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Highlights of a Patagonia Wildlife Tour

4 min read

Have you ever heard of the geographic region of Patagonia? It's increasingly on the radar of adventure travelers who are keen to see Patagonia wildlife.

Patagonia is a region that comprises over 673,000 square kilometres of South America, stretching from the most southern tip of the continent northbound to the Colorado River that spans most of the land between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Politically, the region of Patagonia is divided between the countries of Argentina and Chile, stretching down to the most southern part of the continent en route to the seaways that reach Antarctica.

Patagonia is known for its large colonies of albatross.

While albatross are commonly observed in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, Patagonia is also known for its
large colonies of albatross. Photo: Nicky Souness

The region was first settled by the Tehuelche tribes thousands of years before the arrival of European explorers. Portuguese adventurer Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to lead an non-Indigenous expedition to the area, which opened the door to further exploration and settlement throughout the land.

Geographically, and in terms of climate, Patagonia is divided into two distinct regions. The northern part of the region is a blend of desert and semi-arid conditions that see hot sunny days, little precipitation, and strong dry winds that blow in across the Andes. The southern region, in contrast, is characterized by colder conditions with heavy accumulations of snowfall that frost and ice over during particularly cold periods of the year.

In either region, Patagonia is home to incredible wildlife and breathtaking views that appeal to travelers.

Best parts of Patagonia to visit

If you plan to visit Patagonia, this is a helpful list of points of interest to help you make the most out of your experience. Keep in mind that these suggestions all lie within the Chilean region of Patagonia

Glacier Alley

Located on the northern shore of the Beagle Channel, this beautiful landscape is a tidewater of massive glaciers that gracefully fall into the ocean. The snow-capped peaks of the mountains are the perfect backdrop for unforgettable photography and cinematography that you can share with your loved ones when you return home.

Glacier Alley in the Beagle Channel is on the itinerary for Quark Expeditions' guests in Chilean Patagonia.

Glacier-viewing lures visitors to Patagonia just as much as wildlife-viewing opportunities, especially in the Beagle Channel.
Photo: AdobeStock

Tierra del Fuego archipelago

Not only will you get to explore mainland Patagonia, but you'll also get to sail through the Strait of Magellan to the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego. Located off the South American mainland, this collection of islands is a beacon of glaciers, snow-covered mountains, vast tundra, and wind-sculpted trees that promise incredible sights and striking memories.

Torres del Paine National Park

You won't be limited to coastal experiences on your adventures. You can also book a trip to the Torres del Paine National Park, which has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1978. Here, you'll witness the region's wildlife going about their days as they tend to their families, hunt for food, and play in the wilds.

Wildlife of Patagonia

Patagonia cruises aren't restricted to the southern tip of South America. Polar voyages to Patagonia often include islands in the Antarctic.

A sassy looking rockhopper puts on a show for visitors to the Falkland Islands.

The colourful rockhopper penguin is one of the numerous wildlife species spotted on Patagonia wildlife tours . Photo: Acacia Johnson

These islands are home to a rich variety of wildlife species. Penguins populate much of Antarctica as the cold icy conditions of the southern continent are ideal for their breeding and way of life. In particular, there are 5 extremely fascinating penguins you can spot on islands across Antarctica:

  • King penguins
  • Gentoo penguins
  • Chinstrap penguins
  • Magellanic penguins
  • Rockhopper penguins

Animals native to Patagonia

In addition to penguins, you'll be able to see wildlife that make their home almost exclusively in Patagonia. These are some of the most rarely spotted animals, and an adventure through the region will give you opportunities to see wildlife that few others can claim to have witnessed with their own eyes.

The Patagonia Toothfish is one such example. They typically spend their days deep underwater, but they'll occasionally surface near the glaciers in southern Patagonia. The Bald Notothen fish also makes the southern ocean its home. It has a silvery-gray compilation and produces proteins that enable it to survive in the frigid southern waters.

Additionally, the imposing albatross is often seen flying above the shores of Patagonia. They're most often found near the Falkland Islands and South Georgia where they often nest their eggs and raise their young until the offspring are ready to fly on their own.

Patagonia whale watching: Types of Patagonia whales

Whale watching is an unforgettable experience anywhere in the world the opportunity presents itself. Patagonia has no shortage of whales, and you can plan an excursion to view these mammals in their natural habitats as part of an amazing adventure.

In 2017, conservation groups reported a record number of whales that made Patagonia their home. For adventurers who love to witness whale pods frollicking in the oceans, the hope is that this trend will continue for years to come.

Orcas are among the most impressive whales that are found in Patagonia. Some of the best opportunities to witness orcas in the region are near the islands that border Antarctica. In particular, the islands of Cape Horn and Diego Ramirez Islands are popular excursion destinations for travellers, and orcas are known to converge in pods not far from the coasts of those southern islands.

Additionally, blue whales are often found swimming throughout the region of Patagonia. While there are current issues with commercial fishers threatening the habitat of blue whales, it's expected that they will continue to be spotted by adventurers off the coast of Chile in the eastern South Pacific ocean.

Patagonia wildlife safari

The Essential Patagonia: Chilean Fjords and Torres del Paine voyage is your introduction to a Patagonia wildlife safari. You'll spend 15 days exploring both the mainland and the islands that surround South America and Antarctica as you sail from the ports of Ushuaia all the way north to Torres del Paine.

Along the way, you'll have opportunities to witness the region from the air aboard a flightseeing excursion that departs directly aboard Ultramarine. You'll also get to hike in the interior of Patagonia and explore glacial islands scattered throughout the southern seas. Even more exciting is the opportunity to climb aboard a Zodiac and see whale pods, seabirds, and amazing icebergs.

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