When my tour van entered Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonian Chile, our guide enlisted us as wildlife spotters. She ticked off some of the species we might see. The Patagonian Puma is the most sought after sighting, however they are reclusive and usually stay far away from the only road through the park. But if we had sharp eyes we might spot one of two varieties of fox; the small, endangered Huemul deer; Andean Condors; Southern Crested Caracaras (a large bird of prey); the Patagonian Mara (a large rat-like creature); and the Patagonian Armadillo. “Oh, I almost forgot the Guanaco,” she added dismissively.
Two minutes later we cruised past a couple of Guanaco, a close relation to the llama and part of the camelid family. I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough and was frustrated that the driver hadn’t stopped. It didn’t take long to learn why. Not half a mile further, we drove directly into a whole herd of Guanaco. “Quietly and slowly,” our guide advised as we climbed off the van. Some of the Guanacoes hid behind bushes, munching on ripped-off branches. Some milled about in packs, nervously watching our every move. The bolder ones casually strolled down the highway past our van. I snapped away merrily, capturing loads of close-ups of the adorable mammals. But my favorite shot was this solitary Guanaco, standing on a hillside as if surveying its domain.
If you enjoyed this mini-story, you may also be interested in my featured article discussing whether it is safe to visit Santiago, Chile, or another about the town of Puerto Natales, gateway to Torres del Paine National Park.