And off we go. Early morning puma trekking begins. Photo credit Jonathan Rossouw
“a tawny spot on the horizon, that looks like it has ears!” Photo credit Jonathan Rossouw
The other worldly granite spires of the “horns and towers of Paine.” Photo credit Jonathan Rossouw
Soul-satisfying Puma sightings enjoyed by all! Photo credit Jonathan Rossouw
Field Journal: Patagonia Puma Sightings
Posted by Jonathan Rossouw
in Americas and Expeditions
Torres del Paine welcomes over 150,000 visitors a year, attracted by its breath-taking scenery and abundant Patagonian wildlife. It is also the Holy Grail for Puma-watchers, for nowhere else on Earth are these impressive felids so large, or so numerous. We set aside two full days of our Patagonia expedition in the company of a legendary Puma tracker and former park guard who has spent over 20 years studying these cats and who knows their movements and their territories better than anyone alive. Waking this morning, it seemed that Torres del Paine’s fickle weather appeared to be stacking the odds against us. Dense fog hung in the valleys, reducing visibility to under 100 ft, with little wind to move it. Things were not looking promising.
Our Puma expert set out ahead of our group, scouting areas that he knew to be productive, but found nothing. Our enthusiastic group hiked the trail from Lago Sarmiento, scanning every ridge and rock outcrop as best we could, but it wasn’t until the very end of the trail that we hit the jackpot. Giovanna, fresh from her week scanning for Snow Leopards in the Himalayas, detected a “tawny spot on the horizon, that looks like it has ears!” Although it was a distance of over a mile, with the help of our excellent spotting scopes, we could see the head and shoulders of a beautiful Puma casually watching the Guanaco herds below. With both scopes put to work, we quickly had the entire group enjoying the magnificent sight of this, the apex predator of Patagonia!
After high-fiving and taking all the images we could at this distance, we hatched a plan for a closer approach, and a few set off for the steep climb to the ridge. Quietly and respectfully, we approached the animal, enjoying amazing views of it stretching atop its rock platform, before turning back for our field lunch, exhilarated with our experience. We were heading up to a scenic outlook when the word came from our guide: he had another Puma, near Lago Sarmiento, back at the start of the trail! We hopped back into the vans and headed back down there, only to have our progress rudely interrupted by… a second Puma, which strolled off from the roadside, but not before it gave everyone in the car amazing, close-up views. Once this animal had disappeared, we continued on to where our guide was gesticulating madly atop a small hill. Once we reached him, we found his quarry, an incredible THIRD Puma dozing in the grass next to a lake!
What followed was one of my greatest wildlife encounters of all time, as this amazing cat stretched and yawned and stalked off, passing within 20 ft of where the group stood in awe! And all against the stupendous backdrop of the Paine Massif. Simply unforgettable!
Visit our Patagonia Adventure Tour page.
More blog posts from our Patagonia expedition:
Field Journal: Patagonia Chile Tour 2015
Field Journal: Patagonia Argentina Adventure 2015
Patagonia 2015: In Images
Patagonia Chile Tours: One Guanaco; Two Guanacoes??