Gino, a trekking guide in Patagonia, shares about a day trek to see the condors in the Torres Del Paine National Park and tips for wildlife photography.
Q: The impression many travellers have about Torres Del Paine National Park is that you can only see the best bits by doing multi-day hikes, and this is not true! Tell us about one of your favourite day hikes.
A: There are many places within the park with many attractions and good views to enjoy, other than the W and Paine circuits. One of the best and more versatile places is the Condor Lookout, where hikers can enjoy a perfect view of Pehoé Lake, the last mountains of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field and the entire Paine massif. In Spring, there are many blooming flowers and a lot of birdwatching to do. There are actually condor nests just beneath the cliff face of the lookout!
Q: What is the distance covered in this hike?
A: The hike is approximately 4km and there is an elevation gain of 205m.
Q: What else can our trekkers expect to see when they visit Torres Del Paine National Park in Spring?
A: There are amazing views of the surrounding nature, depending on the region of the park you visit.
The west is full of overflowing trees renewing their leaves, bushes with incredible aromatic shoots, orchids with exuberant colours, hanging glaciers on rugged peaks, birds of all kinds and their songs accompanying the visitors.
The centre has overwhelming views of the mountains and lakes, smaller forests patches and waterfalls. There are birds coming back from migration like flamingos and black-faced ibis.
The east or Patagonian steppe, is characterised by an open field with considerable wildlife. As the snow slowly melts in the hills, it is common to find footprints of foxes, hares and even pumas. Since there are less visitors in Spring in comparison to the high season in Summer, the animals feel more comfortable to walk in the open. With some luck you can see the mountain lions hidden among the foliage, as well as guanacos (Andean camel) and their social mating behaviour. The skies are also filled with clouds and their crazy shapes, decorating the mountains as the wind starts to blow stronger from the west.
Q: You have a passion for photography. Can you share a tip or two for trekkers who aspire to capture great wildlife pictures while in Patagonia?
A: It is important to consider the low temperatures and the wind, especially in the steppe. Therefore, be prepared with proper gear since it is common to spend hours trying to find the perfect spot to shoot and once there, you will need to be still for a long time.
A good tripod is crucial for the landscape photography and long distance wildlife shots. A light but stable one would be good enough. You should definitely carry a good pair of binoculars to spot the animals from a secure and isolated place. You would not want to disturb them and lose a good picture which has taken you hours of strategising!
Consider camouflage wear if available; if not, try to avoid bright and colourful clothing. And last but not least, do not use any perfume. It is highly invasive and harmful for the ecosystems, especially in Spring.
All photos by Gino Pereira.
The day hike to Condor Lookout is available as part of our customised itineraries in Patagonia, and is suitable for hikers with no experience (Grade I; see our Grading System here). If you are interested in visiting Chilean Patagonia, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.