Mark Smith Nature Tours
Natural History   •   Birdwatching   •   Flora   •   Wildlife   •   Travel Photography


Andes, Patagonia, Pampas
Tierra Del Fuego and Iguazu Falls
Natural History and Birdwatching

November 8 - November 28, 2015

Note: Each country may be taken separately

November is spring in the south of South America. This tour visits the most beautiful natural areas of both countries, an itinerary seldom offered. Beginning in Santiago we pass through Mediterranean-looking wine country to La Campana Park, a land of rare palms, cactus, and native dry forest, full of wildflowers and unusual birds. On the rocky Pacific coastline we embark on a tranquil boat trip into the Humboldt Current for some of the world's finest pelagic birdwatching; six different albatrosses, varied petrels and penguins can be seen.

'beast' graphic

South, in the Andes are famous Torres Del Paine National Park (Chile) and Los Glaciares National Park (Argentina), with impressive glaciers, blue lakes and granite peaks. Condors, Black-necked Swans, and guanacos and rheas, relatives of llamas and ostriches respectively, are common through the vast Patagonian steppe.

From El Calafate we fly south to Tierra del Fuego, a land of windswept grasslands, beech forests and snow-capped mountains. At Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the Americas, we cruise the Beagle Channel to view mountainous islands and seabirds. After a flight north we stay three nights on the Valdes Peninsula, a park of Patagonian steppe that juts into the Atlantic. Here we observe elephant seals, sea lions, a huge Magellanic Penguin colony, and boat out to view southern right whales.

walrus clip art graphic

Near Buenos Aires we explore the Pampas; the variety of marsh, meadow and coastal birds is astonishing, including Screamers, Greater Rhea, and the Firewood Gatherer. Iguazu Falls is a mile-long arc of more than a dozen falls, surrounded by verdant subtropical rainforest inhabited by parrots, trogons, and the Toco Toucan, the world's largest. The incredible geographic variety and the diversity of large, spectacular wildlife combine to make this one of the most exciting and interesting tours in the Americas. Popular Argentine naturalist Santiago de la Vega, author of five books on Argentine nature, has led this tour five times. Join us for this unique tour exploring the "Southern Cone."


Marc Egger has led many Central and South American tours with Mark Smith. Throughout his life he has been intensively studying nature, culture and conservation in his native Brazil. Marc grew up in Brazil and the US, speaks five languages fluently, and studied natural history while living seven years in Costa Rica. His special interests include tropical botany, birds and photography. He recently completed a film on the Pantanal. Marc led the Patagonia tour with Santiago in 2006. He lives with his wife, son and daughter in Sao Paulo and in New York.

Santiago de la Vega is an Argentine naturalist and birdwatcher with special interests in Argentina's and Chile's history and culture. Santiago has a degree in Marine Biology and has been guiding natural history groups in Argentina and Chile for 15 years. He lives in Buenos Aires, but when not guiding, Santiago is often exploring remote parts of Argentina researching and writing travel guidebooks. His great enthusiasm for The Southern Cone and his willingness to share his knowledge has made Santiago a favorite with travelers.

Marc Egger will be guiding throughout the trip. For four days in the Pampas and the Buenos Aires area, Santiago de la Vega will also lead.

patagonia map


By June, participants will be sent maps, an equipment list, health suggestions, entrance requirements and visa applications, bird lists, selected articles and a list of suggested readings.

Lodgings, Transportation and Gratuities

All overnight accommodations and all but one meal are included. All accommodations are in hotels and lodges where each room has an attached bathroom. Transportation will generally be by small bus. Boat trips and park entrances are paid by the tour. Local airport taxes are unpredictable and will be paid individually. A late evening tango show is optional and costs about $50. Gratuities to staff at all hotels and restaurant staff during group meals are included.

Activities and Expectations

Most days we will have morning and afternoon walking or driving outings. Before breakfast, optional birdwalks are also usually offered. Rain and mud may be encountered somewhere during the tour. Temperatures may reach the 80's a few days, but cool (50's and 60's) and windy conditions will also be encountered. Freezing temperatures may occur a day or two in the far south. Walks will seldom be over four miles. There is always the option to relax at our beautiful accommodations or take smaller walks with one of the leaders.

Trip Cost and Reservations

A deposit of $1000 is required to reserve one of the 14 available spaces.

$ 1000 Initial reservation deposit
$6,385 Final Payment (due 60 days before departure)
$7,385 Ground Fare Total
($1325) (Single supplement)

If the group size is 8 or fewer, a reasonable small-group supplement will be added. MARC EGGER WILL DEFINITELY BE GUIDING THIS TOUR! If the group size is fewer than 9, Santiago will co-lead the tour. Additional local guides join the tour in many areas.

Air Fare including internal flights is approximately $2,500 roundtrip from Miami or Dallas

Note: Each country may be taken separately.

butterfly clip art graphic

Mark’s travel agent is Pam Davis of Willamette Travel
Reach Pam at,  503-224-0180
Pam will know of local lodgings and extensions in the area.
Mark can also suggest Portland hotels.

Please make the deposit and final payment payable to Mark Smith Nature Tours and send to:

Mark Smith
PO Box 3831
Portland, OR 97208

Phone: 503-475-1978

Cancellations and Refunds

Cancellations made 90 days prior to departure receive full refund less. Cancellations made between 90 and 60 days prior to departure forfeit $500. Cancellations made 60 and fewer days prior to departure forfeit 50% of ground costs. Trip cancellation insurance is available from Willamette International Travel.


Chile and Argentina

(Meals paid for independently are indicated by "individual lunch,"etc.)
Day 1 Sunday, November 8 USA to Santiago
We depart Dallas or Miami late this evening and arrive into Santiago mid-morning.
Day 2 Monday, November 9 Santiago/The Central Valley
armadillo clip art graphic As we arrive in Santiago at 10:00 AM, we'll enjoy fine views of the Andes and the coast range, which cradle Chile's Central Valley, an agricultural region of Mediterranean climate where 70% of the country's 13 million people live. Santiago is an attractive city of four million.

After hotel check-in, we will visit the Farellones Ski Resort area at over 10,000 feet in the Andes. Here we may see Andean Condors and Mountain Caracaras, as well as various Ground Tyrants and Crag Chilia. Classic Andean flowers abound in alpine meadows and arid shrublands, all surrounded by the snow-capped Andes. We return to Santiago for our welcome dinner.(Lunch, if required, paid individually.)
Day 3 Tuesday, November 10 Santiago to Viña del Mar, on the Pacific
We depart early for the coast range, passing through fields of grains, vegetables, fruit trees and vineyards as we cross the 40-mile-wide Central Valley. After two hours, we reach La Campana National Park at 2500 feet in the coast range. The park is reminiscent of arid Arizona mountains, with chaparral-covered hillsides, cactus, and creek-side woodlands of oaks and palm. Flowers should be at their peak here, and numerous birds will be active. By late morning we retreat to the rocky coast to observe shorebirds and seabirds. We spend the night in the resort town of Viña del Mar.
Day 4 Wednesday, November 11 Viña to Santiago
waterfowl clip art graphicEarly this morning we embark on one of the finest pelagic birdwatching trips anywhere. The sea is typically calm, and we will boat out for four hours to view the spectacular birdlife that the rich upwelling of the cold Humboldt Current supports, including as many as six albatross species, petrels, two cormorants, Humboldt Penguins, Inca Tern and many others. Following a quick lunch overlooking the historic port of Valparaiso, we return to our Santiago hotel for a short break before our afternoon city tour to view historic buildings and interesting places of Santiago, which was founded in 1541 by Pedro de Valdivia, one of Pizarro's men. Overnight in Santiago.
Day 5 Thursday, November 12 Santiago to Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine
We depart from Santiago, Chile at 6:25 AM and fly to Punta Arenas, enjoying views of the Andes, Patagonian Steppe, and the Straights of Magellan during the flight. From Punta Arenas we begin a beautiful five-hour drive north with stops to Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine) National Park, where we settle into the Hosteria Lazo, an estancia that typifies the large ranches granted to early Spanish military colonizers and to settlers. We are here two nights, beside Lazo Lake with a fine view of the Paine Massif.
Day 6 Friday, November 13 Torres del Paine Park, Chile
Torres del Paine is one of the most famous and photographed parks in all South America. The glacier-carved Torres (towers) rise from undulating hills covered in grass and stunted beech. Glaciers calve blue icebergs into cold lakes, and Guanacos and Lesser Rheas are common. We'll see Black-necked and Coscoroba Swans, as well as various ducks and geese, and Andean Condors patrolling the crags. It will be spring here at 50° S. Lat., and many flowers will be emerging, such as the brilliant gold Calceolaria uniflora, which is pollinated by seedsnipe. We overnight at Hosteria Lago Tyndall, near the southern border of the park, with amazing views of the glaciated spires.
Day 7 Saturday, November 14 Torres del Paine to El Calafate
This morning we continue exploring Torres del Paine, then we cross to Argentina and traverse the true Patagonian Steppe as we drive north to Lago Argentino and El Calafate, gateway to a region of massive glaciers. En route we'll see more rheas and Guanacos, steppe songbirds, two fox species and great flocks of sheep. On lakes we'll find flamingos, waterfowl, grebes and shorebirds, as well as the unusual Magellanic Plover. Night in El Calafate.
Day 8 Sunday, November 15 Perito Morenco Glacier
Today we visit the Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, located almost 50 miles from El calafate. Perito Moreno is one of 48 glaciers fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field shared with Chile. Periodically the glacier advances over the Largo Argentino forming a natural dam which separates the two halves of one branch of the lake when it reaches the opposite shore periodically. The pressure produced by the dammed water breaks the ice barrier in a spectacular event. We'll drive through steppe and forest, hoping to find new species like the Black-chested Buzzard Eagle. Night in El Calafate.
Day 9 Monday, November 16 El Calafate to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego
flamingo clip art graphic This morning we explore the Laguna Nimes Reserve, close to our hotel, expecting close views of waterfowl, flamingos, harriers, pipits and more. At 1:45 PM we fly to Ushuaia, southernmost city in the world. Ushuaia overlooks the Beagle Channel and is backed by glacier-sculpted mountains. After checking into our attractive hotel, we'll leave this city of 70,000 for a walk in Tierra del Fuego National park amongst grasslands and beech forest growing close to the seashore. Special birds of the region include Ashy-headed and Kelp Geese, Flightless Steamer Duck, and Magellanic Woodpecker.
Day 10 Tuesday, November 17 Beagle Channel & Harberton Estancia

This morning we embark on a three-hour catamaran tour on the Beagle Channel. We pass close to islands with nesting Imperial and Rock Cormorants, and South American Terns, and expect to see Chilean Skua, Dolphin Gull, Snowy Sheathbill, Blackish Oystercatcher, and Cinclodes. We may also see Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Southern Fulmar, Sooty Shearwater, and Wilson's Storm Petrel, among others.

We continue to the Les Eclaireurs Archipelago, with its lighthouse, South American Sea Lions, and Fur Seals. Sailing east we see the Chilean town of Puerto Williamson, Navarino Island. Then we sail to Martillo Island hosting a Magellanic Penguin colony and a few pairs of Gentoo Penguins. In Harberton, we visit the historical home of Rev. Thomas Bridges, among the first British missionaries that settled in Tierra del Fuego. There is a museum of whales, dolphins and seals of the Southern Ocean. After a walk, we return to Ushuaia by bus.

Day 11 Wednesday, November 18 Ushuaia to Trelew
After a few hours enjoying Ushuaia, we depart on a 12:40 PM flight to El Calafate where we connect with our 4:25 PM flight to Trelew, at 43° S. Lat., near the Atlantic Ocean. We arrive and stay in a hosteria at the Welsh town of Gaiman, in the Chubut River Valley, an area of historic farms.
Day 12 & 13 Thursday & Friday,
November 19 & 20
The Valdes Peninsula
Today and tomorrow we explore this animal-rich area at the north end of Patagonia. The shrub desert is reminiscent of our West and hosts guanacos, rheas, the odd mara (a rodent) and many interesting birds. Creosote is one of the dominant shrubs, and there are other parallels with our western deserts. We'll view colonies of elephant seals and sea lions, and will boat out to watch rare southern right whales. This coastline of beaches and headlands is magnificent, and we stay at the end of the Valdes Peninsula for a night at a Hosteria in Puerto Pyramides. Thursday night we return to Gaiman.
Day 14 Saturday, November 21 Punta Tombo, Trelew, Buenos Aires
We depart early for Punta Tombo to visit the breeding colony of a million Magellanic Penguins. Rheas and guanacos are common in grassland and shrub habitats, as are many unusual landbirds and cold-desert plants. We'll enjoy some short walks and a field lunch before returning to Trelew for our 6:37 PM flight to Buenos Aires where we spend the night.
whale clip art graphic
Day 15 Sunday, November 22 Buenos Aires to the Pampas
We leave this morning by bus and travel the old coastal highway south through rural pampas, past ranches and fertile agricultural land, and through marshes and relict forests to San Clemente del Tuyu. This Atlantic coastal resort is our base for exploring the grasslands, marshes, woodlands, farmland, tidal estuary and salt marshes that together make the pampas one of the richest environments on earth for viewing a large variety of colorful birds, including screamers, Monk Parakeet, swans, storks and varied raptors and waterfowl, to name just a few. Like the wetlands of the American West, the pampas will be alive with birds in this spring season.
Day 16 Monday, November 23 Pampas
Further exploration of the pampas, described so beautifully in W.H. Hudson's famous work, The Naturalist in La Plata.
Day 17 Tuesday, November 24 Pampas, Buenos Aires/Iguazu Falls
An early departure for our return through the Pampas to Buenos Aires, where we catch a 12:45 PM flight for Iguazu Falls in the subtropical northeast of Argentina. We arrive at in the evening and settle into the Orquideas Hotel, close to Iguazu National Park.
Day 18 & 19 Wednesday & Thursday
November 25 & 26
Iguazu/Buenos Aires
These days we wander the trails of Iguazu Falls National Park, enjoying the different views of this 230 foot high system of many falls which stretches over a mile. There are beautiful trails through subtropical (26° S. Lat.) forest along which we will find butterflies, flowering orchids and bromeliads, and colorful birds such as cotingas, trogons and toucans, including the world's largest, the Toco Toucan. Early afternoon Wednesday we catch our 12:50 flight for Buenos Aires, where we settle into our hotel in the city center. Tonight there will be an option to watch a tango show, which will keep some of us out late.
Day 20 Friday, November 27 Buenos Aires / Miami
vulture clip art graphicThere will be an early option to visit a reclaimed wetland within the city limits, rich with waterbirds. Today we will have a city tour including the presidential palace, the ornate Colon opera house, the Plaza de Mayo, the Recoleta cemetery where many historic figures are buried, and the old port district, called La Boca. After our final group farewell lunch, we head for the airport to catch our late evening flights to the United States.
Day 21 Saturday, November 28 Miami to Home
After connecting with flights in Miami, most people will be home by midday.
Nature Tours by Mark Smith home page
Small Group Tour Destinations - USA and Worldwide
View photos taken on Nature Tours by Mark Smith and guests
Contact Mark Smith Nature Tours
Feedback from Happy Travelers
More information about Mark Smith Travel and Tours

Home |  Destinations |  Photos |  About Mark Smith |  Feedback |  Contact

© Mark Smith Nature Tours