Don’t let Patagonia’s breathtaking landscapes overshadow some of South America’s most unique wildlife. This adventure will bring you to Chile’s oldest national park, Vicente Pérez Rosales — home to 30 mammal species and more than 80 bird species — and the UNESCO-listed Torres del Paine National Park, where 26 mammal species and over 100 bird species will captivate even novice explorers.
Not quite a llama, and not quite a camel, the guanaco is an iconic Patagonian animal you’re likely to see on this adventure. Often traveling in herds, the guanaco is one of the largest wild mammal species in South America. They’re also fantastic runners and swimmers.
Patagonia’s largest — and most dangerous — predator is tricky to spot without an expert guide at your side. With their neutral-colored coats, pumas can camouflage themselves just about anywhere. In Patagonia, pumas primarily feast on guanacos and rheas. It wasn’t that long ago that humans hunted this spectacular animal, but today, they enjoy full protection in Chile. You just might be lucky enough to see one in person on this adventure!
The smallest cat in the Americas, the kodkod, known locally as a guiña, features a speckled coat like a leopard’s. Its short, rounded ears resemble those of an ocelot. The kodkod is active both day and night, hunting for birds and rodents in the undergrowth and in the canopies. This is a vulnerable Patagonian species, as its numbers decline with deforestation.
Rheas are another of Patagonia’s endangered species, due to the demand for its downy feathers. Ostrich-like and sociable, these omnivorous birds feast on everything from herbs to frogs. They constantly try to outwit predators of their own — pumas, foxes, and other birds of prey. When Charles Darwin visited Patagonia on his fabled voyage of the Beagle, he was fascinated and puzzled by two similar but different rhea species. Later named the greater and lesser rheas, they helped solidify Darwin’s theory of evolution.
The world’s largest flying bird calls Patagonia its home. Here, the Andean condor scavenges on the carcasses of large animals, like deer and cattle. Another near-threatened species in Patagonia, the condor plays a significant role in folklore and mythology throughout the Andean region. Because they can live up to 75 years, some cultures believe that condors are immortal. The legendary Inca believed that condors were god’s messengers.
Penguins are curious and entertaining animals. With their waddle, tuxedo pattern, and friendly disposition, these flightless birds are positively irresistible. While in Chiloé Island, you’ll visit the only known shared breeding site for Humboldt and Magellanic penguins. Don’t be surprised if they approach you to say hello!