Argentina wildlife holiday, wetlands & Patagonia
Description of Argentina wildlife holiday, wetlands & Patagonia
This two-week Argentina wildlife holiday starts off in the not so wild, but totally wonderful city of Buenos Aires, giving you time to acclimatise after your journey and enjoy the music, food and vibrancy of the country’s capital. This is a tailor made itinerary and so can be adapted; however, this carefully crafted route ticks many of the boxes that wildlife lovers are in search of, from the wetlands to Patagonia.
Your first stop, by plane to the northwest of the Argentina, is in the vast, serene Iberá Wetlands, where you have two days to enjoy guided wildlife watching trips to see the region’s exotic birds and mammals. These include caiman, capybaras, otters, howler monkeys and over 350 species of birds.
From Iberá to another great landscape of Iguazú Falls, accessible after a full day’s transfer by car, it’s worth the journey to see one of the planet’s most magnificent cascades. Staying in the only hotel inside the Argentinian side of Iguazú Falls National Park, you are able to access the falls in the early morning before the crowds arrive, and when the prolific birdlife is at its most active.
You can explore Argentina’s subtropical rainforest in quieter surroundings, after driving through the national park for a few hours to reach the stunning Yacutinga Eco Lodge. This will be your base for two nights, with the services of an expert naturalist guide. Explore the forest on foot, or by boat on the Upper Iguazú River; take a floating trip on the Riacho San Francisco; or a nocturnal walk to observation towers fully equipped for night time wildlife watching.
Next, for total contrast, fly to Trelew in northern Patagonia which has a fascinating Welsh heritage, and is the gateway to the wilderness grasslands, craggy cliffs and Atlantic greatness of the Peninsula Valdés. This peninsula is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered by many to be Patagonia’s wildlife capital, home to guanacos, foxes, elephant seals, sea lions, nesting penguins, southern right whales and orcas.
The last stop, before taking your final flight back to Buenos Aires, is to the fascinating and very remote village of Bahia Bustamente, with a unique community approach that is wholly committed to conservation and the environment. The members of this community lead inspiring and informative wildlife tours through the surrounding landscape.
PlanetYour holiday starts in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires, a huge, dynamic, city with a tight colonial core, elegant residential suburbs a refurbished port district and several well conserved and refurbished culturally significant art-focussed neighbourhoods. However, this wildlife focussed holiday is built around visits to three of Argentina’s most stunning nature reserves, replete with protected indigenous wildlife.
First, you visit the Iberá Wetlands, Iberá, with its mélange of swamps, lagoons and bogs, one of the most crucial fresh water reservoirs on the continent and the second-largest wetland in the world after the Brazilian Pantanal. Since 1882 parts of the wetland have been included and protected within the Iberá Provincial Reserve, and there are plans in progress to upgrade it to national park status. In 2002, it was catalogued as a Wetland of International Importance by the RAMSAR convention, an international treaty dedicated to the conservation and sustainable utilisation of wetlands. Departing from your lodge, your eco-sensitive walking, canoeing or bird-watching excursions are led by naturalist guides well informed about the area’s fragility and the importance of maintaining its pristine status.
Your actual visit is guaranteed not to have a negative impact on the location. You will visit the monumental Iguazú Falls, one of the New (2011) Seven Wonders of World, which are located in the Iguazú National Park, designated by UNESCO a World Heritage Site in 1984. In 2013 UNESCO categorised the park, blanketed in tropical rainforest bursting with wildlife, as one of Exceptional Universal Value, devised to encourage collective protection of cultural and natural heritage. Your park entrance fee will be instrumental in efforts to give financial support to conservation efforts.
At Iguazú, your accommodation is at the Sheraton Iguazú Resort & Spa, the only hotel permitted within the national park. The hotel is linked to the Starwood chain’s “Make Green Choice” Policy, where you can choose to help reduce the environmental footprint by foregoing full housekeeping for up to 3 days, in return for vouchers. For each night you can save, in this way, up to 49 gallons of water, 0,19KW of electricity, 25,000BTU of natural gas and 250g of cleaning products. The chain has a strict policy of sourcing local ingredients for food, and introducing declared environmental practices of energy and water conservation, waste minimisation and the use of eco-friendly cleaning products.
You move on to stay at Yacutinga Lodge, a pioneer in eco-tourism in Argentina. The lodge protects and manages one of the last refuges of Atlantic Rainforest on its property. It created the Yacutinga Private Wildlife Refuge and has planted over 30,000 native trees. In addition to recycling, there is careful management of non-renewable resources, some of which is transformed into native art. Many of their eco-friendly practices have been devised by themselves. Staff have been locally trained in conservation techniques.
You visit the Valdez Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean in northern Patagonia, which consists of barren steppes and crumbly cliffs occupied by ostriches, guanacos, hares and armadillos; on and offshore you find a cornucopia whales, elephant seals, penguins and seabirds. It is an important nature reserve and was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. You have a full-day excursion led by a naturalist guide, including a visit to an interpretation centre and museum, and your park entrance fee will be devoted to conservation in the reserve.
You move on to visit an extraordinary and unique community, Bahia Bustamente, on a wild stretch of Patagonian coast. The village was founded in 1953 by an entrepreneur who saw the potential for the collection of the seaweed which putrefied naturally along the coast. He built a private community with houses and social amenities for over 400 employees and their families, all surviving on natural resources. Nowadays the village has 40 inhabitants, the property includes a sheep farm and welcomes visitors to explore its protected wildlife- rich territory and undertake outdoor adventure activities. Whales, elephant seals, penguins, seabirds, guanacos, foxes, armadillos and skunks can be spotted on excursions from the village. The property takes seriously its responsibility to conservation: the coast behind it was designated a marine national park in 2009, but the only access to the park is across the private property, so it can be policed by the vigilance of the village management.
PeopleAs is the case with all our private journeys, we adopt the services of locally recruited guides and drivers in each location in order to promote local employment. This also ensures that you have face to face contact with people who are intimately familiar with their environment and community, and have a vested interest in protecting it so as to ensure the future of tourism in their region. This will help to put a brake on the current tendency for people to leave their homes to seek work in the large urban centres, which harms the socio-economic viability of the countryside and smaller settlements and puts pressure on the infrastructure of the larger cities.
Our partner company in Argentina has an internal policy of donating recyclable items to a foundation which converts them into toys for deprived children. In 2015 they intend to support native members of the Huichi, Toba and Mapuche tribes as well as other artisan crafts people by purchasing and distributing small gifts created by these people both to support them financially and promote local culture. They support the Mapuche Community project where volunteers bringing medical aid and education to remote and impoverished native Indian communities.
Where possible, your accommodation is in independent, locally owned and operated properties, where the income filters through to the local community. Your lodge in the centre of the Provincial reserve of the Iberá wetlands, Posada Aguape, was built in the style of a typical estancia of the region, and was founded by a family with deep roots in the province and a passion for the wetlands. The lodge aims to provide you with an authentic experience, not just through its architecture and excursions but also through your acquaintance with its locally recruited staff, the service and food: most of the ingredients, such as the organic products from its own orchard, are produced locally.
The Sheraton Hotel at Iguazú Falls has a commitment to employing 100% of its staff locally and to supporting the development of the local community.
New communities in the area around Iguazú Falls have only been established in the past few decades, bringing employment but also some negative practices. Yacutinga Lodge is endeavouring to introduce the concept of environmental conservation and social responsibility in the area, with a Volunteers Programme and support for local schools. The lodge also supports the local indigenous Guarani community, encouraging them to adapt traditional activities to more sustainable practices. By staying here you are actively helping them devolve more of these projects.
Bahia Bustamente provides employment in a wind-buffeted and sparsely populated area with few alternatives. Its income from tourism supplements what it can earn through its principal sources of income, seaweed harvesting and sheep farming, which are both sustainable. Bahia Bustamente organises workshops for wool dyeing and spinning, and on issues of conservation and the environment. Biologists studying the marine life and geologists are also welcomed here.