The vastness of Patagonia in southern Argentina was only colonised by man in comparatively recent times and even today is a sparsely populated wilderness region, flanked to the west by the mighty peaks of the Andes. This tour focuses on the unique wildlife of this southern extremity of South America, embracing Southern Right Whales and other marine mammals around the shores of Peninsula Valdes, the awesome Moreno Glacier, and the wildlife of the Beagle Channel. The highly specialised birds and mammals encountered on this tour include such highlights as the Mara, Guanaco, penguins, Andean Condor, Magellanic Woodpecker and a host of exciting species, many of which are found nowhere else in Argentina.
- Spectacular scenery
- Distinctive & unique mammals plus endemic vegetation & flora
- Impressive bird list including many species occurring only in this region
- The Moreno Glacier, one of the world’s most picturesque (and still growing!)
- Many Andean Condors
- Whale watching on Peninsula Valdes
- Huge colony of Magellanic Penguin
- Boat trip along Beagle Channel
- Chance to extend tour by visiting Pampas region
- Led by an expert naturalist guide
All included in the price.
Comfortable hotels, most with private facilities.
Ashy-headed Goose (Paul Marshall)
Day 7/9 El Calafate & Glaciares National Park
Day 10/12 Ushuaia & Tierra del Fuego
Day 14 Depart Buenos Aires
Argentina is a vast country embracing such a variety of scenery and climate that it has been dubbed the ‘land of six continents’s. To the west the mighty Andes mountains extend the length of the country, rising to over 6,900 metres before cascading to the sea in a chaos of jagged, snow-capped peaks. East of the mountains the humid plains of the Pampas region occupy nearly a quarter of the land mass, merging eventually into the stony Patagonian plateau, the southern extremity of the continent which points like a finger towards Antarctica. Our tour takes place during the southern spring when the nesting resident birds are augmented by migrants arriving from the north, and the coasts of Patagonia will be teeming with marine mammals and seabirds.
Our holiday begins in Buenos Aires with a visit to the famous bird reserve, Costanera del Sur, where a good variety of wetland species can be viewed within sight of the city skyscrapers, before sampling a traditional Argentine ‘asado’s at one of the city restaurants.
After an overnight stay at a city hotel we catch a morning flight to Trelew, gateway to Peninsula Vald?s and the beginning of our Patagonian adventure. All around the shoreline of this great rocky promontory Elephant Seals and Southern Sea Lions will be tending newly born pups, a concentration of animals which earlier in the season attracts the attention of Killer Whales. We will probably be too late for Orcas but are certain to observe the Southern Right Whales which congregate off Vald?s to give birth. During our stay we will attempt to obtain close-up views of these wonderful mammals from a boat, and may be treated to the unforgettable sight of a whale leaping out of the water. It is not just the sea that makes Vald?s such a special place; in the scrubby interior we should encounter herds of shy Guanaco, arguably the most attractive of all camelids, and the weird Patagonian Hare or Mara, which looks like a composite of many different creatures. Several very local bird species also occur on the Peninsula but our most spectacular birdwatching will be at Punta Tombo where a million Magellanic Penguins have created a city of burrows in the sand dunes. Close by is Gaiman, home of a Welsh-speaking community which was established in the Chubut Valley during the last century and now fascinates visitors from all over the world.
A flight from Trelew will carry us across the seemingly endless steppes of southern Patagonia to the town of El Calafate. Least Seedsnipe performing their song-flight and striking Chocolate-vented Tyrants are two of the characteristic roadside birds in this inhospitable terrain. We stay for three nights in Calafate enabling us to spend a day in the Glaciares National Park, a picturesque blend of mountains and lakes surrounding the Moreno Glacier. Perhaps the most impressive of all the natural splendours of Argentina, the glacier is a shimmering 60-metre high wall of ice stretching for over four kilometres into mountains where Andean Condors soar above the crags.
We cross Tierra del Fuego on another flight and conclude the tour at Ushuaia, a pretty little resort sandwiched between the Beagle Channel and the southern fringe of the Andes. This is sub-Antarctica, an area of capricious weather, stunning scenery and great birdwatching. A boat excursion along the Beagle Channel will bring views of Fur Seals sharing rocky islets with King Cormorants and masses of seabirds including Black-browed Albatross, Giant Petrel and Magellanic Diving Petrel.
The national park close to Ushuaia is a scenic blend of forest, mountain and river where many of the typical birds of Tierra del Fuego can be seen, including Ashy-headed Goose, Magellanic Woodpecker and Fireeyed Diucon. At the end of our stay in Ushuaia we return by air to Buenos Aires taking with us memories of this beautiful and unusual ‘land of the fires’s at the very edge of the Southern Ocean.
The romantic wilderness of the Pampas described in the writings of W.H. Hudson has long since been diluted by the encroachment of huge ranches, but Gaucho traditions remain, and the steaks served in local restaurants are of heroic proportions! On our optional extension we spend three days exploring this region from a base in the coastal resort of San Clemente. Access to private ranches will enable us to visit examples of original Pampas habitat, where Rheas still stride over a landscape of undisturbed grassland, and seasonal wetlands provide refuge for a wide variety of birds. The coastline near San Clemente is excellent for shorebirds and we will also look for three rare species of spinetail which occur in the vicinity. Easier to find are the conspicuous nests of their commoner relatives, the Rufous Hornero, or Ovenbird, and the aptly-named Firewood-gatherer.
The trip was excellent - well organised and good leadership from all concerned. Thank you.
D. & J.R.
Many thanks to Paul Dukes and the tour leader for organising our week in San Lorenzo before the group holiday started. The Reserva del Huaico was exactly what we wanted, and to have a fifty hectare nature reserve and excellent accommodation all to ourselves was a luxury we have never had before. If you have clients who want a quiet start or end to a holiday with plenty of good birds (70+ species on the reserve and 170+ including trips into the Andes and Chaco) we can recommend it. On the group holiday we appreciated the repeated use of the hotel in Buenos Aires. To know that we would have spacious and fairly luxurious accommodation at regular intervals was good. Every centre we stayed at had something special to offer, such as Magellanic Woodpeckers, Geese etc. at Ushuaia, Condors and Hooded Grebes at Calafate. The travel was well organised...Overall the holiday was very enjoyable and well planned.
I thoroughly enjoyed this holiday...The tour leader was excellent and did a good job in keeping everyone happy with their different interests and levels of birding experience. The local guide was a treasure. Ever helpful and amusing and informative. A joy to be with ... I look forward to my next Naturetrek holiday.
Mike Dales style of leadership is very good...Ricardo Clark - fine, a great bird finder.
The boat trip at Calafate was fantastic.
This trip was excellent - well organised and good leadership from all concerned. Thank you.
Many thanks for an enjoyable 2 weeks...your guide, Mike Dale, was technically excellent, a professional leader as well as being very good company.
Mr & Mrs R
The holiday was very enjoyable and well planned. It was an excellent way to celebrate retirement.