BOLIVIA, ARGENTINA & CHILE
Bolivia, Argentina & Chile: Wildlife Destinations
Wildlife Highlights of Bolivia, Argentina & Chile
1. Like Peru’s Manú and Tambopata reserves, Madidi National Park, Bolivia, is considered one of the most biodiverse protected areas on the planet.
2. A little gem if you can reach it, the remote Noel Kempff Mercado National Park in Bolivia has rainforest, scrub and Pantanal, so you can expect to see superb birdlife.
3. Sajama National Park protects a rugged swathe of Bolivian Andes that includes snow-capped volcanoes, the world’s highest forest (gnarled kenua trees at 5,200m) and high-altitude specialists like vicuña and Andean flamingo.
4. Bordering Sajama (above), Lauca National Park, Chile, has a spectacular landscape of volcanoes, lava fields and lakes. Easily reached by bus from Arica, the high altitude reserve (Lago Chungara is at 4,500m) is home to vicuña, flamingos, Andean fox and puma.
5. The unique Valdivian temperate rainforest on Chiloé Island has many endemic bird species, including parakeets and hummingbirds, while the surrounding coast is home to Magellanic and Humboldt penguin, kelp goose, flightless steamer duck, migrant waders and numerous other shore and seabirds. Sea lions, dolphins and blue whales (December to March) can also be seen.
6. Iconic mountain scenery, wilderness hiking and the chance to spot guanaco, flamingo, condor, Andean deer and puma make Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park (above) a highlight of many Patagonian wildlife itineraries.
7. El Ray National Park has habitats ranging from cloud forest to semi-desert – with diverse wildlife to match.
8. Argentina’s Valdés Peninsula is a hotpsot for marine mammals, seabirds and Patagonian wildlife.
Madidi National Park, Bolivia
Madidi's star species: Primates • Amazon river dolphin • Macaws • Toucans • Otters • Jaguar • Giant river otter
Part of a group of Amazon reserves that includes Tambopata in Peru, Madidi rivals even Manu in terms of species richness. Covering an area of some 26,000 sq km, Madidi ranges from glacier-clad Andes and rapid-strewn canyons to dense tropical rainforest and open pampas. At least 11% of the world’s 9,000 bird species are thought to live here. A new species of monkey – the brown and orange titi (Callicebus aureipalatii) – was discovered in Madidi’s jungle as recently as 2005, while other wildlife highlights in this huge national park include jaguar, giant river otter, river dolphin, tapir, spider monkey, ocelot, anaconda and a profusion of orchids, amphibians and invertebrates.
Getting there A 50-minute flight from La Paz, Rurrenabaque is one of the main access points to Madidi’s rainforest. From here, a 6hr boat trip on the River Beni takes you to Chalalán Ecolodge.
Getting around Jungle trails, boat trips, canoeing.
When to go October to July.
Things to do Birdwatching, boat trips, jungle trails, night safaris.
Places to stay Chalalán Ecolodge.
Valdes Peninsula, Argentina
Valdes Peninsula's star species: Orca • Sea lion • Magellanic penguin • Southern right whale
Protruding from the Atlantic coast of northern Patagonia like a hammerhead pounding the ocean, the Valdéz Peninsula surged into the limelight when orca were filmed surfing onto its beaches to snatch hapless sea lion pups. However, this is just one of the region’s many wildlife highlights. Each austral winter, southern right whales migrate into the huge bays of the Peninsula. You can often see mothers with calves, courtship displays and a curious ‘sailing’ behaviour where the whales raise their tail flukes above the surface and cruise across the bay. Commerson’s dolphin is also regularly sighted, while other marine mammals include elephant seal and sea lion. Punta Tombo has a colony of several hundred thousand Magellanic penguin.
Getting there Puerto Madryn is the main base for exploring Valdés. Fly there from Buenos Aires or travel overland by bus.
Getting around Guided tours are available.
When to go Orca February to April; southern right whale mid-July to November; Magellanic penguins September to mid-March.
Things to do Whale watching trips, birdwatching.
Places to stay Various hotels in Puerto Madryn and nearby.
Tierra del Fuego: Top 5 Things To Do
1. Cruise along the Strait of Magellan
Brave the elements to see mountains, glaciers, whales, seabirds and the penguin colony at Magellan Island. australis.com
2. Discover the wildlife of Beagle Channel
A short boat ride from Ushuaia, the Beagle Channel supports large colonies of king cormorant. canalfun.com
3. Hike in Tierra del Fuego National Park
This sub-Antarctic beech forest is home to the showy Magellanic woodpecker and austral parakeet. canalfun.com
4. Explore Cape Horn
A boardwalk protects the island’s fragile vegetation. Visit the lighthouse, chapel and albatross memorial and gaze south across the Southern Ocean.
5. Set sail for Antarctica
Ushuaia is the main embarkation port for cruises to Antarctica. The South Shetland Islands are usually sighted after two days crossing the Drake Passage.
Read the latest posts on South American wildlife travel
wildlife travel essentials: Bolivia, Argentina & Chile
Buenos Aries and Santiago are major international gateways to the region with LAN and TACA (taca.com) providing a comprehensive internal network. Long-distance bus services are also excellent throughout the region.
WHEN TO GO
Weather varies enormously across the region. Bolivia’s wet season is October to March; southern Patagonia is gripped by winter June to September; central parts of Chile and Argentina are best in spring and autumn.
GMT-3 (Argentina), GMT-4 (Bolivia and Chile)
WHERE TO STAY
Accommodation ranges from Amazon ecolodges to Patagonian ecocamps and expedition ships.