• Fly overnight to Santiago.
    • After the transfer from Santiago international airport to Valparaíso, the morning is free to relax after the long flight. Later in the afternoon, we will venture out for a walk to do some gentle birding along the Valparaíso waterfront.
    • Accommodation: Valparaiso, 2-nights on full board basis
    • This morning we take a pelagic boat trip into the Pacific Ocean, where we may see whales such as fin, humpback and orca, plus bottlenose and dusky dolphins. We hope to see albatrosses that include northern and southern royal, antipodean, Salvin's, Buller's, black-browed and Chatham Island species. We should also spot various petrels including southern and northern giant, white-chinned, west and pintado, plus pterodroma or gadfly petrels, along with southern fulmar plus sooty and Buller's shearwaters.
    • On return to land we can go birding along the waterfront once again, or simply relax.
    • We drive inland to enjoy a birding walk in La Campana National Park and look for endemic species such as Chilean tinamou, moustached turca, white-throated and dusky tapaculos, and dusky-tailed canastero, plus local specialities such as striped woodpecker, Chilean flicker, thorn-tailed rayadito, plain-mantled tit-spinetail, fire-eyed diuca and Patagonian tyrant. In the afternoon we head back to the coast at Quintero.
    • Accommodation: Quintero, 1-night on full board basis
    • This morning we follow the Panamerican Highway northward along the coast, stopping en route to visit Fray Jorge National Park where we may find Chilean tinamou, California quail, horned and barn owls, black-chested buzzard-eagle, variable hawk, white-throated tapaculo, Chilean mockingbird, long-tailed meadowlark, common diuca-finch and black-chinned siskin. Afterwards, we continue north to the coastal resort of La Serena.
    • Accommodation: La Serena, 2-nights on full board basis
    • The eclipse takes place at 17:39, so we have most of the day to enjoy coastal birding in the vicinity of La Serena. In the morning we take a boat trip from Los Choros to visit the National Humboldt Penguin Reserve, where we can see Humboldt penguin, Peruvian booby, Peruvian pelican, Inca tern, red-legged and Guanay cormorants, band-tailed and kelp gulls, black and turkey vultures, blackish oystercatcher, common diuca finch and Chilean seaside cinclodes. 
    • In the afternoon we make our way to a spot near La Higuera to ensure we are close to the centre of the path of totality for the total solar eclipse.
    • The drive back south to Santiago airport will take up most of the day, with stops en route. There we pick up a domestic flight to head north to the desert port of Arica in the far north of Chile. 
    • Accommodation: Arica, 2-nights on full board basis.
    • We spend the entire day exploring various oasis valleys around Arica in search of the birdlife of this desert region. Our first stop is the estuary of the Lluta River, an important wetland where many migratory species break their journey. We’ll search for slender-billed finch, cinereous conebill and Peruvian meadowlark in the scrub. 
    • In the afternoon we head to the valleys south of the city to search for one of Chile’s most threatened species – the Chilean woodstar. We also keep our eyes open for Peruvian (white-crested) elaenia, pie-crested tit-tyrant, vermilion flycatcher, and a recent addition to the Chilean list – Raimondi's yellow-finch.
    • This morning we take another pelagic boat trip out into the Pacific Ocean to look for seabirds. On our return we head east into the Atacama Desert to the the indigenous village of Putre, birding as we go. The shrubs and bushes are rich in birdlife: sparkling violetear, Andean hillstar, creamy-breasted and canyon canasteros, golden-billed saltator, blue-and-yellow tanager, hooded and thick-billed siskins.
    • Accommodation: Putre, 2-nights on full board basis
    • We have the entire day to explore nearby Lauca National Park, where our main target species is the diademed sandpiper-plover. Other specialities here include Chilean and Andean flamingoes, Puna rhea, Puna tinamou and Puna teal. We can also enjoy sightings of South America’s camelids: llama, alpaca, vicuña and guanaco.
    • Early this morning we drive back to the city of Arica, with some birding stops en route. We take an afternoon flight south to the capital, then transfer to a comfortable hotel near the airport.
    • Accommodation: Santiago, 1-night on bed & breakfast basis
    • This morning free to relax until it’s time to transfer back to the airport and check-in for the overnight flight back to the UK.
  1. Day 13 Arrive UK

Although this is essentially a birdwatching trip, the entire itinerary is built around the major event of the total solar eclipse that takes place on Tuesday 2 July 2019. Although it is not possible to predict what conditions will be like at the time, we should be in an excellent position on the path of totality to view this natural spectacle.

All prices are per person and include:

  • Services of the naturalist leader
  • Flights
  • Transfers
  • Accommodation
  • All meals with the exception of dinner on the final evening in Santiago
  • Guided activities

Accommodation

Mid-range hotels with one rustic lodge. All rooms have en suite bathrooms.

Meals

All meals are included, with the exception of dinner on the final evening and lunch on the last day.

Breakfasts and dinners are generally in the hotels. Lunches are a mix of picnics and light meals at local restaurants.  

Birds

Due to the geographical isolation resulting from its unusual topography, Chile has fewer bird species than many other South American countries. However, with its immensely long coastline it is rich in pelagic species, and the birdlife of the mainland exhibits considerable contrasts that depend on the varied habitat. 

  • Andean tinamou
  • Diademed sandpiper-plover 
  • Salvin’s albatross
  • Chilean flamingo

Mammals

Due to the geographical isolation resulting from its unusual topography, Chile has fewer bird species than many other South American countries. However, with its immensely long coastline it is rich in pelagic species, and the birdlife of the mainland exhibits considerable contrasts that depend on the varied habitat. 

  • Andean hairy armadillo
  • Vicuña 
  • Guanaco
  • Mountain viscacha

Flora

The four distinct zones visited – desert, high Andean steppe, scrub and schlerophyll woodland, and deciduous woodland - guarantee an exceptionally wide range of vegetation that varies from cactus to cushion plant, and palm forest to broadleaf woodland.

Astronomy

This trip is designed around the spectacular event of a total solar eclipse, however Chile boasts some of the clearest and least light-polluted night skies, so we should be able to do some star gazing – for which birding telescopes, and even binoculars, are excellent.

Scenery

We start on the surf-lashed Pacific coast in the central region before heading inland to the coastal range of mountains. In the far north we experience the coast once again, plus the bleakness of the arid Atacama desert with a peerless scenic backdrop of snow-capped high Andean peaks.

Boat trips

Weather permitting; we take two pelagic boat trips – one from Valparaiso and the other from Arica – to see the rich birdlife of the Pacific Ocean, plus another trip from near La Serena to the National Humboldt Penguin Reserve .

Photography

The photographic opportunities on this trip are excellent, with varied and spectacular scenery, plus a wide variety of subject matter that ranges from seabirds, shorebirds, waders and high altitude birds, plus some South American mammals. 

Walking

Some walking is involved, mainly at a slow pace on flat and level trails, although some can be rough underfoot. Although the distances covered – with one possible exception – are rarely more than a few kilometres, you should be reasonably fit and able to keep going for several hours at a time. Although we reach a maximum altitude of around 4,400 metres, there will be little walking at this elevation.

Archaeology

In the far north we will see some sites of Inca origin.

Flights

Price includes return scheduled flights London – Santiago – London, plus return domestic flights between Santiago and Arica.

Ground transport

By small bus with dedicated driver.

Altitude

On this tour we reach a maximum altitude of around 4,400 metres above sea level.

Climate

The Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on earth; daytime temperatures may reach over 30⁰ Celsius, but drop quickly at night to zero or below. The Central Region has more of a Mediterranean feel, with a cool, wet season from May to August (the Chilean winter), when temperatures range from 10 to 25⁰ Celsius. On the coast it can be cooler than in the inland valleys due to the cold Humboldt current.

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