PATAGONIA

December

Join us on an an incredible trip to southern South America.  We have planned an exciting program where you will walk, drive, and be physically and mentally enveloped in the spectacular landscapes and diverse environments of Patagonia. We’ll walk in the stunningly scenic World Heritage Sites of Torres del Paine in Chile, and Los Glaciares in Argentina, and in Huerquehue National Park, a lesser-known gem in the Chilean Lake District.  We’ll drive across the windblown pampas of southern Chile, still home to the flightless rhea and wild camel known as guanaco.  We’ll get as far south as the Straits of Magellan, and we’ll visit a captivating penguin colony along that southern coast.  All along the way we’ll be discussing, photographing, and looking for the unique birds, plants, and fascinating geology that will bring this unusual region and landscape to life.

Southern Beech Trees

Wind-bent Southern Beech Trees*

We’ll begin in the Lake District of northern Patagonia, where you will walk through forests of southern beech and ancient monkey puzzle (Araucaria) trees.    This uniquely South American flora and fauna, recalls the time when all the Southern Hemisphere continents were joined long ago into the supercontinent known as Gondwanaland.  We’ll see and discuss the similarity with species found here and across the south Pacific in New Zealand!  On all our outings, we’ll seek out the common and not so common, as we begin to discover and understand the temperate flora and flora, so different from what we might see in North America.  Here we will also hope to see the largest woodpecker in South America, the Magellanic woodpecker, as well as a variety of other birds, butterflies, and mammals unique to this part of the world.

 

Guanaco nursing baby

Guanaco with Nursing Baby*

Then we fly to the heart of Patagonia, at the southern tip of the continent.  Beginning in Punta Arenas, on the Straits of Magellan, we’ll visit a colony of Magellanic (sometimes called jackass for their braying call) penguins, whose antics will guarantee to amuse.   Then we’ll drive through classic Patagonian pampas landscape, looking for rhea and guanaco.  December is the breeding and birthing season of guanaco, so we have a good chance to see courtship and mating of the adults, as well as the cute newborns.  We’ll even visit a spectacular cavern, which was the site of discovery of the bones of a Milodon, an extinct giant ground sloth.

You will see the landscape change dramatically as we enter the Southern Andes, where we have planned plenty of time to really discover the truly spectacular area.  We’ll begin in Chile, at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Torres del Paine National Park.  In Paine, the setting is spectacular, as lakes, lagoons, and waterfalls will grab your attention, while the mountains and glaciers will only add to the beauty of the scene.  We’ll keep our eyes out for wildflowers, at peak during our springtime visit, as well as birds, and mammals like the Patagonian fox.  We even have a reasonable chance to get a sighting of a puma!     

Torres del Paine

torres in close view

Torres del Paine National Park*

Close View of Torres del Paine (Blue Towers)*


Then we cross into Argentina (the region known as Patagonia crosses the political boundaries) where we will discover and explore another magnificent world heritage site – Los Glaciares National Park.  Here the granite massif of Fitzroy – called Chalten by the local people – dominates all.  The entire landscape of granite peaks and spires in this area of glaciers and lakes, is enthralling.  In the same area we will visit one of the world’s most impressive natural monuments – the Perito Moreno Glacier.  Fed by the South Patagonian Icefield in the Andes, this glacier may be one of just a few that is not currently retreating (some geologists believe it is in a state of equilibrium, where its melting equals its advance), though it is actively calving icebergs into Lago Argentino.  Again you’ll be mesmerized by the scenery, some of the most exquisite anywhere.
 
parakeet
Austral Parakeet*
 
Patagonia is a deceptively large area, so our trip includes both internal flights and some long drives.  Throughout the journey, we will stay in quite comfortable (mainly three and four star) hotels and hosterias, and will have the services of local guides in each major destination.  Additionally, Steven Daniel, long time trip leader, expert naturalist, and guide for Nature Discoveries, will be with the group the entire time.  He will assist the local guides in helping our participants understand the context of the flora, fauna, and geology, and will relate our sightings to ones that the participants may be familiar with.  Steven has led well over one hundred forty tours around the world for Nature Discoveries.  He is looking forward to returning to Patagonia.



*Photographs by Marcia Birken © 2007 are the property of ciaPhoto.


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