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Wild Pumas
and
the Wildlife of
Torres del Paine!

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December 1-8, 2018
and
December 8-15, 2018
(from Punta Arenas)

Pumas, or Mountain Lions (aka Cougars) are the most wide-ranging of Cats, with a range extending from Canada and southern Alaska all the way south to the tip of South America. Yet they are among the most elusive of all the big cats, and throughout their range they are extremely difficult to see or observe, or to photograph. Except one place ... the area around Torres del Paine, Chile, the site of our exciting Photo Tour.

We'll be in prime Puma country, and with the aid of TWO special game trackers we'll have an excellent chance to photograph Pumas in the wild. My personal quest to photograph Pumas extends over eighteen years, and beginning in 2012 I've had great luck (and photographs) on every trip.

Besides Pumas, there is a nice variety of wildlife in and around Torres del Paine, and the landscape photography is famous around the world. Here's the details!

(For the most thorough information on this trip please refer to our 2016 Trip Report. It will provide the most accurate information on what you can expect on this trip.
Refer to our other Trip Reports for more information as well!
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Limited to 6 participants

Price: $7195 (double occupancy only)

View a Torres del Paine Wildlife and Landscape Portfolio

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THE BASE FACTS
: When I first started looking for and photographing Pumas in Torres del Paine National Park one could go anywhere inside the Park to do so. A few years ago the rules changed, and today almost all Puma photography and viewing is done on private land, where we pay a fee. Regardless of what you may read or what may be claimed, this is how it is now done - by everyone.

We have booked three of our five days in Torres del Paine for use of this private land, which should be more than adequate for our Puma photography. If need be, we could pay (fee not included) for an additional day or two, but that should not be necessary. Some Puma photography may be done along the Park border - no fee, here -- but our best viewing and shooting will be on private land.

Our Trip:

pOur time will be concentrated on finding and photographing Pumas, but our time won't be wasted by having to devote ourselves solely to this task! We'll have a scout out there looking, while we enjoy any and all photographic opportunities this area presents. When we find Pumas we'll spend as much time as we can with them, which might mean the entire day. Cats do spend a lot of time sleeping, so sometimes the time is spent simply waiting, and being there, for when the activity begins. Patience is the key.

Anyone familiar with spectacular landscapes knows the name - Torres del Paine, the Towers of Paine. The ruggedness of the mountain landscape and the unsettled, stormy weather conjures up a variety of mental images, no doubt fostering the mistaken belief that the English translation of Torres del Paine is the Towers of Pain! Of course, for anyone who has ever tried climbing the towers, pain might be the best translation.

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Our trip is planned for the peak of the Austral summer, when wild flowers, verdant vegetation, and wildlife babies will be at peak abundance.

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December is the birthing and mating season of the camel-like guanacos. Tenacious shooters willing to 'hang in there' with a herd may be treated in witnessing, and filming, a guanaco birth. Baby guanacos are incredibly cute - fuzzy big-eyed critters vaguely resembling a pony - and the animals are curious and tame, making portraits a fairly easy endeavor. Females mate again within a few days of giving birth, so December is prime not only for romantic images of mating guanacos, but also affords the possibility of filming heated fights between males defending territories or squabbling over mates. Young males, anxious to test their strength, fight

sDecember is the prime month for birds as well, and most species have young or our sitting on nests at this time. Swans (2 species), ducks (several species), grebes (3), coots (2), shorebirds, songbirds, and birds of prey are seen almost daily, although exactly what we'll see or film depends upon the year and our group's luck.







INSTRUCTION

bThis trip is a 'tour,' where our daylight hours will be involved in finding, and photographing, subjects.That does not imply that we're not available to help you in whatever ways we can. Mary and I will be offering our on-the-spot suggestions on the best way to compose the images before us, as well as suggestions on making the correct exposures, choosing the correct lenses, and obtaining the best perspectives. We're always there for you -- if you have questions, if you'd like an opinion on a composition, if you'd like to see what we're doing, whatever, WE ARE THERE FOR YOU.

Finally, we're available to answer all of your questions prior to the trip, and we'll be anxious to assist you in your efforts when we're afield in Torres del Paine.

Our DAILY Schedule

tDecember in southern Chile involves long days. Our trip will end just days before the longest day of the year in the southern hemisphere, and at our southern latitudes true darkness extends from approximately Midnight until 4AM. Our shooting schedule will vary each day, but we'll be leaving our hotel at 4:30AM to begin our day. If the weather is clear (and no Pumas have yet been spotted), our sunrise shoots (when sunlight actually reaches the mountain tops and provides light for our subjects) typically begin at around 5:45AM, and late evening shooting in the field extends to 9PM. Our hotel base is located in one of the most scenic locations in the park, and photographers who wish to shoot even later from the hotel's grounds may do so - at least until10PM or so!

Most days, if we're not keeping our eyes on a Puma, we take a post-lunch siesta, returning to the field around 4PM for the remainder of the day.

OUR ITINERARY

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Day 1. Arrival in Puna Areanas. You are responsible for transportation into Punta Arenas -- taxis are available. If you are on our flight we will arrange transportation and we'll split the cost of the transfer fee. Overnight: Punta Arenas.
Note: Many participants arrive a day earlier (as we may as well).

Day 2. We'll leave Punta Arenas for the 2.5 hour drive to Puerto Natales where we'll switch to the vehicles we'll be using for our Puma expedition. After lunch we'll continue to Torres del Paine, check in, and do our first game drive that afternoon. Our Puma trackers will start tracking and scouting on this day.
Overnight, Hotel Las Torres, Torres del Paine.

gDay 3-7. We'll leave early -- approximately 4:30AM! -- to be in the field as Pumas are still active and easier to locate. Our trackers will be searching, and we will be in radio-communication with the trackers when cats are spotted. This will free us to photograph other subjects as they are encountered, from landscape to birds and wildlife. Most days we will take a mid-afternoon break and do another game-drive/puma expedition beginning at 4PM. Dinners will be after 8:30PM.

We're not going to set a definite itinerary for these five days. It was our experience that even the best laid plans never materialized due to the changing weather conditions.

On one of our days we'll travel deep into the National Park to photograph the park, the landscape, and the wildlife found within. At several locations bird photography can be particularly productive, and, of course, the landscapes!!! We'll do this excursion based upon weather and our success with the Pumas.
Overnights: Hotel Las Torres, Torres del Paine.

Day 8. We'll have the option of a final sunrise/game drive and photography excursion before we head back to Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas. We'll have lunch in Puerto Natales. Participants will either overnight in Punta Arenas (rooms are not included) or will fly home that afternoon. We'll be taking an early afternoon flight back to Santiago and connecting (with a few hour lay-over) with our evening flight back to the US.

MEALS, HOTELS, AND TRANSPORTATION

Your fee includes the tour, lodging (based on double occupancy), and transportation from Punta Arenas. Your fee also includes all tips for the Chilean guide and driver and for the Los Torres staff. A welcome dinner is included in Punta Arenas. Dinners are not included from Day 2 onward, for a reason. Dinners may be late, and you may elect to skip dinner or eat a light meal. Our hotel has a wonderful buffet each evening for those who wish. We did not want to charge a fee for an option you may not use.
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rWe strongly advise that you obtain trip/travel insurance if there exists the remotest possibility that you may have to cancel at the last minute or leave the tour before its conclusion on Saturday morning. For those who register for the trip a travel insurance application form will be sent with your acknowledgment letter.

Lodging is included, and is based upon double occupancy. We'll do our best to make roommate matches. Please be aware that if a roommate is unavailable (due to an odd number of males/females or an odd number of registrants) you will be responsible for the single supplement. Roommates will be assigned based on receipt of the registration form and whether it is a male or female registrant. There is anadditional cost for the single rooming supplement.

EQUIPMENT

fWe'll be forwarding a complete list of equipment and film recommendations to our registered participants. However, this tour offers the wonderful chance to use a variety of different lenses, for telephoto shots of wildlife or for landscape extractions, as well as wide-angles, zooms, and tilt-shift lenses. Panoramic cameras are also useful and fun to use on this trip.
Registered participants will be forwarded a complete list of suggested equipment, film choices, and recommendations.

CLOTHING AND THE WEATHER

cWeather at the beginning of summer in Torres del Paine can be erratic, ranging from a 'typical summer day' to nearly winter conditions. Regardless, you can expect the mornings to be cool, and gloves and a wool cap are suggested. On my scouting trip I typically layered, with my most important clothing items being a windbreaker (wind is a near constant) and a good pair of broken-in hiking boots. We advise people to wear layers that can be shed as the temperature increases or decreases. Although unlikely, we could have heavy snow flurries, freezing rain, or damp fog, so we advise people to pack for the type of field conditions one might experience in Yellowstone in late September, just in case. Mary will provide participants with a complete list of suggested clothing.

POTENTIAL SUBJECTS

d  Besides Pumas, we'll be photographing Guanacos, and likely to photograph Patagonian Gray Fox, Andean Condors, Chilean Flamngos, Magellanic Woodpeckers, and various birds. Our list of potential subjects include Patagonian Red Fox (not our species!), Hairy Armadillo (aka Yellow Armadillo), Hognose Skunk, European Hare, Austral Parakeet, Ringed Kingfisher, Austral Pigmy Owl, Magellanic Horned Owl, Black-chested Buzzard Eagle, Crested Caracara, Upland and Ashy-Headed Geese, Black-faced ibis, Long-tailed Meadowlark, Black-necked Swan, Magellanic Snipe, Rufous-collared Sparrow, and more. Landscapes will include beech forests, mountain landscapes, waterfalls and streams. Please read any of our Trip Reports for 2014 or 2016 to have a great idea of YOUR potential subjects.

SPECIFICATIONS

Location: Punta Arenas and Torres del Paine National Park, Chile.
Accommodations: Lodging is included. In Torres del Paine National Park we'll be based at the most centrally located lodge, just outside the park. Lodging is based on double occupancy with a possible option for single accommodations in Punta Arenas pending availability.
Photo Tour Duration: Our trip begins on Day 1 in Punta Arenas and ends on Day 8 in Punta Arenas.

Transportation: Included upon arrival in Punta Arenas, based upon the itinerary.
Costs: $7,195, including all breakfast and lunches and a welcome dinner in Punta Arenas. Dinners, Day 2-8, are not included, lodging (based upon double occupancy), transportation (see above), tips and all handouts. For our cancellation and payment schedule, please see our registration sheet detailing it.
Participation: Limited to 6 participants.
Liability Release: Our release form must be signed prior to participation.

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Accommodations:
Lodging is included. In Torres del Paine National Park we'll be based at the most centrally located hotel for our Puma expedition, the Hotel Las Torres. Lodging is based on double occupancy with a possible option for single accommodations in Punta Arenas pending availability.

About Your Leaders

Joe and Mary Ann McDonald are the most prolific and active husband-wife wildlife and nature photography team in the United States today. At least half of each year is spent in the field, leading photo tours and safaris to Africa, South America, India, and other exotic locations, as well as various tours and workshops in the US. They conduct their Complete Nature Photo Course and Advanced (Flash) Courses at their studio at Hoot Hollow, in central Pennsylvania. At their studio they have hosted students and photographers from around the world, including photographers from Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany, Belgum, South Africa, Singapore, Canada, and Mexico, as well as from all four corners of the US.

Additionally, in their free time Joe and Mary Ann occasionally conduct one-day and weekend seminars on photography, offered across the country.
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