Top 5 wildlife sights in Patagonia

14 November 2019 08:59

Guanacos are a common sight across low-lying Patagonia

Guanacos are a common sight across low-lying Patagonia

Whether you have a craving for condors or an urge to ogle orcas, Patagonia offers snapshots of nature you'd struggle to find anywhere else in the world.

Here are five of our favourite wildlife sights in Patagonia...

1. Andean Condors

Your best chance of spotting the largest wing-spanned land bird on earth may be in Peru's Colca Canyon, but the formidable bird can be found across much of Patagonia. The vulture family member is a national symbol of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and its image can be seen across arts and crafts throughout the Andes. The scavengers can be found hovering over meadows in Southern Patagonia with a wingspan of up to 3.3 metres. Awesome.

2. Commerson's Dolphins

Sometimes known as the skunk or panda dolphin, this mammal can be found off the coast of Argentina's Playa Union. Their distinctive black and white markings have left lasting impressions on tourists for many years since the French naturalist Dr. Philibert Commerson first spotted them in 1767. The sociable creatures are well known for their playful nature and swimming alongside boats at high speeds while twisting and turning. Unusually you may spot them swimming upside down – a technique they use to keep an eye on their prey.

3. Patagonia Pumas

Head to Torres Del Paine, preferably with a view of guanacos (llama-like herbivores), to catch a glimpse of the largest big cat in Patagonia. The national park introduced strict rules in 1972 to protect the pumas who are often killed by farmers protecting their livestock. Responsible tracking trips usually last three days and will have you awake at the crack of dawn to spot the largely nocturnal hunters. The mostly solitary creatures' numbers are thankfully on the rise.

4. Orcas

See orcas in action at a time of year when seal pups line the Argentine shores. Head to Caleta Valdes and Punta Delgada between September and November, or Punta Norte between February and April, and you may be able to catch the monochrome mammal's spectacular hunting technique. Spotting orcas from land viewings shouldn't be too difficult, as their dorsal fins can reach an impressive 2 metres in height.

5. Guanacos

Charles Darwin described Patagonia's favourite camelid as "an elegant animal, with a long, slender neck and fine legs". Whether he noticed that those fine legs allow them to run as fast as a tiger (35mph), is not so well-known. The adaptable animals have developed their surprising speed as their habitat offers very few hiding places. The protected species are a common sight in Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, where grazing competition is limited. One piece of advice: it's best not to get within spitting distance, which happens to be a whole six feet.

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