Wildlife Wonders of Chile’s Southern Patagonia – In Search of Pumas, Penguins, and More

December 6-12, 2024

THE DESTINATION: Chile’s Southern Patagonia is the last frontier of the American continent – a land of wind, wilderness, and stunning landscapes. During this wildlife expedition, we’ll have the chance to spot a wide array of birds and mammals, including endemics and quasi-endemics unique to this part of the world. We’ll visit the only colony of charismatic King Penguins found close to mainland South America. We’ll search for spectacular albatrosses and condors flying overhead.

We’ll also spend three full days searching for pumas, the feline stars of this wildlife expedition. In this remote corner of South America, pumas numbers are on the rise. Legendary Torres del Paine National Park, a land of jagged peaks, raging rivers, alpine lakes, and open grasslands, provides the ideal realm for this apex predator. It’s also home to a diverse suite of mammals including guanacos, the preferred prey of pumas, foxes, armadillos, skunks, and more.

Our entire journey will offer stunning landscapes that change in color and shape as we make our way from Tierra del Fuego to Torres del Paine National Park. We carefully crafted this itinerary to maximize chances for incredible wildlife viewing throughout. Join Reefs to Rockies as we head to Southern Patagonia.

Sheridan Samano, Co-founder of Reefs to Rockies, watching elephantsEXPEDITION LEADER: Sheridan Samano, Reefs to Rockies Co-Founder and Lead Biologist Guide, is thrilled to lead this unique wildlife expedition with local naturalist guides and our puma tracker-guide. Timing for this trip was developed with an emphasis on getting you into the “right place at the right time” for exceptional sightings. Together, they’ll take you to some of the region’s best locations for wildlife viewing with an emphasis on finding charismatic species including penguins, pumas, guanacos, condors, owls, and an array of other regional specialties.


Day 1 (Fri, Dec 6): Arrival to Punta Arenas ~ Afternoon arrival to Punta Arenas where we’ll meet our local hosts to start our Patagonian adventure at this European-style city at the shore of the Strait of Magellan. We’ll take advantage of extended daylight at this time of year with a visit to area wetlands and lagoons during our first birding excursion. Get to know fellow travelers this evening at our Welcome Dinner and briefing. Suggested arrival time – 3 pm or earlier.

Accommodations: Hotel Jose Nogueira

Meals: Dinner

Day 2 (Sat, Dec 7): Punta Arenas to Tierra del Fuego ~ Our first full day in Chile begins with a ferry ride to Tierra del Fuego to explore the last corner of the American continent. As we cross the legendary Magellanic Strait, we’ll keep an eye out for pelagic species including albatrosses, petrels, and shearwaters. King Penguins are the second largest penguin in the world behind the Emperor. They’re usually found on remote islands, but a colony has established itself at Useless Bay. With recent protection measures, the King Penguin colony continues to grow in size. This is an excellent opportunity to observe this charismatic species with far less travel time involved. There’s also time for birding and wildlife viewing at Laguna de los Cisnes Natural Monument.

Accommodations: Hotel Cerro Sombrero

Meals: Breakfast and Boxed Lunch

Day 3 (Sun, Dec 8): Tierra del Fuego – San Gregorio Steppe – Cerro Castillo ~ We’ll depart early this morning with a 45-min ferry ride across the Strait of Magellan. From there, we’ll begin our long journey north towards Torres del Paine National Park. We’ll break up the drive with several stops along the way including at a steppe area that’s home to avian specialties including Ruddy-headed Goose, Tawny-throated Dotterel, and Darwin’s Rhea. As we get close to the mountains, we should start seeing the first herds of guanacos. Our day ends with an authentic estancia barbecue.

Accommodations: Hotel Ovejero Patagonico

Meals: Breakfast, Boxed Lunch, and Dinner

Days 4-6 (Mon, Dec 9 – Wed, Dec 11): Torres del Paine National Park Wildlife Viewing ~ Each day, we’ll leave the hotel at dawn to be among the first visitors to enter the national park so we can take advantage of the first hours of daylight when pumas are more active. Our puma tracker-guide has extensive knowledge of resident pumas and will take us to different hunting areas. We’ll spend full days in the field to maximize our chances of seeing a variety of behaviors and multiple individuals. Outside of puma prime time, we’ll spend time looking for other species of interest alongside our naturalist guides. After dark, we can embark on a nocturnal outing to see if we can find pumas in action, as well as owls including the Austral Pygmy-Owl, Barn Owl, and Magellanic Horned Owl.

Accommodations: Hotel Ovejero Patagonico

Meals: Breakfast, Boxed Lunch, and Dinner

Day 7 (Thurs, Dec 12): Condor Cliffs and Return to Punta Arenas ~ We’ll depart early to make our way back to Punta Arenas. Along the way, we’ll stop at a spectacular roosting hotspot for Andean Condors, the largest terrestrial flying bird in the world. Here, hundreds of adult and juvenile condors take advantage of thermal currents to take off and explore the area in search of carcasses. The view from the edge of the canyon is amazing. Our lunch will be at a local estancia where we can share highlights from our week’s adventures together. Plan to depart at 10 pm or later. If you would like to spend an additional night in Punta Arenas before flying home, we’ll assist with those arrangements.

Meals: Breakfast and Lunch


Price: $5795* per person based on two people sharing double occupancy accommodations. If you prefer private, single occupancy accommodations, add $775**.

Includes: accommodations at small locally family-owned properties when possible; meals as listed (special dietary restrictions can be accommodated); private ground transportation with window seat guaranteed; 2 Expedition Leaders; daily guided wildlife viewing with spotting scopes available; 3 days with puma tracker/guide; entrance fees; and ferry tickets. A donation to support local conservation efforts will be made on behalf of all participants.

Excludes: flights; passport/visa fees; mandatory travel insurance policy with emergency medical evacuation benefit; pre- and post- hotel stays; optional gratuities; activities not listed; personal expenses.

*Reflects payment by check or ACH. Credit card fees, if applicable will be assessed at time of booking based on payment method.

**If you are a solo traveler that prefers to share a double occupancy room, but we aren’t able to find a suitable roommate for you, the private room surcharge will apply.

Group Size: 6-9 participants + 2 Expedition Leaders

Level of Difficulty – Easy to Moderate: Most of our daily wildlife observations will involve primarily short walks on a variety of terrain including some uneven, rocky terrain, at elevations typically below 1000 ft. Overall physical demands are low. For those interested in longer naturalist hikes with an emphasis on observing flora and fauna, hike length will be less than 2.5 miles.

A Note About Minimum Group Size: If fewer than the minimum number of participants register, we may still be able to run the trip by adding a group supplement fee per person based on the number of people registered. That fee will be subject to approval by the registered participants.

Sustainability Policy: Our local partner in Chile has committed to 0% plastic emissions; carbon footprint offset; water available to refill water bottles so that no single use water bottles are used during the trip; support of local conservation and education programs are supported by booking this trip.

Reserve Your Spot Now!
by Sheridan October 9, 2023