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Argentina Wildlife: Tropical wetlands and Patagonia

16 days from £5,669pp

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Argentina Wildlife: Tropical wetlands and Patagonia:
Trip Dossier

This is a wildlife holiday with a difference. Argentina is famous for its elegant capital, and for wine, beef, glaciers and football, but this vast territory with its myriad of landscapes is also home to a huge variety of observable wildlife. From the exotic birds of the sub-tropical rainforest in the north to the whales, penguins and sea-elephants of Patagonia, there is wild fauna to be spotted in diverse natural environments.

Start off in Buenos Aires, one of the continent's most enchanting cities. Move on to Iguazú, where the rainforest around the waterfalls is populated by a plethora of wildlife including coati, opossums and deer. It’s a dramatic change of scene when you arrive in Patagonia, a wilderness of windswept grasslands, craggy cliffs and Atlantic beaches, where penguins congregate in their thousands to breed. In season, whales can be spotted spouting and frolicking.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Buenos Aires. Transfer to your hotel in the Recoleta district.

Day 2

Guided city tour.

Day 3

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

Days 4-5

Guided expeditions from the lodge.

Day 6

By road to Puerto Iguazú and hotel close to the Iguazú Falls.

Day 7

At leisure to explore Iguazú Falls.

Day 8

By road to nearby rainforest lodge.

Day 9

Guided excursions from the lodge.

Day 10

Fly from Iguazú airport to Trelew in Patagonia; by road to Puerto Madryn.

Day 11

Guided excursion to Peninsula Valdés (with whale-watching by boat Aug-Dec).

Day 12

By road to Bahía Bustamente.

Days 13-14

Excursions from the lodge.

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.

Detailed itinerary

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Essential information

Transport

3 flights (longest 6hrs); 5 scenic road journeys (longest 10hrs).

Accommodation

You’ll be staying at a variety of accommodation types, ranging from the first class Sheraton at Iguazú Falls through functional but comfortable mid-range options to simple wildlife lodges in the Iberá Wetlands and Bahía Bustamente.

Meals

Breakfast daily, dinner days 3, 12; full board days 4,5,9,13,14.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

  • Buenos Aires: City tour.
  • Iberá Wetlands: Guided expeditions from lodge.
  • Yacutinga: Guided excursions from rainforest lodge.
  • Puerto Madryn: Guided excursion to Peninsula Valdés.
  • Puerto Madryn: Whale watching boat trip (Aug-Dec only).
  • Bahía Bustamente:  Excursions from Patagonian lodge.

Summary of nights

16 days, 15 nights: Buenos Aires 2; Iberá wetlands 3; Iguazú Falls 2;  rainforest lodge 2; Puerto Madryn 2; Bahía Bustamente 3; Buenos Aires 1.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• International flights to Latin America.
• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentine peso.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$50 per day should cover the cost of meals not included in the holiday itinerary, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques, though these are gradually falling out of use (American Express are the most widely accepted). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

Given the spectacular size of Argentina, there are large distances to cover on this holiday so for some journeys we have used domestic flights.

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors with an interest in wildlife-spotting. If you are travelling alone or have a disability or other special requirement, please do call us.

Climate

Buenos Aires and the pampa plains have similar weather conditions – they are hottest January-March (very humid with tropical showers, occasionally over 40°C during the day). They can be cold and cloudy July-August, so weather conditions are best for a visit in spring and autumn.

In the Iberá wetlands most rain falls Oct-Apr. Temperatures range from 30°C in January down to 20°C in July. Wildlife can be viewed throughout the year but is more subdued in cooler days in winter (Jun-Aug). However, winter is the only time when sightings may occur of neo-tropical otter and yellow anaconda. Bird-watching is at its best Sep-Mar.

In northern Patagonia wildlife is present throughout the year (sea-lions, elephant seals, dolphins, seabirds). Southern right whales visit Jun-Dec, breeding Sep-Nov. Penguins congregate on the beaches Sept-Mar. Rain falls March-Jul when the temperature dips to 16°C from a high of up to 30°C in summer.

Clothing and special equipment

The southern hemisphere summer will be hot, therefore for Buenos Aires take loose-fitting light clothing for maximum comfort at this time. An umbrella is a good idea in case of a tropical shower. Spring and autumn are milder and less predictable.

The Iberá wetlands will be very hot and humid in summer, bring clothing appropriate to safari-style excursions including light trousers and shorts, short and long sleeved shirts (there may be insects) and a wide-brimmed hat. Bring mosquito repellant and sun block.

Appropriate day-to-day wear in Patagonia will vary a little according to season, temperatures range from chilly to hot but the wind often blows so a wind-proof layer will add to your comfort. In the southern winter bring some warm clothing including hat scarf and gloves; a light fleece jacket and a Gore-Tex outer shell is a good combination.

South America’s dress code is in informal in general and you won’t need clothes appropriate for formal dining but you may wish to take some smart casual wear for dining at the estancias or at top of the range restaurants.

Don’t forget your binoculars and a camera with a long lens and large capacity memory cards if you are interested in wildlife photography.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; yellow fever; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.  

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.

This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.

Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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