See Spectacular South American Wildlife on a Southern Safari
Every traveller dreams of seeing a lion on safari. Yet there are equally fascinating wildlife adventures waiting in our proverbial backyard. From the Galápagos and Costa Rica to the Amazon River, the Pantanal and wild, rugged Torres del Paine, fascinating fauna abounds on a south- of-the-border safari in Latin America. Here is a closer look at what to expect in five popular South America travel destinations.
Situated 600 miles from the Ecuadorian coast, the Galápagos Islands are a unique and ever-changing archipelago totaling 61 islands and islets, with 13 main islands.
“We don’t have four seasons, we just have two: dry and rainy,” says Antonio Reascos, an A&K guide on board the adventure vessel ‘Eclipse.’ “No specific months of the year are better than others when it comes to visiting the Galápagos. They’ all good.“
The Galápagos Islands are home to many endemic species – indeed, the islands are a virtual synonym for biodiversity:
- Darwin’s finches
- Marine iguanas
- Blue-footed booby
- Red-footed booby
- Leatherback, green and marine turtles
- Sei whales
- Sea lions
- Giant tortoises
- Great white sharks
Torres Del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine is marked by small, granite-walled valleys, with glaciers amid the Southern Patagonian
The park ranges from temperate to cold and rainy. It is without a dry season.
- Guanacos, a cousin to the llama
- The endangered South Andean deer (huemul)
- Andean gray foxes
- Chilean fire tree
Costa Rica’s plains are punctuated by the rugged Cordillera Central and Cordillera de Talamanca. Much of Costa Rica is densely forested, and many rivers intersect the landscape.
Situated just north of the equator, Costa Rica enjoys a tropical climate year-round. However, elevation and rainfall significantly impact its two seasons, verano (summer), and invierno (winter).
Like the Galápagos, Costa Rica is a hotbed of biodiversity.
- Over 12,000 species of plants, 950 of them are endemic
- 440 reptile and amphibian species
- More than 830 bird species
- 230 mammal species
- Over 180 types of freshwater fish
- Countless species of monkeys
- Flitting zebra
- Longwing butterflies
- Red-eyed tree frogs
- Scarlet macaws
The Pantanal in Brazil is a vast, gently sloping basin, filled with runoff from the Planalto Highlands. During the rainy season, up to 80% of the Pantanal floodplains are underwater.
The rainy season occurs from October through March, while the dry season takes place from April through September.
- 1,000 types of birds, including resplendent macaws and toucans
- 300 mammal varieties (such as the tapir, giant anteater and black howler monkey)
- 480 reptile species
- Marsh deer
- Giant river otter
- Hyacinth macaw
- Maned wolf
- Bush dog
- Crowned solitary eagle
The world’s longest river begins its 2,000-mile-long course in the Andes. Thick jungle covers much of the landscape, and tropical rainforests are a dominant feature.
There are two key seasons in the Amazon, low water and high water. During the former, the river level goes down, exposing much of the sandy riverbed and beaches. “It’s a good time to get good sunset photographs and explore the blackwater rivers, such as the Pacaya River,” says Milagros Alva Haimberger, who helps to coordinate A&K’s Amazon River cruises. “You can take short jungle walks through varzea (whitewater) and igapo (blackwater) forests.” During the high water season, rains are heavier, skies more overcast and temperatures are marginally cooler. This is an excellent time to explore the rainforest by boat.
When it comes to biodiversity, the Amazon Rainforest is without parallel. Of the total species known to science, one in ten is found here. The variety is so great, in fact, that plenty of species have yet to be identified. Indigenous species include:
- Macaws, small, alligator-like caimans
- Three-toed sloths
- Endangered pink Amazon river dolphins
- Poison dart frogs