catch pumas while they are still active before they settle down to sleep for the day. Much of the other wildlife is also more active during the early mornings.

Return to accommodation for lunch and rest.

Afternoon outing until dusk as the pumas become active after a day of rest and are hungry for a meal of hare, or even better, a guanaco.

If there is any time left between puma sightings, they can be used to photograph and enjoy the surrounding landscapes and other animals and plant life of the area.

(Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Accommodation, Transport, Guide & Tracker)

Day 5 (or 7)  Puma Tracking and Transfer to Punta Arenas

Your final morning in search of your last glimpse of a puma will conclude the end of what was hopefully and puma filled experience. Return to your accommodation for lunch and finish packing, then private transfer back to Punta Arenas (or Puerto Natales or boarder to Argentina), ready to continue your adventure or head back home.

 

Please remember that our Expeditions are highly flexible and personalised. If you have particular requirements and want to fit it around other activites, please contact us to discuss possibilities.

There are many other activities to do while you are visiting the area – please check “About the Area” for some ideas for other activities to make the most of your visit to the end of the world!

What is included:

  • Puma Guide
  • Puma Tracker
  • Accommodation during the expedition
  • Meals can be included or separate depending on clients choice of accommodation and preferences
  • Transport from your hotel / airport in Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine
  • Transportation during the expedition
  • Transport to your hotel / airport in Punta Arenas
  • Fuel for transport
  • Land fee use

What is not included:

  • Extra drinks with meals
  • Tips for guide and tracker
  • Tips for hotel and restaurant staff
  • Travel and health insurance
  • Air fares
About The Area

Patagonia

Patagonia is a vast area spanning the southern reaches of Chile and Argentina, from the Colorado River (Argentina) to the Strait of Magellan, rolling grassland, steppe, austral forests, mountainous ranges, desert, fjords, channels, straights and a maze of islands.

Punta Arenas

The southern city of Punta Arenas, and the capital of the Magallanes and Antarctic Chilena region, is situated on the coast of the Strait of Magellan and is the base of many tours that explore the surrounding coasts and islands.

Check out trips to Isla Magdelena which from mid-November to mid-March is host to a massive colony of nesting Magellanic Penguins (over 100,000). Take the ferry to the island where you can disembark and walk along marked walkways amongst the colony. They literally walk under your feet! This can also be combined with a trip to Isla Marta where you can observe the sea lion colony from the boat.

On the outskirts of the city you can take a ferry across to Tierra del Fuego, where a King Penguin Park might interest you. It is the only King Penguin colony that is to be found so close to the mainland, otherwise it’s a long trip out to the South Georgia Island.

Boat tours from here offer the chance to see a range of marine wildlife including gulls, cormorants, terns, skuas, feeding penguins, seals and sea lions, several species of dolphins, and even humpback whales and orcas!

To the south of the city is the historic fort Fuerte Bulnes, that has been reconstructed as a historic monument where you can learn about the history behind the attempts at colonising the area.

One hour north of Punta Arenas is Estancia Olga Teresa which is locally known due to the fact that it hosts a large roost of Andean Condors. A 20m high cliff embedded in a hill made of soft rock that has been weathered and worn by the elements to make natural nooks and cracks in which sometimes over 100 Andean Condors can gather at to spend the night, making for an impressive sight as they soar overhead, apparently playing and enjoying riding the updrafts.

Puerto Natales

Located 250km to the north-west of Punta Arenas in the region of Última Esperanza, and 150km south of Torres del Paine National Park. Historically it was an important port for the sheep industry, and later for coal mining in the area.

Now it is the last major settlement and importantly the last location to fill up on fuel before reaching the park so has become the base for travellers coming to and from the park. It is full of hotels and hostels, cafes and restaurants, and artisanal craft and souvenir shops.

There are ferry excursions to explore the Patagonian fjords and icebergs, and tour operators offer bike, horseback and even kayak trips in the surrounding ranches and waters.

The area is also famous for a nearby cave where some impressive fossils were found as well as being used by prehistoric tribes from the region. The Cueva de Milodón was the site of the giant ground sloth (Mylodon) where bones and even skin were found, as well as remains of other extinct animals such as the dwarf horse and saber toothed cat Smilodon.

Torres del Paine National Park

Located in southern Chile, where the Andean mountain chain starts to descend into the ocean. Towers of granite rock are backed by azure skies and topped by sedimentary rock, creating the famous three peaks for which the park is named, the Torres del Paine (Towers of Blue), Los Cuernos and more. Between these peaks are valleys, streams and rivers, which feed the lakes at the feet of the mountains.

227,289km hectares in size it contains five massive lakes within the park; Lago del Toro is the largest (202km2), Lago Sarmiento (90km2), Lago Grey (32.5km2), Nordenskióld (28km2) and Lago Pehoe (22km2). The western side of the park is covered in glaciers, the Southern Patagonia Ice Fields feed four main glaciers – Tyndall, Grey, Dickson and Zapata.

Trekking and sightseeing are the most popular activities, including day trips to the Base de las Torres to enjoy a spectacular view across the lake to the feet of the towering peaks. For the more dedicated, the famous “W trail” is a 75km multi-day trek usually done west to east, starting with a ferry trip across Lago Pehoe, and hiking to Glacier Grey. Next is going up and back down the Valle de los Franceses before trekking in front of Los Cuernos and finishing the trip with Base del las Torres. Finally is the ultimate “O circuit” which takes you all the way round back to Dickson, and includes the W as well, 123km of trails.

Torres del Paine is home to 118 bird, 26 mammal, 6 reptile, 5 fish and 3 amphibian species. Read more about them under Wildlife.

Condor Roost Extension

 

One hour north of Punta Arenas is Estancia Olga Teresa which is locally known due to the fact that it hosts a large roost of Andean Condors. A 20m high cliff embedded in a hill made of soft rock that has been weathered and worn by the elements to make natural nooks and cracks in which sometimes over 100 Andean Condors can gather at to spend the night, making for an impressive sight as they soar overhead, apparently playing and enjoying riding the updrafts.

Penguins Extension

Check out trips to Isla Magdelena which from mid-November to mid-March is host to a massive colony of nesting Magellanic Penguins (over 100,000). Take the ferry to the island where you can disembark and walk along marked walkways amongst the colony. They literally walk under your feet! This can also be combined with a trip to Isla Marta where you can observe the sea lion colony from the boat.

On the outskirts of the city you can take a ferry across to Tierra del Fuego, where a King Penguin Park might interest you. It is the only King Penguin colony that is to be found so close to the mainland, otherwise it’s a long trip out to the South Georgia Island.

Boat tours from here offer the chance to see a range of marine wildlife including gulls, cormorants, terns, skuas, feeding penguins, seals and sea lions, several species of dolphins, and even humpback whales and orcas!

Accomodations

The southern regions of Chile are dominated by ranches, sheep farming for wool and meat, but also cattle.

We suggest pne of the following loactions for your stay while on your Untamed Pumas of Patagonia Expeditions as they are the most ideally loacted for access to the area where we will search for pumas:

Refugio Laguna Amarga
Las Torres
Hosteria Pehoe
Tierra Patagonia
Explora Patagonia

 

What To Expect & Packing List

Physical Requirements

While we may get lucky and have Pumas close to the roads, or even crossing them, typically a puma sighting will require leaving the main roads and traversing rough, hilly terrain. While some expeditions will be conducted in 4×4 vehicles (dependent on budget and group size), eventually you will have to disembark and go by foot.

Having a basic level of fitness is essential for this trip as the ground is typically rough under foot (tussocky grass, loose rocks), and a mix of gentle and steeply sloping hills, and it is impossible to know where a puma will turn up or decide to go. They aren’t called Mountain Lions for nothing.

Also remember you will be carrying any optical and photographic kit you might be using (cameras, lenses, binoculars), extra clothing (extra layers, water proofs), water and snacks.

The higher your level of fitness, the more you will be able to get out of this trip, however, we can only go as fast as the slowest member of the group, as we don’t leave anyone behind. The job of the tracker is to find the puma and follow it until your guide can get you to the sighting. They will choose the easiest route possible, but once with a puma there is little option but to follow it where ever it goes.

Also, once with a puma, following on foot has the advantage of being able to follow it more closely and being more prepared to take photos when opportunities arise than if you are confined within a vehicle.

Weather

Patagonia is catagorised as having a dry, cold climate, and this is certainly so in Torres del Paine, down in the very south of Chile. However from day to day it can be VERY unpredictable. Typically there is little rainfall, but ALWAYS bring waterproofs, you don’t want to be caught out in the rain without it.

One almost constant factor is wind, and it can get VERY windy, so much that there are occasional incidents of vehicles getting spun around or even rolled if they are caught in a particularly strong gust (over 100mph). Please be aware that you might experience such weather during your trip and we may have to take refuge in vehicles, valleys or other sheltered places until it calms. Be careful with car doors and NEVER leave tripods unattended for risk of them blowing over and damaging equipment

However it does sometimes grace us with lightly breezy or even windless days – make the most of it if you are blessed with such weather!

While you may not realise it when you are bundled up and feeling the chill of the wind, the sun is typically strong and has high UV levels so caps, suncream and sun glasses are also essentials.

During the early and late high season (Oct-Nov, April), there maybe some wintery spells that bring in rain or snow, blanketing the hills and occasionally creating white out conditions. Come prepared for winter like conditions.

Packing List:

Wind Protection

  • Windproof Jacket / top
  • Windproof trousers
  • Windproof hat and buff
  • Windproof gloves

Water Protection

  • Waterproof Jacket
  • Waterproof Trousers (zip up sides are handy for getting them on and off over your boots)
  • Sturdy, hard soled, water proof walking boots

Sun Protection

  • Cap or brimmed hat
  • Sunglasses

Warmth & Comfort

  • Mid-weight, quick dry cushioned socks
  • Thermal top and trousers
  • Several pairs of durable walking trousers
  • Comfortable shirts and t-shirts
  • Insulating layer (fleece or down jacket)

Equipment

  • High factor sunblock, lip balm with sunblock
  • Small day pack or camera bag
  • Binoculars (useful for spotting pumas in the distance)
  • Camera equipment (Camera body, lenses, tripod etc)
  • Water bottle and/or thermos
  • Flash light or head torch
Wildlife

Torres del Paine National Park lists 118 bird, 26 mammal, 6 reptile, 5 fish and 3 amphibian species as present within its boundaries. Here are a list of the birds and mammals that you can expect to see during a multi-day trip.

Major Land Mammals of Patagonia:

Puma (Puma concolor) – many visitors pass through the spectacular scenery of the park, enthralled by the stunning lakes, towering peaks and wild herds of guanacos, unaware of the most impressive and dangerous resident. Their rufous coat provides surprisingly good camouflage in the golden grasses, or amongst the rocky outcrops where they like to rest and watch their favourite prey browse. Visitors can be seen photographing the landscape, oblivious to the puma walking across the hillside behind them, or sleeping in the long grass as they walk the trails passing meters from it.

The park provides an important refuge for this top predator, from the persection by local sheep farmers surrounding the park. The eastern side of the park and surrounding area boasts the highest known density of pumas anywhere in their range (as many as 16-17 individuals / 100km2). A high abundance of prey (European hares and guanacos) allows the area to support a large number of individuals without intense competition, and the rocky, scrubby habitat provides cover for their stalk and ambush hunting style.

Guanaco (Lama guanicoe) dominate the landscape, present in the 1000’s (estimated 600,000). They move about in groups, some over 100 individuals strong, feeding on the spikey scrubs and grasses. So common and accustomed to people, they are often seen wandering and browsing by the side of the road, occasionally blocking it. During the austral spring (Nov-Dec) the females give birth to young chulengos, who are up and running in hours of being born, so that when night falls and pumas start hunting they aren’t so vulnerable. The males begin fighting over feeding territories to attract females and secure mating rates after they have given birth, and can be seen racing and chasing each other over the steep and rocky terrain.

Darwin’s Rhea (Ñandu – Rhea pennata) can be seen wandering the grassy plains of the park. The males build a nest in the austral spring (Nov-Dec) for the females to come and lay their eggs, leaving him to brood and raise up to 40 chicks. Keep an eye out for these large, flightless birds foraging in the valleys.

Andean Condors (Vultur gryphus) roost and forage within the park. Individuals or groups can be seen circling high above in search of food to scavenge, or occasionally down on the ground on the remains of a carcass. The young are dull and brown, while the adults have smart black and white plumage, and the males sport a large crest and wattle.

Additional Wildlife:

Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis) are common, if shy, residents of the smaller shallow lakes and lagoons, their pink and black plumage a riot of colour in the landscape.

Grey Fox (Lycalopex griseus) is a small canine, more active during twilight and nocturnal hours, but may also be seen un the day, especially if there is food to be found. They can be seen scavenging the remains of puma kills.

Hog-nosed Skunk (Chingue – Conepatus humboldtii) are attractive with their pink nose and black and white coat. Primarily active during the night, they can be seen in the mornings or evenings foraging for grubs or anything else edible they come across.

Large Hairy Armadillo (Chaeophractus villosus) are one of the rarer sights of the region. Keep an eye out in the early morning and late evening.

There are several species of bats and rodents that you may also catch a glimpse of. Further into the park, around the lakes of Pehoe and Grey there are increased chances of seeing the shy and Endangered Huemul deer.

Short bird list:

  1. American Kestrel
  2. Andean Condor
  3. Andean (Ruddy) Duck
  4. Austral Thrush
  5. Austral Negrito
  6. Austral Pygmy Owl
  7. Black-chested Buzzard-eagle
  8. Black-faced Ibis
  9. Black-necked Swan
  10. Blue-and-white Swallow
  11. Chilean Flamingo
  12. Chilean Swallow
  13. Cinnereous Harrier
  14. Coscorova Swan
  15. Darwin’s Rhea
  16. Eared Dove
  17. Flying Steamer Duck
  18. Great Grebe
  19. Grey-hooded Sierra-finch
  20. Least Seedsnipe
  21. Long-tailed Meadowlark
  22. Magellanic Horned Owl
  23. Patagonian Sierra-finch
  24. Plumbeous Rail
  25. Red-gartered Coot
  26. Rufous-collared Sparrow
  27. Scale-throated Earthcreeper
  28. Short-eared Owl
  29. Silvery Grebe
  30. Southern-crested Caracara
  31. Southern House Wren
  32. Southern Lapwing
  33. Thorned-tailed Rayadito
  34. Torrent Duck
  35. Upland Goose
  36. White-crested Elaenia
  37. White-throated Caravara
  38. White Tufted Grebe

 

 

Send Us An Email

Destination Of Interest

8 + 6 =