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Argentina Wildlife: Tropical wetlands and Patagonia

16 days from £5365pp

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Argentina Wildlife: Tropical wetlands and Patagonia

16 days from £5365pp
 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to your hotel in the Recoleta district.
 
You will be met at the airport and escorted to your hotel in the affluent Recoleta district by one of our local representatives.

Buenos Aires is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city famed for its interesting museums and the fascinating port district of La Boca, with its cobbled streets and brightly painted houses. It was here that the tango was born, and Diego Maradona honed his footballing skills.

The centre of town is home to the colonial heartland, government buildings and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel. The bohemian quarter of San Telmo is full of quaint old houses interspersed with antiques shops, tango bars and classy restaurants. Slightly further out of the centre is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of the French influence, where Evita Perón was laid to rest.

La Boca

Day 2

Guided city tour.
 
Your guided city tour takes you along Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest boulevards in the world and studded by the Obelisk, an emblematic symbol of the city. Along this majestic highway is the 19th century Teatro Colón which, in terms of its architecture and design, as well as its excellent acoustics, is considered one of world’s best. On to the Plaza de Mayo, enclosed on 3 sides by the metropolitan cathedral, the town hall and the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace.

The tour continues to bohemian, arty La Boca, which was settled and built by Italian immigrants and has streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses. Visit the district of Recoleta.

Buenos Aires

Day 3

Fly to Posadas in the northwest and continue to the Iberá wetlands.
 

Fly to Mercedes in the northwest. From there it’s a 2-3hr drive to your lodge in the Esteros de Iberá. This is a vast wilderness wetland in the province of Corrientes, about half the size of Wales. The open grasslands and marshes are in sharp contrast to the lush tropical rainforest further north towards Iguazú Falls. It affords wildlife viewing opportunities, especially near the lagoon, and is home to caiman, capybaras, otters, howler monkeys and over 350 species of birds.

Ibera wetlands

Days 4-5

Guided expeditions from the lodge.
 

Your lodge is on the shores of the Iberá Lagoon and is an ideal base in which to view a wide array of South American wildlife visible in the open country of the marshy wetlands. There are daily opportunities to go bird-watching on the lagoon. Excursions are made by motorised boat, canoe or on foot. Horse-riding with a wildlife guide can be organised at extra cost.

Ibera wetlands

Day 6

By road to Puerto Iguazú and hotel close to the Iguazú Falls.
 
Full day’s drive to Iguazú Falls, mostly along an unpaved road and a journey which usually offers numerous opportunities to view wildlife along the way. The scenery becomes increasingly lush as you enter the province of Misiones..

Your hotel is a short stroll from the Iguazú Falls: it’s the only property inside the national park on the Argentine side. This means you have the advantage of being able to get down to the water’s edge before all the day trippers (access is from 7.30am).

The Iguazú Falls are unquestionably one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena in the world.  A total of 275 falls thunder over a rust-coloured cliff surrounded by dense tropical forest. The U-shaped Devil’s Throat is the most dramatic sight, here the frothing water of the Iguazú river crashes over a 1.5km wide precipice and columns of vapour are thrown skyward. Elsewhere the river flows decorously through the rainforest breaking up into dozens of smaller cascades. You can usually spot colourful toucans and many other exotic birds perched in the foliage above the tumultuous waters.

Iguazu Falls

Day 7

At leisure to explore Iguazú Falls.
 
At leisure to explore the falls. A sequence of causeways and passarelles links dozens of tiny basalt islands at the top of the sheer rock face and the walkways cross the myriad of streams of the river as they cascade over the lip of the precipice: the water thunders on to the rocks below. A similar network of paths runs below, beside and even behind the falls.

 You may decide to visit the Brazilian side of the falls independently or on an optional guided excursion. There's a walkway of about a kilometre, with viewpoints at strategic intervals - you get a panoramic view of the whole sweep of the cataracts - an entirely different experience to the Argentine side. Towards the end of the walk, there's an observation tower adjacent to the falls, and a walkway at the bottom takes you out for a closer and much wetter experience.

Iguazu toucan

Day 8

By road to nearby rainforest lodge.
 

Travel 2-3hrs by unpaved road through the Iguazú National Park to your rainforest eco-lodge, Yacutinga. During this somewhat bumpy ride the guide will explain some details and curiosities of the rain-forest. The journey is picturesque, passing jungle scenery, extensive maté plantations and small villages.

Yacutinga

Day 9

Guided excursions from the lodge.
 
Yacutinga Lodge is situated in a private reserve and you may be able to observe many mammals such as opossums, iguanas, coatis and deer. The forest is composed of secondary vegetation here: part of the reserve was once a fruit farm and the remaining trees attract a multitude of birds such as macaws and toucans. Activities such as guided nature walks and a boat safari on the river are included.

After a short hike to the San Francisco river you float downstream along quiet waters, ideal for photography. You can observe wild fauna through this “gallery forest” at close range, especially as birds and mammals are most active in the early morning.

The afternoon organized walks, led by guides with knowledge of biology, are based on observation and interpretation of wild fauna and flora, therefore inside the property 9 well-signed paths have been created. Additional to hikes along these paths are boat trips on the upper Iguazú river, floating trips on the Riacho San Francisco, visits to several observation towers and the spectacular cat-walk (80m long and 6m high).

There’s also an early evening visit to one of the observation towers for nocturnal observation with telescopes, binoculars and powerful spotlights.

Yacutinga

Day 10

Fly from Iguazú airport to Trelew in Patagonia; by road to Puerto Madryn.
 
Fly via Buenos Aires to Trelew in northern Patagonia. Continue to Puerto Madryn on the Atlantic coast along a good paved road (1hr).

Puerto Madryn sits at the head of a horseshoe bay, a natural harbour for the first landing of Welsh settlers in Argentina in 1865. Today it is a prosperous port and tourist centre. Peninsula Valdés is close by. Your hotel is in the town centre.

Penguins at Punta Tombo

Day 11

Guided excursion to Peninsula Valdés (with whale-watching by boat Aug-Dec).
 
Full day guided wildlife-spotting excursion. Bleak, barren, and cruelly strafed by bitter winds, the craggy Valdés Peninsula juts out into the Atlantic Ocean where it laps the shores of Argentine Patagonia. It's an inhospitable place, remote and infertile: just a few lonely sheep farms stud the landscape and there is only one village, Puerto Pirámides. But that's by no means all the life supported here. The cliffs, bays, lagoons, salt lakes and plains are crammed with an astonishing array of exuberant and vociferous wildlife - birds and mammals, both marine and terrestrial, mate, breed and thrive here.

On this expedition, depending on the time of year, you're sure to see a variety of these creatures, from gigantic sea elephants sprawled on the beaches to gangs of playful fur seals and sea-lions jostling for position, while migratory seabirds wheel and cry mournfully above the waves.  From September to April you can observe nesting penguins enjoying the protection of private reserves: up to 50,000 of them choose to bear their young here.

The biggest attraction from August to December is surely the presence of southern right whales, which breed and calve in the calm waters of the gulf sheltered by the cliffs of the peninsula. From Puerto Pirámides, you can take an optional whale-watching boat trip to view them up close, their huge, primeval bodies and graceful forked tails heaving above sea-level almost within touching distance: an incredible sight. Continue to Caleta Valdes to see the elephant seals, driving through salty dunes populated by Patagonian hares, guanacos, ostriches, foxes and owls.  After a break at an isolated inn, continue to an interpretation centre with its small museum and then climb up to a viewpoint over Bird Island.

Southern right whale

Day 12

By road to Bahía Bustamente.
 
By road to Bahía Bustamente (5hrs, the last 30mins along a gravel road).

Far off the beaten track, the remote settlement of Bahía Bustamante was founded in 1952 by a family who ear-marked this stretch of Patagonian coastline for extracting colloids from seaweed. The bay soon developed into a small village including a school, boatyard, garage and church. At its peak, it was home to 400 people whose lives revolved around the harvesting of seaweed. During the 1990s business slowed and most of the inhabitants moved away. However in 2004, a member of the original family returned and revived the settlement creating an eco-village of 40 residents, focussing on the area's marine wildlife, self-sufficient in food and electricity, and the farming of seaweed.

Guest lodging is within 6 remodelled oceanfront houses, Two blocks away is the grocery store where meals are served based on local produce including lamb, guanaco, fish, seafood and of course seaweed. There is a games room, small museum, cosy bar and a living room with plenty of interesting books about Patagonia, local wildlife and the seaweed industry.

Days 13-14

Excursions from the lodge.
 

Bahia Bustamante offers a taste of authentic Patagonia in one of Argentina’s long- forgotten corners. The area has an incredible biodiversity and is rich in seabirds and marine life including the endemic Patagonian steamer duck, Magellanic penguins and a large population of sea lions. It is very peaceful and a wonderful place for nature lovers. Activities which can be organised include boat trips to view sea lions and penguins, horse-riding, a trip to a petrified forest, visiting a Patagonian ranch (with opportunities in season to get involved in shearing, weaning and marking sheep), trekking and mountain biking. There are also secluded sandy beaches to enjoy.

Day 15

Transfer to Comodoro Rivadavia airport and fly to Buenos Aires, overnight for final night.
 

Day 16

Transfer to airport for your international flight home.
 

16 days from £5365pp

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