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Chile… Just Pumas!

Widgeon

Widgeon, Terry Goble

In March, Tour leader Terry Goble accompanied our ‘Chile – Just Pumas!’ holiday which is based in the stunning Torres del Paine National Park. Here he describes the group’s exciting encounters with South America’s apex predator … The focus of this tour was on Pumas, and our group – in the very capable hands of local guide, Enrique, was not to be disappointed! Despite being greeted by rain on our first morning in the Torres Del Paine National Park, the weather improved and soon we were enjoying glorious sunshine … so we set off into the park in search of Pumas. We eagerly scanned every hilltop and meadow as we drove through the park. Shadows, rocks and the odd shrub resembled a crouching Puma to the keen spotters!

Puma

Puma, Terry Goble

Despite the attentive group we were unable to locate any Pumas, but we still enjoyed our first morning watching a Grey Fox and a few new birds such as Cinereous Harrier, Tufted Tit-Tyrant and Long-tailed Meadowlark. In the afternoon our luck changed, as news of a Puma sighting at a nearby cliff-face filtered through to the group. A crackle of excitement went through the group. We set off to the cliff at Estancia, and positioned ourselves where we might get a good view – and there, a little way beneath us, was the group’s very first Puma! It was inactive and sleepy-looking, but clearly sleek, beautiful and powerful. We stood in awe, admiring the cat, and were thrilled to see it wake briefly. The thrill of our first Puma was magical and we walked back to the minibus buzzing with excitement.

Torres Del Paine

Torres Del Paine, Jacquie Clark

We were to enjoy many more sightings. Over the course of the week we managed 11 sightings, some very close, and with active animals. We saw Pumas in action – hunting (unsuccessfully), eating on a kill at night and setting off from their daytime lairs. And the background to our Puma sightings could not have been more dramatic. The jagged Andean peaks of Torres del Paine, rising up into often clear blue skies, were breathtaking and just outside our hotel doors. The snow-capped mountains and glaciers looked glorious against azure skies, and very dramatic when shrouded in cloud.

Of course there are other animals too – the Guanaco’s behaviour and social systems were fascinating and an encounter with a Hairy Armadillo was particularly enjoyed by the group. There were impressive gatherings of Condors and other interesting birds, highlights being: The Austral Pygmy Owl, Austral Parakeets, the hard to find Least Seedsnipe, Lesser Rhea and Chilean Flamingo.

Andean Condor

Andean Condor, Terry Goble

We were lucky to have enjoyed fabulously warm (if at times windy) weather. The light was wonderful for photography and for simply enjoying the superb views. Torres Del Paine is a magical place and the week will live long in our memories.

Contact: our next 11-day ‘Chile – Just Pumas!’ holiday departs Thursday 23rd February 2017. Please call Dan Free on 01962 733051 or email dan@naturetrek.co.uk for details.