The Ultimate In Birding Tours

Chile Tours

JUAN FERNÁNDEZ ISLANDS EXPEDITION – Más a Tierra (Robinson Crusoe) and Más Afuera (Alejandro Selkirk)

Sunday 1st December – Saturday 14th December 2024

Leader: Enrique Couve

14 Days Group Size Limit 7

JUAN FERNÁNDEZ ISLANDS EXPEDITION: OVERVIEW

Getting to Robinson Crusoe (formerly Más a Tierra) in the Juan Fernández Archipelago is difficult enough, depending on an expensive and occasional air service (with a risk of delays during periods with low cloud), but getting to the far more remote Alejandro Selkirk (formerly Más Afuera) is a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity!

In late 2024, Birdquest has chartered a comfortable, well-equipped ocean-going boat to carry out a true expedition, sailing from the coast of Chile, through the famous Humboldt Current with its fantastic assemblage of pelagic seabirds, to the Juan Fernández Archipelago and back!

We will be visiting the archipelago at the perfect time of year for some very special seabirds. At this season huge numbers of Stejneger’s and Juan Fernandez Petrels are returning to Alejandro Selkirk to breed, while the rare Masatierra (or De Filippi’s) Petrel is reaching the end of its late winter to early summer nesting cycle in the Robinson Crusoe islands group.

The three endemic landbirds are the gorgeous little Juan Fernandez Firecrown (an endangered species but easy to find) and Juan Fernandez Tit-Tyrant, both of which are restricted to Robinson Crusoe, and the Critically Endangered Masafuera Rayadito, which occurs only in the surviving forest in the upper levels of Alejandro Selkirk.

Almost all the time we will be overnighting on our comfortable boat, but for one night on Alejandro Selkirk we will stay overnight high up on the island so that we can enjoy the weird sounds and watch the activities of huge numbers of breeding Pterodromas.

As well as the Juan Fernandez landbird endemics and special seabirds, we are of course going to have the ‘Chilean Pelagic of a lifetime’ with a host of seabirds of many species and a great chance of turning up rarities.

Robinson Crusoe is around 670 kilometres (around 416 miles) west of mainland Chile and Alejandro Selkirk lies around 160 kilometres (around 100 miles) further to the west.

Expedition Dates: The expedition will last 14 days, Santiago/Santiago. Kindly note that the indicated dates of the expedition may be subject to minor change. Please be sure to keep a few days free on either side. We will be able to confirm the precise expedition dates by the time we send out the expedition start and end details so that you can book your international flights.

Optional Storm Petrel Extension Options: We are also planning, in connection with this special expedition, a pelagic off Iquique in northern Chile, focussing on Ringed (or Hornby’s) and Markham’s Storm Petrels in particular but with many other seabirds, and a special pelagic into the Gulf of Pincoya for the fairly recently-described Pincoya Storm Petrel. These can be taken as optional extensions. Please let us know if you are interested in one or both of these options.

Accommodation & Road Transport: Our ocean-going boat has five cabins with en-suite bathrooms. The cabins are fairly small and kindly note that the double berths for couples are not very wide. There is a dining and living area and space outside for watching seabirds and cetaceans. She has modern safety equipment and is well-equipped for longer ocean voyages. The transfers between Santiago and Valparaíso will be by minibus/passenger van.

Walking: The walking effort during the expedition is easy to moderate.

Climate: It will be cool to warm, with a mix of dry and sunny conditions and overcast weather with some rain.

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our expedition will be quite good.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • Being among the very few to have reached 'the edge of the world' at Más Afuera (Alejandro Selkirk) Island, let alone birded there
  • Seeing the rare and endangered endemic Masafuera Rayadito, clinging on in the surviving forest
  • Watching the beautiful, glowing Juan Fernandez Firecrown and the perky Juan Fernandez Tit-Tyrant on Más a Tierra
  • Experiencing thousands of returning Juan Fernandez Petrels and the sought-after Stejneger's Petrel at Masafuera.
  • Watching Masatierra (or Defilipi's) Petrels off Robinson Crusoe Island as well as Kermadec Petrels.
  • Westland Petrels, Buller's and Salvin's Albatrosses and many other pelagic seabirds during the crossings between the mainland and Juan Fernandez.

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • Day 1: Morning expedition start at Santiago. Transfer to Algarrobo, board our boat and sail for Juan Fernández.
  • Days 2-4: Sailing towards Juan Fernández.
  • Days 5-10: Exploring the Juan Fernández Islands.
  • Days 11-13: Sailing back towards Algarrobo.
  • Day 14: Disembark at Algarrobo and transfer to Santiago for an afternoon or evening expedition end.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for the boat crew.

Deposit: 40% of the total tour price. We will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form. Please note that a higher than usual deposit is required for this special expedition owing to the advance payment schedule for the boat charter.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)


2024: confirmed £6620, $8490, €7720, AUD12810. Santiago/Santiago.

If you would prefer a single occupancy cabin, owing to the limited number of berths it would be necessary to pay a supplement of 100% of the expedition price.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a cabin, regardless of whether a cabin-mate is available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

JUAN FERNÁNDEZ ISLANDS EXPEDITION: DETAILED ITINERARY

Juan Fernández Islands: Day 1  Morning transfer from Santiago to the port of Algarrobo. Board our boat and depart for the distant Juan Fernández Archipelago.

We will surely enjoy our first pelagic birding today as we leave the coastal zone behind and cross the continental shelf a relatively short distance out of the port of Valparaíso. Among the coastal species we are unlikely to see further offshore are Humboldt Penguin, Peruvian Diving Petrel, Guanay, Red-legged and Neotropical Cormorants, Peruvian Booby, Peruvian Pelican, Kelp and Grey Gulls and Elegant, Common, South American and Inca Terns.

Juan Fernández Islands: Days 2-4  Pelagic seabirding will certainly be rewarding as we make our ‘transect’ from Valparaíso to Juan Fernández.

Albatross numbers are not as high at this season as they are in the Austral winter but we should still encounter good numbers. Likely species include Buller’s, Salvin’s, Black-browed and both Northern and Southern Royal Albatrosses, while there is a slim chance for Wandering Albatross and even the rare Chatham Albatross.

Southern and Northern Giant Petrels and both White-chinned and Westland Petrels should be recorded and we are likely to encounter large numbers of Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters. The latter is a Chilean breeding endemic that disperses northwards in the eastern Pacific outside the breeding season.

We can expect our first Pterodromas during the crossing. The most likely are Masatierra (or De Filippi’s) Petrel and Juan Fernandez Petrel but we could also encounter our first Kermadec and Stejneger’s Petrels as well.

Cape Petrel is quite likely and even Southern Fulmar is possible, while we will be looking out for Elliot’s Storm Petrel among the much more common Wilson’s Storm Petrels. As we get closer to Juan Fernández, White-bellied Storm Petrwels should start to appear.

Juan Fernández Islands: Days 5-10  The rugged and very remote Juan Fernandez Islands consist largely of two main islands and some smaller islands and islets. Robinson Crusoe (formerly Más a Teierra, which means ‘nearer to land’) covers 93 square kilometres and is around 670 kilometres (around 416 miles) west of mainland Chile and Alejandro Selkirk (formerly Más Afuera, which means ‘further offshore’) covers 50 square kilometres and lies around 160 kilometres (around 100 miles) further to the west.

The islands were first discovered on 22 November 1574 by the Spanish captain Juan Fernandez on a voyage from Chile to Peru. At that time they were uninhabited (as they were when Alexander Selkirk, the inspiration for ‘Robinson Crusoe’, was marooned there). Today there are around 600 inhabitants living on Robinson Crusoe, all in the village of San Juan Bautista, while on Alejandro Selkirk there are only transient fishermen and Chilean naval personnel.

The archipelago has been a national park since 1935, but that has not stopped the environmental damage and nowadays the Juan Fernández Archipelago is considered one of the environmentally most vulnerable ecosystems in the world. On Robinson Crusoe, native vegetation is now restricted to only about 10% of the island, leading to a serious decline in the population of the Juan Fernandez Firecrown, which is now considered Critically Endangered.

We will be visiting the archipelago at the perfect time of year for some very special seabirds. At this season huge numbers of Stejneger’s Petrels and Juan Fernandez Petrels are returning to Alejandro Selkirk to breed, while the rare Masatierra (or De Filippi’s) Petrel is reaching the end of its late winter to early summer nesting cycle in the Robinson Crusoe islands group. Another seabird of particular interest is White-bellied Storm Petrel, while Grey Noddy has wandered to the islands.

The three endemic landbirds are the gorgeous little Juan Fernandez Firecrown (easy to find in spite of being endangered) and Juan Fernandez Tit-Tyrant, both of which are restricted to Robinson Crusoe, and the Critically Endangered Masafuera Rayadito, which occurs only in the surviving forest in the upper levels of Alejandro Selkirk.

Almost all the time we will be overnighting on our comfortable boat, but for one or perhaps two nights on Alejandro Selkirk we will have optional simple camping on the island so that we can enjoy the weird sounds and watch the activities of huge numbers of breeding Pterodromas.

Juan Fernández Islands: Days 11-13  At sea heading for Valparaíso. More opportunities to look for pelagic seabirds.

Juan Fernández Islands: Day 14  Arrival at the port of Algarrobo and disembark from our boat. Transfer to Santiago for an afternoon or evening expedition end (the arrival time will depend on the time of disembarkation).