Worldwide Photographic Journeys

South America

Chile: Walking with Pumas

Thursday 12th September – Saturday 21st September 2019

Leaders: Mark Beaman and one of the very best Puma trackers in the region, plus assistant

10 Days Group Size Limit 6
Condor Extension

Tuesday 10th September – Thursday 12th September 2019

3 Days Group Size Limit 6
Saturday 11th April – Monday 20th April 2020

Leaders: Mark Beaman and one of the very best Puma trackers in the region, plus assistant

10 Days Group Size Limit 6
Condor Extension

Thursday 9th April – Saturday 11th April 2020

3 Days Group Size Limit 6
Saturday 12th September – Monday 21st September 2020

Leaders: Wild Images leader to be announced and one of the very best Puma trackers in the region, plus assistant, Wild Images leader to be announced

10 Days Group Size Limit 6
Condor Extension

Thursday 10th September – Saturday 12th September 2020

3 Days Group Size Limit 6

Photographic Highlights

  • Extraordinary photographic encounters with wild Pumas, sometimes at close range
  • Walk along with Pumas in the vast wilderness of Chile's Torres del Paine region and share their world – an amazing privilege
  • You may be lucky enough to witness a hunt, and perhaps even photograph a Puma taking a Guanaco or some other prey
  • The awesome mountain scenery of world-famous Torres del Paine
  • Guanacos, a wild relative of the Llama, at close range, sometimes with amazing mountain backdrops
  • Seek out South American Grey Foxes and Humboldt's Hog-nosed Skunks
  • Get so close to Andean Condors that you can hear the wind whistling through their wingtips
  • Beautiful geese, ducks and swans
  • Reflections of the stunning Paine range in lakes and ponds
  • Travel by boat across Lago Grey to the face of the Grey Glacier and photograph deep blue icebergs, fierce peaks and the stunning, deeply-serrated face of the glacier itself
  • Unusual cloudscapes that make Torres del Paine sunrises and sunsets even more spectacular

CHILE: WALKING WITH PUMAS PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS WITH WILD IMAGES

Inger and Mark’s exploratory trip in September/October 2018 was absolutely awesome! We watched 16 different individual Pumas during our visit and on some days spent hours with Pumas at quite close range, sharing their feline world and watching them rest, drink, play, walk, interact with other Pumas and even hunt hares, foxes and fully-grown Guanacos! The Torres del Paine ‘Walking with Pumas’ experience was one of our most extraordinary and most moving wildlife photography journeys ever!

Why not experience this for yourself? We are operating some very special, extended-duration Puma photography tours in the Torres del Paine region in the months of September and April, which are ideal times of year for getting great encounters with these wonderful creatures while enjoying shorter days with longer periods of low light, but avoiding the fierce cold of a Patagonian winter.

Unlike some Puma photography tours, we will not be spending most of our puma tracking time in Torres del Paine National Park. We have noticed that quite a lot of photography and wildlife tour operators do not mention in their tour descriptions that restrictions were put in place in 2015 that currently prevent any leaving of the roads or a single walking trail in the park in order to approach Pumas. The restrictions are doubtless necessary (the park has become very popular, and most visitors have no expert tracker along to advise them how to behave near Pumas), but it does mean that Puma watching/photography inside the park is not what it was.

We will certainly be spending some time inside this wonderful park, in order to enjoy the amazing scenery and also photograph other wildlife, but the great majority of our time and almost all of our Puma encounters will be on private lands where restrictions are much lighter and where we have a much higher probability of wonderful photographic encounters.

These private areas do have very high entry fees, amounting to around US$ 160 per person per day, so that does add considerably to the tour cost as compared with costs for tours that opt to try and photograph Pumas wholly or largely inside the Torres del Paine National Park, but the vastly superior photographic potential is well worth the additional cost in our opinion. In any event, even though Puma tracking trips have become very costly (southern Chile is nowadays a very expensive place), we have found we can include lots of Puma tracking in these special private areas outside the park and still offer a 10 days Puma photography tour with 9 nights in the Torres del Paine region (so offering significantly more time in the field than most other Puma tours provide) at an attractive price.

It takes time to accumulate a good portfolio of Puma and other Torres del Paine wildlife shots, so having more than 4-5 days in the area is vital in our view. Very windy days are commonplace in Patagonia and unsuitable weather for good photography can easily last for 2-3 days at any time of year.

The Pumas of Torres del Paine have become famous among wildlife photographers, and justly so. In most parts of their huge range, which extends from Alaska and Canada southwards to the southern tip of South America, this is a shy creature that faces intense persecution, largely owing to its propensity to take domestic stock in areas where wild prey has diminished owing to human transformation of the landscape. Even in today’s Chile, Pumas are widely hunted by ranchers and the total number of animals killed annually is quite extraordinary. Sadly, there is nothing unusual about Chile in this respect: Puma persecution extends the length of the two continents.

Fortunately, persecution ended a long time ago in Torres del Paine National Park, and in recent years some adjacent estancia (ranch) owners have also ceased to hunt Pumas. The result has been both an increase in their numbers and an increased willingness by the local Pumas to tolerate humans in their vicinity. Indeed a good number of individuals now seem quite content to let humans follow them around, at a respectful distance of course, and observe their Puma world of resting, sleeping, playing, drinking, mating and even hunting. With some of the individuals and families, providing you are reasonably fit (and by this we mean reasonably fit for a 60-year-old, not a 20-year-old), you can sometimes stay with them for long periods, but to do this you may well need to be able to walk over uneven ground for 2-3 kilometes (1.2-1.8 miles) and at times there will be uphill stretches in the rolling Patagonian terrain. Even if you cannot ‘walk with Pumas’ for long periods, our tours will still be highly productive for you, as you can expect to be able to get close enough to Pumas for great images before they decide to move on again.

As well as Pumas there are plenty of other mammals to photograph, including Guanaco (a wild relative of the Llama), the endangered Huemul (or South Andean Deer), Patagonian Hairy Armadillo, Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk and South American Grey Fox. Birds are also plentiful and prime targets will include Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, Cinereous Harrier, Chimango, Southern Crested and possibly White-throated Caracaras, Lesser Rhea, Black-necked and Coscoroba Swans, Upland Goose, various ducks, Black-faced Ibis, Chilean Flamingo and Southern Lapwing among many possibilities.

There will be a short optional pre-tour extension that will visit a superb site for photographing the magnificent Andean Condor, a place where we have a really good chance to obtain great images.

We are also planning to offer an informal exploratory visit (of 4 days duration) after the Pumas tour ends to beautiful Chiloe Island to try and photograph the charismatic but uncommon Kodkod Cat (also known as Guiña or Chilean Cat) and Darwin’s Fox, as well as many other things. Please let our office know if you are interested in participating. The cost oer person will depend on the number of participants.

 

Accommodation

Our Chile Puma and wildlife photography tour uses comfortable hotels/lodges throughout.

 

Transport

Road transport will be by 4×4 vehicles with an opening window seat for each participant (absolutely vital in our view as you can get some great wildlife shots in this part of the world by using such a vehicle). Many other southern Chile wildlife photography tours use minibuses/passenger vans without opening windows. We can also use the 4x4s to reach areas that others cannot and shorten some of our Puma hikes. Principal roads are mostly good, but ranch tracks can be rough.

 

Climate

Southern Patagonia is positioned at fairly high latitudes and it never gets very warm in the region, not even in the middle of what passes for summer. In September and April it is typically cool during the day (fairly cold in the early morning). Daytime temperatures typically range from about -1 to 3°C (30-38°F) at dawn to an early afternoon maximum of 8-12°C (46-54°F). It can feel considerably warmer than this on a still sunny day and considerably colder on a windy cloudy day. The eastern part of Torres del Paine region enjoys plenty of sunshine, but we are likely to experience some overcast weather and it will probably rain or possibly even snow occasionally.

 

Photographic Equipment

For Puma photography, and for many other mammals and birds, the ideal lenses on a full-frame DSLR are usually a 400mm, 500mm or 600mm prime, with or without converters. (If your budget does not run to big prime lenses, a high quality 400mm f5.6 or a 100-400mm or similar zoom, with a 1.4 converter where necessary, on a crop-sensor type body will be a viable alternative.)

For some wildlife subjects, as well as some scenic shots, a 200-300mm (with or without a converter) will often be useful. Torres del Paine is full of magnificent panoramic views and a wide-angle in the 16-35mm range is ideal.

You can also get wonderful photography results with many subjects, including Pumas, with a high quality digital compact camera with an 18-20x or higher optical zoom.

If you have questions about what equipment you ought to bring, please contact us.

 

See Frequently Asked Questions


CHILE: WALKING WITH PUMAS PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS: PRICE INFORMATION

2019 confirmed prices and 2020 provisional prices: £4990, €5690, $6940 Punta Arenas/Punta Arenas. Deposit 10%.

Condor Extension: £890, €1020, $1240 Punta Arenas/Punta Arenas. Deposit 10%.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Single Room Supplement: £540, €616, $751. Extension: £120, €137, $167.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in Pounds Sterling and Euros are based on: £1 = $1.390 and €1 = $1.220.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

CHILE:  WALKING WITH PUMAS PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR ITINERARY

 

Day 1

Transfer from Punta Arenas in southernmost Chile to the Torres del Paine region for a 9 nights stay at a comfortable lodge.

 

Days 2-9

8 full days to photograph Pumas, Guanacos, birds of prey, amazing scenery and much more besides, significantly more time than for other Puma photography tours.

Pumas tend to concentrate their hunting into the period from before dawn until about two hours after sunrise and again from about two hours before sunset until after dusk. Much of the rest of the day (and night) is spent sleeping, resting, washing, drinking and the like.

So, it is essential to be out early and late in the day if you want to see and photograph active Pumas. Watching and photographing resting Pumas in the middle of the day is easy in Torres del Paine, experiencing good action is the hard part. That is why the Wild Images tours are longer than most. That extra time greatly increases your chances of really good images. The other problem with the middle of the day is heat shimmer. Patagonia is a cool part of the world, but shimmer is often a major problem from about mid-morning to mid-afternoon.

Each Puma tracking day we will head out after an early breakfast and be in the right place shortly before sunrise. After the morning activity dies down, we will usually head back to our lodge for a break (lunch, extra sleep, reviewing images or any combination you prefer) before returning to look for Pumas in the late afternoon and early evening.  While we travel around looking for Pumas there will be plenty of opportunities to photograph Guanacos, other mammals, birds and of course the astounding scenery of Torres del Paine. Southern Chile’s high latitude and the Chilean time zone (GMT/UTC plus 3 hours) combine rather well for us in that sunrise is quite late in the morning in Chilean Patagonia, so we don’t have to get up at some totally ungodly hour!

 

Day 10

Today we will return to Punta Arenas airport, where our Chile Puma photography tour ends.

 

CONDOR EXTENSION

 

Day 1

The extension starts this evening at the comfortable Diego de Almagro Hotel in Punta Arenas, where we will spend two nights.

 

Day 2

A full day for close encounters with Andean Condors and other bird subjects.

We will visit a large hill where we should be able to enjoy repeated close passes by Andean Condors, some coming so close that we will be able to hear the sound of the wind in their primaries (the feathers that form their long, slotted wingtips). We should see individuals of both sexes and all ages, and be able to capture images of both the dark undersides and the stunning black and white pattern on the upperwings of the adults.

The area is also good for photographing the striking Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, while other birds we will want to try and photograph today (during the middle of the day, when the condors are likely to be away foraging) include Upland and Ashy-headed Geese, Fuegian Steamer Duck, Magellanic Oystercatcher, the smart Dolphin Gull and the elegant South American Tern.

 

Day 3

We join up with those arriving for the main tour and head for Torres del Paine.