Gallery

    • 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 common bottlenose and dusky dolphins. We hope to see albatrosses including northern and southern royal, Salvin's, Buller's, black-browed and Chatham Island. We should also spot various petrels including southern and northern giant, white-chinned, Westland and pintado, plus sooty and Buller's shearwaters and southern fulmar.
    • 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 moustached turca, white-throated and dusky tapaculos, and dusky-tailed canastero, plus local specialities such as Chilean tinamou, striped woodpecker, Chilean flicker, thorn-tailed rayadito, plain-mantled tit-spinetail, fire-eyed diucon 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 continue northward along the coast, stopping to bird as we go, until we reach the city of La Serena in the Coquimbo region. From here we continue inland to the tiny town of Vicuña in the fertile Elqui valley, which contrasts with the arid mountains that surround it. This spot is attractive not only for its natural beauty, but also because the absence of light pollution. Together with optimal climatic conditions this makes its skies the clearest in the world – which explains the presence of several major astronomical observatories in the vicinity.
    • Accommodation: La Serena, 2-nights on full board basis
    • Today is the big day. To get ready for this magnificent (and possibly crowded) event, in the morning we set off as early as possible to make our way to an elevated spot outside the town. This way we can ensure that we are close to the centre of the path of totality well before the total solar eclipse, which takes place at precisely 16:39. Getting into position early will allow us time for some short birdwalks on the slopes around our chosen site. Then after lunch we can gather to experience the magic of the various phases of the solar eclipse, which begins at 15:23 and lasts until 17:47. Afterwards we celebrate this great natural phenomenon with dinner at a pleasant restaurant in the Elqui Valley.
    • 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.
    • Before leaving Vicuña we visit the family-owned AbA distillery where Chilean pisco – a colourless grape brandy – has been made since 1921. This organic liquor is produced from the wine of the regions of the Atacama and Coquimbo and is the result of the arduous process of harvesting grapes by hand, fermenting the juice at a low temperature, and finally distilling it in a copper still. After experiencing the essence of the Elqui valley, we make our way back to Santiago – a drive of around 500 kilometres taking upward of five hours, with a few stops en route. We overnight at a hotel close to the international airport. 
    • Accommodation: Hotel Diego de Almagro, Santiago airport, 1-night on full board basis. 
    • Today we take an early morning domestic flight almost 1700 kilometres north to the port city of Arica. Heading off directly from the airport, we explore the valleys that lie around Arica. Our first stop is the estuary of the Lluta River. This is an important wetland stopover for many migratory birds, and we may find gulls, waterfowl, shorebirds and coots. In the bushes we look for slender-billed finch, cinereous conebill and Peruvian meadowlark, among others.
    • After a productive morning, we head south of Arica to the Camarones Valley to look for one of the country’s most threatened species: the minuscule but dazzling Chilean woodstar. We also search this valley for Peruvian (white-crested) elaenia, pied-crested tit-tyrant, vermilion flycatcher and Raimondi's yellow-finch, which was discovered only recently in Chile. On our way back we visit the “Hummingbird Refuge” in the Azapa Valley, to look for oasis hummingbird and the spectacular Peruvian sheartail.
    • Accommodation: Panamericana Hotel, Arica, 1-night on full board basis.
    • 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.
    • Today we head into Lauca National Park for the day. Here we find many waterfowl specialists of the High Andes, such as Andean goose, silvery grebe, Chilean, Andean and James's flamingos, puna ibis, giant and Andean coots and puna plover. In dry puna near the lakes we look for puna (lesser) rhea, puna tinamou, Andean negrito, puna and white-fronted ground-tyrants and black siskin. Also here we hope to find groups of elegant vicuñas as well as Peruvian mountain viscacha.
    • 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 its unusual climate and topography, Chile has fewer bird species than many other South American countries. However, its immensely long coastline is rich in pelagic species, while its varied landscapes support a number of much-sought endemics and near endemics. 

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

Mammals

While the large mammals typical of South America’s rainforests and tropical savannahs are absent, Chile is home to many of the continents most wonderful mammals, including a number of endemics. On our tour we hope to see both land and marine mammals.

  • Vicuña 
  • Andean fox 
  • Dusky dolphin
  • South American sea lion

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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