Inala Chile / South America Group Tour 31st Oct - 15 Nov 2024

Patagonian Haired Armadillo - Fernando Diaz - Inala Nature Tours
Patagonian Haired Armadillo - Fernando Diaz - Inala Nature Tours
Tour date: 
Thursday, 31 October 2024 to Friday, 15 November 2024
16 days
Main tour = USD$10,995 per person twin share. Single supplement : USD $1,050
Inala’s expedition to Chile, in the Southern cone of South America …come and join the quest to find Gondwanan connections and evidence of the Theory of Continental Drift.

South America was one of the last parts of the supercontinent Gondwanaland to break away from the Antarctic plate around 65 million years ago; Australia was the last (with Tasmania separating from the Antarctic plate around 45 million years ago). Consequently, the Australian fauna and flora are quite closely related to that of South America. This 14-day itinerary showcases these Gondwanan connections with particular reference to Tasmania and the southern cone of South America. 

Join Inala’s Tonia Cochran and local biologist guide Paola on this comprehensive 16 day expedition to Chile in the Southern cone of South America to see the ancient Gondwanan forests and the birds, mammals, reptiles and insects that inhabit them. The scenery on this tour is also spectacular and the accommodation of high standard and located within wildlife habitat. Bird highlights include Andean Condor, Magellanic Woodpecker, Austral Parakeet, Moustached Turca and many endemic Tapaculos. We also search for Coypu, Southern Red and Grey Foxes, South American Sealion, River Otter and marsupial Monito del Monte. 

Start Location: 
Santiago Metropolitana de Santiago
Finish location: 
Santiago Metropolitana de Santiago

Inala Chile / South America Tour  31st Oct - 15th Nov 2024

Northern Chile Lauca National Park pre-tour extension  26 – 31 October 2024

Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, the Steppe and Torres del Paine Chile post-tour extension 15 – 21 November 2024

South America was one of the last parts of the supercontinent Gondwanaland to break away from the Antarctic plate around 65 million years ago; Australia was the last (with Tasmania separating from the Antarctic plate around 45 million years ago). Consequently, the Australian fauna and flora are quite closely related to that of South America. This 14-day itinerary showcases these Gondwanan connections with particular reference to Tasmania and the southern cone of South America. 

Join Inala’s Tonia Cochran and local biologist guide Paola on this comprehensive 16 day expedition to Chile in the Southern cone of South America to see the ancient Gondwanan forests and the birds, mammals, reptiles and insects that inhabit them. The scenery on this tour is also spectacular and the accommodation of high standard and located within wildlife habitat. Bird highlights include Andean Condor, Magellanic Woodpecker, Austral Parakeet, Moustached Turca and many endemic Tapaculos. We also search for Coypu, Southern Red and Grey Foxes, South American Sealion, River Otter and marsupial Monito del Monte. 

Day 1. Thu 31 Oct 24. Arrival in Santiago.
Day 2. Fri 1 Nov 24. La Campana NP-Santiago 
Day 3. Sat 2 Nov 24. Highlands above Santiago.
Day 4. Sun 3 Nov 24. Santiago to Vilches and Colbún Lake.
Day 5. Mon 4 Nov 24. Day trip to Altos de Lircay National Park-Vilches.  
Day 6. Tue 5 Nov 24. Vilches Saltos del Laja to Conguillio NP.
Day 7. Wed 6 Nov 24. Conguillio NP.
Day 8. Thu 7 Nov 24. Conguillio NP- Huilo-Huilo.
Day 9. Fri 8 Nov 24. Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve.
Day 10. Sat 9 Nov 24. Huilo-Huilo to Puyehue.
Day 11. Sun 10 Nov 24. Full day in Puyehue National Park.   
Day 12. Mon 11 Nov 24. Lahuen Ñadi Natural Monument to Chiloé Island.
Day 13. Tue 12 Nov 24. Chiloé Island: Puñihuil, Chepu and Tepuhueico. 
Day 14. Wed 13 Nov 24. Tepuhueico Park, Chiloé Island.
Day 15. Thu 14 Nov 24. Tepuhueico and transfer to Puerto Varas.
Day 16. Fri 15 Nov 24. Puerto Montt- fly Santiago or Punta Arenas (post tour extension).

CENTRAL CHILE: This part of Chile has a Mediterranean Climate, with high rates of biodiversity and endemism and as a result has been classified as one of the 25 Hot Spots in the world with priority for its conservation. 

Day 1. Thursday 31st October 2024. Arrival at Santiago. We will arrive at Santiago, the capital of Chile, where we will be transferred to our hotel. At our welcome dinner this evening, our local South American guide will meet us to discuss and answer questions regarding the itinerary before beginning this fantastic trip.
Accommodation: Santiago (en suite). Meals included: D. 

Day 2. Friday 1st November 2024. La Campana National Park. This park is located in the Coastal Range in the Valparaiso Region about 1.5 hours’ drive from Santiago. Because of its high rates of biodiversity and endemism it was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO (WNBR The World Network of Biosphere Reserves). La Campana has a very representative sample of the flora and fauna native to central Chile. One of the most attractive floral highlights in the park is the endemic and long-lived Chilean Palm (Jubaea chilensis). This extraordinary plant, with amazing adaptations is also famous because it can reach more than 1,000 years old. In the park, it will also be possible to observe the three main native vegetation types that occur in the central zone of the country; Matorral (a mix of short and spiny scrubs, bushes and cacti), Sclerophyllous forest (formed by different species of hard-leafed trees) and Savanah (large, extended plains covered with acacia). In1834, the British naturalist Charles Darwin explored this valley, which was one of his important expeditions while traveling in Chile. Gondwanan flora we should see here include Drimys winteri (a sacred tree for Indigenous people), Alstroemeria ligtu, A. pulchra (which should be flowering at the time of our visit) and Crinodendron patagua. Endemic bird specialties here include Moustached Turca, White-throated Tapaculo, Chilean Tinamou, Dusky- tailed Canastero and Dusky Tapaculo. Other interesting central Chilean birds we should see here include Chilean Pigeon, Striped Woodpecker, Chilean Flicker, Austral Pygmy-owl, Giant Hummingbird, Plain-mantled Tit-spinetail, Tufted Tit-tyrant, White-crested Elaenia, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter and Common Diuca-finch. In this beautiful area, it also possible to observe some mammals including two native species of fox and diurnal endemic rodents (Family Octodontidae). The variety of reptile species is also amazing, one of the most impressive being the endemic Chilean Iguana or Liguana (Callopistes maculatus). In the afternoon we will visit the Batuco Wetlands. These are the last sizeable wetlads left in central Chile and concentrate large congregations of waterfowl. The extensive reedbeds are also home to reed specialists like Many-coloured Rush-tyrant and Wren-like Rushbird.
Accommodation: Santiago (en suite) as for last night. Meals included: BLD

Day 3 Saturday 2nd November 2024. Highlands above Santiago. We will start early this morning to travel east to Farellones, in the heart of the Andes Range. This mountain town is an important sky centre close to the capital. During spring and summer, it is an excellent location to see native high-altitude flora and fauna. While driving along the road to Farellones we will look for high altitude specialists like Greater Yellow finch, Rufous-Banded and Creamy-Rumped Miners and White-Sided Hillstar among other special Andean birds. Massive Andean Condors should be seen above and sometimes below us. We are also hoping to see Variable Hawk, Black-Chested Buzzard Eagle and Mountain Caracara. We will also be birding in lower altitudes, looking for five endemics: Chilean Tinamou, Moustached Turca, White-Throated and Dusky Tapaculos, Crag Chilia and Dusky-Tailed Canastero. We are also likely to spot some native rodents during this trip. This will be a great birding day with fantastic views of the scenery and spectacular landscapes. In the afternoon we will return to hotel in Santiago.
Accommodation: Santiago (en suite as for last night). Meals included: BLD.

Day 4. Sunday 3rd November 2024. Santiago to Vilches and Colbún Lake. We will depart from Santiago in the morning and drive towards to the south through Talca to Colbún Lake. Here we are still in the drier Mediterranean habitat and our main targets will be the large, spectacularly colourful and very noisy Burrowing Parakeet and beautiful Spectacled Duck. Hopefully we will also find a good number of other interesting ducks and grebe species and an opportunity to see Spectacled Tyrant and Andean Gull. We will then make a short trip north to spend the rest of the afternoon and tomorrow in the magnificent Altos de Lircay National Reserve. At dusk we will look for the elusive Rufous-legged Owl and spend the night in a quiet and comfortable forest lodge just outside the reserve.
Accommodation: Vilches (en suite rooms). Meals included: BLD.

Day 5. Monday 4th November 2024. Day trip to Altos de Lircay National Park.  Located in the southern limit of the Mediterranean Region, this reserve is in the ecotone (transition area between two biomes) between the Temperate Rainforest and the Mediterranean Ecoregion of Chile. Here we will see a mix of bird communities characteristic of the scrubbier and drier Mediterranean habitat and the lush temperate Nothofagus (Southern Beech) forests and encounter our first forest specialists. While walking along trails we will see the spectacular mature Nothofagus trees as well as ferns, mosses and forest bird species that are unique to the southern cone of South America. On this northern border of the Temperate Rainforest plant species with Gondwanan connections gradually appear such as Lomatia hirsuta and Embothrium coccineum (both family Proteaceae), Austrocedrus chilensis (a southern Cypress) and Laurelia sempervirens (which is related to the Australian Sassafras). We should also find a range of birds including Chile's least known Tapaculos and Chestnut-Throated Huet-Huet and other Nothofagus forest specialties such as Austral Parakeet (the world's most southerly parrot species), Chucao Tapaculo with its explosive voice, Magellanic Tapaculo and the colourful Patagonian Sierra-Finch. This will also be our first opportunity to see the truly spectacular Magellanic Woodpecker, and there also is a chance to spot rare and difficult to find Chilean and White-Throated Hawks. We will return to Vilches after a long day of exploring.
Accommodation: Vilches (en suite rooms as for last night). Meals included: BLD.

SOUTHERN CHILE: This part of Chile has a Temperate Oceanic Climate and is part of the Valdivian Temperate Rainforests Ecoregion. These forests are a refuge for Antarctic Flora and share many plant families with temperate rainforests in New Zealand and Australia (particularly Tasmania).

Day 6. Tuesday 5th November 2024. Vilches Saltos del Laja and Conguillio NP. After breakfast, we will leave Vilches and head south. We will stop en route at scenically beautiful Laja Waterfalls where we will have lunch. These beautiful and huge waterfalls are formed by the Laja River, and the spray generated by the water is often tinged by a huge rainbow that crosses above it from side to side. The waterfalls are actually comprised of four spectacular falls of between 40 and 55 meters (130 and 180 ft.) in height. We will then continue to Conguillio National Park, our destination for the next two nights.
Accommodation: Conguillio (en suite rooms). Meals included: BLD. 

Day 7. Wednesday 6th November 2024. Conguillio National Park. Today we will explore Conguillío National Park located in the provinces of Cautín and Malleco, in the Araucanía Region of Chile in the higher altitudes of the Andes Mountains where forest of huge Nothofagus (Southern Beeches) and Araucaria (Monkey Puzzle Tree) forests grow. Its name is derived from the indigenous Mapudungún word for "water with Araucaria seeds". Among the attractions of the park are the Llaima and Sierra Nevada volcanoes which are responsible for modelling the landscape. 
There are vast areas of lava flows characterized by islands of vegetation. Stunning lagoons and extensive forests formed mainly by Araucaria, and a high biodiversity of Nothofagus species increase the scenic beauty of the park. Conguillío is also one of the places where it is possible to find Gondwanan relics such as Podocarpus salignus, Prumnopitys andina and Gunnera tinctoria. Some of the special birds here are Torrent Duck, Patagonian Forest Earthcreeper, Magellanic Tapaculo, Austral Parakeet, Striped Woodpecker, Chilean Flicker, Magellanic Woodpecker, White-Throated Treerunner and other forest species. Mammals we may see today include Southern Red and Grey Fox.
Accommodation: Conguillío (en suite rooms). Meals included: BLD.

Day 8. Thursday 7th November 2024. Conguillio National Park to Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve. 
After breakfast we will leave Conguillío National Park and travel to the Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve. After lunch we will explore the Nothofagus forest around our accommodation. The accommodation is amazing and quirky and the surrounding forest full of Gondwanan relicts like Drimys winteri, Laureliopsis philippiana, and massive Nothofagus trees.
Accommodation: Huilo Huilo (en suite rooms). Meals included: BLD.

Day 9. Friday 8th November 2024. Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve. Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve is located in the middle of the Chilean Patagonian Rainforest at the foot of the majestic Andes Mountain range. This unique project is committed to the conservation of nature and local culture. Looking for sustainability, the Huilo Huilo Foundation mission is to develop flora and fauna conservation projects and to involve the local community and local entrepreneurs in this work. One of the Foundation flagship projects is the conservation of the Huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus), the southernmost deer species in the world. This animal is a national symbol, but in danger of extinction. This project has succeeded in preserving and breeding the Huemul in a controlled environment. In this beautiful and fairytale-like forest it is possible to find Lomatia hirsuta, Austrocedrus chilensis, Embothrium coccineum, Laurelia sempervirens which all have affinities with Australian flora. We will take a night walk tonight, to look for nocturnal mammals.
Accommodation: Huilo Huilo (en suite rooms as for last night). Meals included: BLD. 

Day 10. Saturday 9th November 2024. Huilo-Huilo to Puyehue.  This morning we continue exploring in the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, including a visit to a fascinating museum with exhibitions on aspects of local indigenous groups, geology and 
culture in southern Chile. Mid-morning, we will travel to Puyehue, stopping for lunch on-route.
Accommodation: Puyehue (en suite rooms). Meals included: BLD.

Day 11. Sunday 10th November 2024. Full day in Puyehue National Park. We will spend the day in the Puyehue National park which is located in the Andes Mountain Range, in the Los Ríos and Los Lagos regions of Chile formerly referred to as the 10th region. The park boasts 220,000 acres of evergreen forests, surrounded by volcanoes and mountainous landscape with natural thermal springs. Puyehue National park forms part of the ‘Reserve of Temperate Rainy Forest Biospheres of the Southern Andes’.  Forty animal species coexist in this place in which green colour rules. One of the most amazing and emblematic species that relate the South American continent with Oceania is the ‘Monito del Monte’ (Dromiciops gliroides). This small dormouse-like marsupial represents an ancient group related to Australian dasyurid marsupials (which include Tasmanian Devil, quolls and Antechinus). It is the only surviving species of the order Microbiotheria (family Microbiotheriidae). Tonight we will have another chance f looking for this rare and cryptic species as this is perfect habitat for it and we may be lucky!
Accommodation: Puyehue (en suite rooms). Meals included: BLD.

Day 12. Monday 11th November 2024. Lahuen Ñadi Natural Monument to Chiloé Island. This morning after breakfast, we will travel to the Lahuen Ñadi National Monument which protects a remnant of mature 1,800-year conifers, the Alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides) which belongs to the family Cupressaceae and resembles giant Redwoods and Australian Athrotaxis (King Billy and Pencil) Pines. Magellanic Woodpeckers, Tapaculo species and flocks of Slender-billed Parakeet can be seen in these forests. After lunch we will then travel to Pargua near Puerto Montt to embark the ferry across the Chacao Channel to Chiloé island. We will then birdwatch in Caulin Bay before travelling to our accommodation in Ancud where we will have a traditional seafood dinner.
Accommodation: Ancud (en suite rooms). Meals included: BLD.

Day 13. Tuesday 12th November 2024. Chiloé Island: Puñihuil, Chepu and Tepuhueico. After an early morning breakfast in our Lodge in Ancud, we will visit Puñihuil reserve where a boat ride will take us to a Penguin Colony where Humboldt and Magellanic penguins nest side by side. We will then visit Chepu, a breathtaking location overlooking the confluence of three rivers and 140 km2 of sunken forest (a phenomenon created by the 1960 Valdivia earthquake, which sunk the ground by around 2 metres, allowing salt water to enter the area and kill the trees). Chepu, in the northern sector of Chiloé National Park, remains Chiloé's sanctuary of pristine beauty. We will explore the stunning coastline, many temperate rainforest specialties and look for the endangered River Otter or Huillín (Lontra provocax), while sailing in comfortable boats along the gorgeous Chepu river. We will then travel to Tepuhueco Natural reserve late afternoon.
Accommodation: Tepuhueco (en suite rooms). Meals included: BLD.

Day 14. Wednesday 13th November 2024. Tepuhueico Park, Chiloé Island.
Tepuhueico Park is a 20,000-hectare privately owned native forest reserve and conservation initiative located in the heart of Chiloé Island and extends from the Pacific Ocean to the shores of Lake Tepuhueico.  The Park is located in a transitional zone between the Valdivian and North Patagonian forests and three different forest types are found here: temperate rainforest, conifer forest and swamp forest. Epiphyptes, lichens, mosses and fungi abound in the pristine air here. Several threatened animals such as the Huillin (southern River Otter), Guiña or Kodkod (the smallest felid native to the Americas), Darwin’s Fox (which is endemic to Chiloé Island), Southern Pudu deer and marsupial Monito del Monte are also protected here, as are a range of forest, freshwater and marine birds.  The main objective of the park is to actively conserve its natural values and encourage sustainable tourism. Tonight, we will also include another spotlighting excursion to look for Monito del Monte.
Accommodation: Tepuhueco (en suite rooms as for last night). Meals included: BLD.

Day 15. Thursday 14th November 2024. Tepuhueico and transfer to Puerto Varas. This morning we will spend more time in the park before we travel back on the ferry to the Chilean mainland and onto Puerto Varas where we will spend the night.

Day 16 Friday 15th November 2024. Puerto Montt and flight to Santiago and depart. This morning, we will transfer to Puerto Montt for our flight back to Santiago where our main tour finishes. Those continuing onto the post extension tour will fly to Punta Arenas (flights not included in tour price).
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B.

Tour Price: USD$10,995 per person twin share. Single supplement: USD$1,050 

Internal flights: Puerto Montt- Santiago estimated to be around USD$150-250 per person and Puerto Montt-Punta Arenas estimated to be around USD$350-600 each.

Based on a group size of 6-10 participants + Inala leader Dr Tonia Cochran + local South American guide.
Inclusions: Accommodation for each night of the tour, specialist guiding and transport for day and night tours as outlined in the itinerary, main group airport transfers, all meals (B, L, D) and activities outlined in the itinerary and National Park entry fees. 

Exclusions: any international and domestic airfares, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and expenses of a personal nature (snacks, travel insurance, internet, laundry, tips etc) and any additional transfers and accommodation. 

Please note:  Whilst we aim to follow the itinerary as planned, please note that the itinerary provided should only be used as a guideline.  Depending on individual trip circumstances, weather, and local information, the exact itinerary may not be strictly adhered to.  The guides reserve the right to make changes to the itinerary as they see fit.

Northern Chile Lauca National Park pre-tour extension
Saturday 26 – Thursday 31 October 2024

Introduction: Scenically breathtaking with stunning birdlife, the Andes conjure up a mouth-watering birding feast. Soaring Andean Condors above high peaks in clear blue skies and Diademed Sandpiper-Plovers on mineral-rich bogs with the sound of Seedsnipe echoing in the valley. These are the magical experiences of this trip. In just few days we shall visit, not only the high Puna grasslands but also the arid Pacific coast with its endemic species, the stunning Lauca National Park and look for the critically endangered hummingbird, the Chilean Woodstar. The plants are just as spectacular- those in the Atacama Desert contend with an annual rainfall of just 0.6mm of rain a year. Cacti and succulents abound and other plant specialties such as Calceolaria (slipper flower) and Tillandsia (air plants) are also found here.

Day 1. Sat 26 Oct 24. Arrival in Santiago.
Day 2. Sun 27 Oct 24. Santiago to Arica.
Day 3. Mon 28 Oct 24. Arica to Putre. Birding and endemic plants.
Day 4. Tue 29 Oct 24. Lauca National Park.
Day 5. Wed 30 Oct 24. Putre to Arica.
Day 6 (= Day 1 of main tour). Thu 31 Oct 2024. Fly Arica to Santiago and join main tour.

Day 1. Saturday 26th October 2024.
Arrival in Santiago. Most international flights to Santiago, Chile arrive during the night. Today has been set aside as an arrival day to relax at your hotel or explore the local area. We will meet our local Chilean biologist guide Paola at dinner where we will discuss our itinerary.
Accommodation: Hotel near Santiago Airport (en suite rooms). Meals included: D.

Day 2. Sunday 27th October 2024. Santiago to Arica. This morning we will leave early fly from Santiago to the city of Arica which is next to the Peruvian border (flight not included in price). This northern extreme of Chile is known as the “Big North” and includes the vast Atacama Desert and the High Andean steppes of the Altiplano. Although located in the driest desert on earth, Arica has a good bird population, which is only possible because of rivers and small water courses which are fed by runoff from the High Andes allowing the existence of fertile valleys and well-cultivated flood plains that form rich oasis in this harsh environment. Our most important target species will be hummingbirds: Oasis Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheartail and the critically endangered endemic Chilean Woodstar (the world’s population estimated at 350 individuals by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species), which occur in the Camarones Valley in southern Arica. Other unique bird species like Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant, Tamarugo Conebill and the newly-described Raimond’s Yellow-Finch, are also found here. After lunch we will return to Arica and explore the coastline at the estuary of one of the most important rivers in the region, Lluta River. The main target species here will be shorebirds, hopefully Killdeer, Snowy Plover, American and Blackish Oystercatchers, Surfbird, Willet and a beautiful species selection of Gulls and Terns.
Accommodation: Hotel in Arica (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 3. Monday 28th October 2024. Birding and endemic plants Arica to Putre. This morning we will travel to the arable areas outside Arica and then to the town of Putre.  Bird specialties we may see en route include the impressive Peruvian Thick-knee, West Peruvian Dove, Groove-Billed Ani, Burrowing Owl, Andean Swift, Peruvian Elaenia (the northern form of White-Crested Elaenia), Vermilion Flycatcher, the local race of Bran-Coloured Flycatcher (a strong candidate for a future split), Cinereous Conebill, Chestnut-Throated Seedeater, Blue-Black Grassquit, Slender-Billed Finch and Peruvian Meadowlark. We will also see a range of endemic plants that grow in this area including two species of Tillandsia or ‘air plant’ (T. macronae and T.  landbeckii) which manage to survive by obtaining water from the humid Pacific air. One plant which stands out in this arid environment is the impressive Browningia candelaris, which can reach a height of 5 metres; the silhouettes of their wide-spread arms along the mountain crests is reminiscent of the Araucarias of the south. As we approach Putre, the species diversity increases, and the vegetation cover approaches 70% with many shrubs up to 1m tall-amazing in this arid environment. Other species we hope to see today include Lupinus oreophilus, Calceolaria inamoena, verbenas (like V. gynobasis), two species of Mutisias (M. acuminate and M hamata, both of which have large, showy flowers, as well as a variety of cacti including Corryocactus brevistylus which grows up to 5m tall with huge yellow flowers, Oreocereus hempellianus and O. leucotrichus and Neowerdermannia chilensis. We will spend the night in the beautiful town of Putre (altitude of 3,500 metres or 11.483 ft), Putre is the gateway for tomorrow’s adventure to the high elevation Andean ecosystems.
Accommodation: Hotel in Putre (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 4. Tuesday 29th October 2024. Lauca National Park. Lauca National Park is a place of outstanding natural beauty located in the heart of the Altiplano of the ‘Big North’. It was declared part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR) in 1981. The towering snow-capped volcanoes of Pomerape and Parinacota soar to over 6,300 metres (11.811 ft) and they reflect perfectly in the deep blue water of Chungara and Cotacotani Lakes, both important attractions of the park. Chungara Lake one of the highest altitude lakes in the world. It delights visitors with its impressive landscape and its hordes of amazing and unique species of birds. Some of the species present in this habitat are Andean Grebe (the local form of Silvery Grebe), Puna Teal, Giant Coot, Andean Gull and a variety of duck species. While driving up to the lakes we will search in the high-altitude bogs for the stunning and difficult to find Diademed Sandpiper Plover. Other target birds for this area are Puna Rhea, Andean Flicker, White-Winged Cinclodes, Black Siskin, Puna Tinamou, Puna Ibis, Andean Goose, Mountain Caracara, Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Andean Avocet, Puna Miner, Puna and White Fronted Ground-Tyrants, Andean Negrito, White-Winged Diuca-Finch and White-Throated Sierra-Finch. We will also be looking for Flamingos, and with some luck we will be able to spot all three species: Chilean, Andean and Puna (James’s). We will also be on the lookout for  the rare Viscacha amongst the rocks. We will return to Putre at the end of the day.
Accommodation: Hotel in Putre (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D. 

Day 5. Wednesday 30th October 2024. Putre to Arica. We will spend the morning around this small Andean village looking for Bare-Faced Ground-Dove, White-Throated Earthcreeper, Yellow-Billed Tit Tyrant, Canyon and Dark-Winged Canastero, Blue-and-Yellow Tanager, Cream-Winged and White-Winged Cinclodes, Streaked Tit-Spinetail, D'Orbigny's and White-Browed Chat-Tyrants, Chiguanco Thrush, Black-Throated Flower-Piercer, Golden-billed Saltator, Black-Hooded and Ash-Breasted Sierra-Finches along with Greenish Yellow-Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater and maybe Ornate Tinamou and Spot-winged Pigeon. Along the alfalfa fields on the outskirts of the village we will also look for the secretive but vocal Ornate Tinamou and look for the spectacular chartreuse coloured cushion plant ‘Llareta’ (Azorella compacta) which forms large cushions over the ground and rocks. We will then drive slowly down the winding mountain road back to Arica looking for any birds we may have missed on the way.
Accommodation: Hotel in Arica (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 6 (=Day 1 of main tour). Thursday 31st October 2024. Fly Arica to Santiago. We will visit the Luta River estuary early this morning before our flight back to Santiago, to connect with the Main Tour (flight not included in price).
Accommodation: none (included in main tour). Meals included: B, L.

Tour Price: USD$3,595 per person twin share. Single supplement: USD$360. 

Internal flights: Santiago – Arica – Santiago estimated to be around USD$300-500 each.

Based on a group size of 6-10 participants + Inala leader Dr Tonia Cochran + local South American guide.

Inclusions: Accommodation for each night of the tour, specialist guiding and transport for day and night tours as outlined in the itinerary, main group airport transfers, all meals (B, L, D) and activities outlined in the itinerary, and National Park entry fees. 

Exclusions: any international and domestic airfares (return flight Arica-Santiago), alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and expenses of a personal nature (snacks, travel insurance, internet, laundry, tips etc) and any additional transfers and accommodation. 

Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, the Steppe and Torres del Paine Chile post-tour extension

Friday 15 – Thursday 21 November 2024

Introduction: This extension takes us to one of the most famous and striking landscapes in search of some of Chile’s most charismatic species. We will cross the famous Strait of Magellan into Tierra del Fuego, drive through the Patagonian steppe and look for the recently rediscovered Austral Rail in the wonderful Torres Del Paine National Park. Many stunning and sought-after bird species are found here, including King Penguin, Magellanic Plover, Ruddy-headed Goose, Chocolate-vented Tyrant and White-bridled Finch. Patagonia is also a destination for other wildlife, including Guanaco, Grey Fox, Peale's Dolphin, and with more luck the rare Puma and Fin Whale (which we may see whilst crossing the Magellan Strait). The weather is unpredictable here and it can be sunny, cold, very windy, rainy, snowy, or pleasantly warm – all in a single day! 

Day 1 (=day 16 of main tour) Fri 15 Nov 24. Fly Puerto Montt-Punta Arenas.
Day 2. Sat 16 Nov 24. Punta Arenas and Strait of Magellan Coastal Birding. Punta Arenas.
Day 3. Sun 17 Nov 24. Tierra del Fuego-King Penguin colony-Cerro Sombrero.
Day 4. Mon 18 Nov 24. Exploring the Steppes and Torres del Paine. Cerro Castillo.
Day 5. Tue 19 Nov 24. Torres del Paine and Sierra Baguales. Cerro Castillo.
Day 6. Wed 20 Nov 24. Full day of Puma tracking in Torres del Paine. Cerro Castillo.
Day 7. Thu 21 Nov 24. Fly Punta Arenas to Santiago and depart Chile.

Day 1. Friday 15 November 2024. Fly Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas. Today we will fly from Puerto Montt (where our main tour finishes) to the southernmost city in Chile, Punta Arenas to start our Patagonian extension.
Accommodation: Punta Arenas (en suite room). Meals included: D.

Day 2. Saturday 16 November 2024. Punta Arenas and Strait of Magellan Coastal Birding. Today we will explore the coast south of Punta Arenas in Chile’s far south, looking for Flying and Flightless Steamer-ducks, Magellanic Oystercatcher, Imperial Cormorant, Upland Goose, Chilean Skua and the splendid Dolphin Gull. Austral Negrito is also a possibility. In the afternoon, we will drive to the Estancia San Juan, where the very rare Ruddy-headed Goose breeds. Along the coast we will look also for Kelp Goose along patches of rocky coastline.
Accommodation: Punta Arenas (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 3. Sunday 17 November 2024. Tierra del Fuego and King Penguin colony. We will take the early morning ferry crossing (2.5 hrs) to Porvenir, which is the main town on the Chilean side of the mythical island at the ‘end of the world’-Tierra del Fuego. On the ferry crossing we should see Southern Giant Petrel, Magellanic Diving-petrel, Chilean Skua, Black-Browed Albatross and Peale´s Dolphins. We will spend the morning birding around Laguna Verde and Laguna Santa Maria in search of the much sought-after Magellanic Plover, a monotypic shorebird which is endemic to Patagonia. Other bird species we swill search for over the next couple of days include Ashy-headed and Upland Goose, Two-banded Plover, Chilean Skua, Short-billed Miner, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Flightless Steamer-duck and Crested Duck. After lunch we will drive to Bahia Inútil to see a colony of magnificent King Penguins, which is the northernmost limit of this species. Enroute to our accommodation we will search for Rufous-Chested Dotterel, Chocolate-Vented Tyrant and Cinnamon-Bellied Ground-
tyrant that breeds in the Patagonian Steppe. 
Accommodation: Cerro Sombrero (en suite rooms).  Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 4. Monday 18 November 2024. Exploring the Steppes and Torres del Paine. After breakfast we will continue birding the Patagonian Steppe on our way to the northern tip of Tiera del Fuego, taking a short (20 minute) ferry ride back to the continental mainland. During the ferry crossing, we have a good chance of seeing Commerson´s Dolphin, Magellanic Diving-Petrel, Wilson's Storm Petrel and White-Chinned Petrel. Back on the mainland we will make a stop at a wetland on the steppe to see a variety of waterfowl, including Silver Teal, Rosy-billed Pochard, Chiloe Wigeon, White-cheeked Pintail, Coscoroba Swan, and variety of shorebirds. We will also try our luck with the elusive Patagonia Tinamou. We will then continue across the vast steppe towards Puerto Natales, searching for species like Darwin's Rhea, Austral Canastero, Chocolate-Vented Tyrant, Band-Tailed Earthcreeper, Common Miner, Patagonian Yellow-Finch and the stunning White-bridled Finch. We’ll spend the night in Cerro Castillo.
Accommodation: Cerro Castillo (en suite rooms). Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 5. Tuesday 19 November 2024. Torres del Paine and Sierra Baguales. This morning we will head north towards the most anticipated location of the trip, the incomparable and breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park-a real scenic highlight. While the park is most famous for its astonishing scenery, its also rich in birds and mammals. Throughout the day Guanaco, Patagonian Hog-nosed Skunk and Grey Fox are among the mammals we are likely to encounter. We’ll be birding on the eastern side of the park and its lakes, looking for waterfowl and on red-fringed pools looking for the re-discovered Austral Rail. In the scrubby steppe we’ll be looking for Dark-faced Ground-tyrant, Cinnamon-bellied Ground-tyrant and Patagonian Mockingbird. Cinereous Harriers are also fairly common. After an early lunch we’ll leave the park and drive to the scenic mountainous valley of Sierra Baguales. On our drive up the valley, the rocky cliffs surrounding us are a great place to watch Andean Condor soaring above us. The valleys here are also a breeding area for White-throated Caracara and the very rare Grey-billed Shrike-tyrant. This is also the best spot in Chile for Puma spotting, although daylight sightings are rare.
Accommodation: Cerro Castillo (en suite rooms) as for last night. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 6. Wednesday 20 November 2024. Full day of Puma tracking in Torres del Paine. Dawn and dusk are the most active times for Pumas, also giving us the best light for photography. We’ll concentrate our efforts at these times of day. With help from professional Puma trackers, we’ll scour the hills in search of this elusive cat. The trackers will radio in the whereabouts of an individual or group and give us instructions on the best way to approach them for optimal viewing and photography but at a safe distance to minimise disturbance. During the rest of the day, we are free to explore other areas of the park in search of interesting birds or other mammals. Birds of special note are Andean Condor, Cinnamon-bellied Ground-tyrant, Patagonian Mockingbird, Magellanic Woodpecker and Austral Rail. Mammals we may see include the endangered Southern Andean Deer or Heumul (Hippocamelus bisulcus), Guancao, Patagonian Hog-nose Skunk, Grey Fox and Patagonian Haired Armadillo. Plus of course some fantastic landscape photography.
Accommodation: Cerro Castillo (en suite rooms) for a third night. Meals included: B, L, D.

Day 7. Thursday 21 November 2024. Fly Punta Arenas to Santiago and depart Chile. Sadly, this is the last day of our expedition. We will drive back to Punta Arenas airport where we will connect with our flight back to Santiago (not included in tour price) and onward connecting international flights.
Accommodation: none. Meals included: B, L.

Tour Price: USD$6,550 per person twin share. Single supplement: USD$420. 

Internal flights (Puerto Montt-Punta Arenas – Santiago) estimated to be around USD$350-600 per person)

Based on a group size of 6-10 participants + Inala leader Dr Tonia Cochran + local South American guide.

Inclusions: Accommodation for each night of the tour, specialist guiding and transport for day and night tours as outlined in the itinerary, all meals (B, L, D) and activities outlined in the itinerary, main group transfer to and from airports, and National Park entry fees. 

Exclusions: any international and domestic airfares, alcoholic drinks and expenses of a personal nature (snacks, travel insurance, internet, laundry, tips etc) and extra airport transfers and accommodation. 


Trip Report Inala’s Chile Tour

Northern Extension: 10 to 14 November 2019

Main Tour: 15 to 30 November 2019

Trip report prepared by Dr Bronwen Scott & Dr Tonia Cochran, Inala Nature Tours December 2019.


Day 1. Sun 10 Nov 2019. Arrive in Santiago.
Day 2. Mon 11 Nov 2019. Santiago to Arica.
Day 3. Tue 12 Nov 2019. Arica to Putre.
Day 4. Wed 13 Nov 2019. Lauca National Park.
Day 5. Thu 14 Nov 2019. Putre to Arica.
Day 6 (= Day 1 of main tour). Fri 15 Nov 2019. Arica to Santiago.
Day 7 (2). Sat 16 Nov 2019. La Campana National Park.
Day 8 (3) Sun 17 Nov 2019. Highlands above Santiago.
Day 9 (4) Mon 18 Nov 2019. Santiago to Vilches and Colbún Lake
Day 10 (5) Tue 19 Nov 2019. Altos de Lircay National Park, Vilches
Day 11 (6) Wed 20 Nov 2019. Vilches to Angol
Day 12 (7) Thu 21 Nov 2019. Nahuelbuta National Park
ay 13 (8) Fri 22 Nov 2019. Angol to Conguillío National Park.
Day 14 (9) Sat 23 Nov 2019. Conguillío National Park to Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve
Day 15 (10) Sun 24 Nov 2019. Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve
Day 16 (11) Mon 25 Nov 2019. Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve to Puyehue
Day 17 (12) Tue 26 Nov 2019. Puyehue National Park
Day 18 (13) Wed 27 Nov 2019. Puyehue to Puerto Montt
Day 19 (14) Thu 28 Nov 2019. Puerto Montt – Alerce Andino NP – Chiloe Island
Day 20 (15) Fri 29 Nov 2019. Chiloe Island – Puñihuil – Chepu
Day 21 (16) Sat 30 Nov 2019. Puerto Montt to Santiago


Day 1. Sunday 10 November 2019. Arrival in Santiago.
The first contingent arrived in Santiago. Colin came in from the UK, while Christine, Catherine, Tonia and Bron flew from Australia on the same flight. Those keen to start birding ticked a good number of species around the Hotel. Although the hotel is close to the airport, its garden and immediate surrounds offered views of Long-tailed Meadowlark, Rufous-crowned Sparrows, Austral Thrushes, Eared and Picui Ground Doves, Chilean Swallows and Chimango Caracara. At dinner, we met Erik, our Chilean guide, and were introduced to the pisco sour, a delicious cocktail based on Chilean pisco (a type of brandy) and lime juice. It had been a big day and the next day was going to be even bigger, so we retired to our rooms early.

Day 2. Monday 11 November 2019. Santiago to Arica.

In the morning, we flew from Santiago to Arica, arriving at 10 am. Arica is about 18 kilometres (11 miles) from the Peruvian border and was part of Peru until the War of the Pacific (1879 – 1884) when the territory was ceded to Chile. As we approached the city, we passed tall cliffs along the Pacific Ocean. Arica itself is set on coastal plain between Morro de Arica and Rio Lluta, and is reputed to be the driest city in the world.  

We met Manuel, our driver, who stayed with us during the northern Chile excursion. The first birds we saw were Turkey Vultures congregating in large flocks on the edge of town. On grasslands close to the river, we spotted a pair of Peruvian Thick-knees, which are at their southern limit here. The narrow estuary of Rio Lluta was home to a wide diversity of wading birds, including plovers, sandpipers and oystercatchers, and a pair of Roseate Spoonbills, unusual visitors to this area. Here we saw our first Peruvian Pelicans and Chilean Flamingos,

We travelled to Valle de Camarones, where we saw Pied Crested Tit-tyrants, a small black and white bird with a very fancy hair do, and Chilean Woodstars. After a lunch of empanadas at Cuya, we continued to the Chaca Valley for Raimondi’s Yellow-finch, a Peruvian species only recently recorded from Chile.
Our last stop for the day was a salt-encrusted plateau where a flock of Markham’s Storm-petrels had excavated burrows, taking advantage of naturally occurring cracks in the hard ground. This species feeds in the Humboldt Current, but nests many kilometres inland in the Atacama Desert. The birds were out at sea, but footprints around the burrow mouths indicated they had been there not that long ago.  

Day 3. Tuesday 12 November 2019. Birding and endemic plants Arica to Putre.

The day began with birding on the beach by the hotel. A rock outcrop was occupied by a restless flock of Elegant Terns, with smaller numbers of Surfbirds and Grey Gulls. After breakfast, we drove through the back roads of Arica to avoid the protests. Our first stop was a private hummingbird sanctuary. The sanctuary was a large garden set among the starkness of the desert. Exuberant vegetation attracted several species of hummingbirds, including the Oasis Hummingbird and the Peruvian Sheartail, a tiny bird with extraordinary tail feathers that look like white streamers. We also saw a pair of Croaking Ground-doves constructing a nest. This dove has a call that is politely described as sounding like a frog.

The valleys in this part of Chile are given over to intense cultivation and vast areas are hidden under shadecloth. The green crops contrast with the barren hills of the Atacama Desert. We stopped at a small reservoir to look for waterbirds. Alongside Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons and Puna Ibis, we saw Wilson’s Phalaropes and a trio of Stilt Sandpipers, a rarity for the area.

From there, we headed north towards the Lluta Valley, stopping on the way to look at the bromeliad Tillandsia growing in the desolate Atacama Desert. These plants survive on fog and dew and struggle with heavy rainfall from the rare storms that flood the area.

We had a delicious vegan meal at a commune, then we continued along the Lluta Valley to the agricultural hamlets. We stopped at an old church overshadowed by a giant Peppercorn Tree to look for Peruvian Pygmy Owl. After that, we left the river and drove East towards Bolivia, with a brief stop to look at giant Candelabra Cactus (Browningia candelaris), another rugged denizen of the desert. We arrived at the small town of Putre late in the afternoon. Putre is at 3,500 m (11,480 ft), so we took it easy for the rest of the day while we became accustomed to the altitude.

Day 4. Wednesday 13 November 2019. Lauca National Park.

In the morning, we drove to look for Taruca, the northern Andean deer, on the precipitous grassy hillsides. The deer were not co-operative, but we saw exquisite Andean Hillstars among the flowers, and abundant Sierra-finches and Yellow-finches. 

Lauca National Park is an area of great beauty and diversity, both in species and landscapes. Much of it is vegetated with tussock grasses, but the high plains are broken up by vast alpine lakes and snow-capped volcanoes. Our first walk was along the Las Cuevas track. The track wound between rock outcrops where Peruvian Vizcachas basked in the sun and Llareta, a slow-growing, low-growing plant, formed vivid green cushions. While Vicuñas grazed on the plains, Seedsnipes picked for food on the slopes. A boardwalk took us across an alpine bog where a pair of rare Diademed Sandpiper-Plover sat on a nest.

At just over an altitude of 4,510 m (14,800 ft), Lake Chungará is one of the highest lakes in the world. It is thought to have formed between 8,000 and 17,000 years ago, when debris from the Parinacota Volcano dammed the Lauca River. We had lunch at a picnic stop with spectacular views of the lake, but our attention was split by begging Andean Gulls and Black-faced Sierra-finches, some small Polylepis trees, and sandwiches the size of Frisbees. The lake hosted a good range of waterbirds, including Giant Coot, Cinnamon Teal, Puna Teal and Crested Ducks. Further along, we saw Chilean and Andean Flamingos, Andean Avocet and large numbers of Baird’s Sandpipers.

A visit to the Hot springs afforded us great views of a Puna Rhea, first as it stood among the grass and then as it ran along the road. After a quick photo stop at the glacial Cotacotami (Quta Qutani) Lakes, we drove to the hamlet of Parinacota. On the outskirts of the village, Andean Flickers had dug burrows into the soft stone of a road cutting. One bird visited its burrow while we were there. While in Parinacota, we were privileged to enter the Church of the Virgin of the Nativity, which is lined with original 17th Century frescoes depicting the ultimate fate of sinners. We were given this opportunity thanks to Manuel, who knew people in town.

A last stop gave Erik the chance to find a flock Puna (James’s) Flamingos, thereby completing the day’s flamingo hat-trick.

Day 5. Thursday 14 November 2019. Putre to Arica.

Our morning walk took us to a steep-sided valley. Once densely vegetated, the valley floor is now mostly farmland. On the way, we saw Bare-faced Ground-doves resting in the shade, while Spot-winged Pigeons perched on the powerlines. Looking down into the valley, we were rewarded with great views of Giant Hummingbirds, which are almost twice the size of the other hummingbirds we had seen. One tree was popular with the Canyon Canestero and hosted several large woven nests. A male Blue-and-Yellow Tanager paid a visit to the canyon. We saw another bird (or perhaps the same one!) as we waited for the bus to pick us up.  

We returned to look for deer, and tried another site at the Hot Springs, but the deer remained elusive. Instead, we spotted a Culpeo trotting along the road.

After lunch, we explored the Chapiquiña Polylepis Forest. We had seen small numbers of Queñoa (Polylepis) at our lunch spot but this was an opportunity to see the species close up. The mature trees provided cover for numerous shrubs and a foundation for climbers, including Mutisia. Andean Hillstars buzzed around while we walked. In the late afternoon, we drove back down the highway to Arica.  

Day 6 (Day 1 of main tour). Friday 15 November 2019. Fly Arica to Santiago.  

Before returning to Santiago, we visited the port of Arica to look for the most dapper of seabirds, Inca Terns. We were not disappointed! Inca Terns were perched on the colourful fishing boats in the harbour. We also saw a small number of Black-crowned Night-herons and even a cheeky South American Sealion, who popped in to check what the fishermen were discarding.

Then we drove to an estuary, where an immature Grey-headed Gull (a rare vagrant) was spending time with more common species. Erik walked along one of the dry river channels to try for Band-winged Nightjars, but the birds were not playing along!

After lunch at a beachside café, we said goodbye to Manuel and flew back to Santiago, where we caught up with Maggie and Derek, who had arrived from a few days’ birding in São Paulo, Brazil.

Day 7 (2). Saturday 16 November 2019. La Campana National Park.

Our new driver was Don José, who would stay with us all the way to Puerto Montt. The first trip out of Santiago was to La Campana National Park in the Valparaíso Region. The park was closed temporarily because most of the park staff were fighting bushfires in the coastal range. Although we could not take the bus into the park, we were given permission to enter. Chilean Mockingbirds and the neat grey and white Common Diuca-finch were feeding around the gate. A dirt road led past orchards to a spot where endemic Chilean Palms (Jubaea chilensis) grew with tall pale-flowered cactus and Puya, a giant bromeliad. When Charles Darwin visited this area, he described the palms as ‘very ugly’, a moment of poor judgement from the great man.  Although widely cultivated as a specimen plant, Chilean Palm is endangered in the wild. Destructive harvesting for its sap, which is used to make palm wine and palm ‘honey’ (syrup), has reduced the natural population to a few protected locations in central Chile.

At La Campana, we saw a Moustached Turca – our first tapaculo. Tapaculos are jaunty-tailed endemic birds who like to forage in dense vegetation and pop into the open when you least expect it! Our travels through central and southern Chile were accompanied by lots of tapaculo calls and a few good sightings.

Las Chilcas, a popular roadside rock-climbing spot, was good for cactus and bromeliads, but the birds were less abundant.  

Then to some wetlands, an extensive area of lakes and reedy swamps. A boardwalk took us along the edge of the open water, where we had views of egrets and ducks,

including our only views of Red Shoveler, and through a reedy area, where we saw a Many-coloured Rush-tyrant, a tiny round bird decorated in yellow, blue, green and red, and caught glimpses of a Wren-like Rushbird. As we left the Wetlands, a Burrowing Owl emerged from its burrow and perched on a nearby tree. A perfect way to end the day’s birding.

 Day 8 (3). Sunday 17 November 2019. Highlands above Santiago.

Another big day! Our first stop was a mining valley, where we saw Moustached Turca, White-throated Tapaculo, Black-breasted Buzzard-eagle and Fire-eyed Diucón, but only a brief glimpse of the Crag Chilia. Then we took Camino a Farellones into the Andes to look for alpine birds. But it was Sunday morning, and what seemed like hundreds of doughty locals were cycling up the steep narrow road. We pulled over at Yerba Loca, where half a dozen Andean Condors circled overhead, while White-side Hillstars and Giant Hummingbirds fed from flowers on the hillside.

We passed most of the pushbike riders and arrived the ski resort of Farellones. On one side of the road was an alpine bog with tadpoles in the pools, on the other an expanse of alpine grassland with rocky outcrops, where we had hoped to see Mountain Vizcacha. In the middle of the road, a big tree held a pair Magellanic Eared Owls, who watched us disdainfully as we tried to take photos!

After lunch, we continued along the winding mountain road.  As soon as we got out of the bus, we were treated to fantastic views of an adult male Andean Condor perched with an immature condor on the roof of a ski lodge. Out on the now snowless ski fields, we saw Rufous-banded and Creamy-rumped Miners, White-browed and Black-fronted Ground-tyrants, and a Black-billed Shrike-tyrant, but the bird species of the day was the Andean Condor. No contest!

On the way back down to Santiago, we stopped for a pair of Culpeo, who were waiting around for food under a sign that said not to feed them!

Day 9 (4). Monday 18 November 2019. Santiago to Vilches and Colbún Lake.

Leaving Santiago in the morning, we drove to a river, where we visited a colony of Burrowing Parrots. The birds had excavated nesting burrows in the river bank, close to a mine site. At the town of La Paloma, we saw a Screaming Cowbird, a species which has recently expanded its range across the Andes from Argentina to Chile.

The water level had dropped too far for us to get a good look at water birds, but in the surrounding grasslands we had excellent views of a male Spectacled Tyrant, a black bird with big white eye-rings and patches on the wings, and a flock of Band-tailed Sierra-finches. Further along, from a lightly wooded area above the lake, we saw a variety of ducks including our only sighting of Rosy-billed Pochard.

On arrival, we were excited to see that our accommodation was in the middle of a Nothofagus forest and was full of birds, especially Green-backed Firecrowns, which crowded around feeders, Thorn-tailed Rayaditos, the ‘little stripey guys’, Black-chinned Siskins, and Patagonian Sierra-finch.

After dark, we walked around the grounds looking for Concón or Rufous-legged Owl, but the bird had not flown in that night.

 Day 10 (5). Tuesday 19 November 2019. Altos de Lircay National Park. 

We spent the day in the Altos de Lircay Nature Reserve, which is in the transition zone between Mediterranean matorral and southern temperate rainforest. As we headed towards the national park, we stopped to watch a large flock of Austral Parakeets feeding in the trees by the side of the road. The road into the park was rugged, so we were ferried up to the walking track by 4WD, and then explored the forest on foot. These southern temperate forests are dominated by Gondwanan plant species derived from the ancient Antarctic flora that once extended across the southern hemisphere. Nothofagus is a Gondwanan genus with representatives in Chile, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. The Nothofagus forests in Chile differ from those in temperate regions elsewhere in their well-developed understorey of bamboo andabundant epiphytic bromeliads. We encountered at least three species of Nothofagus, all bearing the ‘beech orange’ (Cyttaria), an edible – if not particularly tasty – fungus. Another Gondwanan species, Canelo (Drimys winteri), was also abundant in these forests.

Having missed out on a Concón at our accommodation, we spotted a bird in one of the tall Nothofagus trees. Alongside the ever-present White-throated Treerunners, Thorn-tailed Rayaditos and White-crested Elaenias, we had our first glimpses of Chestnut-throated Huet-huet, Chucao Tapaculo and Magellanic Tapaculo.

The spectacular green and blue Jewel Lizards or Thin Tree Lizards (Liolaemus tenuis) were common in the park and attracted almost as much attention as the birds and plants. Less common was the Southern Growler or Grumbler (Pristidactylus torquatus).

Day 11 (6). Wednesday 20 November 2019. Vilches to Laja River Waterfalls to Angol.

This was a day of travelling. We left Vilches after breakfast and headed south. We made a few stops on the way to look for tinamous (we saw California Quail, Grassland Yellow-finch, Yellow-winged Blackbirds and a female Spectacled Tyrant, but no tinamous) and had lunch at the Laja River waterfall. From there we drove to Angol, which was to be our home for the next two nights. At Angol we developed a minor addiction to crab chupe, a dish of fresh crab, breadcrumbs and cheese. We also hit the strawberry juice!

Day 12 (7). Thursday 21 November 2019. Day trip to Nahuelbuta National Park.

At Nahuelbuta National Park we got our first look at Monkey Puzzle Trees (Araucaria araucana) in their natural surroundings on the coastal mountain range. Araucaria grow with Nothofagus, Drimys and the scarlet flowered Embothrium coccineum, which was in bloom throughout the south. Long strands of pale grey lichen (Protousnea magellanica) draped over almost every branch and trunk, in some places looking like snow and in others like spiders’ webs. Araucaria is another Gondwana genus, spread across South America, Australia, New Guinea and New Caledonia.

One of the notable birds seen here was Des Murs’ Wiretail, a little mouse-like bird with exceptionally long tail feathers. We also heard Black-throated Huet-huet and Chucao Tapaculo.

During our walks we encountered several Chilean Rose Tarantulas (Grammostola rosea) wandering along the tracks, a risky activity for the spiders given the large population of spider-hunting wasps flying around the forest edge.

Day 13 (8). Friday 22 November 2019. Angol to Conguillío National Park.

We drove to Conguillío National Park, part of the much larger Kütralkura Geopark. (Kütralkura is made up of Mapudungan words meaning fire and stone.  The active Llaima Volcano dominates the landscape of Conguillío NP. Our first stop was a walk over an old lava flow, where the river cuts through the legacy of thousands of years of volcanic activity. Despite the heat and lack of shade, Gondwanan plants, including Lleuque or Andean Plum Pine (Prumnopitys andina) and Radal (Lomatia hirsuta) were growing among the old lava flows. In niches, where spray from the falls kept the rocks damp, Hummingbird Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica), Giant Rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria) and Monkey-flower (Mimulus) flowered in profusion.

The name Conguillío is also derived from Mapudungan and means ‘water with Araucaria seeds’. There was no shortage of water – we visited three lakes – but there are almost certainly fewer Araucaria than there once had been!

Among the birds we saw here were Flying Steamer Ducks, Chiloe Wigeon, Austral Parakeet, male Magellanic Woodpecker (with his fancy crimson head!), Austral Negrito, and Dark-faced Ground-tyrant. Torrent ducks have been recorded below the Truful Truful falls, but we had no luck in spotting them there.

Day 14 (9). Saturday 23 November 2019. Conguillío National Park to Biological Reserve.

We explored more of Conguillío NP.  Among the smaller plants in the Araucaria and Nothofagus forest were numerous species of Barberry (Berberis), bamboo, peas, including Sweet Pea (Lathyrus), Pansy (Viola) and orchids.

After lunch on the shore of the lake,  we headed further south to a dramatic change of scenery: from a snowy-topped volcanic landscape to lush Valdivian rainforest. We had access to a private biological reserve covering more than 250,000 acres. Our accommodation was a quirky lodge, an enormous wooden construction with labyrinthine corridors. The grounds around the lodges are full of native plants and birds, and the reserve is criss-crossed with kilometres of walking tracks.

The trunks of all the trees in the rainforests were covered in ferns, filmy ferns, mosses, lichens and bromeliads, except for those of the Temu or Chilean Myrtle (Luma apiculata), the smooth orange bark of which stood out like a beacon in the gloom.

Day 15 (10). Sunday 24 November 2019. Biological Reserve.

We continued exploring the tracks of the Biological Reserve, looking at plants and birds, and the occasional terrestrial frog. We then went to to look for Ringed Kingfishers.  Despite our best efforts at the river’s edge, on a wooden bridge and along the shore of the lake, we did not see any kingfishers, but did tick a few waterbirds including Great Grebe, Neotropic Cormorant and Flying Steamer Duck, before returning to the lodge.

One of the stand outs was the expansive menu. The chefs make good use of local ingredients including Araucaria seeds, Chilean hazelnuts, Chilean wineberries, changles (a type of coral fungus) and Ulmo (Eucryphia cordifolia) honey. We tried all of them!

Day 16 (11). Monday 25 November 2019. Biological Reserve to Puyehue. 
We walked some trails and then visited the Museum of Volcanoes, which houses an impressive collection of artefacts from cultural groups in Chile and some geological specimens. The museum is a work in progress and will be remarkable when complete. While we were looking at the collections, the rain set in. The museum curator came to our rescue and four of us climbed into his car, while the remaining four braved the weather. We left mid-afternoon, arriving at Puyehue just before dinner.

Day 17 (12). Tuesday 26 November 2019. Puyehue.
We had planned to visit Alerce Costero National Park, but heavy rain had made the tracks impassable. Instead, we spent the day in the Puyehue National Park. Our first stop was the El Recondo Trail that ran past the thermal baths and along the Chanleufu River. We saw a pair of Torrent Ducks with at least two ducklings among the rapids on the river. In the afternoon we visited the Antillanca Ski Trail on the slopes of a volcano. (Unfortunately, the cloud cover was so low, we could not see the peak.) A light layer of snow covered the track. We got good views of both male and female Magellanic Woodpeckers before we headed back to the bus. We almost made it to shelter, but rain swept in, followed by a brief spell of hail! Luckily, our rooms at Puyehue were warm enough to dry most of our wet clothes before dinner.

Day 18 (13). Wednesday 27 November 2019. Full day in Puyehue National Park.
In the morning, we walked two more trails in the  Puyehue National Park. Both wound through the Valdivian rainforest to scenic waterfall lookouts. Chilean Mitre Flower (Mitraria coccinea), Luzuriaga radicans and Solanum valdiviense were in flower along the track. Although we had seen them elsewhere, the umbrella-shaped moss Hypopterygium and the unattached moss Rigodium were abundant in this area. One of the more extraordinary botanical finds was the non-photosynthesising Arachnitis uniflora, which derives its nutrients from a soil fungus. We had initially mistaken the plant for a greenhood orchid, but there was much excitement when its true nature was uncovered.

After the walks, we drove to Puerto Montt, stopping at a lookout, where we saw a Rufous-tailed Plantcutter, our first new bird for a while.

Day 19 (14). Thursday 28 November 2019. Puerto Montt-Alerce Andino National Park.
From Puerto Montt, we took a narrow mountain road to Alerce Andino National Park in search of the giant mountain conifer Alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides). On the way we piled out of the bus to look at a particularly fine specimen of the Chilean Lantern Tree (Crinodendron hookeri). At the national park, we took a long walk through beautiful forest, although the rain had turned a few stretches of the well-made track into mud. We didn’t quite get as far as the Fitzroyas, turning back to avoid the worst of the weather. Lunch, which was usually a mountain of food per person, turned out to be half the Andes. There was far too much, so we donated more than half to park workers. Just after we did that, a Chilla (Southern Grey Fox) turned up, scouting hopefully around the picnic table for dropped food.

In the Chamiza area, a region of coastal wetlands, we saw wading birds. 

We boarded the car ferry to Chiloe Island. At the ferry terminal, we saw Flightless Steamer Ducks and Black-necked Swans. The rain didn’t stop the hardy few from looking for shearwaters and storm-petrels during the channel crossing. On arriving at our accommodation, we were delighted that the owners had switched on the heating. It took the edge off the cold and wet evening.

Day 20 (15). Friday 29 November 2019. Chiloé Island – Puñihuil and Chepu.
At our first birding spot on Chiloe Island we saw locals collecting seaweed from the beach. Three types of algae are harvested in southern Chile: Bull Kelp or Cochayuyo (Durvillea antarctica) and Sea Lettuce (Ulva rigida) and Red Laver (Porphyria columbina), both of which are known as Luche. We watched as the seaweed was gathered by hand and loaded onto wooden carts, each drawn by two oxen. Wading birds, including Hudsonian godwits and black-necked swans, went about their business while the seaweed gatherers went about theirs.

Mid-morning, we went to look for penguins. The boat was accessed by driving the bus along the beach. We donned life jackets and bright yellow ponchos and boarded a small cart that was wheeled out to the boat. The rocky islands are close to shore and are home to small colonies of seabirds. We saw Magellanic Penguins, two Humboldt Penguins, Kelp Geese, several species of cormorants, including the Guanay (‘one-eye’!) Cormorant, and gulls.

Local seafood was on offer for lunch Chilean ‘Abalone’ or Loco (Concholepas concholepas), the clam Almeja Común (Venus antiqua) and the seafish Corvina (Cilus gilberti), a southern Pacific drummer. The Loco was a little resistant, but lunch was delicious.

We took a boat upstream. Unfortunately, heavy rain had caused the river system to rise by about a metre, flooding the nests of Brown-hooded Gulls. The otters kept a low profile, but we saw plenty of Coypu feeding on what remained above water. A small number of Pied-billed Grebes were the first of the species for the trip. Then the rain caught up with us. By the time we arrived at our dinner spot, we were soaked through! We ate dinner in gently steaming clothes.

Day 21 (16). Saturday 30 November 2019. Chiloe Island to Santiago.
Although this was a day devoted to travelling, we managed to squeeze in some birdwatching and botanising. The ferry crossing was cool, but free of rain, and those on deck got a good look at two species of shearwater, a pair of Wilson’s Storm-petrels, cormorants and penguins. Erik’s bogey bird – the Pincoya Storm-petrel – remained elusive. But just as we were about to give up on our own bogey bird, the Ringed Kingfisher, we saw one perched on the lighting gantry right next to the loading ramp at the ferry port. Everyone had excellent views!

We also stopped at Nahuel Ñadi Natural Monument to see Alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides), which we had missed out on at Alerce Andino NP. This tiny protected area had a boardwalk that ran past these trees, including a giant about 1600 years old.

We flew back to Santiago and that evening, we shared a lively dinner together a great conclusion to an excellent tour.  

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