Amy from Wildfoot Travel visited the ‘End of the Earth’ earlier this year, experiencing this captivating region aboard the M/V Ocean Victory. The isolated fjords of Patagonia are made much more accessible aboard a small expedition vessel, giving access to remote towns, narrow fjord systems and the formidable glaciers that lie within them. Here is an insight into Amy’s journey…
Starting in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city in the world, our vessel wound its way through Chile, heading north to Valparaiso. With an experienced team on board, the journey began with excitement as I awoke on my first day in the stunning Beagle Channel, before we headed into the narrow channels of the fjord system. With condors soaring overhead, sea lions roaring on the shore, breaching whales, and bergy bits (pieces of ice from the glacier) floating past the ship, this was a fantastic and unforgettable immersion into the region.
Patagonia is teeming with history, wildlife and culture, and our journey touched upon the legacy of early explorers like Ferdinand Magellan, the resilience of indigenous people such as the Yaghan and Kawesqar, and the impact of natural wonders like the glaciers of the Patagonian Ice Fields and the imposing towers of Torres del Paine.
From sea lions howling on the shoreline and pumas roaming Torres Del Paine to whales and cormorants bobbing in the water, our wildlife encounters were nothing short of extraordinary. The majestic humpback whales and dolphins gliding past the boat, captivating us with their playful behaviour and magnificent flukes, will be something I will remember for a very long time. Along the shores, sea lions basked in the sun, and at the heart of Patagonia’s wilderness, Torres Del Paine National Park, we witnessed the elusive pumas silently roaming alongside the iconic guanaco and rheas.
The Patagonian landscape is nature’s art, with its dramatic terrain carved out by glaciers. As we wound our way through the narrow channels of the fjord system, the dramatic cliffs meeting the chilly waters where sea lions and dolphins frolicked along the coast was a breathtaking sight. Yet that was just the beginning of the spectacular scenery that was coming our way. As we approached the nearby Moreno Glacier, standing proudly at 250 ft tall, we had to take a moment to stand in awe as this huge ice wall calved its vibrant blue icebergs into Lake Argentino.
Further along the way, the impressive sights continued in earnest as we reached the colossal Pi XII Glacier, one of the world’s largest non-polar glaciers, which stretches as far as the eye can see. And all of this was before we even reached the jewel in the crown of Patagonia, the awe-inspiring Torres del Paine National Park. A must-visit for nature enthusiasts and hikers, the pristine lakes, forests and waterfalls of the park did not disappoint! Named for its iconic granite peaks, the park’s diverse terrain is perfect for activities such as trekking, horseback riding, kayaking and photography. I particularly enjoyed our treks, reaching incredible viewpoints that simply took my breath away.
Our voyage wasn’t just about wildlife and scenery; it was also an opportunity to connect with local cultures. From indigenous communities to the vibrant town of Castro, we delved into the rich history and traditions of these regions. Through visits to museums, artisan markets, and interactions with locals, we gained insights into the people and heritage that define these remarkable places.
Within the breathtaking landscapes of Chilean Patagonia lies the unique villages of Puerte Edén and Caleta Tortel. Puerte Edén, often referred to as the “City of Silence,” is a remote coastal village accessible only by boat, making it an off-the-beaten-path destination that exudes tranquillity. Caleta Tortel is a picturesque village celebrated for its unique wooden boardwalks and bridges that meander through its maze of islands and channels. These hidden gems offer one-of-a-kind experiences, and both are the perfect stops for those seeking to connect with the local communities, making them indispensable ports of call on any Chilean adventure.
Sustainable Travel – Managing a Balance
In an era where responsible travel is of paramount importance, Albatros Expeditions, the operator for my Patagonia adventure, uphold a commitment to sustainable travel. By increasing local jobs, fostering understanding and learning, promoting conservation and protection, and acting as change ambassadors, they contribute positively to the destinations we visited. Simultaneously, they strive to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and pollution, in order to reduce negative impacts on these extraordinary places. The vessel itself, the M/V Ocean Victory, is equipped with a Tier 3 compliant engine and innovative technology to minimise its ecological footprint.
Speaking of the vessel, the M/V Ocean Victory is a marvel of modern engineering. Its Wärtsilä NOR (nitrogen oxide reducer) engine reduces NOX emissions by up to 75%, making it a pioneer in low-emission expedition cruising. With an ice-class 1A certification, Rolls Royce zero-speed stabilizers, and an X-bow design for comfort and speed in rough seas, the Ocean Victory ensures both safety and unparalleled adventure for its passengers.
The vessel itself is a home away from home. Featuring comfortable cabins (90% with their own private veranda), scrumptious food, leisure facilities, two lounges with fantastic views and unbeatable service, the vessel provides everything that you would expect from a high-end hotel, and more!
Cruising through the icy fjords, taking in the view from one of the many observation decks, lounges, hydraulic viewing platforms, or perhaps the onboard hot tub, helps to make every part of your trip even more memorable.
The crew on board are there to make your trip extraordinary. Whether it be spotting wildlife from the deck, evening lectures in the lounge, or on location in the wilderness, the expedition team are experts in their fields and keen to share their knowledge with you.
Your adventure, your way
Our expert team of wildlife and adventure enthusiasts have firsthand experience and knowledge of all the regions in which we travel. That’s why we’re so well placed to create bespoke adventures for you, based upon your exact requirements and desires. With access to the region’s best guides, suppliers and tours, whether you want to explore by land or sea, on your own or with a group, or self-guided or accompanied by experts, you can rest assured that we know what we’re talking about. We’ve been there and done it all.
Our passion really is making your aspirations for adventure come true, so if you’re looking to tick one more thing off that travel bucket list, get in touch with one of our friendly team members so we can get started on helping you create the holiday of a lifetime!
As well as creating bespoke, tailormade itineraries, we also provide a wide range of set departure tours and adventures to Patagonia and Chile in general. With our extensive, firsthand experience and local knowledge, we can work with you to build your perfect trip. Here are just a few of our favourite Patagonia itineraries to give you an idea of what you can expect from a visit to this remarkable area.
Patagonian Fjords of Chile
The Chilean Fjords, with mazes of inland passages, calving glaciers and stunning wildlife, count as one of nature’s greatest wonders. There is no greater way to experience this spectacle than from an expedition cruise.
Lakes, Mountains & Glaciers Puma Special
Start in the cosmopolitan city of Santiago and enjoy a day trip to the world heritage city of Valparaiso. Then head south to Patagonia, the vast region straddling the mighty Andes, where mountains, lakes, glaciers and an unforgettable puma trekking experience awaits.
Complete Patagonia from Atlantic to Pacific
An itinerary encompassing the best of Patagonia, from the wild Valdes Peninsula in Argentina to a spectacular cruise in the Chilean fjords landing at the legendary Cape Horn. Starting in vibrant Buenos Aires and taking in the cosmopolitan capital city of Santiago and the World Heritage area of Valparaiso, this is the top-and-tailed total Patagonian experience.