We will take you to diverse landscapes and ecosystems, to areas that offer the greatest variety of, and most sought after birds. We will launch our trip on the mythical waters of the Strait of Magellan, always alive with sea birds, then explore ancient habitats on Chile’s nearly undisturbed western half of Tierra del Fuego.
After returning to the Austral’s mainland, a birding smorgasbord awaits—on the steppes along the border with Argentina, in the soaring mountains of Torres del Paine National Park, and in the mysterious Sierra Baguales, in the Province of Ultima Esperanza (The Last Hope).
As a special highlight of our trip we will visit the nesting site of the Ruddy-headed Goose, a species in danger of extinction that uses the coasts of the Strait to breed every year. And the unique Magellanic Plover, sole member of the Pluvisocialis family. We also will look for Magellanic Woodpeckers, Black- browed Albatross, Magellanic and King Penguins, Lesser Rheas, Andean Condor and many others.
Punta Arenas, Birding the Strait of Magellan, and Río San Juan Reserve
We reach the end of the South American continent to explore the Strait of Magellan in search of coastal birds such as the Flying and Flightless Steamer Duck, Magellanic and Blackish Oystercatcher, Dolphin Gull and many more. Our route will take us to Sub-Antarctic Forests where the majestic Magellanic Woodpecker and Thorn-tailed Rayaditos live, along with waterfowl including the Crested Duck, Spectacled Duck, and the most emblematic species of the day, the Ruddy-headed Goose, a species in danger of extinction. We return to Punta Arenas and relax briefly at the hotel before dining at a local restaurant, well-known for delicious signature cuisine.
Ferry to Tierra del Fuego (Pelagic in the Strait of Magellan), King Penguin Colony
We board the ferry Pathagon, which will take us to the quaint (and windy) seaside town of Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego. During the two-hour ferry ride, we will have access to the open deck, giving us valuable opportunities to scan the sky and sea for Black-browed Albatrosses, Southern Giant-petrel, Magellanic Penguin, Skuas and, perhaps, South American Sea Lions, Peale’s Dolphins and—with luck—also whales! Once on the island, we will check into our hotel for a coffee break and a chance to charge batteries.
Once “recharged,” we will leave for a breeding colony of King Penguins, the only one accessible from the continent, located in the immense glacial formation of Bahía Inútil. On the way, we will travel through Tierra del Fuego’s steppe as well as a mountain range called Cordon Baquedano. When we return to Porvenir, we will dine at a local restaurant where the specialty is the King Crab of Magallanes.
Fueguian steppe, ferry to the continent, Pali Aike National Park, Puerto Natales
We drive toward the northern limit of the Island of Tierra del Fuego, crossing two brackish lagoons where it is possible to find a monotypic species, the Magellanic Plover, famous among birders worldwide for being the only member of the family Pluvisocialis.
We will take a different ferry back to the mainland, landing not in Punta Arenas but inland amidst the steppe along Chile’s eastern border with Argentina. Here we will find many birding "specialties" unique to this area of Chile, including the Band-tailed Earthcreeper, White-bridled Finch and Austral Canastero and Seedsnipes among others.
A long road takes us through this landscape until we reach our hotel in Puerto Natales, the entrance to Torres del Paine National Park. We will have dinner at a local restaurant.
Torres del Paine National Park, Puerto Natales
We will start out early to take advantage of the long Austral day, heading north to a group of mountains that make up the Paine Massif. They await to dazzle us with fabulous peaks and valleys, a natural hotspot for wildlife and fauna. It will be easy to see why Torres Del Paine National Park has been declared by UNESCO as a World Biosphere Preserve.
We will spend the whole day touring this wonderful park, from glaciers to steppes in search of wildlife. We may sight Pumas and other mammals. In the evening, we will return to Puerto Natales for dinner at a local restaurant before spending the night in our hostel.
Sierra Baguales, Puerto Natales
Sierra Baguales is another mountain range at the eastern limit of the Magallanes Region in southern Chile, the natural dividing line between Chile and Argentina. Remarkably, the valleys are loaded with indigenous history and—for believers—UFOs! Fossils abound here, and we will also search this desolate and varied natural environment for a host of fauna. In the evening we will return to Puerto Natales for the last dinner of the tour at a delightful micro-brewery/restaurant.
Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas or Airport
This our last half-day together. After breakfast and taking time to pack, we have a three-hour drive back to Punta Arenas. Some in our party will go directly to the airport for their evening flight to Santiago, while others will return to the city.