With an area of over a million square kilometers, Patagonia offers an unrivalled landscape of jagged peaks, impossibly blue lakes and rivers, and fascinating deserts and grasslands. It encompasses the southern end of the spectacular Andes mountain range, at the southern tip of South America (including both Chilean and Argentinean territory). At its centre is the Patagonian Ice Field, a sea of ice the size of Hawaii and a source of the region's beautiful glaciers. From the rich and engaging culture of the city of Buenos Aires to the literal southern tip of the Western Hemisphere at the port city of Punta Arenas on the Straits of Magellan, Patagonia is awe-inspiring.
Torres del Paine National Park
In the heart of Patagonia is the breathtakingly beautiful Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most spectacular national parks on the planet. The park was designated a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978 for both its ecological significance and scenic beauty. It is a wonderland of snow-peaked mountains and towering granite peaks (including the iconic Torres del Paine (Towers of the Blue Sky) and Los Cuernos (the Horns). Highlights include tranquil trails through emerald southern-beech forests and the vast pampas grasslands, to brilliant blue glaciers and iceberg-filled azure lakes. The park attracts hikers, bird watchers, botanists, rock climbers, anglers and adventure-seekers from all over the world.
One of the most significant features of Torres del Paine is its large population of diverse wildlife, including 120 species of birds and 26 species of mammal. With the highest density of wildlife and diversity in all of Chile, Torres del Paine visitors enjoy regular animal sightings. Some species are abundant, like the guanaco, while others are endangered or vulnerable, such as the huemul (native deer), southern river otter, big hairy armadillo and puma.
Some of the unique mammal species in the park include:
Just a few decades ago, the guanaco, a little cousin of the alpaca and llama, was endangered, but conservation efforts have raised its population significantly. Speed and mountain-goat-like alpine agility help these herbivores to survive in the park’s wide open grasslands, which offer no place to hide. Full of character and energy, these big-eyed animals roam the open plains in large family groups while providing good entertainment for trekkers.
The Patagonian puma (or panther) is the southernmost of all mountain lions and is also one of the largest, measuring over eight feet from head to tail with an average weight of 90 kilograms. The Patagonian puma was almost hunted to extinction but through government protection, the population has been able to rebound. The elusive puma is a solitary, nocturnal creature, seldom seen but lucky visitors may spot their startlingly large paw prints in the snow.
The culpeo fox is the largest species of fox in South America and is often referred to as the Andean fox or the Patagonian fox. This South American mammal bears a resemblance to the widely recognized red fox in North America.
There are approximately 2,000 of the endangered South Andean deer alive in the world today, Chile’s national symbol and a high conservation priority. The park provides critical refuge for the huemul, whose stocky build and short legs make it well-suited to the broken, difficult terrain it inhabitats.
Some of the world’s rarest and most fascinating bird species are found in Torres del Paine National Park. Among these are 15 birds of prey, from the black-chested buzzard eagle, cinereous harrier and chimango caracara to the Magellanic horned owl. Other interesting birds include the Chilean flamingo, Magellan goose and black-faced ibis.
When you think of the wild mountains and desert of Patagonia, you don’t necessarily picture colorful tropical birds. That is what makes the region so spectacular though—it is full of the unexpected and some of the world’s rarest and most fascinating birds. Witnessing a flock of brightly colored austral parakeets flying through the grasslands, or Chilean Flamingoes silhouetted by snow-capped mountains feels a bit otherworldly.
The Andean condor, a national symbol of Chile, has the largest wing span of any land bird in the world, reaching an amazing 3.2 meters. They are among the biggest birds on the planet. They inhabit large territories, often travelling more than 200 kilometers in a day in their search for carrion. They can reach heights of 7,000 meters, with speeds of 35 miles an hour. The condor can be observed soaring for hours on end over beech forests and open grasslands in the park, barely flapping its wings as it takes advantage of the uplifting air currents.
The ostrich-like flightless rhea is the largest bird in South America. The rhea has large powerful legs enabling it to run swiftly, reaching speeds of up to 60 kilometers per hour. The sharp claws on its toes are effective weapons for self-defense. It can be seen feeding on roots, fruit, seeds and leaves in the grasslands within the park.
Cachana (Austral Parakeet or Emerald Parakeet)
These vibrant birds live further south than any other parrot in the Americas and are one of the few non-tropical parrots. It has beautiful green wings with metallic blue accents. At any given time you may see these lovebirds (who mate for life) flying side-by-side, or at mealtimes gathered in sociable flocks of over 100 birds.
The largest South American woodpecker (and the third largest in the world) inhabits mature southern beech and cedar forests that grow among the towering mountains. They can be seen feeding on grubs, beetles and even small reptiles.
This resident of the Andes and South America holds its territories on fast flowing mountain rivers usually above 1,500 meters with nests in watersides caves. Living up to its name, the torrent duck finds its food in icy, fast flowing “white water” and is reluctant to fly even short distances.
Whether you’re hiking during the day or camping at night, chances are you might see (or hear) a Patagonian pygmy owl. Unlike other owls, they are not strictly nocturnal, frequently emerging from their nests during the day. With their grey and brown coloring, however, they are well camouflaged and at a quarter pound or less, they are one of the Earth’s smallest owls. These clever birds imitate the songs of local birds, who then gather curiously around the newcomer. Once gathered, one will likely become the owl’s unsuspecting lunch.
With a diversity of natural landscapes and highly varied climatic influences, Torres del Paine offers a wide variety of unusual and beautiful plants and trees, including the southern-most orchids in the world.
The Patagonian steppe is dominated by wind-bent grasses, one of the few plants resistant to the harsh winds and weather of these vast open plains.
In contrast, in the Megallanic forest landscapes, the lush old growth beech forests (the world’s southernmost forests), thrive. These deciduous forests provide a stunning show of colour each autumn.
The shrublands closer to the mountains bring a colourful array of low-growing cushion-plants, creeping bushes and low-growing shrubs suited to the low humidity and drying effects of the wind. Chilean firebush, with gorgeous deep red flowers, thrives in the more temperate regions of the shrublands.
Above tree line is the Andean high desert, a seemingly inhospitable landscape is actually home to a fascinating array of alpine plants growing in crevices, rocks or fissures.
These amusing little creatures are Calceolaria Uniflora or “Darwin’s slipper flower.”
Discovered by Charles Darwin during his voyage around South America, these unique flowers resemble tiny orange penguins marching over the rocks.
The Magellan barberry, with its infinite little orangey-yellow flowers, has exquisitely sweet berries used for jams, sauces and tarts. Local legend has it that “he who eats the Magellan barberry will return to this land.”
To learn more about Patagonia and Torres del Paine, visit these resourceful websites:
Park maps: http://www.parquetorresdelpaine.cl/maps.html
Plant list: http://www.chilenativo.travel/downloads/Patagonia%20Flora%20List.pdf
Bird list: http://www.chilenativo.travel/downloads/Birdwatching%20List%20Patagonia.pdf
Rock climbing: http://www.summitpost.org/torre-sur-torres-del-paine/151366
They Did It! Our Inaugural Expedition for the Earth Team Exceeds Their Fundraising Goal!
April 12, 2013
We're so thrilled with the accomplishments of our first ever Expedition for the Earth team!
Join us for our Post Expedition for the Earth Party
April 5, 2013
Join us and the Trail Shop this Saturday April 6th, for a post Expedition for the Earth party and fundraiser.
Nova Scotian Adventurers Complete Patagonian Charity Trek
February 11, 2013
They did it! Between February 1st-9th, 13 Nova Scotians set forth on an adventure of a lifetime, trekking through the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile.
Expedition Participants Meet in Chile - Feb. 2, 2013
February 1, 2013
Our intrepid group of Expedition for the Earth trekkers are meeting up in Chile tomorrow (Feb. 2, 2013)!
Watch Berg Adventures International for detailed daily dispatches!
Great News Stories About Our Expedition Team!
January 25, 2013
The trip is one week away! We're getting excited!
Two stories about Bob Melville:
And one about Henry Fuller:
Nova Scotian Adventurers Set For Patagonian Charity Trek
January 18, 2013
With less than two weeks left before 13 Nova Scotians set forth on an adventure of a lifetime, the Nova Scotia Nature Trust held a send-off party for the Expedition team. These adventurous and community-minded souls from across the province are taking part in the Nature Trust’s inaugural Steele Subaru Expedition for the Earth. They have spent the months preparing for their February 1-9 wilderness trek in Torres del Paine National Park (Patagonia, Chile) by training for the hike and raising funds to protect local natural areas.
Meet our Patagonia Participants!
January 16, 2013
Our Expedition for the Earth: Patagonia 2013 participants are a diverse and fascinating group! As they gear up and finish their preparations, we thought you'd like to meet them.
Info Night and Gear Night - Nov. 5
November 2, 2012
We're hosting an Exhibition for the Earth info night on Monday November 5th, 6:00 PM at the Trail Shop, 6210 Quinpool Road. All are welcome.
Nature Trust Expedition for the Earth: Patagonia Showcase June 5, 2012
May 23, 2012
Who: Anyone interested in learning about Patagonia or our Expediton for the Earth: Patagonia 2013 trek.
What: Join us for snacks, Labatt beverages, guest speaker Wally Berg, great draw prizes from the Trail Shop,
and awesome images, films and stories about Patagonia, adventure,
and saving the planet’s wild places.
Where: Labatt Breweries Atlantic Beer Institute (Keith’s Brewery Market)
When: Tuesday June 5th, at 7 pm
Nature Trust Announces Inaugural Expedition for the Earth Adventure Trek
May 3, 2012
The Nature Trust's exciting new adventure to “the ends of the earth” to support land conservation in Nova Scotia was officially launched today with title sponsor, Steele Subaru, at the grand opening of the new Halifax Subaru dealership.