With its jagged granite mountains, blue glacial lakes and snow-melt rivers,Torres del Paine draws thousands of hikers, horse-riders and kayakers from around the world.
And if pristine natural beauty wasn’t reason enough to visit Patagonia’s most famous national park, it is also one of the best places in the world to spot pumas.
“You will see a puma most days if you’re diligent about the hours,” Charlie Munn told The Independent’s Gabriel O’Rorke. “It’s not luck. Put in time at the right time and it’s highly likely you will see them each day.”
Munn works for SouthWild, a tour company that is so confident of assuring customers puma sightings that it offers two nights and three days accommodation at the Hosteria Pehoe hotel in Torres del Paine should they fail to spot one of the big cats after four days.
So how can the company guarantee sightings of an animal that shuns human attention, lives alone and hunts at night?
The answer involves pre-dawn risings and late night rovings – but for animal lovers, the chance to see these majestic hunters up-close and in-action will be well worth the lost sleep.
Guided by national park rangers, the tours roll through backcountry in four-wheel drive, lighting up known haunts with spotlights and hiding out in bunkers with telescopes and cameras.
Along with their intended prey, puma spotters are also highly likely to run into other members of the region’s impressive array of fauna: foxes, skunks, Andean condors, and rheas, South America’s large grey ostriches.
And when the pumas go to bed, visitors to Torres del Paine can spend the day admiring the cats’ main food source – the local camelids, guanacos, that graze on the park’s rolling hills, often seen silhouetted on a hilltop, eyes peeled for pumas.