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Working as a wildlife photographer and guide has led me to many great experiences and findings. I was among the firsts to start guiding for jaguars in the Pantanal, then I found a great place for ocelots... but another great cat remained a mistery to me, the puma, also known as mountain lion or cougar in North America. This cat, recently described at a National Geographic article as the "phantom cat", is rarely seen by anyone, despite their huge range and variety of habitats where they occur. Up until this trip, I only had a couple pictures of pumas made with camera traps. I haven't even seen it live with my eyes. Last year I planned a scouting trip to find pumas in Torres del Paine National Park, southern Chile, and it was a great success. So, here's a quick report with some pics: Our amazing hotel inside the National Park, surrounded by beautiful huge mountains and minutes away from the best puma areas. The world famous Las Torres granite peaks at first light. This is the most impressive mountain I have ever seen. We had breakfast at the field overlooking this scenery unfold a different way each morning. As expected, the search for pumas wasn't easy and demanded patience and a lot of hours in the field. The terrain is vast and the "ghost cats" sure know how to hide. Not that searching in places like this is exactly boring though In the meantime we found some great birds to photograph, like this White-tufted Grebe. And the ever-present Guanacos, a relative of the camels. They represent the main prey of pumas in this part of the Andes. I will continue this report later today...
The "Ghost Cats", as National Geographic titles a recent article about the Puma, one of the most widespread of all the cats, but also one of the most difficult to actually see in the wild. As this same article says later on: "These largely nocturnal cats are so secretive that camera traps are one of the best ways to illuminate their lives". This is about to change, though. I have scouted a place, the best local guides and a way to actually see and approach these gorgeous cats in plain daylight to get photos of a lifetime. If this wasn't enought, this new exclusive tour happens in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, the Torres del Paine N.P. and surrounding areas in Chilean Patagonia. Our itinerary, unique among all operators, is the first one designed with the main goal of producing great photographs of wild Pumas. This is probably the first ever photo tour for this elusive species, and the actual chances of finding them during the trip are very high. Our very small group will be guided by the absolute best Puma trackers in the region while we explore the amazing scenery of Torres del Paine in search of the ultimate Andean predator. - Only 6 photographers per tour. A small group guarantees quality and flexibility. - The best trackers in the region, with keen eyes for spotting Pumas and deep knowledge of their habits and how to find them. - Very high chances for great encounters. - Every guest, trackers and me will have a personal communication radio, so we have freedom to explore the area without risking missing anything, or to split the group in two to increase our chances. - Gorgeous hotel inside the park, minutes from the best Puma areas. - One morning also photographing beautiful horses running in a nearby estancia. - Non-photographers are also welcomed! Date: March 15 to 22nd of 2015. Fee: US$ 6,899 per person. To know more about this tour please visit my website at www.octaviosalles.com.br or go straight to this PDF for more details. Very limited spots, so if you want to photograph a wild Puma make sure to book early.
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