Ushuaia to Torres del Paine: Fascinating Animal Experiences

We’ve encountered some very special wildlife, visiting some incredible places and beginning to discover the natural gems in Chile. 

Maxine standing on a bridge over a stream looking up at the lush Valdivian Rainforest. Santa Barbara beach, Chaitén, Chile.
A flight of Cormorants, Beagle Channel

The Beagle Channel: Wildlife at Sea

Still in Ushuaia, we managed to get on one of the last trips out to see some of the wildlife along the Beagle Channel before their migration north this year.

We visited the famous Martillo Island, home to Magellanic Penguins and en route, finding flights of Cormorants and a colony of Sea Lions too.

Magellanic penguins at Martillo Island in the Beagle Channel near Ushuaia. Argentina.
Magellanic Penguins on Martillo Island

We were overjoyed just to watch the last of the penguins cast their wings back and cheekily waddle along the beach in the flesh. (It really is as funny as it seems and even more so in real life!) The Sea Lions were also fascinating to watch, so rude, clambering all over each other, grunting and growling in their own territorial fashion.

It reminded us that having such a close connection to animals is a magical feeling and any chances for that are moments to be treasured.

A colony of sea lions clambering over each other at Martillo Island in the Beagle Channel near Ushuaia. Argentina.
Sea Lions, Beagle Channel

A Unique Encounter in Torres del Paine, Chile

Coined the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World,’ and home to many famous treks, we finally arrived at Torres del Paine National Park in Chile. We were so excited!

Campervan driving down a road before Cuernos del Paine in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Cuernos del Paine, Torres del Paine, Chile

People go there often to complete the O and the W trails which are treks around the National Park, but as we hadn’t booked anything in advance, we explored some of the remote spots of beauty in the park ourselves and then opted to complete the day hike up to the base of Torres.

The three magestic golden towers of Torres del Paine against a deep blue sky with Lago Torres in the foreground.
Torres del Paine, Chile
It was a crisp, orange morning when we set off, wowed by the hues cast on the mountains. We bathed in shades of red and amber as we made our way through the forests in the valley (it’s autumn here) and then scrambled the last hour up through waterfalls and dewy rocks, to be met all around us by glistening, snow-dusted peaks. Lake Torres was aquamarine and the time we spent at the top there, in the sunny air overlooking the views which were truly majestic. Theo didn’t manage to get his usual cold swim as swimming is prohibited in the National Park for safety reasons. So, we basked in the sun for hours in our puffer coats and soaked it all up instead.

Visiting Torres del Paine is like walking through a dream. You can expect to be blown over by the wind, baked by the sun and drenched by the rain all in one sitting. But you can also expect treat after treat of natural beauty. Lakes, mountains, wildlife and waterfalls aplenty!

Waves crashing from Lago Grey by Glaciar Grey, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Grey Beach, Torres del Paine
Guanaco, close up, Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
A Guanaco that we stopped to greet.

Alongside the booming population of Guanacos in Chile, we had also heard that there were Pumas. As the Chileans are so protective of their National Parks, TDP was apparently home to the region’s largest population of them. We really hoped to see one, but knew it might be quite difficult. So we waited patiently, until one day, one drive along a long stretch of road at dusk, when we noticed a few cars pulled over and some people glaring and pointing into the landscape.

We didn’t notice at first, but we had stopped right beside a young Puma, camouflaged in the bushes, his ears listening out and twitching. After resting for some time, it rose up yawning, stretched out its front legs and curled its tail, before tossing a bone across the steppe, playfully.

We watched all this from the other side of the road, and after a while, it started meowing across the valley. We didn’t get too close, but watched as it passed just half a meter away from some of the park’s Puma trackers, who had arrived to take note of the sighting.

The cries are etched in our memory. It was a very special moment when time became irrelevant. We feel so inspired and grateful for the experience.

Want to hike in Torres del Paine? Read our Hike to Base of Torres Guide: Everything to plan this iconic 1 day hike with incredible views of Paine Massif (The Blue Towers) and Lago Torre.

it rose up yawning, stretched out its front legs and curled its tail, before tossing a bone across the steppe, playfully.