Puma, Chile

Guide to Big Cat Safaris: Pumas

Puma, Chile

© Shutterstock

Puma: The Mountain Lion

This secretive American big cat goes by an impressive set of names: puma, mountain lion, cougar, panther and catamount. They once roamed throughout the American continent, but they have been persecuted for generations due to their conflict with domestic livestock.

In some places in recent years these big cats have had something of a renaissance recently, particularly in Patagonia, due to man’s increasing focus on conservation in these parts. Torres del Paine National Park in Chile is currently the place to go where you stand a decent chance of sighting these magnificent creatures.

Finding them is certainly not easy, as they are very shy, more or less silent, and tend to be solitary and largely (though not totally) nocturnal. However, when you do come across a puma, their beautiful, sleek sandy-coloured bodies and gentle faces will enthral you.

Our primary reason for going to Torres del Paine was to see pumas. This was better than we imagined as we were able to get close to them, within twenty feet, and walk alongside them and even watch them feed on their kill on two occasions. Fabulous encounters.

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Chile Holidays : A puma in Torres del Paine, Chile © JMcDonald,Shutterstock

Planning a puma trek

Torres del Paine in the Chilean Patagonia is the very best place to see wild pumas. They have protection here because of it being a national park, and there is plentiful food, mostly in the form of guanacos (similar to alpacas). Exact numbers are unknown, but it’s thought that there are up to 100 pumas in the park. No sighting can be guaranteed, of course, however if you spend a few days here, you stand a reasonable chance of seeing one.
Take a look at our Puma Tracking holiday shown below.

The best time to see pumas

Although you can see pumas all year in theory, we find the best months to visit Torres del Paine in Chile to see these cats tend to be October-November (Spring) and March-April/May (early autumn).
In winter, from around June to September, the pumas are still around and there are far fewer visitors but it’s very cold. December to February (summer) tend to be the busiest time here so it is a good time to come but it’s often very windy and the higher visitor numbers can mean that pumas are a little more shy of showing themselves.

Getting to Torres del Paine, Chile

To get to Torres del Paine you must fly to Punta Arenas in the very far south of Chile and from there it is around a 4 hour drive up to the park.

Puma Conservation

Similar problems threaten pumas as all other big cats: human-wildlife conflict, being killed to protect domestic animals, sport hunting, and reduced habitat. Exact numbers are not known, but it is believed they are in decline – apart from in Torres del Paine National Park. The charity Panthera.org, which devotes itself to protecting all big cats, reckons that 4000 pumas are killed by humans each year in North America.

Puma tracking with EcoCamp Patagonia, Chile
Featured Holiday

Puma Tracking in Patagonia

6 days from £6,385pp plus international flights.

Explore the beautiful landscapes of Torres del Paine National Park as you go in search of pumas and other wildlife.

    • Fantastic wildlife adventure in Torres del Paine National Park
    • Stay in a geodesic dome in an eco-camp in the park
    • Daily excursions with wildlife trackers/guide
    • Visit the magnificent Grey Glacier, see blue icebergs on Grey Lake
    • Seek out puma, fox, nandu, condor and guanaco
    • Group limited to 5 people
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Photographer in Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
Featured Holiday

Classic Chile in Style

15 days from £8770pp plus international flights.

Visit the contrasting landscapes of Chile; experience the Atacama desert, Chiloe Island and the jaw-dropping scenery of Patagonia and Torres del Paine.

    • Explore the desolate landscape of Patagonia's magnificent Torres del Paine National Park
    • Stay on Chiloe Island, with its painted houses, wooden churches and penguin colonies
    • Visit El Tatio geysers and the lunar landscape in Atacama
    • Cruise along the Chaques archipelago
    • Fantastic hiking, horse riding and mountain biking
    • Take a city tour of historic Santiago and Valparaiso
    • Enjoy a vineyard tour and wine tasting
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Altiplano, Chile
Featured Holiday

Atacama, Lakes and Patagonia

13 days from £4600pp plus international flights.

Explore three contrasting regions of Chile, with varied tours led by local guides, as you experience desert, lake and mountain scenery.

    • Admire the lunar-like landscape of Atacama's Moon Valley and enjoy incredible stargazing
    • Take a catamaran cruise in the beautiful Lake District and see the waterfalls and volcanoes
    • See Chiloe Island's colourful stilt houses and pretty villages
    • Cruise the Patagonian fjords - spot sea lions and cormorants
    • Explore azure Lake Peho, Grey Glacier and the blue icebergs of Grey Lake
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