Patagonia – the sparsely populated region of South America that stretches across Chile and Argentina, from the southern tip of the Andes to deserts, steppes and grasslands in the east– is known for its larger-than-life natural attractions.

patagonia-elephant-sealThe Southern elephant seal is an animal with an amazing number of accolades: Largest pinniped and deepest diving are just two very impressive records established by these incredible creatures. I have been extremely fortunate to observe Southern elephant seals at many haul sites on International Expeditions' Antarctica and Patagonia tours.

kelp goose - claudio vidalAt first glance, it appears that the entire population of Kelp geese is male...but wait, on closer inspection of the rocky shorelines of Patagonia, there is a female kelp goose accompanying every male. The reason for this first glance discrepancy is the sexual dimorphism between males and females of this species.

Camels in the Americas? How crazy is that? Many millions of years ago, camelids (the camel family) were part of the fauna of North America. They existed and gradually evolved from tiny creatures the size of a domestic cat to animals the size of a goat...and eventually even much larger. The camels of North America survived until about 12,000 years ago, when humans crossed the Bering land bridge into North America.

As much of the world turns its attention to Brazil for World Cup 2014, we’re looking at the iconic wildlife of the teams facing off. Our Round 1 match-up pits Chile’s guanaco, a favorite species observed on our Patagonia tours, against Australia’s iconic kangaroo. 

Chile: Guanaco

The Humboldt penguin is very similar in both size and appearance to the more southerly Magellanic penguin. When observed from the front, they are quite easily distinguished by looking at the dark chest band or bands depending on the species. The Humboldt penguin has a single black chest band on an otherwise white chest and belly whereas the Magellanic penguin has two black chest bands.

There is little in nature as enduring as a penguin. They somewhat resemble little humans in tuxedos and walk like Charlie Chaplain of the silent movie era. Actually, penguins were walking on earth and ice and swimming in the southern Oceans long before the days of Charlie Chaplain, so it should be said he walked like a penguin as opposed to the other way around. There are a few species of penguins known to occur at the Southern tip of South America but only the Magellanic penguin is a common resident.  

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Central and South America, or Latin America, has long been considered one of the top destinations in the world for hiking. And not just those seemingly impossible hikes that only the fittest would undertake, such as Mt. Everest, but awe-inspiring hikes for everyone from the family of novice hikers to the experienced climber.

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International Expeditions’ Patagonia tour is expanding in 2013 and will allow guests an rare opportunity to visit Tierra del Fuego’s Porvenir, home to world’s most accessible colony of king penguins. King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) are the second largest member of the family and probably the most beautiful and charismatic species of the penguin world.

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The landscapes of Chilean Patagonia are so impressive and brimming with sights that nature travel enthusiasts can’t absorb everything in just one trip. After you’ve explored the famed glaciers and landscapes of Torres del Paine, adventurers should consider venturing off of the beaten path to the Marble Cathedral near General Carrera glacial lake on the border of Chile and Argentina. The remoteness of this location makes it a bit complicated to reach, but once you get there, you'll be glad you made the effort.

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