How the wilderness areas of Argentina and Chile are ushering in a new era of eco-travel

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This turnaround is fueled by the foundation’s success in creating an economy based on conservation and creating jobs in ecotourism – “we call it the ‘production of nature,'” says Sofía, inspired in part by andBeyond model “Care for the Earth, Care for the Wildlife”. , care of the people. In the town of Carlos Pellegrini, locals who once hunted now work as park rangers, or are part of the new Parque Iberá interpretation center, or guide boat trips on the lake, where caimans (small alligators) sleep on logs kingfishers bomb dive for dinner. , and families of capybaras rustle along the shore – a peaceful menagerie that was unthinkable just a few years ago.

“Care of the People” is the cornerstone of the company’s efforts across the continent at Vira Vira, their exquisite wood and glass lodge in Chile’s Lake District, where we stop after a long day of travel. Amid an array of snow-capped volcanoes, crystal clear lakes and towns with chalet-style buildings – close your eyes and it could be Switzerland – wildlife is scarce. But these landscapes remain vital to the Mapuche, Chile’s largest indigenous group, who tend to live in isolated communities. In the village of Quelhue, a guest from Vira Vira sponsored a rainwater harvesting system for the family of local elder Doña Rosario, who welcomes guests to her house, one of the last roofed houses of stubble of the region. Rukas. His son Fernando shows his rows of spinach and potatoes. “We only take what we need from the land,” he says. “The Mapuche have always had a respect for nature.”

Days here are built around the spectacular natural setting. We spend a morning hiking the trails of Villarica National Park below the eponymous 9,500-foot volcano and around serene glacial lakes, bamboo forests, and ancient monkey puzzle trees. arucaria—where the silence is broken only by the pok-pok of a Magellanic woodpecker. Later, we zoom to the top of Villarica Crater in a helicopter, gazing down into the belching chasm. Vira Vira is a wooded haven with riverside rooms in which a cozy fire is lit after dinners of local salmon or venison and Chilean Malbecs – a perfect place to recharge before embarking on the next long-distance journey .

Sprawling as it is, Chilean Patagonia has seen a surge in tourism, thanks to its towering mountains, massive icefields and rolling pampas, and the cryptic cat that roams them, the puma. The journey continues south to Torres del Paine National Park, a five-hour drive from Punta Arenas through scrubby steppe patrolled by local llamas. guanacos and Andean condors. Estancia Cerro Guido, a cattle ranch/sheep farm in a valley beneath the snow-capped massif, is one of Chile’s most exciting wildlife projects. can safely coexist with thriving wildlife.

Next door in the national park, overcrowding and lax management have reportedly led to irresponsible tourist practices, such as luring cougars with food. Cerro Guido, a quarter-million-acre private patch, takes conservation into its own hands by establishing a puma research project led by Pia Vergara and a herding livestock herding dog program. Guests have access to behind-the-scenes conservation activities – setting out with Pia at dawn to collect camera trap footage, touring the puma command center, and tracking the movements of fawn cats across a ridge where a river attracts guanacos to drink, leaving them as easy prey. A trained photographer, Pia has a knack for positioning her guests for the perfect shot.

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