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ULTIMATE CHILE

Endemics, Seabirds & The World's Most Spectacular Scenery

Birdquest’s Ultimate Chile birding tour is a classic South American birdwatching trip. Our Ultimate Chile tour is the most comprehensive available and records more Chilean and other specialities than any other tour. The tour spans the entire length of this scenically spectacular country and features the Atacama Desert, the Altiplano, the High Andes, the temperate forests and the wild subantarctic landscapes of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Unusual features of the Birdquest tour include the little known Chestnut-throated Huet-huet and two very different pelagics, including one off Valparaiso/Quintero and another off Iquique for more northerly specialities. There is even an options to visit the remote Juan Fernandéz islands for some additional specialities.

Thursday 26th October — Thursday 9th November 2017
(15 days)


Southern Chile Extension: Thursday 9th November — Tuesday 14th November (6 days)

Leader: Mark Pearman

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Easy to moderate walking and comfortable accommodations

The fantastic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover is one of those 'must see' birds, and Chile is one of the best countries to do so! (Andrew Moon) For more photos from Chile, please see our 2010 departure.

The fantastic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover is one of those 'must see' birds, and Chile is one of the best countries to do so! (Andrew Moon) For more photos from Chile, please see our 2010 departure.

Chile is surely unique amongst the countries of the world! Some 2700 miles (4300km) long, yet never more than 220 miles (350km) wide, this remarkable land snakes southwards down the spine of South America. Dominated throughout by the mighty Andes, Chile is home to many of the highest mountains in South America: a land of endless icy peaks that stand sentinel over vast glaciers and icefields. Chile is also a land of breathtaking variety, with many other habitats such as the Atacama desert (punctuated by strip-shaped oases along the rivers debouching from the Andes), puna grasslands and Patagonian steppes, primeval Araucaria and Nothofagus beech forests, isolated volcanoes of almost perfect symmetry that send out plumes of white steam into the blue heavens, and, of course, the long, deeply indented coastline with its surf-swept headlands battered by the cold waters of the Humboldt Current.

Chilean scenery is acknowledged to be amongst the finest in the world and indeed, once one has experienced its awesome magnificence, it is hard to imagine that it could be surpassed. Throughout the length of the country are some of South America’s most beautiful and well managed national parks protecting a diversity of habitats and wildlife. We shall visit several of these during the course of our stay as we seek out the many exciting endemics and restricted-range specialities, including numerous birds belonging to monotypic genera, an outstanding selection of seabirds, and puna, desert and Nothofagus forest specialities, in this fascinating part of our world.

The Birdquest tour to Chile is the most comprehensive Chile birding tour available, producing more specialities than any other tour to this marvelous country.

Not only is Chile a wonderful place for experiencing nature but also a modern, well developed country which makes exploring a pleasure. From the smallest town to the capital Santiago, everything is clean, safe and attractive, and well connected by good roads and a fine internal airline network, and this is not even to mention the good food and wine! This modernization has not resulted in any loss of character, however, as we shall find out when we encounter Chile’s bustling ports, small fishing villages and atmospheric Andean towns and villages.

Our Chilean journey starts in Santiago with a flight to the northern region of this long sliver of a country. Here we will first visit the port of Iquique, where a pelagic should turn up Juan Fernandez Petrel and both Elliot’s and Markham’s Storm-Petrels, with a real possibility of rarer species such as Hornby’s Storm-Petrel. Inland, we should find the restricted-range Tamarugo Conebill.

After travelling still further north, close to the Peruvian border, we will be birding in the Atacama desert near Arica and in the oasis-like valleys of the Lluta and Azapa Rivers. Specialities of the area include Peruvian Thick-knee, Oasis Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheartail, the tiny, endangered endemic Chilean Woodstar, Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant and Slender-billed Finch.

From here we climb into the Andes until we reach the shrubby Putre area and ultimately the bird-rich puna grasslands and lakes of Lauca National Park, where the snow-capped Payachatas volcanoes form an awesome backdrop to our birding. Here we will concentrate on such major specialities as Puna Tinamou, Greyish Miner, White-throated Earthcreeper, Dark-winged and Canyon Canasteros, and White-throated Sierra Finch, as well as numerous other High Andean specialities including Ornate Tinamou, ‘Puna’ Rhea, Andean and Puna Flamingoes, Giant Coot, Andean Avocet and Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, to mention but a few of the spectacular birds of this fantastic area.

After returning south to Santiago, we will head first for the nearby Pacific coast where we will see spectacular concentrations of seabirds, including several Humboldt Current endemics. Great birds here include Humboldt Penguin, Peruvian Diving-Petrel, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, Salvin’s and Buller’s Albatrosses, Westland and Masatierra (or Defilippe’s) Petrels, and Inca Tern. Coastal wetlands hold Black-necked Swan, Lake Duck, Red Shoveler, Southern Wigeon, Red-gartered and Red-fronted Coots, and with luck the parasitic Black-headed Duck and the restricted-range Ticking Doradito, while the rocky coastline is home to the endemic Chilean Seaside Cinclodes.

Before returning to the Santiago region, we visit the coastal mountain range where we will encounter a series of Chilean landbird specialities, including such marvellously-named endemics as Crag Chilia and Moustached Turca, as well as Dusky-tailed Canastero and Dusky and White-throated Tapaculos. Restricted-range species include Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Fire-eyed Diucon, Austral Thrush, Chilean Mockingbird, Chilean Swallow and Black-chinned Siskin.

Next we shall explore the rugged central Andes of Chile, with special emphasis placed on finding the rare and enigmatic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, as well as White-sided Hillstar, Rufous-banded Miner, Austral Negrito, White-browed, Ochre-naped and Black-fronted Ground-Tyrants, Grey-hooded Sierra-Finch, Greater Yellow-Finch and, with luck, Great Shrike-Tyrant.

We then head further south to the cool temperate southern beech (Nothofagus) forest region of south-central Chile, home to over 20 species endemic to the Southern Cone of South America (and some restricted purely to Chile). Some of the most sought-after of these include the splendid Magellanic Woodpecker (South America’s largest woodpecker), the endemic Slender-billed Parakeet, the large, skulking Chestnut-throated Huet-huet (Chile’s least known tapaculo), the equally impressive Black-throated Huet-huet and the curious Des Murs’s Wiretail (a tiny and enigmatic bird with just six elongated narrow tail feathers). Others include Chilean Tinamou, Spectacled Duck, Chilean Hawk, the rare Rufous-tailed Hawk, Chilean Pigeon, Burrowing Parrot, Austral Parakeet, Rufous-legged Owl, Austral Pygmy-Owl, Striped Woodpecker, Chilean Flicker, Patagonian Forest Earthcreeper, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, White-throated Treerunner, Chucao and Magellanic Tapaculos, and Patagonian Sierra-Finch.

Continuing still further south, we come to the northern end of the beautiful Chilean Fjords at Puerto Montt and the wind-swept Isla de Chiloé, haunt of Magellanic Penguin and the as-yet-undescribed endemic ‘Chiloe Steamer-Duck’. We even have a slim chance for the recently-described Pincoya Storm-Petrel.

During the optional extension we will explore the far south of the country, including the windswept Patagonian steppes around Punta Arenas, spectacular Torres del Paine National Park, the veritable ‘Land of the Condor’ (where superlatives fail to describe the stalagmite-like granite massifs, the thundering waterfalls and huge glaciers), and the remote and dramatic island of Tierra del Fuego.

On the wild island of Tierra del Fuego, we will be seeking out the strange Magellanic Plover (the sole representative of its family), as well as the striking King Penguin, the endangered Ruddy-headed Goose, Flying and Fuegian Steamer-Ducks, Two-banded Plover, Dolphin Gull, Magellanic Horned Owl and, with luck, Kelp Goose and Snowy Sheathbill.

Finally, on the Patagonian steppes and coastline, and in extraordinary Torres del Paine, we will be looking for such great birds as Andean Condor (positively common here!), handsome Upland and Ashy-throated Geese, Coscoroba Swan, Tawny-throated and Rufous-chested Dotterels, Least Seedsnipe, Short-billed Miner, Austral Canastero, Cinnamon-bellied Ground-Tyrant, Chocolate-vented Tyrant, Patagonian Mockingbird, Patagonian Yellow-Finch, Yellow-bridled and White-bridled Finches, and even the rare Austral Rail.

Birdquest has operated tours to Chile since 1990.

Juan Fernández Option: We can arrange for you to visit this remote archipelago, some 420 miles (670km) off the Chilean coast, in order to see Juan Fernández Firecrown and the jaunty Juan Fernández Tit-Tyrant, species that very few birders have ever seen. Please contact us for further information.

Easter Island Option: There can be few people who are unaware of the extraordinary stone statues of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it is known to its Polynesian inhabitants, one of the archaeological wonders of the world. Easter Island is governed by Chile and Santiago is the nearest airport, although the island lies some 2375 miles (3800 km) from the mainland! The endemic avifauna was wiped out centuries ago when the inhabitants cut down all the forest, but a visit is still a fascinating experience. If you would like to visit Easter Island, either before or after the tour, we can easily make the arrangements for you. Please contact us for further information.

Important: The Birdquest group size limit is lower than for most tours to Chile, and in most cases significantly lower.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are mostly of good standard, occasionally medium standard. The guesthouse at Porvenir, where we spend one night, is a simple, family-run establishment. Road transport is by small coach or minibus and roads are good.

Walking: The walking effort is easy to moderate.

Climate: In central and northern Chile, temperatures range from warm or fairly hot at lower altitudes, to cool and fairly cold at night and early in the morning at high altitude. Dry and sunny weather is the rule at this season. In southern Chile, temperatures are typically cool or quite cold, and it is frequently rainy (it can even snow occasionally in the far south).

Bird Photography: Opportunities are good.

Tour Price: £4950, €5840, $6480 Santiago/Santiago. Southern Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Extension: £1950, €2300, $2550.

Price includes all transportation (including specified flights inside Chile), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.

Please note that in order to have your flights inside Chile included at this price level you may need to fly into Santiago (and into South America) with one of several specified airlines. Higher airfares may apply to those arriving on other carriers. Please check with our office.

Single Room Supplement: £588, €694, $770. Extension: £250, €295, $328.

Deposit: £600, €800, $900. Extension: £200, €250, $300.

Base prices for this tour are in US Dollars. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = $1.310 and €1 = $1.110.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

The smart Peruvian Thick-knee is a localized species that can be found in the north of the country (Andrew Moon)

The smart Peruvian Thick-knee is a localized species that can be found in the north of the country (Andrew Moon)

Giant Gunnera leaves on the forested volcanic slopes of Isla Robinson Crusoe, Juan Fernandez Archipelago (Mark Pearman)

Giant Gunnera leaves on the forested volcanic slopes of Isla Robinson Crusoe, Juan Fernandez Archipelago (Mark Pearman)

The magnificent male Juan Fernandez Firecrown is endemic to Robinson Crusoe Island, here sitting in an endemic Cabbage Tree (Mark Pearman)

The magnificent male Juan Fernandez Firecrown is endemic to Robinson Crusoe Island, here sitting in an endemic Cabbage Tree (Mark Pearman)

The endemic Moustached Turca is actually a huge, chicken-like, tapaculo! (Andrew Moon)

The endemic Moustached Turca is actually a huge, chicken-like, tapaculo! (Andrew Moon)

Chile is the place for exciting tapaculos, including the attractive Chucao Tapaculo (Andrew Moon)

Chile is the place for exciting tapaculos, including the attractive Chucao Tapaculo (Andrew Moon)

The Crag Chilia, another endemic, is a member of the Furnarid family (Andrew Moon)

The Crag Chilia, another endemic, is a member of the Furnarid family (Andrew Moon)

Another localized furnarid is Oustalet's Cinclodes (Andrew Moon)

Another localized furnarid is Oustalet's Cinclodes (Andrew Moon)

The high Chilean Andes are excellent for Andean Condors (Andrew Moon)

The high Chilean Andes are excellent for Andean Condors (Andrew Moon)

The smart Grey-breasted Seedsnipe is easy to find (Andrew Moon)

The smart Grey-breasted Seedsnipe is easy to find (Andrew Moon)

The localized Giant Coot is another highlight in the north (Andrew Moon)

The localized Giant Coot is another highlight in the north (Andrew Moon)

The smart Andean Flicker is always good to see (Andrew Moon)

The smart Andean Flicker is always good to see (Andrew Moon)

Our pelagics will produce a wealth of seabirds, including Pink-footed Shearwater (Andrew Moon)

Our pelagics will produce a wealth of seabirds, including Pink-footed Shearwater (Andrew Moon)

... and Salvin's Albatross, as well as a number of exciting Eastern Pacific specialities (Andrew Moon)

... and Salvin's Albatross, as well as a number of exciting Eastern Pacific specialities (Andrew Moon)

Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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