Visionary Wild, LLC • 2200 19th St. NW, Ste 806, Washington, DC 20009

E-mail: info@visionarywild.com    •    Tel: 1-202-558-9596 (9am to 5pm, EST).

Justin Black – Managing Director: 1-202-302-9030 • Email: justin@visionarywild.com

Jennifer Woolley – Director of Operations • Email: jennifer@visionarywild.com

We look forward to hearing from you!

 

2 of 6 spaces left | $13,995* Register
Expedition March 30 - April 7, 2019 | View other workshops

Pumas with Roy Toft

Map via Google

Pumas, wild and up close, beneath the Torres del Paine

Pumas are secretive survivors, adapting to a tremendously diverse range of environments. Also known as Mountain Lions or Cougars (all are Puma concolor), they sometimes thrive in surprisingly close proximity to humans, but rarely permit themselves to be seen, much less photographed up close and eye-to-eye. So, you might wonder what our secret is to reliably photographing wild pumas up close on this Patagonian expedition.

To find out for yourself, make pictures you never imagined were possible, and learn a great deal about puma behavior in the process, join Roy Toft on a huge private ranch, Estancia Laguna Amarga, with panoramic views over one of the most beautiful landscapes on Earth: Chile's Torres del Paine National Park. A healthy population of wild pumas roam free there, moving at will between the ranch and park, and we have mastered the art of successfully tracking these apex predators through this landscape of rolling hills beneath the Paine range.

Based out of excellent accommodations at Hotel Las Torres,  we will observe and photograph many of these amazing cats at distances that can be surprisingly close. With the help of our top notch Puma spotters and guides, our 2018 group had several close-up encounters, including one individual that calmly approached us within thirty feet. Note that the pictures illustrating this page are all the product of Visionary Wild's 2018 Puma trip, not a "greatest hits" collection accumulated over the course of several visits or months on location. The simple fact is that the opportunities here are unrivaled anywhere in the Puma's expansive range. Please watch the videos below (made on an iPhone) for a first-hand glimpse of Pumaland:

Though we will use 4WD vehicles to drive into the vicinity of puma sightings, and may sometimes see pumas from our vehicles, venturing out on foot yields the best opportunities. Throughout the itinerary, we expect to walk a total of about one to two miles each day in hilly, uneven terrain, split between two field sessions. We do recommend that you are fit enough to hike with gear, including tripods and long telephotos. With advance notice, porters can be made available to assist with carrying equipment (at additional cost); please inquire for further details.

On the way back to Punta Arenas, we are including a special day to visit the private “Cerro Palomares” Condor Roost Cliff where Andean Condors fly. From convenient perches, we will photograph scores of “below-horizon fly-bys” of Andean Condors, the world’s heaviest flying creature. The roost cliff normally has 60-90 Andean Condors on it in the late afternoon as they fly back and forth below the horizon, offering the world’s most spectacular photo opportunities for this impressive bird.

Click the "read more" tab below right for additional information and the itinerary...

Landscape Extension – Save $1,000: This itinerary dovetails perfectly with our Torres del Paine landscape photography workshop, led by National Geographic photographer Michael Melford, and Justin Black of Visionary Wild, which meets the Puma group at Hotel Las Torres on April 6, and ends in Punta Arenas on April 16. Joining us for both itineraries entitles you to a $1,000 discount on the combined cost (on a per person basis, in either single or double-occupancy).

Click "read more" below right for additional information and the itinerary...

Throughout the itinerary, we expect to walk a total of about one to two miles in hilly terrain each day, split between two field sessions. For a more pleasant photographic experience, we do recommend that you are fit enough to hike with gear, including tripods and long telephotos. Porters are available (by advance request and at additional cost) to assist with carrying equipment; please inquire for further details. Though we may sometimes see pumas from our vehicles, venturing out on foot yields the best opportunities.

Extremely comfortable hotel nights will prepare you for the next day's activities. At Hotel Cabo de Hornos in Punta Arenas, we will stay in sea view rooms of this highly-rated, modern hotel. All rooms boast deep soaking tubs, free WiFi, 24-hour room service, and luxurious bedding. In Torres del Paine National Park, just a few minutes from Pumaland, we will be accommodated in At Hotel Las Torres, where we will stay in their Ciprés rooms, which are newly renovated, spacious, and with large windows to enjoy the scenery.

ITINERARY

March 30 – Arrival day in Punta Arenas: Land at Punta Arenas Airport (PUQ), where our representative meets you and takes you to your hotel to meet Roy Toft and the group before going out for dinner at one of the best restaurant’s in town. Overnight in Punta Arenas at Hotel Cabo de Hornos. (D)

March 31 – Leave Punta Arenas for Pumaland: After breakfast, we will be met by our lead puma guide for transfer to Torres del Paine, arriving via Refugio Laguna Amarga. The Puma search begins in the afternoon; join the trackers who will have been out from pre-dawn looking for Pumas for you. Overnight at Hotel Las Torres.  (B, L, D)

April 1-April 5 – Pumas: Spend several hours each day searching for and tracking pumas in Pumaland.  We will have breakfast before the morning session, lunch between sessions and then dinner after the late afternoon pumas tracking session. Overnight at Hotel Las Torres.  (B, L, D)

April 6 – Condors and return to Puntas ArenasAfter breakfast, we will drive for approximately four hours south to an exciting new location: the “Cerro Palomares” Condor Roost Cliff at the private, 20,000-acre “Estancia Olga Teresa” Ranch. At dusk we will drive approximately one hour back to Punta Arenas for our farewell dinner.  Overnight in Punta Arenas at Hotel Cabo de Hornos. (B, L, D)

April 7 – Departure day: Wake up for breakfast at the hotel, and then our driver will transfer you to the airport to catch your outbound flight. Check out of the hotel is at noon. (B)

PLEASE NOTE:

  • VISA: No visa is required for stays less than 90 days.
  • TRAVEL INSURANCE: We always strongly recommend arranging travel insurance. Travelguard.com is excellent.
  • FLIGHTS: No flights are included. Please contact us if you would like recommendations regarding flights to and from Punta Arenas, Chile (airport code: PUQ)
  • GRATUITIES: Baseline tips are included. Our local guides, driver, and lodging staff work very hard to make our experience in Chile be the best it can be, and Visionary Wild budgets for a healthy group tip in recognition of their services. Guests are encouraged to tip additionally if they would like to recognize exceptional service.
  • CAMERA EQUIPMENT: Participants will carry their camera body and lens; a tripod is optional. Porters are available to assist with carrying equipment; please inquire for further details.

Roy Toft

Roy Toft is one of the world's most highly accomplished wildlife photographers, in addition to being a biologist, natural-history educator, and a Senior Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). Roy has received top honors in the most prestigious professional competitions in his genre including the London Natural History Museum's Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and Nature's Best. In 2007, Roy won first place and the Gerald Durrel Award for endangered species in the BBC Wildlife Photographer  of the Year competition. He is a well-loved figure among his professional peers, admired as much for his upbeat good humor, an engaging and compassionate personality, and generously collaborative nature as for his immense talent as a photographer.

Roy's photographic career started with getting his first SLR camera as a college graduation present in 1986. Two days later, Roy was in Alaska working as a biologist on a wolf population study for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Over the next ten years, Roy’s day jobs included bird trainer & educator for the San Diego Wild Animal Park, naturalist, elementary school teacher, natural history museum curator and collaborator with National Geographic photographer Michael “Nick” Nichols.

Nature, conservation and education have always been Roy’s passions and since turning to photography full time in 1993, his work has focused on wild animals and their fragile environments. His publications include National Geographic, Smithsonian, Audubon, Discover, Wildlife Conservation, Ranger Rick, and other natural history magazines and publications worldwide. His work is primarily represented by National Geographic Image collection and Getty.

Using photography as a conservation tool has always been important to Roy and in 2005 he became a founding fellow in the prestigious ILCP. Along with making images, Roy has always enjoyed teaching people about nature and photography. His first photo workshop was taught more than a dozen years ago in the Osa peninsula, Costa Rica, and since then Roy has led workshops in Africa, Alaska, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Japan, and Madagascar.

Roy makes his home in the boulder-covered backcountry of Ramona, Ca. (30 miles north east of San Diego), with his wife Robin and their three Labrador Retrievers (Beau, Summer, and Tundra). Roy enjoys essentially everything active out in nature, including hiking with the dogs, surfing, and mountain biking. His favorite pastime when not traveling for photography is designing and cultivating his extensive garden, inspired by South African flora, including a wide variety of aloes and other exotic plants.

ROY TOFT LINKS

Roy Toft Photo Website

ILCP Fellow Bio

Roy Toft's Youtube Channel, with videos on his photo safaris and packing tips

Blast from the Past: Roy Toft appearance on the Chevy Chase Show (1993) as bird trainer for the San Diego Wild Animal Park

 

Highlights

Package includes:
  • R/T transportation from Punta Arenas – Torres del Paine National Park – Punta Arenas
  • Two trackers looking for Pumas in their own, dedicated 4WD vehicle
  • Entrance fee to the Torres del Paine National Park
  • Daily entrance fee for puma tracking on the private Estancia Laguna Amarga
  • Entrance fee for viewing condors from top of Palomares Hill at Estancia Olga Teresa
  • One 4WD for driving to the top of Palomares Hill to view condors from the top.
  • All ground transportation
  • All meals and snacks
  • Non-alcoholic beverages throughout, plus wine, beer, and cocktails (Pisco sour, anyone?) with dinner
  • English-speaking naturalist guide as noted in the itinerary.
  • Excursions as noted in above itinerary for wildlife photography and instruction by Roy Toft

Accommodations & Travel

 

Excellent hotels: Hotel Cabo de Hornos (two nights) in Puntas Arenas and Hotel Las Torres (seven nights) in Torres del Paine National Park.

airplane iconcar iconfoot iconweather icon
Fly into Puntas Arenas, Chile, (PUQ) to be met for ground transfer to our group's hotel for the first night. Ground transportation is provided throughout the workshop, including 4WD vehicles to approach locations of puma sightings as closely as possible. Walks will typically be 1-2 miles each day on hilly, uneven ground, split up between two field sessions. We do recommend that you are in decent physical fitness for a more pleasant photographic experience. Weather is variable, with highs between 45 to 65ºF and lows between 30 to 45ºF at this time of year. We will likely experience a mix of conditions from partly cloudy to overcast, with wind varying by local microclimate. Rain showers and snow flurries are possible from time to time.

Expectations

  • Our Puma scouts are in the field full-time. They know the local cats and their habits. The trackers we work with spend most days of most months of the year searching for Pumas, whereas other guides leading groups in the area do so for only a few days or perhaps a few weeks at a time.
  • Our scouts are the only ones equipped with infrared scope. This special-forces-style scope allows for effective following of Pumas in total darkness, which translates into more Puma face time for our guests, who thus start to enjoy the first “Puma-of-the-day” as soon as the pre-dawn light becomes strong enough to allow photography.
  • No other guides maintain a Puma ID guide of the individual Pumas of Pumaland. We are the first to admit that Pumas are much harder to ID than are Jaguars or Leopards, but we are finding that very detailed photos of facial scars, ear nicks, and body scars allow us to identify each adult uniquely. This is a work in progress, and the photos taken by our guests allow us to perfect our ID guide, doing what amounts to the best of “citizen science”.
  • Our activities are supervised by an internationally recognized PhD conservation biologist, so the whole operation is underpinned by cutting-edge science and conservation techniques.
  • Creating a local incentive to protect pumas: In order to ensure the protection and the proper, sustainable appreciation of the Pumas at Torres del Paine, our guides worked with professional Puma biologists to develop a robust set of rules for viewing Pumas. By observing these rules under the guidance of your expert Puma tracker, you will be contributing to the conservation of these cats and their habitat. You will also be enhancing the Puma sighting for yourself and for your fellow guests.