Like so many of our clients, Naturetrek has always had a fascination for cats, and over the years we have played an instrumental role in pioneering new tours in search of such iconic felines as Tiger, Jaguar, Snow Leopard, Leopard and Iberian Lynx, often in some of the most remote and spectacular parts of the world. With the continuing success of our ‘South Africa — Just Cats!’, ‘Just Tigers!’ and ‘Brazil — Just Jaguars!’ tours, amongst others, we have been on the look out for the next ‘big cat opportunity’ and we are confident that this is it! Since its launch in 2012, our 'Just Pumas!' tour has gone from strength to strength and we have enjoyed fantastic sightings of Puma on foot and from the vehicle. As the cats have become more habituated to our presence, and we have gained a greater understanding of their movements and behaviour, the quality of the sightings has improved significantly and you now have an excellent chance of viewing these magnificent animals at close range, offering fantastic photographic opportunities.
Located in one of the most beautiful regions of Patagonia, the Torres del Paine National Park has developed a reputation as the best area in the world to see Chile’s apex predator, the Puma. Working alongside guides with over 25 years’ experience of tracking Pumas, this tour has been specifically designed to give us the very best chance of seeing these enigmatic cats amidst a truly stunning landscape. While Pumas will be the principal focus of this tour, the abundance of wildlife in southern Chile ensures an exciting supporting cast that includes huge Andean Condors, herds of Guanacos, South American Grey Fox, Culpeo (Southern Red Fox), Patagonian Hognosed Skunk, South Andean Deer and Hairy Armadillo.
Our holiday begins with a flight to Chile’s capital, Santiago, where we stay in a comfortable hotel in the Providencia district, which is close to a variety of cafes and restaurants, and within a short walk of the city's main historical attractions. The following morning we will fly south to the town of Punta Arenas before embarking on a scenic drive to Torres del Paine National Park. Journeying through expanses of open Pampas, we will stop en route to enjoy flamingo-lined lakes and the first of many encounters with the herds of Guanaco which will be a frequent sight during this holiday. Torres del Paine National Park is dominated by three stunning mountain peaks — the ‘Towers of Paine’ — and we will stay deep in the heart of the park at the charmingly rustic Hosteria Pehoe. Located on a 5-hectare island, with spectacular views of the Paine Massif, the hotel provides an ideal base for our daily (and night-time) wildlife excursions as it has excellent access to the park's main trails. With several large windows overlooking the lake we are able to enjoy the magnificent scenery surrounding us from the comfort and warmth of the hotel lounge area.
Working to an itinerary that will be dictated by the latest Puma sightings, and guided by expert trackers, over the following five days we will make day and night-time outings, exploring a variety of habitats and covering multiple Puma territories within the park. At this time of the year, with growing cubs to feed, the hard-pressed females are more likely to be seen hunting during daylight hours and with Guanacos a favourite prey, we’ll keep a close eye on the herds in the hope of spotting a hunting Puma. In particular we will explore the immediate surroundings of our hotel, spotlighting at night, since it lies within a known Puma territory. We will also venture to the Puma hunting grounds on the eastern flank of the park, as well as to the area comprising the northern coast of Sarmiento Lake, Laguna Amarga and Laguna Azul, which holds one of the highest concentrations of Pumas in the world. Our quest for Pumas in this stunning landscape will bring us into contact with a variety of other mammals and birds. In addition to the ubiquitous Guanacos, we will hope to see the local South Andean Deer or ‘Huemul’, Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk and the two canid species present in the park, South American Grey Fox and Culpeo. Andean Condors are a relatively common sight here, and we should get some close views of these magnificent birds. Other avian highlights may include Darwin’s Rhea, Black-chested Buzzard, Crested Caracara, Cinereous Harrier and Magellanic Woodpecker.
After enjoying five full days exploring this spectacular landscape we will begin our return journey to Punta Arenas, where we’ll share one last evening in the city, exchanging our personal highlights of this very special trip, before flying to London the following morning. For those who wish to extend their stay and explore the wildlife of this exciting region further we can offer a wide choice of options, including excursions to see King Penguins, Humpback Whales, the wildlife and birds of the Atacama Desert, and tours to Easter Island.
I enjoyed the friendliness of the leader, driver and tracker and the group was very friendly, one which gelled together extremely well.
The weather was excellent which meant that we had outstanding opportunities to see and photograph the landscape.
Plenty of time to enjoy the amazing scenery and wildlife of Torres del Paine National Park.
Fantastic Puma sightings - we were so privileged to get that close to Puma's in the wild.
Amazing that most of the sightings were on foot - so we were able to see the Puma's in their natural setting on their terms. We got to follow one across the fields as she walked serenely along, occasionally stopping to gaze curiously at us - stunning experience.
Watching Puma's was balanced with bird watching and visiting scenic places. We had lots of opportunities to walk about and were not inactive in the bus too much.
We were lucky to be in a small group and have good weather. I felt very privileged to be able to watch Puma's at close quarters and study their behaviour. Wonderful!
The Puma sightings were spectacular and beyond my wildest dreams.
Enrique is probably the best guide I have ever had. If it were up to him, we would be out from 5am ‘til 1am everyday. These are long days but his enthusiasm and determination are unparalleled and so appreciated. He is a gem.
Mr & Mrs D.
The tour leaders were experienced and made sure we saw the wildlife. The scenery was spectacular and we were very lucky with the weather. All travel was well organised.
Puma spotting was excellent, despite the hard work involved. The trackers were, for the full five days, Pep and his father, Jose. Some of the sightings afforded terrific close-ups of the Puma’s – uncomfortably close on one occasion!
Mr & Mrs G.
Enrique was an outstanding guide - enthusiastic, knowledgeable and a very pleasant chap. It was also good to have Dan along as an extra pair of legs! The Puma sightings were out of this world and way beyond anything we had expected. Breathtaking. Did we really eat lunch sitting on the ground only 50 yards from a Puma asleep in a cave? And had we really just seen her walk past only a few yards away? Well yes to both. What an experience and well worth the walk.
Good sightings is an understatement. We spent most of one day watching two pumas sleeping in the sun, waiting for them to wake up and do something. I couldn't believe that wild animals would come that close. They totally ignored us when they finally wandered off.
Overall a great holiday. Wonderful scenery, excellent guide Roberto and a few very memorable views of Pumas in the wild.
I was delighted to see all my target animals - Puma, Culpeo, Chilla and Patagonian Skunk. It was wonderful to get such brilliant scope views of two Puma cubs and their stunning mother. Enrique was a superb guide - working exceptionally hard to find the animals and with an excellent in-depth knowledge of both Pumas and the other wildlife of the park. He has a very pleasant easy-going personality and looked after us extremely well.
The holiday lived up to its title in that we did have a number of varied sightings of Pumas.