After a long journey to Chile's southernmost city, Punta Arenas, a welcoming face will greet us at the airport and drive us the short distance to our stopover hotel for the night (Land Only clients who aren't on the group flight should make their own way to the hotel - details will be provided before you travel). Here we'll have the evening to relax over dinner (maybe trying a pisco sour for good measure!) and get to know our fellow group members about to embark on this very special week. Capital of Chile's Magellanes province, Punta Arenas is strategically located on the Magellan strait which before the creation of the Panama Canal served as a key maritime navigation channel between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The area is steeped in a history of sheep farming and European immigration, and today retains its isolated charm whilst serving as a gateway to the wilderness of the surrounding wonders of southern Patagonia.
An early start will enable us to get on our way towards the main destination. We'll travel in our own private vehicle from Punta Arenas in a north-westerly direction over barren Patagonian landscapes for around 3 hours to the town of Puerto Natales. After a quick leg stretch to break up the journey we will continue onwards for another 2 hours into more mountainous terrain and watch in awe out of the windows at the ever-growing beauty of the views on offer. We'll pass ancient Nothofagus forests, wild grazing guanacos, and learn about the geological origins of the region before arriving to the entry office of Torres del Paine National Park. Keep your eyes open for southern grey foxes and Patagonian skunks, without forgetting the condors overhead! A short drive into the park is our hotel where we will be based for the next 5 nights. The location could not get any better for being at the heart of the park with access to various locations significant to wildlife viewing. This afternoon we will have our first excursion into the park with our guide.
Day 4 - 7
Over the course of the next four days we will have the privilege of exploring the ecosystem of the National Park in a highly informative manner in the company of expert guides. Central to our safari style excursions will be our quest to achieve sightings of the secretive pumas that roam this habitat.
Whilst we cannot venture onto the walking trails of the park at night time due to preservation regulations, we can search the immediate area around our hotel which is a known location for seeing pumas at twilight. We will also visit puma hunting grounds located in the east of the park in the area comprised by the northern coast of Lago Sarmiento, Laguna Amarga and Laguna Azul. This area is known to hold one of the largest concentrations of pumas anywhere in the wild, and we visit at the times of year when females are most likely to be hunting to find food for their cubs.
As well as the iconic Andean Condors above our heads, our guide will assist us in seeing the likes of rhea, eagles, flamingos and a delightful array of native bird species. We are likely to encounter other species of mammal each day whilst searching for pumas, including huemul deer, foxes, armadillos and of course the large herds of guanaco that often end up on the menu for hungry pumas.
The itinerary for these four days is designed to be entirely flexible so that we can maximise the chances of puma sightings based on up to date information from local trackers. We will not operate by a fixed schedule and we think that this is the best way to approach such a trip. Our base will be the hotel and we will take multiple excursions usually involving being driven to a particular location and then searching on foot from strategic viewpoints. We will take packed-lunches from the hotel in the morning to enable us to spend as much time as possible out and about around the park.
The magnificent mountain backdrop of the Paine Massif provides the most beautiful setting throughout the week and as each day's activities are entirely optional, you may choose that you wish to spend a day trekking the famous trail up to the base of the towers.
Our exploration in the park will continue this morning for one last chance to witness the glorious surroundings. After lunch we'll leave behind this very special corner of the world as we return on road to the flat southern plains that lead us back down to Punta Arenas. Enjoy one last evening in the company of the group and reminisce over what is sure to have been a memorable week.
After breakfast we'll be transferred to the airport. The tour ends here for Land Only clients. Flight inclusive clients will catch their flight to London via Santiago.