Patagonia is home to some incredibly beautiful and diverse wildlife, including many endangered or soon-to-be-endangered species.
We work with a selection of local tour operators in Patagonia who aim to educate people about the local species on their guided trips whilst endeavouring to keep the well being & natural environment of these creatures as untouched as possible.
Swoop customers Ian & Sue visited Patagonia in December 2014, and tell us about some of the incredible wildlife they saw here in their trip review.
Find out more about Patagonia's fauna and how to experience them in person below.
The Richness and Diversity of Patagonia's Animals:
This beautiful big cat is the largest predator in Patagonia, and the southern-most dweller of all its relatives. Although once endangered, the Chilean government made the hunting of pumas illegal in 1980, and their numbers have now increased to non-endangered levels once more.
Pumas take full advantage of the varied terrain in Torres del Paine, and are able to live in the cold, warmth, forest & mountains. They can be tricky to spot, and are most often seen at dusk and dawn when out hunting for one of their favourite dishes...Guanacos!
You'd be very lucky to spot a Puma whilst on a regular hiking trip in Patagonia- they tend to dwell in the more remote mountains of Northern Torres del Paine where it is much quieter and less visited. Our dedicated Puma tracking experts know these areas like the back of their hands, and give you the very best chances of observing Pumas in their natural habitat.
There are four main types of whale to be found in Patagonia: the Orca or 'Killer Whale', the Humpback Whale, the Southern Right Whale, and the Blue Whale.
Peninsula Valdes is the place to go for both Southern Right Whales (June-December) and Orcas (September, March & April).
Magellanic Penguins are the most widespread of the breeds to be found in Patagonia, but it is also possible to see Humboldt Penguins, Gentoo Penguins, and even King Penguins!
Southern Elephant Seals
Elephant seals are common in Patagonia and get their name from the strange shape of the male's nose which looks like an elephant's trunk. Seals can be found throughout the islands of Patagonia and kayaking is a great way to get up close to this creature.
Two of the best places to find sea lion colonies are in Tierra del Fuego and the Peninsula Valdes UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can kayak with them along the coast and paddle right up to their colony. Alternatively, you can see them in abundance on an Antarctic cruise.
The Andean condor (from the vulture family) can be found throughout Patagonia. Often seen circling the iconic Towers of Paine, or above Laguna Armaga, swooping down to feast on the remains of a Puma's Guanaco kill. This impressive bird has a wing span of 3.2 metres, the largest of any land bird. It is currently considered as 'nearly endangered' by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This Condor Route trip is designed to take you off-the-beaten track to known Condor nesting sites in Torres del Paine National Park.
If you're a keen birder check out this Chiloe Island Bird Watching trip- unmissable for any bird enthusiast!
This endangered deer has short legs & a stocky build, enabling it to live on rocky terrain & climb mountain passes with ease. It's one of the most elusive animals in Patagonia & became a Chilean National Natural Monument in 2006. Despite this status, it's currently under threat from changes in its natural habitat, and predation by the Puma. Your best chance of spotting one is on a hike in Torres del Paine, particularly in the vicinity of Lago Grey and Off the Beaten Track a little, for example in the Silencio Valley. The 'Patagonia Park' in Aysen is another great location for spotting them.
There are thought to be over 1,500 of this descendent of the llama species in Torres del Paine National Park alone. They live in herds for protection and to rear their young. They're very energetic animals who run around chasing one another, and mothers are fiercely protective of their young so it's best not to get too close!
You're likely to see Guanacos on almost any trip to Torres del Paine National Park.
South American Sea Lions
These fierce yet fragile creatures are on of the largest inhabitant species of the Valdes Peninsula's coast, reaching up to 3 metres long, and weighing up to 350kg. Groups of males (who can be recognised by the thick mane covering their neck and chest) begin to colonise the area from December, and they defend their territory aggressively (beware!), whilst awaiting arrival of the females. Each male has a hareem of up to 10 females, who give birth to their young a few days after arrival on the Peninsula, ready to mate again a week after birth!
There are several lively & energetic species of dolphin that add a splash of mischief & charm to Patagonia's waters!
Dusky Dolphins can be recognised by their short, dark beak, black dorsal fin with grey crescent, dark pectoral fins and dark pointed tail which has a deep central notch. They are incredibly acrobatic dolphins, jumping high out of the water, making pirouettes and somersaults both forwards and backwards!
The fast-paced Commerson's Dolphin is considered a coastal mammal, found along the Argentine Coast from San Matias Gulf to Tierra del Fuego.
They can be spotted in groups of 2-10 dolphins, but live in pods of up to 100! They are speedy and active swimmers, often seen diving and jumping, swimming upside down, and surfing the waves and wakes of boats or even whales!
To take your own photos of the Guanaco, Nandu or Condor in their natural habitat, why not try some of our wildlife tours in Torres del Paine, Peninsula Valdes and Tierra del Fuego:
Get your own photos!
Kayaking Expedition in the Beagle Channel
Paddle with this local kayaking specialist in the challenging Beagle Channel - sailed by Darwin, where you'll get up close to sea lions, see penguins, and see the wilderness of Tierra del Fuego. This trip can last from 1-3days and…
Safari in Southern Patagonia
This is a great way to enjoy the wildlife of Torres del Paine National Park without too much challenging trekking. It's highly customisable in terms of the treks and the length of stay, you can hike up to the towers…
Exploring Peninsula Valdes
Enjoy leisurely walks and kayak within the Peninsula Valdes Nature Reserve. You'll paddle up to sea lion colonies and spot killer whales whilst enjoying the rocky scenery around you. Accommodation wide you'll camp under the stars for 3 nights and…
Patagonia Parks and Wildlife
Experience everything Patagonia has to offer over 3 weeks, including Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National parks, the Lake District, Tierra del Fuego & the Beagle channel. Staying in hotels and lodges and with moderate walks for people of…
Pumas, Penguins & Whales; Wildlife Tour
A wonderful trip for the wildlife enthusiast, this trip will take you puma tracking in Torres del Paine, cruising in the Magellan Strait to see penguins and other sea-life, then finally you can enjoy a spot of whale and bird…
Wildlife Watching Torres del Paine
Combine wildlife with activity on this unique Torres del Paine trip, resting in hotels, hostels and camping. You will be actively looking for wildlife including, Rheas, Guancos and Pumas (if you're lucky), as well as having the chance to do…
Camping Wildlife Safari
This camping safari is a great way to see the pumas whilst keeping your costs down. Every day your guide will take you to the best spots for puma-tracking to give you the…
BBC, Patagonia: Earth's Secret Paradise
Have you seen the BBC's three part series from the Natural History Unit, discovering the wonders of Earth's Secret Paradise, Patagonia?
These programmes bring stunning imagery of the unusual and extraordinary wildlife and the breath-taking scenery. Uncovering the wonders of this wonderful corner of the world, from Gauchos to Glaciers Patagonia really is a secret paradise.
Are you inspired by what you've seen? Do you want to start planning your trip of a lifetime?
Tours of Patagonia
One way to see the very best that Patagonia offers is to book a tour that takes you to 2 or more different destinations in one trip. With these tours you'll be able to spend time in a few areas and have all the logistics, transport and accommodation organised for you as you move around Patagonia. See all of our Patagonia Tours, or consider:
Swoop's Wildlife Google Map
This interactive Google map of Patagonia shows the best spots to see wildlife in Patagonia, alongside our other recommended places to visit: