10 Thrilling Wildlife Encounters

Few travel adventures are as thrilling as coming across animals in their natural environment.  Take a look at some of the amazing creatures you can find in South America and where to find them.

1. Jungle wildlife - Giant otters, sloth, monkeys and tropical birds  

Take a walk in the Amazon jungle to encounter these species. Set out from lodges at Napo Coca, Ecuador; Iquitos or Puerto Maldonado, Peru; or Manaus, Brazil.

2. Amazon Caiman spotting

The South American alligator can be found after sunset on boat or canoe tours form Manaus, Brazil and during longer rain forest and Amazon River expeditions/cruises.

3. Cloud Forest wildlife – Monkeys, spectacled bears and birds

At the cloud forest of Manu National Park you can even have a chance to see Peru’s national bird, the Cock of the Rock. Excursions depart from Cusco, Peru.

4. Galapagos Islands – land species & birds

Unique and threatened species make the Galapagos a treasure trove for naturalists. See the giant Galapagos tortoise, 13 species of Galapagos finches, blue-footed boobies, Galapagos hawk, magnificent frigatebird, Galapagos mockingbird, lava lizards along with many other animal species.

5. Galapagoso Islands – marine life & birds

Converging ocean currents from the north, south and west have created conditions for unique marine species to evolve. While on your Galapagos small-ship adventure cruise, beach walks, snorkeling and diving excursions see the endemic marine life including the marine iguana, flightless cormorant, the Galapagos penguin,  Galapagos fur seal, waved albatross, the colorful Sally Lightfoots crabs, schools of green and yellow burrito grunt fish as well as dolphins, whales and more.

6. Llamas

There are several ways to see these distinctive animals in Peru: At the San Blas neighborhood of Cusco, on a llama trek in the Andes or at La Raya (between Puno and Arequipa) where herds can be found grazing. At local markets, you can also have your photo taken with a llama and their owner who is often dressed in national costume for the occasion. You may come across llamas in Ecuador and Bolivia as well.

7. Magellanic penguins

This South American penguin is found in coastal Argentina and Chile as well as the Falkland Islands.  The largest colony with thousands of penguins is found at Punta Tombo near the cruise port of Puerto Madryn, Argentina. The colony is accessible on shore excursions from your cruise ship. Get up close to Magellanic penguins in their burrows and on the beach at remote Cape Otway on excursions from Punta Arenas, Argentina.

8. Humboldt penguins, sea otters and birds

This medium sized penguin is found on the coasts of Chile and Peru. Take a wildlife cruise to the National Reserve of Chiloe Island, south of Puerto Montt, Chile to see Humboldt and Magallanic penguins as well as sea otters, cormorants and other local birds. Wildlife cruises to see Humboldts also depart from Punta de Choros, northeast of La Serena, Chile.

9. Iguazu Falls National Park – 80 mammals, 400 bird species 

On the border of Brazil and Argentina, magnificent Iguazu Falls captivates visitors. This is also a superb spot for wildlife viewing. You may see toucans around your hotel on check in. Wander the well-marked trails or take a guided hike to see more. The park is home to the jaguar, South American tapir and anteaters amongst many other species.

10. Patagonia wildlife – guanacos, pumas, deer, foxes   

From Punta Arenas, Chile, take a scenic drive into Torres del Paine National Park for nature walks, treks or bike excursions to discover the wildlife of Patagonia. Stay at an Eco Camp during your wildlife safari which also shows you the natural beauty and scenic highlights of the region.

Photo: Manaus, Brazil
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