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Travel Vision Photo Journeys

Patagonia: In the Footsteps of the Puma

Posted by Lauren Hefferon on Oct 30, 2015 2:04:08 PM

Imagine this: You enter into a magnificent landscape with a team of professional naturalists whose job it is not only immerse and teach you about the wildlife, but to allow you to experience close up encounters with creatures great and small, from a mother skunk carrying its young across the tundra to a Puma exploring its world to the curious glance of the rare Darwin Fox. Most importantly, their dedication to conservation and protecting this wild world in it most pristine state was infectuous. My sense of responsibility and urgent desire to protect the world in which I was so small yet my impact has been so great, expanded and took hold of my heart

Our guides Diego and Roberto did just that and worked as an amazing team,  enpassioned and determined to show us the animals they loved and knew so well.  Roberto's job was to scout the area from dawn until dusk in search of the Puma, Diego's job was to lead us to where Roberto told him to go. Using radios, they kept in close communication about any sighting and all of the Puma's moves. I'll never forget that first day. It started with a gorgeous sunrise, coffee out of the back of Diego's car and an intro of what we would see and how we needed to behave in order to experience the Puma. He told us when they were active and when they slept.  We learned that the Guanaco, the main Puma prey,  are key in finding the Puma as The Guanacos "call" out and warn each other when they see the Puma. Cool! 

So we listened and tread slowly across the vast, open wilderness. In an instant we were asked to get down, be still and look to the next hill and there she was, the Puma walking along the edge of a cliff. She turned her back, continued and we followed, meanwhile a small fox appeared to our left shy and slightly in shock to see us. This was our first viewing of this large cat. It was surreal, intense and I felt like I was participating in a National Geographic documentary.

Focused, determined and experienced in animal behaviors himself, photographer Ossian Lindholm decided to get up high to see if he could get a better view and eventually a perfect shot of the Puma.  We took the lower trail and came upon a small pond and there she was: Calmly sipping water. From his perch, Ossian clicked away and this is what he captured: 

I was awestruck. Excited. Curious. Watching the trackers and Ossian in pursuit of the perfect photo capture was initself fascinating. We clicked away, snapping every very move she made. She continued walking. We followed. She disappeared, the intensity grew. She was hard to find as her coloration blending perfectly with the yellow grass and brown and white rocks.

That is where Roberto had eyes like a hawk. He spotted her again and led Diego by radio to exactly the spot where she was lying down, relaxing and ready for her morning nap. We positioned ourselves quietly in front of her and watched and snapped again. She looked at us, almost disinterested and most certainly unamused. 

The next moment a guanaco appeared on the hill behind her, unaware of her presence and the Puma's entire behavior changed. The hair on her neck went up, she crouched and tried to hide and ready herself to pounce on her prey. This tense moment continued. Would we witness an attack? Would the guanaco see her? We learned that the Guanacos can easily outrun the Puma so the cat must be in the right place at the right time to make her move. At once the Guanaco looked down, spotted the Puma and ran for dear life. 

The Puma relaxed, looked toward the guanaco as if to say: "I'll be back! It was her naptime and within the hour she had fallen fast asleep and it was time for us to rest too. We had a snack and made our way back to the car, all along the way sharing stories and experiencing more animals and birds and Diego's wonderful stories about them. After a delicious lunch we would return in the afternoon and repeat this amazing adventure all over again! 

Care to explore Torres del Paine and get up close to the Patagonia wildlife with these experts? Join us on March 12th-20th on our Myths, Mammals and Mountains of Patagonia. Space limited. Experiences, off the charts. 

feel free to contact me Lauren 617-640-4837

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Topics: Travel Vision Journeys Photo Tours, Chile, Patagonia, Photo Tours, Photography, Wildlife, Puma