Patagonia

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This trip is open to the public and will benefit Operation Migration’s ongoing conservation efforts. For more information on Operation Migration, and the important conservation work that they do, please go to our Resources Page and click on the Operation Migration Link. SOLD OUT, but if you are interested in traveling to Patagonia please contact us to inquire about future trips.

PATAGONIA 2012

Wildlife Odyssey to the Bottom of the World

Trip Description:

EcoQuest Travel, Inc. is proud to offer an exciting trip to Patagonia. Comprising the southern-most parts of Chile and Argentina, Patagonia is a vast land of snowcapped mountains, cold oceans, windswept plateaus and unparalleled beauty. From Chile’s bustling capital of Santiago we will journey south to Punta Arenas and the spectacular World Heritage Site of Torres del Paine National Park. This vast park nestled in the Andes is home to herds of guanaco, Patagonian foxes, diverse birdlife and even the elusive puma is fairly common. From the glaciers of Torres del Paine we will ply the Straits of Magellan in hopes of seeing Commerson’s and Peale’s dolphins, Magellanic penguins and other seabirds. From Punta Arenas we will travel even further south to Ushuaia, Argentina to search for albatrosses, kelp geese and gentoo penguins along the Beagle Channel and giant Magellanic woodpeckers among the forests of Tierra del Fuego National Park. This trip is designed to highlight the wildlife of Patagonia with a particular emphasis on bird diversity, but we will take every opportunity to see mammals as well. We invite you to join us as we explore the incredible wildlife and breathtaking scenery that makes Patagonia a magical place. We will also offer a fantastic post-trip extension that concentrates on the wildlife of the Atacama Desert and high Andes Mountains of Northern Chile.


15-Day Itinerary – Optional 6-Day Post-Trip Extension to Northern Chile

Day 1 – Friday, January 13: Travel to our US Gateway and on to Santiago, Chile

We will depart from our home airports this afternoon and arrive at our gateway city – likely Miami, Dallas or Atlanta. Please arrive at your home airports no later than two hours prior to your scheduled departure time. Once at our gateway city we will transfer to our overnight flight to Santiago, Chile. For those of you departing from Raleigh/Durham International Airport, your tour leaders will meet you there and help you get checked in. For those of you meeting the group at our gateway city we will meet you at our departure gate for Santiago.

Day 2 – Saturday, January 14: Arrival in Santiago and El Peral Reserve

We will arrive in Santiago early in the morning and after clearing customs and immigration we will transfer to our hotel. After storing our luggage and having a chance to freshen up we will drive east to El Peral Reserve. We will be tired from our overnight journey, but a relaxed day out in the fresh air will help us readjust and recuperate. El Peral is a very important wetland reserve that provides critical habitat for a host of waterbirds and waders including: Chiloe wigeon, yellow-billed pintail, black-headed duck, red-gartered coot, stripe-backed bittern, white-faced ibis, black-necked swan and rufous-chested dotterel. After a great afternoon of birding we will head back to Santiago for dinner and overnight. Our hotel while we are in Santiago is the Hotel Galerias, a small modern hotel located close to the downtown area. (L,D)

Day 3 – Sunday, January 15: Maipo Valley and El Yeso Reservoir

After a good night’s sleep and breakfast we will travel from Santiago up into the Central Andes. The Maipo Valley runs deep into the mountains until it reaches impassable gorges and rushing rivers. This rugged valley and the high altitude bogs of El Yeso will be our base today as we search for some of Chile’s unique birdlife. Some of the species we may observe are mountain caracara, rufous-banded miner, ochre-naped ground-tyrant, mountain parakeet, plumbeous sierra finch and the endemic moustached turca and crag chilia. If we are lucky we could see torrent ducks in the rushing streams and gray-breasted seedsnipe and the rare diademed sandpiper plover in the bogs. There is a possibility of some mammals as well – we saw a culpeo (large species of fox) here during our last trip. We will have a box lunch along and will find a scenic spot for a picnic. In the late afternoon/early evening we will return to Santiago and the Hotel Galerias. Dinner tonight will be at a local Santiago restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Monday, January 16: Fly to Punta Arenas and Drive to Torres del Paine National Park and Biosphere Reserve

We will have an early breakfast before transferring to the airport for our flight south to Punta Arenas and Patagonia. Upon arrival we will begin our journey to the remote and beautiful Torres del Paine National Park. The beginning of this journey skirts the Straits of Magellan and will take us along the Fitzroy Channel in search of Chilean dolphin. The Chilean dolphin is the rarest of the three dolphin species endemic to the cold southern oceans surrounding Patagonia, and the most difficult to see, but they are often spotted in the Fitzroy Channel and with luck we may see them. After lunch at Estancia we continue our journey to Torres del Paine stopping along the way at an enormous cave that once sheltered a Milodon (giant ground sloth) – its bones were discovered in this cave. After a long day of travel we will arrive at Torres del Paine and our accommodations at the Hotel Las Torres in time for dinner. Situated right below the incredible granite pillars, the Hotel Las Torres will serve as a comfortable base as we explore Torres del Paine and its fantastic wildlife. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Tuesday, January 17: Torres del Paine National Park and Biosphere Reserve

Today we will drive to the western side of Torres del Paine stopping at some secluded lagoons along the way to bird. Impressive views of the Park’s jagged snow-capped peaks will abound. We will have a boxed lunch en route to Lake Grey and its towering glacial walls. After exploring the incredible blue glaciers by boat we will sail back to Grey beach and enjoy a windswept hike along the shore. Wildlife we could see today include Andean condor, Chilean flamingo, spectacled duck, upland geese, southern caracara, Austral parakeet and dark-bellied cinclodes. With a bit of luck we could also see the rare huemul which is a large Andean deer. After our day of exploring we will return to the Hotel Las Torres for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Wednesday, January 18: Torres del Paine National Park and Biosphere Reserve

Today we have another day to explore this fantastic wilderness area. We will concentrate on the best wildlife areas looking for herds of guanacos, Darwin’s rhea, flying steamer ducks and Andean foxes. Guanacos are especially abundant in Torres del Paine and it is truly a privilege to witness herds of this distant relative of the camel graze on the steppes. We will eat a boxed lunch in the Park and after a day of searching for wildlife we will settle into the Hotel Rio Serrano for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 7 – Thursday, January 19: Torres del Paine National Park and Biosphere Reserve

This will be our final day in the park and we will spend most of it in the rugged and remote eastern section searching for the area’s top predator – the elusive puma. Torres del Paine is one of the best places in the world to see this shy cat, but it will still take a bit of luck and lots of scanning. While searching for puma we are bound to find other wildlife as well. We also may use this day to search for species we may have missed earlier in the trip. After another full day in this extraordinary ecosystem we will have dinner and spend our last night at the Hotel Rio Serrano. (B,L,D)

Day 8 – Friday, January 20: Punta Arenas and the Magdalena Island Penguin Colony

After breakfast we will depart for Punta Arenas. We will eat lunch en route and should arrive by late afternoon in time to visit the huge Magellanic penguin colony on Magdalena Island Seno. The colony consists of thousands of penguins which nest there from October through March. The colony also attracts other birds such as nesting Chilean skuas, Magellanic oystercatcher, tawny-throated dotterel and two-banded plovers. After a full day we will check into the Hotel Diego de Almagro and have dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Saturday, January 21: Straits of Magellan, Porvenir and Isla Grande

We will have an early breakfast today before departing for our ferry crossing of the Straits of Magellan. Our ferry crossing from Punta Arenas to Porvenir should provide many opportunities to view marine mammals and seabirds. This area is particularly good for Peale’s dolphin. We will also be looking for seabirds including Magellanic diving-petrel, black-browed albatross, dolphin gull and southern giant petrel. After our crossing we will disembark at the city of Porvenir on the Island of Tierra del Fuego. We will have lunch before exploring Laguna de los Cisnes. The Cisnes lagoon is home to a wide variety of bird species including three special shorebirds – Magellanic plover, two-banded plover and rufous-chested dotterel. We will also search the shrubby slopes of the Baquedano Hills for Magellanic horned owl, Austral canastero and black-throated finch. After a full day we will return to Porvenir, eat dinner at a local restaurant and overnight at the Hotel Yendegaia. (B,L,D)

Day 10 – Sunday, January 22: Porvenir and Isla Grande

Today we will drive north paralleling the Straits of Magellan. The habitat in this area is more open Patagonian steppe pock marked with small wetlands. We will be seeking specialty species that are more common in these open landscapes including ruddy-headed geese, tawny-throated dotterel, chocolate-vented tyrant, Patagonian mockingbird, band-tailed earthcreeper and Patagonian yellow-finch. We will have a picnic lunch with us and will cross over the Straits of Magellan again at the Punta Delgada Bridge. This area is the best area to search for the tiny and spectacular black and white Commerson’s dolphin. After crossing back and forth across the bridge we will make our way back to Porvenir continuing to search for wildlife along the way. This will be a long day on the road as we will cover quite a distance, so a great dinner at a local restaurant and the comfort of our hotel rooms at the Hotel Yendegaia will be welcome tonight. (B,L,D)

Day 11 – Monday, January 23: King Penguins and Drive to Ushuaia, Argentina

This morning we will depart early for the drive to Ushuaia, Argentina. The drive is fairly long (about six hours), but incredibly scenic and full of wildlife along the way. We will break up the journey by stopping to see the fantastic king penguin colony at Estancia Tres Hermanos. Located along the shore of Useless Bay, Estancia Tres Hermanos is a working sheep-farming station. Once we arrive we will receive a short introduction about how to visit the private nature reserve set up for the king penguin colony. We will divide into groups to see the king penguins because a maximum of six people are allowed to visit at a time to minimize disturbance. Despite being split up, all of us will have ample time to observe and photograph these spectacular penguins from a reasonable distance. Once we have finished visiting the penguins we will continue to Ushuaia – the most southerly town in the world and our base as we explore windswept Tierra del Fuego. Along the way we will stop often to stretch our legs and look for wildlife. In particular we will stop to look for white-bellied seed snipe and yellow-bridled finch among the higher elevations. After our arrival in Ushuaia we will check-in to our accommodations at the Hotel Albatross. After a long day of travel, we will have dinner in a local restaurant as we bask in the glow of the long southern twilight and the last of the sunset. (B,L,D)

Day 12 – Tuesday, January 24: Tierra del Fuego National Park and Penguin/Seal Colonies

This morning will find us exploring the wonders of Tierra del Fuego National Park. This incredible park of steppe grasslands, lakes and stunted Nothofagus woodlands is home to a wide variety of wildlife. Rufous-legged owl, Andean condor, Austral parakeet and the giant Magellanic woodpecker are all found in the Park. Spectacled duck, kelp goose and the rare ruddy-headed goose are found on the Park’s lakes. We will also enjoy a picnic lunch in the Park. In the afternoon we will board our boat for a cruise on the Beagle Channel to visit another penguin rookery. We hope that a few gentoo penguins, and perhaps a king penguin as well, will be mixed in with the multitude of Magellanic penguins. The location of the penguin rookery is close to where the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans come together creating an abundance of marine life. Cormorants, petrels, skuas, gulls and albatross all patrol these waters in search of fish. We are likely to see South American sea lions and perhaps a snowy sheathbill among them. Tonight we will dine at a local restaurant and overnight once again at the Hotel Albatross. (B,L,D)

Day 13 – Wednesday, January 25: Ushuaia and Flight back to Santiago

This morning we will arise early to bird some areas in and around the city of Ushuaia. The harbor is usually full of ducks and seabirds and the dump often produces giant petrels and white-throated caracara. There are also inlets and ponds that are great for waterfowl and shorebirds like ashy-headed geese, Baird’s and white-rumped sandpipers. We should also have a bit of time to shop for souvenirs. Later in the afternoon we will transfer to the airport for our flights back to Santiago. We will fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires and then transfer to our flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago. We will have dinner on the plane and after our arrival we will transfer to the Hotel Galerias. (B,L,D)

Day 14 – Thursday, January 26: Winery Tour, Santiago City Tour and our Flight from Santiago back to our US Gateway

In the morning we will visit the Concha y Toro winery and have a tour of the facility. Chile is justifiably famous for its wines and this visit will give us a chance to taste, and purchase, some of the best. Lunch will take place at a local restaurant in the Maipo Valley and after lunch we can participate on an optional tour of the city of Santiago or be dropped off at our hotel for a rest or to pack for the journey home. After visiting most of Santiago’s famous sites we will have a farewell dinner before those not participating in the optional extension to Northern Chile are transferred to the airport for the overnight flight to our US gateway city. (B,L,D)

Day 15 – Friday, January 27: US Gateway to Home Cities

Those not participating in the extension to Northern Chile will arrive in our US gateway city early this morning and will transfer to your flights back to your home cities likely arriving home sometime in the afternoon.

 

* Please note that EcoQuest Travel, Inc. will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.

 

OPTIONAL 6-DAY POST-TRIP EXTENSION TO NORTHERN CHILE

Day 15 – Friday, January 27: Santiago to Arica

This morning we will fly more than 2,000 kilometers north of Santiago to the city of Arica. Arica lies along the Pacific Ocean close to Chile’s northern border with Peru and is the gateway to both the high Andes and the Atacama Desert. It is also near two small melt water rivers that create riparian oases through the desert and great habitat for a variety of specialty birds. After our arrival we will head to the harbor and board our boat for a pelagic excursion in search of seabirds. We could see Peruvian booby, Peruvian and Inca terns, guanay and red-legged cormorants, Peruvian pelican, blackish oystercatcher, band-tailed and gray gulls and if we are lucky Humboldt penguin and Peruvian diving-petrel. After our time offshore and lunch we will spend the afternoon exploring the Azapa Valley. This valley, formed by the Azapa River, is a great location for some very localized species including three fantastic hummingbirds – oasis hummingbird, Peruvian sheartail, and Chilean woodstar. If enough time permits we may also visit the Alacran Peninsula to look for more seabirds. After a full day we will have dinner and overnight at the Hotel Arica. (B,L,D)

Day 1 – Saturday, January 28: Arica to Putre

We will begin early this morning as we explore the Lluta Valley on our way east to the Andes. This valley is characterized by open fields and scrubland which support Peruvian thick-knee, slender-billed finch, chestnut-throated seedeater and a host of other birds. Once we have birded the valley we will continue to climb in elevation until we reach the town of Putre situated at 10,000 feet. After we have lunch and check into our accommodations we will begin to bird the hillsides surrounding the town. The hills and valleys around Putre are excellent for a number of scarce Andean species including giant and tamarugo conebills, white-throated and plain-breasted earthcreepers, ornate tinamou, mountain parakeet, black-throated flowerpiercer, golden-spotted ground-dove, Andean hillstar, blue-and-yellow tanager and many others. We will have dinner and overnight at the Hotel Q’Antati in Putre. (B,L,D)

Day 2 – Sunday, January 29: Putre

We will have another full day in Putre to search for species we may have missed yesterday and which may not be found at the higher elevations of Lauca. This day will also be useful for our acclimatization to high altitude hopefully making the lofty heights of Lauca National Park easier on our systems. As we continue to bird this area we will be on the lookout for streaked-tit-spinetail, puna miner, puna hawk, bare-faced and black-winged ground-doves, sparkling violetear, giant hummingbird, yellow-billed tit-tyrant, golden-billed saltator and a host of canasteros, sierra-finches and seedeaters. We will overnight tonight, and each night during the extension, at the Hotel Q’Antati in Putre. (B,L,D)

Day 3 – Monday, January 30: Lauca National Park

Today we will begin our explorations of the high Andes in one of the premier parks in all of South America – Lauca National Park. This stunningly beautiful park is situated at an altitude of 14,763 feet and is brimming with wildlife including many birds and mammals that are very difficult to find elsewhere. The park consists of wide expanses of puna grasslands punctuated by bogs, saline lakes and pools all set against the backdrop of two gigantic snow-capped volcanoes. The grasslands are home to herds of vicuna – the smallest and rarest of the South American camelids. Other mammals could include alpaca, Andean hairy armadillo, viscacha, and more rarely puma, Andean cat and culpeo fox. The grasslands also contain many bird species including lesser rhea, puna tinamou, aplomado falcon, Andean lapwing, rufous-bellied seedsnipe, Andean flicker, red-backed sierra-finch and black siskin. The many bogs and wetlands are home to a variety of spectacular birds including silvery grebe, puna ibis, Andean goose, puna teal, giant coot, puna plover, Andean avocet and diademed sandpiper-plover. All three species of South American flamingo, Chilean, Andean and Puna, are found on the saline lakes. At this elevation our pace will be slow, but we will use the whole day, including a picnic lunch, to see the park. After a full day we will return to our accommodations for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 4 – Tuesday, January 31: Lauca National Park

We will have another full day to explore Lauca and view its incredible wildlife. We may also travel south today out of the park, through the Vicuna Reserve to Salar de Surire National Monument. Salar de Surire consists of huge white salt flats and lagoons full of flamingos. The drive south through the Vicuna Reserve traverses some wild remote country with lots of wildlife and breathtaking scenery. After another full day in Lauca and the surrounding area we will return to Putre for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Wednesday, February 1: Arica to Santiago and on to the US

After breakfast we will travel from Putre back down to Arica and the airport for our flight to Santiago. Once in Santiago we will transfer to day rooms at our hotel to freshen up, pack and prepare for our return to the US. We will have dinner this evening prior to transferring to the airport for our overnight flight to our US gateway city. (B,L,D)

Day 6 – Thursday, February 2: Arrival in US Gateway and on to Home Cities

Upon arrival in our US gateway city we will go through customs and immigration before we transfer to our flights to our home cities.

 * Please note that EcoQuest Travel will make every effort to adhere to this itinerary, but dates, times, activities and prices are subject to change depending on scheduling and availability.

Cost:

$5,644.00/person all-inclusive tour package

$400.00/person estimated domestic airfare within South America*

$1,300.00/person estimated international airfare*

$7,344.00/person all-inclusive*

The 6-Day Post-trip Extension to Northern Chile is $1,990.00/person all-inclusive (includes $348.00 additional domestic airfare*)

*Note: It is our philosophy to provide an all-inclusive price, but due to the volatile nature of the airline industry, EQT is only able to provide an estimated airfare at this time.  The actual date of ticketing will determine the price.  Typically, we are accurate in our estimates, but please note that there may be a slight difference in pricing at the time of ticketing. If ticket prices at the time of booking are lower than our estimates the savings will be passed on to you. If ticket prices are higher you will be invoiced the difference.

What’s Included:

  • Round-trip airfare from a US gateway city to Santiago, Chile (see conditions above)
  • Land, air and boat transportation within Chile and Argentina (see conditions above)
  • All accommodations – based upon double occupancy (single supplement is available at an additional cost: $879.00 for main trip; and $203.00 for the extension)
  • All tours within the scheduled itinerary
  • Most meals are included (please see the trip itinerary to see what is included)
  • Permits and National Park entrance fees and guides
  • The leadership services of EcoQuest Travel professionals

What’s Not Included:

  • Gifts and items of a personal nature
  • Gratuities (for drivers and South American guides)
  • Passport fees
  • Travel insurance (please see the Travel Insurance Section below)
  • Costs associated with pre-trip medical planning (such as vaccines)

Travel Documents:

A passport valid for at least 6 months after our arrival is required for travel in Chile and Argentina. No visa is required for US citizens for either country.

Group Size:

The trip cost is based on a minimum number of participants – 10 people. Although 10 people are required in order to make this trip a reality; we are able to accommodate up to a maximum of 14 people. The extension cost is based on a minimum of 8 people. We can accommodate up to 14 people on the extension as well. If more than 8 people participate on the extension the overall cost will decrease and the savings will be passed on to you.

Health Requirements:

The Chilean and Argentinean Governments do not require vaccination against yellow fever for entry into the country unless coming from a country where yellow fever is endemic. This trip does not take place in the tropics. Because we will be in the temperate and sub Antarctic zones we will not have to worry about any immunizations for this trip.

We highly recommend discussing all medical issues related to travel with your doctor well in advance of the proposed travel date (at least 6 months prior to departure).

Payments and Reservations:

A deposit of $2,000.00 per person is required along with your reservation form in order to reserve space on the trip. This ensures airline seating space and necessary early deposits. We encourage you to send the deposit well in advance of the date the first payment is due, as paying the deposit is the only way to secure your spot. Personal checks, money orders and credit cards are accepted. If paying by personal check it should be made payable to EcoQuest Travel, Inc. and on the memo line please indicate: For Patagonia Trip 2012. If paying by credit card you can include your credit card number and expiration date on your reservation form. This form is available on our website: www.ecoquesttravel.net and can be filled out online and submitted via email, or downloaded and mailed. Alternatively, you can phone your credit card information in to EcoQuest Travel at: (919) 963-3038. EcoQuest Travel accepts Visa, MasterCard, and most bank debit cards.

  • A payment of at least $2,672.00 is required no later than June 3, 2011
  • The remainder of the trip expense ($2,672.00) will be due on or before October 7, 2011

If you are going to participant in the optional extension to Northern Chile

  • A payment of at least $3,667.00 is required no later than June 3, 2011
  • The remainder of the trip expense ($3,667.00) will be due on or before October 7, 2011

Cancellation:

The initial deposit, as well as subsequent payments, will be used to purchase airline tickets and pay deposits for accommodations, travel arrangements, etc. in South America Therefore, if you must withdraw from the trip, irrespective of reason, a refund will not be possible. We strongly suggest that you protect yourself with the purchase of trip cancellation insurance. We will try to retain a wait list for this trip and it is possible that if you end up not being able to participate we will attempt to find a replacement for you; however, it is your responsibility to find a replacement or to have insurance.

  • Please note that in the event EcoQuest Travel, Inc. cancels this trip, due to circumstances beyond our control or low trip participant numbers, a refund of the initial deposit and any payments made will be issued.

Travel Insurance

EcoQuest Travel, Inc. partners with Access America to provide the best possible travel insurance for our clients.  They offer trip cancellation and worldwide emergency services (such as emergency evacuation and emergency medical services) as well as a host of other benefits.  If you contact Access America either by phone or online, please give them EcoQuest Travel’s vendor number: F031120. To obtain quotes and/or sign up for travel insurance please see the link to Access America’s website on this destination page. You do not have to use Access America and may choose to use another company.  Either way, EcoQuest Travel, Inc. strongly suggests the purchase of trip cancellation/medical insurance.

Note:  Pre-existing conditions will be waived by Access America if you purchase travel insurance within 14 calendar days of your initial trip deposit.  For more information please see our website. To locate the travel insurance section of our website look on the destination page in the “click to go to” section on the right hand side of the screen under “purchase insurance”.

 

General Information:

Upon receiving your deposit and reservation form you will be sent an information packet containing flight information, baggage requirements, hints on what to bring and other useful information. The climate could be potentially cold and rainy. More information on trip conditions will be provided in the final packet. You will want to bring a camera, film and binoculars. Again, a more exhaustive list will be provided after you are registered for the trip.

Trip Leaders:

Dave Davenport: Zoologist and President of EcoQuest Travel, Inc.
Walter Sturgeon: Crane and Waterfowl Expert and Operation Migration Team Member
Claudio Vidal: Chilean Naturalist and Co-Author of “The Birds of Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego and Antarctic Peninsula”.


Map


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Gear List:

Click here for the printable list (PDF)

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Species List:

Click here for the printable list (PDF)

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Make Reservations:

Link to reservation page

Buy Insurance:

Link to insurance page