On safari in Chilean Patagonia

As we didn’t see too many animals up close during our trip in Patagonia so far (we did see flashes of them when sitting in the bus, but that’s not the same) and after seeing the penguins at Tierra del Fuego and Magdalena Island, we were ready to get into some wildlife viewing on our own, while spending the last 1,5 day in Punta Arenas.

Some quick investigation online brought us to 2 places, which I’ve set out below. You’ll need a car to do this, which is quite easy to order in Punta Arenas (we did this upfront).


Road from Punta Arenas to Rio Verde


After the Magdalena Island tour where we visited the Magellan penguins, we had 1/2 day left. We had booked a car with Hertz, so after picking it up and setting our GPS, we were ready to hit the road.


How to get there


You take the R9 which goes to Puerto Natales. This road’s also called “Ruta del fin del mundo”, which translates into the “Road of the end of the World”. Quite catchy, right?

At km 46 of this road you take a left, where the sign says “Rio Verde”. That’s road Y-50, which we followed until a little after Puente Chorillo Vapor (which is a small bridge over water, a bit after passing the little village of Rio Verde). The one-way trip takes about 1,5h.


Wildlife spotted


As the photos below show, we were able to catch on camera:

· Condors

· Guanaco (of course – there’s lots of them!)

· Choique

· Caracara (type of prey bird)

· Hare (like a big bunny)

The fun thing is that you can stop whenever you want, right in the middle of the road (once you turn to the Y-50 there’s very little traffic), and try as long as you want just to get the best picture.

Parque Nacional Pali Aike


The day after, we had another full day to check out the local wildlife. Although you don’t find too much about the Pali Aike National Park in the different books about Patagonia and online, we did find some information in travel blogs of others already visited the place.

Most of the park is a vast volcanic field and the vegetation is Patagonian steppe. It’s 3.000 CLP per person to get in.

Is this THE place to go to when being in Punta Arenas? Maybe not, although we really enjoyed it and just gives you a different flavor of the region.


How to get there


You take the R9 again (Ruta del fin del Mundo) going to Puerto Natales for about 50km. Then you take a right to Rio Gallegos (road 255-CH), which you follow for about 112km until you see a sign with “PN Pali Aike”. You then get onto a gravel road and after about 26km you arrive at the gate of the park. One way it’s about a 2,5h drive.


Getting around the park


When arriving at the ranger station building, we were warmly welcomed by a friendly guy providing us all the information we needed to explore the park. He gave us a map and some instructions and safety information (what to do when you see a puma – if only…). He also showed the hiking trails on a miniature of the park as well as some skulls of animals that were found in the park.

There’re 4 hiking trails (although the map says 5, actually two of them (“Crater Morada del Diablo” and “Pozos del Diablo” are now a loop). We did 2 of them:

· First, we went down from the mirador on the Ana Laguna lake, which is about 500m and takes 20min. This is the only water source of the park and flamingos can be seen here, when there’s enough water (which wasn’t the case when we were there)

· Then we went to the Diablo crater loop, which is 8,3km and took us 2h10. As such this is not a strenuous walk, but the uneven lava terrain and – again – incredibly strong winds – make it not too easy (we found no walk is actually just “easy” in Patagonia). Great views from this walk, something totally different than the other ones. You get great lookouts on the craters and make your way through the lava rocks. Cool hike.

Driving is easy – we only saw 2 other cars in the park, so pretty relaxed. Do be aware of the potholes however – they can be deeper than you think, as they fill up with water. Our car was a mess after we left, from all the mud splashing onto it, but never got into any trouble. We did have a Ford Ecosport, which is higher from the ground than other cars, so would recommend to take that into account when going to the park.


Wildlife spotted


Unfortunately we didn’t come close to any animals during the walks. From the car, we did though:

· Condors

· Guanaco (again plenty of them)

· Choique

· Caracara (type of prey bird)

· Patagonian fox

Although we tried so hard to find an armadillo, we weren’t able to see any. Bummer.

Other Countries we visited
Have a look at the other countries we ‘achievied’ to visit, and other Achievies