New Trip Report: Chilean Patagonia, 2019

14 Comments
  1. RICHARD WEBB 3 months ago

    A great report but you really don’t need to spend a fortune in order to look for Pumas in and around Torres del Paine. There have been some restrictions in force since 2015 yet we saw six individuals outside the park without hiring local guides etc after the regulations come in and got good photos of a singleton and a female with four well-grown young, the latter from the road to Laguna Azul. Talking to experienced Chilean guides in August they said Pumas are still easy to see outside the park. I’ve had good views outside the park from public roads on three trips to the area. It might require a bit of effort and driving around but it remains far more cost effective and satisfying finding your own even if you might see more individuals by paying a fortune for the privilege.

    • Profile photo of Mattia from Italy
      Mattia from Italy 3 months ago

      It’s quite different to see Pumas from public roads, with a lot of other cars and people, and to admire them far from all that chaos, in the deep of the private property, alone with Pumas and Patagonian pure wilderness.

      And we found Pumas twice by our own. Of course, if your only goal is to tick Puma on your list, public roads and a lot of driving up and down on that roads are enough, but for a real Puma experience (see them on foot, walk with them, long and close encounters and interesting behaviours) you have now sadly to spend a bit of money.

  2. Richard Webb 3 months ago

    Mattia. You can still have great experiences from the roads and not see a car in hours. I”ve seen over 20 Pumas in Chile (plus another seven in Brazil) and all have been good views. 15 were self-found. My first encounter from the car involved a female with young which I watched for over 40 minutes at ranges down to 20 metres! My last one involved a female with young less than 100 metres from the road again for a prolonged period. We watched them walk off over a ridge and then worked out where they would reappear and re-found them from another point on the road. We didn’t see another vehicle in over three hours! I’ve also seen them stalking Guanacos and chasing European Hares from roads. I”ve also watched a female and young on a kill away from the road and I agree you can get great experiences with guides but you can still have extremely satisfying experiences on your own without spending a fortune so anyone on a tight budget can still see Pumas.

    • Profile photo of Mattia from Italy
      Mattia from Italy 3 months ago

      Richard, good for you. To travel all this way and to watch Pumas only from a public road with a lot of traffic (even in September a lot of cars and tourist buses), when you can have a much better experience adding a few money… for me it has no sense. Torres del Paine is very far away and a place for a trip of a lifetime. 😀

  3. Lennartv 3 months ago

    If you can stand a little bit less luxuary you can also use a camping and just be done for about 12 euro’s a night… The one near Lago Grey was also open in winter. If I would go again and with the new rules taken into account I would probably also search by car in the park and outside the park. I had four puma’s all to myself at less then ten meters, in winter there is very little traffic and there were only two park rangers that stayed near the entrances. I would definitely risk approaching them on foot as long as you stay near the car, but everyone can make their own choice in that. When I was there I heard Amarga charged a 1000 dollars for a day with a minimum of three days, but I’m not sure if this is accurate. It might also have been a 1000 dollars for the three days total. In any case I think that’s a ridiculous amount of money, but if you can afford it I can understand why you would want to spend it. I still think it’s possible to have good sightings of puma’s on a budget though.

    • Profile photo of Mattia from Italy
      Mattia from Italy 3 months ago

      1000 USD per day? OMG, it’s not so crazily expensive. The fee is now around 300 USD per person per day, very high but not that outrageous. Regarding to go to Chile and to break their rules (in NP or in private area), I refuse to comment. To enter in the private property, or in the National Park, without a permit is an offence, regardless of the distance from the car.

      And Estancia Laguna Amarga has turned many years ago into protection and conservation only because it´s a way to gain money. If they find more convenient to begin again to breed sheep and cattle, and to kill Pumas as they used to do, they will simply do it.

      Again: the Torres del Paine NP has so many strict rules only because people searched for Pumas in a wrong way, putting themselves and Pumas in trouble. I´ve heard horrible and ridicolous stories about those kind of people (selfie with Pumas, Puma tracking with dogs, and so on)

      I think that mammalwatching (or birdwatching, or what-you-want-watching) MUST help conservation. I´m sorry, but to go to Torres with a shoestring budget, camp in a tent almost for free, and even to try to break their laws and rules, is not a very good thing for conservation.

  4. Lennartv 3 months ago

    I would say there are different ways in which you can benefit conservation with your travels. I volunteered for about a month in Peru with an NGO that does research there and then another week with an NGO in Bolivia that protects endangered birds. If you want to do your part by paying a ton of money then be my guest. I still think that a 1000 bucks a day is a ridiculous amount for any animal. I can get on board with it if it is used to protect a very large area that doesn’t have much other income, like the Siberian Tigers in Russia and Gorilla’s in several African countries but if it goes into private hands and the amount surpasses by far what the owner would need in order to keep his land suitable for wildlife I think it’s not smart to always give in to an ever increasing fee. I might add that it is also better to spread money then dumping a ton just in certain places. Jaguars and Puma’s are living the good life in Brazil and Chile respectively, but there are many other places that could benefit so much from just a chunk of what’s being earned there.

  5. Matt from the UK 3 weeks ago

    An interesting discussion but perhaps price shouldn’t be the only thing to think about for anyone considering a trip like this!
    We are in Chile at the moment and had a fantastic day in and around TDP yesterday (Sticking to the rules and seeing 3 Pumas, Skunk, and playing Chilla cubs at a den!). According to the ranger we spoke to, the only trail that requires a guide at this time of year is the ‘Fauna Trail’ that runs between the two entrances on the eastern side, i.e. in the main puma area.
    Although this might be frustrating for visiting mammal watchers, it actually seems a sensible precaution when there is a population of very habituated big cats next to a park with >250,000 annual visitors.
    I would respectfully suggest that the close encounters you get on these tours blur the boundary of acceptable interactions with this kind of predator, are not the most ethical way to view the animals and will lead to issues down the line.
    There are signs around the park warning of pumas that actively approach people and I would not be surprised if, in the future, “problem animals” will have to be “dealt with” somehow.

    • Profile photo of Mattia from Italy
      Mattia from Italy 2 weeks ago

      Hi Matt! It’s always a pleasure to read you! You are totally right, but in the private Estancia you are with a certified guide (our guide was Jorge Cardenas – a perfect guide!), and they know the character of every single Puma. When you see a Puma, he knows how to behave with him.

      In Torres del Paine there are just 4-5 tame and “safe” Pumas, all females with or without cubs, that you can trust to go quite close. With all the other Pumas you have to stay at a distance and be careful.

      The irresponsible thing to do is to wander by yourself, stray off paths and roads, see a Puma, and go close, like Lennart did. In this case it could be very dangerous for people and cats, and the best way to cause new restrictions…

      • Profile photo of Lennartv
        Lennartv 2 weeks ago

        Dude just leave me alone. For everyones understanding Mattia send me this email in reaction to my tripreport while I was in Borneo:

        “Hey,

        do you understand that you can go and watch your damn cats with an empty wallet only because there are a lot of other people that practically pay locals for not killing big cats? In Chile, in Brazil, in Africa, in India…

        Or maybe you are too short in brain for understanding this simple concept.

        People like you must only stay at home. So you can spend even less 😉 .

        I’ve met a lot of Dutch, but nobody was an idiot like you.

        Bye”

        I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it as I really appreciate this website and it has been invaluable to me for seeing many mammals that would otherwise have been impossible. I probably wouldn’t have been in Torres del Paine if it wasn’t for this site. I’m also always open to a discussion. I know I’m not perfect and we can only learn from each other. However I really don’t like it when someone sends me an email like this, I decide to leave it alone and he continues to call me irresponsible without knowing me at all. It’s fine to discuss stuff with me, but just keep it respectful and also have peace with it if someone thinks differently about something than you.

        By the way (ironically) Jorge Cardenas, apparently Mattia’s guide, was very helpful to me and gave me tips so I could see puma’s on my own. I also recommend him in my report.

        I’ll try to let this be my last comment on this subject. People probably don’t visit this website to read stuff like this anyway.

  6. Profile photo of Jon Hall Author
    Jon Hall 2 weeks ago

    Everyone – a reminder that this forum has (nearly) always been a friendly place. Or at least a polite one. It is good to discuss the best ways to see Pumas and what is ethical. But – PLEASE – it is not OK to make personal attacks. Anyone who does will be blocked from posting and commenting.
    Thanks

    Jon

  7. Profile photo of jasonwoolgar
    jasonwoolgar 2 weeks ago

    The problem is Jon, the control that you exercise here is based almost entirely on language and tone, as opposed to the issues that actually matter in the 21st century, i.e. ethics and conservation and the positive role that we should be taking in these areas.

    People who do not behave ethically and clearly have very little idea of how to act around wildlife, including those who believe that they somehow have the right to handle, terrorise and harm mammals as part of their hobby, are allowed to post exactly what they want, however damaging or inappropriate it may be.

    No one is moderating regarding stupidity or cruelty and it is difficult to justify censoring someone for pointing out these facts, however robustly.

    I am personally far more disturbed by photographs of members of this site clearly mistreating wildlife than I am by poor language and would suggest that if this form of autocratic control is going to occur, it perhaps also requires some kind of ethical basis?

  8. Profile photo of Jon Hall Author
    Jon Hall 2 weeks ago

    Hi Jason. Of course robust discussion is welcome. But rude is not  … at least not to me, nor I believe to most of the people on here when the comments get personal so I reserve the right to delete those comments (as I just did). On ethics… then as soon as I get a bit of time I am going to publish a revised set of mammal watching guidelines based on Richard’s first set which I have updated to reflect a set of expert – biological and conservation expert – opinion. I hope we can then have a (robust but polite) discussion in the forum about that. For now though I hope we can all recognise that just about all mammalwatching – from trapping to spotlighting to photography – can be potentially harmful. The challenge is to ensure the hobby contributes much more to conservation than it harms it. I am convinced it is a real force for good: though as the popularity grows so do the benefits and the risks.

  9. Profile photo of jasonwoolgar
    jasonwoolgar 2 weeks ago

    Thanks Jon

    I look forward to seeing the proposed guidelines, as obviously there are objectivity concerns regarding both the site content and corresponding moderation, given that the website is now being operated as a commercial concern.

    Clearly income is being generated by operators involved in small mammal trapping, with inevitable issues regarding impartiality and the patently unethical practices that are generally defended or at least overlooked on this site.

    Certainly to compare trapping to photography, in terms of the potential harm to the animals involved, is already deeply concerning and in the absence of any genuine restraint or self-regulation, I do hope that some visitors will, at the very least, cease to acknowledge trip reports that include any form of trapping and the appalling images of terrified animals being handled.

    As we are witnessing in so many areas of life now, what was acceptable once is no longer the case and to risk killing an animal for what amounts to a tick on a basically meaningless list, must surely fall within that category?

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