//Wild adventures

Wild adventures

From the biodiverse Amazon River Basin and wildlife-rich wetlands of the Pantanal to frozen Antarctica and the world’s driest desert, you could spend a lifetime exploring Latin America’s contrasting landscapes and observing its wildlife, much of it highly localised and endemic.

With the recent trend towards soft adventure and experiential travel, the region’s wild offering has never been in such demand, each area bringing its own reward.

“There’s not much the continent doesn’t offer,” said Katie Cosstick of Cox & Kings, whose current strong sellers include Chile. “The contrast of the lunar desert landscapes of the Atacama Desert with the mountains and glaciers of Torres del Paine is an amazing combination for just one country,” she commented, adding that one of her personal favourite areas is the Falklands. “The islands offer a fantastic wildlife experience,” she explained. “The vast open spaces and pristine shorelines are home to a fascinating array of sub-Antarctic life, including elephant seals and rockhopper, king, gentoo, Magellanic and macaroni penguins, plus a host of Southern Ocean bird species.”

There are countless unmissable wild experiences to be had across Latin America. These are easily accessible, popular options, with enough of an ‘off-the-beaten-track’ side to appeal to the truly adventurous.

1. Horse around in Brazil

When exploring the world’s largest wetland, it pays to do as locals have done for generations and hop on a Pantanal horse. The dry season (May-September) is the best time to see wildlife on the wetlands (accessed by flying to Cuiaba or Campo Grande), from birdlife to jaguars.

Upping the experiential ante further are stays in remote ecolodges or fazendas, with activities like swimming and snorkelling in Bonito, while the luxurious likes of Barra Mansa Lodge have made the region a choice for honeymooners.

How to do it: Journey Latin America‘s 11-day Wildlife Brazil: Jaguars of the Pantanal tour takes in the Iguaza Falls before flying to Campo Grande for jaguar-spotting, then on to Rio. Prices start from £4,270pp, including all land and air transport within Latin America, accommodation, some meals and excursions.

2. Belize’s Blue Hole

Divers flock to explore formations, such as stalactites, that line the Great Blue Hole. That said, from a marine life point of view, the major action is to be had outside the Hole. The surrounding reef system is a haven for pelagics such as reef and nurse sharks, with Half Moon Caye Wall offering excellent wildlife encounters.

How to do it: Naturally Belize tailor-make trips to Belize; a 10-night snorkelling holiday including flights begins at £2,495.

3. Sloth and Quetzal

Two of the most emblematic of Costa Rica’s animals are the sloth and the quetzal. Despite its impressively colourful plumage, the latter can prove surprisingly elusive. Aim for the breeding season, from February to May. Sloths, meanwhile, can be seen in a number of places, including Monteverde Cloud Forest and Corcovado National Park.

How to do it: Geodyssey‘s 13-day Creature Comforts package starts at £3,810 (excluding international flights).

4. Watch the birdie

Colombia’s diverse habitats support around 1,900 bird species. Whether touring the coffee zone, searching for the Lost City in Tayrona National Park or boating the waterways around Mompos, its winged wonders will add a colourful touch to proceedings. It’s small wonder operators are reporting increased demand for nature tours.

How to do it: Journey Latin America‘s 16-day Weaverbird: Spirit of Colombia tour starts from £3,424 including flights.

5. Ecuadorian Amazon

Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park is the Amazon at its most accessible. Simply take the short flight from the capital Quito to Coca, transfer to the dock for a few hours’ canoe ride down the Napo River and your experience has begun. Yasuní is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet and is one of the best places to interact with Amazon communities.

How to do it: Steppes Travel offers a Wildlife and Communities Cruise with Benedict Allen, from £4,850.

6. Caribbean cats

Nature doesn’t get much wilder or more pristine than in Guyana’s rainforest, which stretches as far as the eye can see. Highlights include Surama Mountain and Kaieteur Falls, with excellent wildlife viewing around the Burro Burro River and Iwokrama Rainforest. The latter is a good bet for jaguar tracking,.

How to do it: Chimu Adventures bundles Guyana with Suriname and French Guiana on tours such as Three Guianas on a Budget (12 days from £3,740).

7. Saltscapes & desert japes

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is a truly magical place. Vast expanses of salt blend into the sky upon reaching the horizon. The three-day 4×4 journey from San Pedro to Uyuni, Bolivia, is a classic trip. “It really is an incredible three days,” says Tucan Travel’s Latin America destination manager Scott Marquardt. “From Bolivia you start off in the salt flats. The next two days are spent crossing the Atacama Desert, where you climb to altitudes of over 4,500 metres above sea level.”

How to do it: Tucan Travel‘s 14-day Bolivia, Chile and Argentina tour starts at £1,427.

8. Little & large

From late January to early April, visitors to Mexico can marvel at the arrival of grey whales in their breeding grounds in the Pacific waters off the Baja Peninsula. At the same time, visit the country’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve to observe millions of butterflies from November to March, having completed their winter migration from North America.

How to do it: Naturetrek‘s 11-day Mexico’s monarchs, humpbacks and birds tour starts from £3,695 including flights.

9. Go wild in Iberá

The Iberá Natural Reserve in Argentina is the second-largest freshwater wetland in the world. Gaucho guides can get you close to the action, whether by horse, boat, dugout canoe or on foot. Spot everything from giant otters and caimans to howler monkeys and marsh deer.

How to do it: Abercrombie & Kent‘s 14-night Family Argentina trip, from £5,990.

10. Pay homage to Patagonia

When it comes to wild, dramatic landscapes, Patagonia, straddling the southernmost parts of Chile and Argentina, has it down. Strike out on treks such as the ‘W’, in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. On the Argentina side a key focus is Los Glaciares, the country’s largest National Park. The expedition cruises that shuttle between Ushuaia, Argentina and Punta Arenas, Chile offer an a relaxed way to explore the area’s coasts and fjordlands.

How to do it: Kuoni offers a 15-night Patagonia Explorer tour, starting at £6,473 including flights.

11. Seal the deal

During breeding season, South Georgia becomes home to the densest population of wildlife in the world, and is beloved by photographers and expedition cruise passengers alike. As operator Swoop notes, “Statistics alone simply can’t do justice to how extraordinary the wildlife of South Georgia is.”

How to do it: Swoop Antartica‘s 17-day Antarctica and South Georgia Express is £12,303, including flights.

12. Goggle at the Galápagos

From snorkelling with sea lions and fur seals to walking among pint-sized Palo Santo trees groaning under the weight of nesting frigate birds and boobies, with their incredible array of endemic species, the Islands offer visitors something truly unique. The local fauna remains unfazed by the presence of humans so it’s possible to take incredible photos.

How to do it: Audley Travel‘s 11-day Galapagos Island Hopping tour starts at £5,100 including flights.

2019-05-17T11:02:32+00:00 May 28th, 2019|