Reserva Pumas del Paine, Torres del Paine, Chile
“Best place for photographing Pumas.” –CNN Travel
Pumas, Reserva Pumas del Paine, Torres del Paine, Chile.
Photography: Jorge Cardenas. Pumas of Torres del Paine Photography Tours.
Dr. Munn’s personal packing list
1) Layers, as it can be in the 60s in the daytime or in the high 30s or even near freezing in the early dawn, especially in April! It can rain, but normally does not.
2) 100% waterproof rain suit — can be Goretex, if you like — and that means trousers as well as a coat. Make sure that the trousers are baggy enough to be comfy.
3) Hiking boots that are fairly waterproof — you will not walk in standing water, but the grass can be very moist and it can rain for hours, though usually like London, it is light rain, not always light, but usually so. I have some Vasque brand Goretex hiking boots and have found them to be ideal in Torres del Paine, but that is by no means the only brand that is good — it is just one of many similar brands.
4) Thick,warm winter socks for use in the boots, and also some lighter-weight hiking socks if it is warmer out on a day or two or three.
5) Seriously good sun glasses. They don’t have to be pricey, but should wrap around a bit. I use 40- or 45-dollar sunglasses that I pick up at REI stores, and they are just fine.
6) A “bank robber” or “Everest expedition” kind of warm, pullover hat that covers your whole face, leaving only your eyes out — as when it is in the 40s and blowing hard, as in 40 or 50 or 60 mph winds for hours on end, having your face covered is perfect.
7) Warm gloves or mittens ... like for skiing.
8) I have not used them, but some guests loved to use the hand-warming and toe-warming chemical packets.
9) A heavy winter, down jacket or ski coat or outdoor expedition down coat, with hard outer covering. I like the models from Mountain Hardwear, as the outer covering is quite resistant to tears from the thorns on the bushes.
10) I also use a heavy winter overalls kind of thing, like heavy warm pants from North Face, I believe, that come up like a workman’s bib to the chest and are held up by suspenders. That is great when it is blowing hard and is coldish.
11) In February, the high temperature can reach 65 or 69 degrees F, but normal high temperature is between 45 and 58 degrees F. The pre-dawn temperature in February normally is about 34 to 38 degrees F, but it can get close to freezing — 32 or 30 degrees F.
12) The wind is a big, big factor at this time of year. Expect normal winds at this time of year to be 20 to 40 mph on most days. But expect 1 or 2 days to have winds of 35 to 60 mph, which makes you cold and is a major challenge. That’s why layering is so important, as you can use a base layer like an undershirt and long johns under warm pants and coat — layers and layers. It is not 20, 15 or 10 degrees F, but 50 mph winds when it is 42 or 45 degrees that makes you feel very cold after 2 or 3 hours, even if you are well dressed.
13) Sunblock cream
14) Chapstick with sunblock in it
15) A rain cover for your camera backpack or daypack — to wear while walking slowly in the rolling, grassy landscapes. And have some large plastic garbage bags on hand or in the bottom of your daypack or camera backpack that are large enough to pull out and use to bag your entire daypack or entire camera backpack in case it starts to rain more.
16) A couple of external hard drives and/or laptops or other media on which you can store your photos so that you have your best photos or all your photos backed up in two places, at least.
17) Good binoculars — preferably 8 by 42 or 7 by 42 powers — of a good brand — one pair of binoculars per person. Do not rely only on the long lenses to try to spot and follow Pumas. Binoculars are much better for that. If you want, you can bring binoculars that are higher power but with image stabilization. That’s cool, also, but the 7 or 8 power Zeiss or Swarovski or Leica binoculars are very, very good for looking for and following Pumas when the light conditions are low. Higher power binoculars that have image stabilization do not work very well in very low light conditions.
18) Two small or one small and one larger flashlight for walking in the wilds during the pre-dawn or post-sunset darkness.
19) A good daypack or, if you are heavily into photography, a camera backpack.
20) You can bring a tripod or two, but bring them protected and padded in your large clothes duffels or as separate items in their own tripod covers.
21) Some simpler shoes for puttering around the lodge.
22) Your smart phone with Skype and WhatsApp loaded onto it, please.
23) You can ask for laundry service at Hostería Pehoé, but I don’t really recommend doing that. Rather, bring enough clothes to not have to worry about laundry while there.
24) The shampoos are not that spectacular, so if anyone loves certain shampoos, please bring some along in your check-in luggage.
Cell service & Internet access
There is no cell service at the Hostería Pehoé. The best spot for cell service in on the eastern edge of the Puma reserve, where you can sit in the warm car. However, it requires a hookup with Entel, the only operator in the area. Please consult with us if cell phone service is vital to you or if Internet access will be sufficient.
There is bad Internet at the Hostería Pehoé. A four-minute drive south of the hotel is Camping Pehoé, a different company. They have a different Internet service that tends to work a bit better than the hotel’s, which comes and goes, and is very slow even when it is working. There is much better Internet at our logistical base in the Puma reserve.
Local guides and hotels are happy with dollars as tips, but you might want a bit of Chilean cash (“Chilean pesos”), such as 200, 300, 400 dollars each of Chilean pesos. I recommend taking the pesos out of cash machines in the Santiago de Chile airport, as there is little time to go to serious exchange places in Punta Arenas.
Gratuities are voluntary and should not exceed an amount you feel comfortable giving. If you wish to give a tip for excellent service, we provide the following guidance (from each guest):
A conventional tipping scheme might be USD 10 to USD 20 per day for the entire hotel staff ... not to any individual person.
The guide would normally get USD 15 to USD 25 per day.
The entire Puma search team (not each individual) would get USD 15 to USD 25 per day.
if there is a driver with the guide, then that is USD 5 to USD 10 dollars per day.
Any tip can be given on the last day at Torres del Paine.
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