Patagonia: Tracking Pumas and King Penguins

Wildlife Adventures from Tierra del Fuego to Paine National Park with Karen Lund Petersen


Patagonia is a paradise for nature lovers, with its golden pampas, verdant forests, and granite peaks. The rugged topography and southern latitude make it a haven for unique fauna, from prowling pumas to fascinating wildlife usually found in polar latitudes, such as stately king penguins, Magellanic penguins, and enormous southern elephant seals. On our wildlife odyssey with WT Trip Leader Karen Lund Petersen, we’ll track pumas, the “ghost of the Andes,” with expert local trackers in renowned Paine National Park, thought to hold a higher concentration of pumas than anywhere else on earth. In addition to Paine’s big cats, we’ll keep an eye out for guanacos, native foxes (both Patagonian gray fox and Fuegian fox), armadillos, flamingos, soaring condors, and more. In remote Tierra del Fuego, we visit a colony of Magellanic penguins in the Beagle Channel as well as the only colony of king penguins found outside the sub-Antarctic islands. We’ll explore deep into Admiralty Sound aboard a motor vessel to experience soaring fjords, ice floes, glaciers, and Fuegian wildlife. Two special days will find us at a tranquil lakeside lodge on the edge of Karukinka Natural Park, a privately owned nature reserve with 1,100 square miles of soaring mountains, magnificent lakes, and rare wildlife—and few, if any, travelers! Karen, our long-time Patagonia leader, is an Argentine who lives in remote northern Patagonia with her family. She is a gifted professional naturalist and the ultimate guide to unlock the secrets of this realm. Our accommodations, including heritage estancias in stunning locations, are part of the charm of the journey, and we’ll be welcomed in each one with home-cooked Patagonian fare and fine Chilean and Argentine wines. Join us for the natural history trip of a lifetime!

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2
Ushuaia / Beagle Channel

Arrive in Ushuaia, Argentina, “the southernmost city in the world,” set between the sea and the snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Darwin, only 600 miles from Antarctica. Enjoy a taste of this austral realm on a coastal hike, a Zodiac ride along the storied Beagle Channel, and a walk on the beach among thousands of Magellanic penguins to delight in their their antics and vocalizations.

Hotel Los Yamanas
Ushuaia, Argentina
Days 1 to 2 (2 nights)
Days 3-4
Cruise the Fjords of the Cordillera Darwin

Crossing into the Andes from Argentina into Chile, we board our vessel for a two-night cruise into Admiralty Sound, one of the least traveled places in the world, flanked by the majestic Parry, New Zealand, and Cuevas glaciers. We’ll explore fjords, ice floes, and walk in sub-Antarctic forests.  We’ll keep our eye out for leopard seals, black-browed albatross, and maybe even southern elephant seals, the largest pinnipeds in the world!

Days 5-6
Deseado Lodge / Karukinka Natural Park

Vast, privately owned Karukinka Natural Park is the southernmost old-growth forest in the world and shelters an abundance of wildlife. Enjoy forest hikes and optional kayaking from our tranquil lakeside lodge on the park’s border.

Deseado Lodge
Karukinka, Chile
Days 5 to 6 (2 nights)
Days 7-8
Estancia Caleta Josefina / King Penguins / Puerto Natales

A complete change of scene brings us to a pioneering sheep ranch on the Patagonian steppe for our visit to Parque Pinguino Rey, the only breeding colony of king penguins on the South American continent. On Day 8, we travel across the legendary Strait of Magellan by ferry, then head to Puerto Natales, gateway to Paine National Park.

Estancia Caleta Josefina
Tierra del Fuego, Chile
Day 7 (1 night)
Hotel Simple Patagonia
Puerto Natales, Chile
Day 8 (1 night)
Days 9-12
Puma Tracking with Experts / Paine National Park

On Day 9, we’ll enjoy a full day of exploring the park surrounded by a wonderland of eye-popping scenery. Paine’s famed peaks are known as “The Towers” for their vertical spires. Paine Grande, the highest tower, tops 10,000 feet, its dazzling rock pinnacles rising from snow and ice. On Days 10 and 11, we join our team of puma trackers, including expert Jose Wayaja, known as “The Puma Man,” a well-known tracker with a deep knowledge of the park’s puma population. Throughout each tracking day, there will be dramatic views of Paine’s landscapes and plenty of other wildlife, from foxes to armadillos, condors, and rheas. Day 12 is a morning of puma tracking and an afternoon farewell hike with spectacular views of the Paine Massif.  Our accommodation is historic Estancia Cerro Guido, a working sheep ranch on the rolling pampas east of Paine National Park.

Estancia Cerro Guido
Paine National Park, Chile
Days 9 to 12 (4 nights)
Days 13-14
Punta Arenas / Depart

Drive to Punta Arenas for overnight and depart on Day 14.

Hotel Yegua Loca
Punta Arenas, Chile
Day 13 (1 night)



Track pumas with expert tracker-guides in Chile’s spectacular Paine National Park
See the rare king penguins of Tierra del Fuego—the only place in South America to see them
Cruise among the icy fjords and stunning glaciers of Admiralty Sound, overnighting in remote bays
Discover private Karukinka Natural Park, 1,100 square miles of wilderness mountains and lakes
Enjoy the atmosphere of heritage estancias (ranches) and wilderness lodges in stunning Patagonian landscapes


Length: 14 days
Cost From: $11,495  
Arrive: Ushuaia, Argentina
Depart: Punta Arenas, Chile
Lodging: 11 nights lodges and estancias, 2 nights motor vessel
Meals: All meals included as indicated in the Detailed Itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
Activity: Walking, Wildlife & Natural History
Trip Level:

Wildlife viewing by private vehicle, easy to moderate hikes and walks on varied terrain, two nights aboard a cruise boat, altitudes below 4,000 feet, extreme Patagonia weather changes that may affect the daily itinerary