Torres del Paine – Behind the Footprints of the puma
We begin by telling you that although we made a great effort, this animal of the devil did not let itself be seen as we would have liked. We spent three days following him … On the way we could see several torn prey, we asked everyone who crossed the road and once we were about to touch the shadow of the cat. Disappointed? Definitely not! We not only had a beautiful experience in a paradisiacal setting, but we were also able to appreciate and photograph the great wildlife of the national park, which is really worth it.
The month of September is actually a bit early to visit the Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile, but pumas are usually lonely and timid and avoid the masses of tourists in the high summer season. We also do. If it is about the weather it is quite cold, but the hours of sun were not scarce, the accommodation points were practically empty and the staff very attentive.
In Punta Arenas we rented a car. We thought that due to the conditions of the roads a car with height was required, but in reality it is not strictly necessary. The roads are paved or in good condition and much more important is the trunk. We leased a Ford Eco sport with Herz and we were very satisfied, but the profile of the car could have been a little better.
From the airport in Punta Arenas we travelled directly to Puerto Natales, always on the hunt for skunks or armadillos. In Natales we lodged in Hostal Casa Cecilia, one of the few hostels for backpackers in the place. Currently there is a wide variety of lodgings, most with higher prices, but Casa Cecilia remains firm as a rock in the sea of offers and is recommended. We visited friends in Hostal Wild, which is located only one block from the Plaza de Armas and the place is really beautiful. Of course, the prices correspond to another category. The owner is Finnish and his partner is a nice Chilean and together they form a great team.
There are really many restaurants in Puerto Natales and we love to eat well, so we let our friends recommend us the best places. We tried both and they really are very good: The Aldea restaurant in the center of Puerto Natales on Calle Barros Arana 132 is more than you think. The service is phenomenal and the food makes a difference with local ingredients, for example, fish with seaweed sauce. We also visited the restaurant of the best hotel of the place: the Singular. Actually we did not venture much in this type of places, because we are dressed in trekking clothes and we are pending our budget for the trip as parents are aware of their children. In any case the Singular is a must and it is worth it. It has good prices and is the final coronation of a successful trip to Patagonia. Go, it is really a great contrast between the local and the windy and wild south of Chile.
Now we are serious about looking for pumas. In our vehicle today we crossed the park to the east in the Río Serrano sector. In the park itself there are cabins that are very expensive and for the same price you can stay in a comfortable hotel. It is clear that in the park they only want tourists who have money. All hosting sites are designed for a select audience. The entire park is in the private hands of two very wealthy families and apparently never gets rich enough. The park is of a superior class, the landscape is great, the walks are among the best in South America, but it is almost impossible to finance.
Good article about Outdoor activities in Chile you´ll find in Rough Guide.
Well, but let’s keep our attention on the pumas. They already existed before the park, but you see them very little. During the last years it is much easier to observe them, which until now has not caused any kind of problems, but CONAF does not want to develop tourism to observe pumas in its park. Despite this, there are still agencies that offer the service and guides that facilitate the encounter with these shy cats.
We hired Carlos Roberto from the local association of tour guides. Very friendly and competent, he took us to the best places, but unfortunately we did not have the luck to spot the predators. About Booking we booked a night in Eco camp Patagonia, a site with feudal airs, which we knew from previous trips, but for reasons of costs we never stayed there. Currently normal and stinky cabins have gone up so much in their prices that it is not enough to pay them and here we are treated like kings. Another advantage of being king is the proximity to the largest predators in Chile. The Eco camp environment is known to be a puma sector. This is not advertising for the place, because even park rangers informed us that this is one of the best places and has the greatest chance of seeing the animals. We may have seen one, or actually its shadow, but it does not matter, since we saw so many other animals. Finally it is not important not to have seen the pumas. Our excursion after the pumas in the south of Chile was a success. Now we are in Santiago looking at our photos and we are more than happy. Write to us to know about your experience!