tyrants and tapaculos in the land of the condor






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This new tour is all about the best of Chile; a journey amongst magnificent volcanoes, forests and waters of the Chilean Lakeland down to the fabulous bays of the Pacific coast. Not to mention the towering Central Andes complete with dramatic peaks, fast flowing rivers and of course the fabulous birdlife. Where else in the world can you watch hummingbirds and penguins on the same day? There are not too many species either so that newcomers to the Neotropics are not overwhelmed. We concentrate on seeing very special and sometimes unique birds in magnificent and, just as importantly, easily accessible places.


Chile is a big country of remarkable length. This tour is designed to show off some of the best places, but at the same time not trying to see it all. That would be far too much to cram into one tour. The places we have chosen to visit are amongst our favourites and we are confident that you will find them all fascinating.


Not all of Chile’s best birds can be seen from land and we will combine this tour with two specially organised boat trips to see wonderful seabirds, which includes five species of albatross. Then, in the Gulf of Corcovado off Chiloe Island, we will seek out what is arguably the most magnificent creature in the world’s oceans, the Blue Whale.


Why not join us on an unforgettable tour of South America’s most politically and economically stable country? Then share a glass of Chilean red to celebrate seeing the best of the country’s birds!





The tour starts in the capital Santiago and on arrival we will transfer to San Jose in the Maipo Valley. This will be our base for three nights as we explore the valleys of the high Andes. Here we will get our first taste of Chilean birdlife which should include the endemic Chilean Mockingbird along with Austral Blackbird, Austral Thrush, Eared Dove and the unusual Tufted Tit-tyrant. Raging rivers are home to the unique Torrent Duck, which hold their own in the rapids just like the best of Olympic canoeists. Other specialities include the endemic, rock-loving Crag Chilia and the ground-hugging Moustached Turca. Other species adapted to a terrestrial way of life given the lack of trees at this elevation include several species of ground-tyrant, plus birds with simply wacky sounding names such as the Rufous-banded Miner and the Scale-throated Earthcreeper.


We will visit the valley of El Yeso which is one of the best places on earth to see the splendidly named, and splendid looking Diademed Sandpiper-plover. Also up here we may find a hummingbird and a parakeet. Amazingly the White-sided Hillstar can survive the low overnight temperatures, whilst the tiny Mountain Parakeet is no bigger than a budgerigar but gets the pulses racing of even seasoned birders.


Of course no trip into the mighty Andes is complete without a sighting of the majestic Andean Condor and we should see several soaring amongst the jagged mountain peaks.



The next part of the tour takes us back to Santiago to make a short internal flight to Temuco. From here we quickly transfer to one of the most scenic of the countries national parks at Conguillio. Again, we spend three nights so that we can explore the park and its habitats at a comfortable pace. The park is dominated by the towering peak of Volcan Llaima and contains native old growth forest. Giant araucaria, better known as monkey puzzle trees, grow alongside massive Notofagus trees. Resident birds match the splendour of the habitat and include the magnificent Magellanic Woodpecker, the endemic Slender-billed Parakeet, Black-throated Huet-Huet, the stentorious Chucao Tapaculo, the extraordinary Des Murs Wiretail, the nuthatch-like White-throated Treerunner, and swarms of the dynamic Thorn-tailed Rayadito.



From our mountain base we head further south into the Chilean Lake District and stay overnight at Puerto Varas before transferring the next day across to the island of Chiloe. A lot has been written about this special island which was cut off both socially and economically from the mainland for many years. As a result, it has its own unique identity expressed in its culture and architecture. We make our base in the colourful capital Castro at a rather lovely and colourful hotel. From here we explore the island’s birds and wildlife which includes two species of penguins, steamer ducks, parakeets and elusive tapaculos. Just offshore we can expect to find Peale’s and Chilean Dolphins, South American Sea-lions and Marine Otters.


Finally, we take to the seas and search for Blue Whales in the Gulf of Corcovado. Only recently has it been discovered that large numbers of Blue Whales spend the Austral summer here and now is the peak time to find them.



Back on the mainland we return to civilisation and make for the regional capital Puerto Montt, our home for a further two nights. This break in our journey gives us a chance to explore yet another unique national park at Alerce Andino, home to the Alerce or Patagonian Cypress, one of the world’s oldest living conifer trees. Endemic to southern Chile and neighbouring Argentina, they can grow to a height of 60m and live for over 3000 years! Here we should see Chilean Flicker, White-crested Elaenia, Fire-eyed Diucon, Chilean Swallow and Grey-hooded Sierra-finch.



After another short flight back to Santiago on day 13 we will head west to Vina del Mar on the Pacific Coast, which will be our base for the grand finale of our tour. We will make the most of our time here exploring a variety of coastal habitats. A speciality of the Pacific coast is the Inca Tern. The estuary at the mouth of the grand River Maipo holds thousands of roosting shorebirds and gulls including the desert breeding Grey Gull, as well as wintering Elegant Terns.


A second boat trip is arranged on the morning of day 14 from the waterfront at Valparaiso. The list of potential seabirds is second to none, all found feeding close in to the shore due the deep water upwelling of the cold Humboldt current. The commonest albatrosses include Black-browed, Salvin’s and Buller’s. There is also the chance of seeing one or more of the larger Royal and Wandering Albatrosses. A good mix of shearwaters and petrels can also be expected including Southern Fulmar, White-chinned and Westland Petrels, Peruvian Diving-petrel, Cape Petrels and Northern Giant Petrels, Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters and Wilson’s Storm-petrels.


At the El Peral marshes we might see three species of coot as well as Spot-flanked Gallinule, Wren-like Rushbird and the dazzling Many-coloured Rush-tyrant. Parts of this varied coastline are highly reminiscent of the Isles of Scilly with granite headlands carpeted in Hottentot Figs. The highlight has to be the bay at Cachagua; the ocean, the sunsets and of course the Humboldt Penguin colony. Situated on a small offshore island the colony is also home to countless cormorants and Peruvian Pelicans. On the rocks below we should find Black Oystercatchers and Surfbirds and the endemic Chilean Seaside Cinclodes.


Finally, on day 17 we will head back to Santiago, arriving at the airport in good time for our overnight flight home.



Breakfast will be taken at about 7am most days. Basic fitness is all that is required. Full days will be spent in the field with short/medium length walks. Some uphill walking will be necessary and at times this will be on uneven ground, but at a sensible pace. The highest point we reach is 8000 feet at El Yeso, so altitude should not present a problem. At this elevation the pace will be slow.



Full board accommodation is provided with three nights at the Hotel Casa Bosque, San Jose de Maipo, three nights at Lodge la Baita, Conguillio, one night at the Hotel Bellavista, Puerto Varas, three nights at the Hotel Unicornio Azul, Castro, two nights at the Hotel Presidente, Puerto Montt and three nights at the Hotel Oceanic, Vina del Mar. All hotels are of a good standard and all rooms have en suite facilities. Packed lunches will be provided every day.



All birdwatching excursions with expert leader and local guide, full-board accommodation (starting with lunch on 25th, ending with lunch on 11th), soft drinks at meal times, local transport by coach, two boat trips, reserve entrance fees, domestic flights, international flights and airport taxes.



Travel insurance. Personal items, alcoholic drinks, laundry.



Return flights from London Heathrow and Manchester (via Paris CDG) to Santiago using the scheduled services of Air France. Outbound flight departs early evening, return flight arrives back early afternoon.



17 nights including

two overnight flights:


Principal leader:


Local guide:


Maximum group size:


Cost with discount

(if you book before

11th November 2011):


Full Cost:





Single supplement:






24th Feb. to 12th March 2012


John McLoughlin


Enrique Couve


12 clients with one leader

and a local guide



£4490 per person sharing


£4640 per person sharing


A ground only price is available. Please contact our office























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