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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Chile: Tierra del Fuego to the Atacama Desert

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Chile. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document sent to all tour registrants, whose contents supersedes any information contained here.

ENTERING CHILE: A passport valid past the date of your departure from Chile and at least one blank passport page are required. A visa is not required of U.S. citizens. 

Citizens of other countries may need a visa, and should check with the Chilean embassy or consulate. If required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour. 

Citizens of the USA, UK and Canada  do not have to pay the USD $160 entry (“reciprocity”) fee. As far as we are aware Australian citizens must still pay this fee (roughly USD $60); a receipt will be stapled into the passport and is good for the life of your passport, so don’t throw it away. These fees may change annually and can be paid in cash (but be warned you need pristine bills) or credit card.

COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/chile.html, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Chile at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ci.html.

Most days we’ll have continental breakfast between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. (earlier before our pelagic or possible very early flights). After breakfast we usually depart for a day of birding and/or travel, with box lunches and a supply of snacks (fruit, cookies, nuts, etc.) and drinks to keep us going. One morning we do a six- to eight-hour pelagic out into the Humboldt Current. Dinners are at our hotels, and sometimes involve set menus.

Most of the walking is on level to gently sloping terrain, and there are no long hikes; particularly in the South, we do a lot of birding from in or near the vehicle. We may descend a couple of short steep slopes to important birding areas; on one day we may walk around on a (dry) bog at 14,000 feet elevation, but in such cases there is the option to stay in the vehicle.

Those interested in bog-trotting for Diademed Sandpiper-Plover (where it is often necessary to ford a small creek) and, if water levels are suitable, South American Painted-snipe (where it can be very muddy and where there can be small rivulets to cross up to a few inches in depth), would be advised to bring wellingtons (calf-high rubber boots) or plastic overshoes or “disposable” sneakers that you don’t mind getting wet and muddy.  These boots can be left at our Santiago Hotel for sections of the tour where they are not needed. 

HEALTH: There are no major health risks in Chile. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. 

They further recommend that most travelers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid. 

Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure. 

The most current information about travelers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s  Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/chile

Since it may be impossible to obtain personal medications, please bring what you will need. 

Water: Water supplies are excellent, but bottled water is also widely available. Immodium or Pepto Bismol in tablet form can be recommended as the best treatment for occasional traveler’s diarrhea. 

Insects: We may occasionally encounter mosquitoes; we recommend using insect repellents with a high concentration of DEET. 

Altitude:   In the South and the Lake District we won’t be at elevations higher than about 5,000 feet, but in the Andes of Central Chile we get up to 10,000 feet. In the north, we’ll get to 15,000 feet for one day, but it is possible to stay at the hotel at 11,500 feet, near which we’ll spend the preceding day to help acclimate. We do not run around at these elevations, and much of the birding is from the vehicles.  People with a history of respiratory or coronary problems should consult with their doctors in any event. 

Motion Sickness: We will have one or possibly two boat trips. 

Smoking:  Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail. 

CLIMATE: The Austral spring means that weather in the South and Lake District can vary from bright and sunny (though not warm) to cold and rainy, or even snowy; and it tends to be windy and cool in the South (below freezing with the wind chill). 

In Central Chile it is similar to spring in central California, i.e., from sunny and mild (60s to 70s) in the lowlands to cool (and in the afternoons windy) at high elevations (50s or even 40s early and late in the day). The coast can be sunny and breezy or cool and foggy, just like California. 

The Atacama Desert in the North is the driest place on Earth, and rain at this season would be exceptional; the lowlands are hot (to cool and foggy on the coast; 50s to high 70s), the highlands cold at night (at times dropping to freezing, though this is less common as the climate warms) and in the early morning, becoming sunny and warm (70s or higher) in mid-morning, and usually windy in the afternoons.  

ACCOMMODATIONS: At Punta Arenas we stay in a modern hotel overlooking the Straits of Magellan. On Tierra del Fuego we stay in a hotel/motel. In the Lake District we stay at a ski-resort hotel. None has an outdoor pool, but this hasn’t been a concern given the climate. At Valparaíso we stay at in a modern hotel with the usual facilities. In Arica we stay in a resort hotel on the coast. At Putre we stay in a new and very comfortable hosteria (basically a motel). All have private bathrooms and heating; food is abundant and good to excellent. In Santiago, we stay at a modern, comfortable hotel close to the airport. Wifi access at the hotels ranges from poor (Putre) to good (Santiago), but access is getting better every year.                                    

FOOD: Chile has a wide variety of mostly European-style food, featuring good steaks, seafood, empanadas, salads and other dishes, plus of course its “endemic” and justly famous wines. On several days we have picnic lunches of typical make-your-own sandwich fare, plus Chilean specialties such as empanadas. 

Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions. 

WINGS tours are all-inclusive, and no refunds can be issued for any tour meals participants choose to skip. 

TRANSPORTATION: Most of our land transportation will be in minibuses. We will often be on gravel roads in the South, which can be quite dusty. Note that we have five internal flights, potentially two boat trips and a fair number of windy roads. Anyone susceptible to motion sickness should bring an appropriate remedy.

Updated: 20 November 2017