Pumas of Patagonia, Chile

Tuesday, November 8 Punta Arenas

We arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile a day early, having learned our lesson from the crazy switcharoos that happened to us on the last trip abroad. We met up with some of our photography workshop group at the Apart Hotel Endurance for our first night. We walked about town, down to the wharf, and saw loads of sea birds sitting, and some nesting, on old piers. We walked the length of the town’s beach and came upon the Letras Punta Arenas, then strolled back into town for dinner at a cool restaurant; La Luna – very cool two-story set up.

Wednesday, November 9 Punta Arenas

On a fellow traveler’s recommendation, we grabbed a taxi and were taken to Humedal Tres Puentes, a marsh area just east of Punta Arenas. Here we were lucky to see a bunch of new birds to add to our growing Life List.

After a few hours I stood out in the road and was finally able to hail another taxi to take us back to our hotel. We stowed our gear and then walked a few blocks to Mesita Grande for lunch. After lunch, we grabbed our gear and walked back down to the wharf to get photos of those sea birds; Magellanic and imperial cormorants, along with some gulls. While leaning on the wharf’s seawall we got white paint on our jackets! I had on my new camo jacket, so it didn’t show up too badly, and eventually all cleaned up, but it took a lot of scrubbing!

We walked further down the shore and saw a crested duck floating in the water, a southern lapwing, and a few more gulls.

Back at the hotel, we downloaded photos, rested, then changed for dinner with the group. We met our fellow travelers and had a wonderful meal at Farmacias Cruz Verde.

Thursday, November 10 Penguins

A boat took our group, and others, to Isla Magdalena to see Magellanic penguins, Chilean skua, and a few other minor birds. We didn’t see any eggs or chicks yet, as the penguins were just starting to pair up for the season and some had already claimed their nesting locations.

Back on the boat we sailed past Isla Marta where we saw tons of birds along the cliffs before returning to Punta Arenas for lunch.

We left Punta Arenas shortly after lunch for a four-hour drive to the Torres del Paine Area. Our hotel would be Hotel Ovejero Patagonico.

Friday, November 11 – Tuesday, November 15 Pumas and Guanacos

Today our adventure in the Patagonias began. We were up super early and, after a quick breakfast, headed out to private land next to the Torres Del Paine National Park in 4×4’s to track the big cats – pumas! Our guide throughout this trip was a very sweet and smart lady named Javiera, Javi for short. Her husband’s name is Junior (not pictured here), and our trip coordinator was Hector Astorga.

This area is vast and wild. We traveled some well-worn, and sometimes not-so-well-worn paths to get to locations that our tracker, Junior, had spotted ahead for us. Each time we saw pumas. Over the course of this trip we saw 13-15 different pumas in all. One morning, we were watching a cat on a large rock. Her 9 month old cub, just about the same size as her mama, joined her there briefly. Then they both got down and headed in our direction. Mama sniffed one of our packs while the cub moved to the other side of us and behind us. If I had extended my arm about a foot, I could have touched her!

We also saw guanaco, larger cousins of llamas and alpacas. You always knew when pumas were near because the guanaco would sound the alarm.

Each day of this workshop would be the same, in that we would wake very early, have breakfast, and then drive out to the ranch in search of pumas. We would spend all day, and enjoy a picnic lunch in the field. At the end of the day, usually when it was starting to get dark, we’d head back to the hotel where we would download images and join our group for a buffet-style dinner.

One or two days, we broke the cycle and visited a lake to see the flamingos – sitting on our butts on large rocks for a few hours.

And silvery grebes.

We also hiked up a hillside to photograph the iconic mountains and valley.

Wednesday, November 16

After breakfast we loaded up the vehicles and left for Torres Del Paine National Park where we took some nice photos of a waterfall with the Cuernos Del Paine in the background.

On our way back to Punta Arenas we spotted a culpeo, a species of South American fox that is actually related to wolves and jackals. Javi hit the brakes and we took some pictures from the vehicle so as not to spook it off.

We visited an Andean Condor Roost as part of this trip. We drove to the top of a large butte and got out to watch the condors wheeling about near the side. There was a narrow path along the side of the butte that I declined to traverse. Everyone else went down. We all got some great photos of the condors, but I think I got some special shots by staying at the top of the butte.

Late in the day we arrived back to Punta Arenas and our same hotel before walking downtown for our farewell dinner.