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We are Birders - We are Leica

We are Birders - We are Leica

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Blue Whales of Chiloe Island


The Blue Whale is the world's largest living animal and for many decades it was considered on the verge of extinction. More than a decade ago, a group of Chilean scientists discovered an important nursery area for these mighty and gentle giants off Chiloe Island. 

Join us on this exclusive 6-day journey to explore the waters of the Corcovado Gulf and the Guaitecas Archipelago, western Patagonia, where Blue Whales plus an interesting array of other cetaceans and seabirds occur.


6-day trip. Starts/Ends at Balmaceda, Chile • 2016 departures: February 28 & March 6


Blue Whale, Corcovado Gulf, off Chiloe Island © Jordi Plana, Far South Expeditions

Blue Whale, Balaenoptera musculus. Corcovado Gulf, off Chiloe © Jordi Plana, Far South Expeditions


Book this trip, reserve space now!Chiloe Island is an archipelagic zone of southern Chile, located in western Patagonia. It has the reputation of being one of the rainiest places on Earth; lush temperate rainforests cover the coastal hills and many small fishing villages are scattered across its associated archipelagos. The surrounding seas are highly productive and this region marks the beginning of the northward-flowing Humboldt Current, one of the world's richest oceanic ecosystems. The iconic Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus) have found in the food-rich waters of the Chilean Fjords the perfect shelter to feed and nurse their young. This population of Blue Whale spends the southern summer months near to the tropics, depending on the abundance and displacement of the krill. 

We will spend many hours on board, searching for Blue Whales, potentially other whale species (e.g. Humpback), plus dolphins, sea lions and fur seals. Many seabirds occur here such as albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, cormorants and gulls. Also, the newly-discovered Pincoya storm-petrel is likely to be found here! 

This exclusive boat-based trip discovers one of the least explored parts of South America, the extraordinarily beautiful and pristine Chilean Fjords in the west coast of Patagonia, from Aisén into the Guaitecas Islands, north into Gulf of Corcovado. On board our floating lodge you will enjoy all the comfort and great food and wines while admiring the imposing landscape unveiling before your eyes as you sail on, en route to spectacular channels, bays and inlets where you will land to be inmerse in a lush forest inhabited by terrestrial birds and fauna and the rich miniature forests of fungi, lichens, mosses and a host of small amphibians and insects and other invertebrates that wait to be discovered. Explore such spectacular places and be marvelled by the wildlife around, including seabirds and marine mammals, among them the majestic Blue Whale, the largest animal that has ever lived on the planet. In land, you will also enjoy exploring, contemplating and delighting in the unexpected beauty of these magical places. 





Itinerary in Brief (6 days / 5 nights)

Northern Royal Albatross © Enrique Couve, Far South Expeditions


Day 1 • Fly to Balmaceda (Coyhaique) – Transfer to Puerto Aysén and boarding M/V Noctiluca (5 nights)

Day 2 • Cruising Moraleda Channel

Days 3/5 • Cruising Gulf of Corcovado for Blue Whale, Pincoya Storm Petrel and other marine mammals and seabirds. Potential landings at Puerto Marin Balmaceda and Tic-Toc Bay

Day 5 • Back to Moraleda Channel in the afternoon 

Day 6 • Sailing back to Puerto Aysén – Transfer to Balmaceda airport


Trip Highlights

• Dedicated whale-watching expedition to find, study and photograph Blue Whales off Chiloe Island, western Patagonia. 

• Discover a rich array of seabirds and marine mammals including penguins, albatrosses, petrels as well as dolphins, other whale species, sea lions and fur seals. 

• Cruise along the scenic western archipelagos of Patagonia exploring the remote Corcovado National Park and the recently established Tic-Toc Bay Marine Park. 

• Explore lush and pristine temperate forests of western Patagonia, inhabited by a diverse array of endemic birds such as tapaculos, wiretail and Magellanic Woodpecker!  

• The picturesque, dramatic and unknown habitats of the Chiloe archipelagos (western Patagonia), holding a remarkable wildlife, scenery and cultural highlights. 


This program is operated as a scheduled departure, leaving on a set date and with a minimum of 6 guests and a maximum of 8 guests.

The Difference of Travelling with Far South Expeditions

• Each of our trips to the Guaitecas Archipelago (southern Chiloe) have a maximum of 8 guests. 

• Great accommodations at the Noctiluca floating lodge.

• Memorable dinning cuisine and lunches. 

• Thorough nature interpretation provided by one expedition leader of our company. 


Blue Whales of Chiloe Island can be combined with one of the following optional extensions:

Chile's Lake District & Chiloe Island (5 days, 4 nights)

• Pumas of Torres del Paine (6 days, 5 nights), dedicated private and small-group mammal expedition to find the elusive and lonely apex predator of the Andes, Puma.

Patagonia Explorer (9 days, 8 nights), discover the best of Patagonia and explore Los Glaciares National Park and the world-famous Perito Moreno Glacier (Argentina) plus Torres del Paine National Park and Tierra del Fuego, in Chile.


Detailed Itinerary and Activities


Starts/Ends: Balmaceda, Chile


Day 1 • Arrival to Balmaceda airport – Transfer to Puerto Aisén and boarding M/V Noctiluca – Sailing to Gulf of Corcovado 

Today, after landing at Balmaceda airport, we'll be transferred to Puerto Aisén (2 hours) where we'll board our floating lodge, M/V Noctiluca, a comfortable, cozy and beautiful wooden ship that will be our base during the trip. 

After meeting the captain and the crew and settled at our cabins, we will begin our quest for the marine wildlife of northwestern Patagonia. We will sail along the scenic Aysen Fjord where we expect to see Peale's Dolphin, South American Sea Lion, and interesting birds such as King Cormorant, Flightless Steamer Duck, Kelp Goose, and South American Terns. By the end of the day we will look for a scenic spot near Puerto Aguirre for dinner and spending the night. 

Overnight at M/V Noctiluca (Lunch, Dinner)(Guide)


M/V Noctiluca © Rodrigo Tapia, Far South Expeditions


Day 2 • Moraleda Channel

We'll be up early and after a delicious breakfast we'll go out on the decks to scan for whales, dolphins and seabirds, while admiring the beautiful landscapes of the maze of channels and islands around. We will be sailing along part of the 90-mile long Moraleda Channel, which separates the mainland from the huge archipelagos of Chonos and Guaitecas. To the east we will see magnificent Andes peaks such as the Mentolat (1,660 m), Melimollu volcano (2,400 m) and the Maca Volcano (2,916 m.). We will be constantly scanning for the ocassional presence of pods of Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) which predates upon the numerous South American sea lion colonies located along the coast and small forested islands. As we get closer to the Corcovado Gulf, we will enjoy watching a good sample of oceanic seabirds including Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel, Southern Fulmar and long-distant migrants such as the migratory Arctic Skua or Parasitic Jaeger. The day will be a pleasant experience sailing along this protected and beautiful coastline.

By the end of the day we dock near Puerto Marin Balmaceda to do a nice walk to study the birdlife and vegetation of these dense temperate woodlands. We hope to see interesting species such as Black-throated Huet-huet, Chucao, Ochre-flanked and Magellanic Tapaculos, DesMurs' Wiretail, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, White-throated Treerunner, and if we are lucky Magellanic Woodpecker and Rufous-legged Owl.

Overnight at M/V Noctiluca (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)(Guide)


Tic-Toc Bay, Corcovado Gulf, Chile © Claudio F. Vidal, Far South Expeditions

Patagonian Fjords © Claudio F. Vidal, Far South Expeditions

Days 3/4 • Corcovado Gulf for Blue Whale and other marine mammals and seabirds  Visit Tic-Toc Bay

We will have two full days to explore the Gulf of Corcovado to look for marine mammals, especially Blue Whale, largest animal on Earth, which occupies these waters as feeding grounds.

The iconic Blue Whales (Balaenoptera musculus) have found in the food-rich waters of the Chilean Fjords, the perfect shelter to feed and to nurse their young. This population of Blue Whale spend the southern summer months near to the tropics, depending on the abundance and displacement of the krill. The huge Corcovado Gulf is considered as one of the world's largest estuary ecosystems and due to mixing processes of freshwater and the rich Pacific Ocean, huge oceanographic processes determine the great productivity of this area, capable to hold the largest concentration of Blue Whale in the SOuthern Hemisphere plus a vast array of other marine wildlife. We will spend many hours on board, searching for Blue Whales, potentially Humpback whales, plus the endemic Chilean Dolphin, Southern Fur Seal and pelagic seabirds such as Black-browed Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel and the recently discovered and endemic Pincoya Storm Petrel.

Depending on our progress with Blue Whales, we will have the time for evening explorations of the delightful and mpressive coastline of Tic-Toc Bay. This whole area has been recently recongnized as one of the few marine parks of Chile based not just on the seasonal presence of the Blue Whales but also on the rich array of other cetaceans, marine mammals, seabirds and the impressive community of fishes and marine invertebrates occurring in the bay and associated archipelagos. 

See the video showing the work of WWF Chile & Centro Ballena Azul on Corcovado Gulf. Click here.

Overnight at M/V Noctiluca (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)(Guide)


Blue Whale, Corcovado Gulf, off Chiloe Island © Jordi Plana, Far South Expeditions

Blue Whale, Balaenoptera musculus. Corcovado Gulf, off Chiloe © Jordi Plana, Far South Expeditions


Day 5 • Melinka  Moraleda Channel

We'll spend most of the day looking for wildlife around the Island of Melinka before heading south towards Guaitecas Archipelago and Aisén Fjord. En route we'll see islets and rocks with Southern Sea Lion rookeries and massive seabird colonies, where several species of cormorants, gulls and terns nest.

Overnight at M/V Noctiluca (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)(Guide)


Flightless Steamer-Duck, Tachyeres pteneres © Claudio F. Vidal, Far South Expeditions


Day 6 • Sailing back to Puerto Aisén, transfer to Balmaceda airport

Before noon we'll be entering Aisén Fjord to disembark at Puerto Aisén and be transferred to Balmaceda airport, from where we'll fly to Santiago.




Trip Map

Blue Whales of Chile Trip Map



Dates and Rates Season 2016

Meet/Depart: Balmaceda, Chile


2016 Departures: February 28 & March 6


Group size:

Minimum 6 participants (3 doble cabins) plus 1 FSE naturalist guide 

Maximum 8 participants (2 double cabins + 1 quadruple cabin) plus 1 FSE naturalist guide


2016 Rates:


Blue Whales of Chiloe Island
Trip Code CHL13
Trip Length 6 days, 5 nights
2016 Dates February 28 & March 6
Cabin Type Double Cabin (2) Quadruple Cabin (1)
Price per person $3,714 $1,857

Trips are guaranteed to depart with a minimum of 6 participants.

Maximum 8 participants.


Do you want us to arrange your flights from Santiago (SCL) to Balmaceda (BBA)?

Domestic flights Santiago - Balmaceda - Santiago (from US$ 300 per person).

Duration of the flight: 2.5 - 3 hours (with stopover in Puerto Montt).


What the trip includes/excludes

Single supplement will be added if single accommodations are requested.

The trip price includes: Accommodations and meals as stated in the itinerary aboard M/V Noctiluca, services of naturalist guide, airport transfers from Balmaceda to Puerto Aysen plus park entrance fees.

The trip price excludes: Domestic flights, tipping, travel insurance, à la carte dishes, snacks, drinks, laundry, telephone calls and anything else of a purely personal nature.


Tour Registration

To register for this tour, complete our registration form. In return we will send you a trip deposit invoice (US$ 750 per person) that can be paid by credit card (using our secure payment system) or by wire transfer to our US Bank Account. Full payment of the tour fee is due 90 days prior to tour departure.


Cancellation Policy

Notice of cancellation can only be accepted IN WRITING from the person who signed the booking form and takes effect on the day such noticed is received by us.


Refunds are made according to the following schedule:

If cancellation is made 120 days or more before departure date, the deposit less US$ 250 is refundable.

If cancellation is made between 120 and 60 days before departure, the deposit is not refundable, but any payments covering the balance of the fee will be refunded.

If cancellation is made fewer than 60 days before departure date, no refund is available.

This policy and fee schedule also applies to pre-trip and post trip extensions, as well as any transfers from one tour to another. We strongly recommend the purchase of trip cancellation insurance to protect yourself.


The Vessel


M/V Noctiluca

See photo gallery here:




Constructed between 2005 and 2007, “Noctiluca” is a 57-foot motor yacht named after the luminous plankton that abounds in Patagonian waters. The ship was constructed using a unique Patagonian wood (cipres de las Guaitecas) used for centuries by the maritime chiloe seagoing culture. Blending the traditional artwork of experienced Chiloe boat builders with the latest technology in boat design, safety and interior finishing, Noctiluca offers a cosy wooden interior and comfortable cabins as well as safety and reliability. The ship features two double guest cabins (lower double berth and upper single berth) and a front cabin with four single beds. All sharing two heads (bathrooms) roomy with hot water and showers. The yacht is handled by a skilled crew and captain with decades of experience in Patagonian waters.


Specifications Accommodations

• Length: 57 ft (17 mts)

• Beam: 16 ft (5 mts)

• Engine: 325 HP Turbo

• Cruising Speed: 10 knots

• Diesel: 3200 litres (850 US gallons)

• Water: 1800 litres (475 gallons)

• Electricity: 12/24volts and 220volts

• Boats: 5-mt (16-ft) wooden dinghy and 3.5 mt (11.5 ft) semi-rigid RIB Zodiac

• Communications systems: VHF, HF & Iridium Satellite Phone

• 2 Life Rafts

• 2 double cabins with double bed plus single

• 1 bow cabin with 4 single beds

• 2 bathrooms with hot water showers

• Interior saloon room with fire place/DVD/ Sound system /refrigerator

• Covered exterior deck

• Bridge with chart table and

• Separate cabins and bathroom for crew

• Galley


M/V Noctiluca Plan 1

M/V Noctiluca Plan 2


Photo Gallery


Check out our photo gallery with the wildlife and landscapes of our trip Blue Whales of Chiloe Island.

Blue Whale, Corcovado Gulf, off Chiloe Island © Jordi Plana, Far South Expeditions



Field Checklist

Birds and Mammals possible to be seen during this expedition.




Rorqual Whales | Balaenopteridae

Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus

Humpback Whale Megaptera novaengliae


Dolphins | Delphinidae

Peale's Dolphin Lagenorhynchus australis

Chilean Dolphin Cephalorhynchus eutropia


Mustelids | Mustelidae

Marine Otter Lontra felina


Eared Seals | Otariidae

South American Sea Lion Otaria byronia

Southern Fur Seal Arctocephalus australis



Penguins | Spheniscidae

Magellanic Penguin Spheniscus magellanicus


Grebes | Podicipedidae

Great Grebe Podicephorus major

Albatrosses | Diomedeidae

Northern Royal Albatross Diomedea sanfordi

Black-browed Albatross Thalassarche melanophris

Shearwaters & Petrels | Procellariidae

Antarctic Giant Petrel Macronectes giganteus

Southern Fulmar Fulmarus glacialoides

White-chinned Petrel Procellaria aequinoctialis

Pink-footed Shearwater Puffinus creatopus

Sooty Shearwater Puffinus griseus


Storm-Petrels | Hydrobatidae

Unnamed Storm-Petrel Oceanites sp. (nova sp.)

Wilson's Storm-Petrel Oceanites oceanicus


Diving-Petrels | Pelecanoididae

Magellanic Diving-Petrel Pelecanoides magellani

Pelicans | Pelecanidae

Peruvian Pelican Pelecanus thagus


Gannets & Boobies | Sulidae

Peruvian Booby Sula variegata


Cormorants | Phalacrocoracidae

Neotropic Cormorant Phalacrocorax brasilianus

Rock Shag Phalacrocorax magellanicus

Guanay Cormorant Phalacrocorax bougainvillii

Imperial Shag Phalacrocorax atriceps

Red-legged Cormorant Phalacrocorax gaimardi


Herons, Egrets & Bitterns | Ardeidae

Great Egret Ardea alba

Snowy Egret Egretta thula

Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis

Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax


Ibises & Spoonbills | Threskiornithidae

Black-faced Ibis Theristicus melanopis


Ducks, Geese & Swans | Anatidae

Black-necked Swan Cygnus melanocorypha

Kelp Goose Chloephaga hybrida

Ashy-headed Goose Chloephaga poliocephala

Flightless Steamerduck Tachyeres pteneres

Flying Steamerduck Tachyeres patachonicus

Chiloe Wigeon Anas sibilatrix

Speckled Teal Anas flavirostris

Spectacled Duck Anas specularis

Yellow-billed Pintail Anas georgica

Cinnamon Teal Anas cyanoptera


New World Vultures | Cathartidae

Black Vulture Coragyps atratus

Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura


Hawks, Eagles & Kites | Accipitridae

Chilean Hawk Accipiter chilensis

Harris' Hawk Parabuteo unicinctus

Rufous-tailed Hawk Buteo ventralis


Falcons & Caracaras | Falconidae

Southern Crested Caracara Caracara plancus

Chimango Caracara Milvago chimango

American Kestrel Falco sparverius

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

Rails, Gallinules & Coots | Rallidae

Plumbeous Rail Pardirallus sanguinolentus

White-winged Coot Fulica leucoptera

Red-gartered Coot Fulica armillata

Oystercatchers | Haematopodidae

Magellanic Oystercatcher Haematopus leucopodus

Blackish Oystercatcher Haematopus ater

American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus

Plovers & Lapwings | Charadriidae

Southern Lapwing Vanellus chilensis

Two-banded Plover Charadrius falklandicus

Rufous-chested Dotterel Charadrius modestus

Sandpipers & Allies | Scolopacidae

South American Snipe Gallinago paraguaiae

Hudsonian Godwit Limosa haemastica

Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus

Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca

Lesser Yellowlegs Tringa flavipes

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres

Surfbird Aphriza virgata

Red Knot Calidris canutus

Sanderling Calidris alba


Skuas & Jaegers | Stercoraridae

Chilean Skua Stercorarius chilensis


Gulls | Laridae

Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus

Brown-hooded Gull Larus maculipennis

Franklin's Gull Larus pipixcan

Elegant Tern Sterna elegans

South American Tern Sterna hirundinacea

Common Tern Sterna hirundo

Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea

Snowy-crowned Tern Sterna trudeaui


Skimmers | Rhynchopidae

Black Skimmer Rynchops niger

Doves & Pigeons | Columbidae

Rock Dove Columba livia

Chilean Pigeon Columba araucana

Eared Dove Zenaida auriculata


Parrots, Macaws & Allies | Psittacidae

Austral Parakeet Enicognathus ferrugineus

Slender-billed Parakeet (E) Enicognathus leptorhynchus


Barn Owls | Tytonidae

Barn Owl Tyto alba


Typical Owls | Strigidae

Rufous-legged Owl Strix rufipes

Austral Pygmy-Owl Glaucidium nanum

Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus


Hummingbirds | Trochilidae

Green-backed Firecrown Sephanoides sephaniodes


Kingfishers | Alcedinidae

Ringed Kingfisher Ceryle torquata


Woodpeckers & Allies | Picidae

Striped Woodpecker Picoides lignarius

Chilean Flicker Colaptes pitius

Magellanic Woodpecker Campephilus magellanicus


Ovenbirds | Furnariidae

Dark-bellied Cinclodes Cinclodes patagonicus

Bar-winged Cinclodes Cinclodes fuscus

Des Murs' Wiretail Sylviorthorhynchus desmursii

Thorn-tailed Rayadito Aphrastura spinicauda

Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail Leptasthenura aegithaloides

White-throated Treerunner Pygarrhichas albogularis


Tapaculos | Rhinocryptidae

Black-throated Huet-huet Pteroptochos tarnii

Chucao Tapaculo Scelorchilus rubecula

Ochre-flanked Tapaculo Eugralla paradoxa

Magellanic Tapaculo Scytalopus magellanicus


Plantcutters | Phytotomidae

Rufous-tailed Plantcutter Phytotoma rara


Tyrant Flycatchers | Tyrannidae

White-crested Elaenia Elaenia albiceps

Tufted Tit-Tyrant Anairetes parulus

Patagonian Tyrant Colorhamphus parvirostris

Fire-eyed Diucon Xolmis pyrope

Dark-faced Ground-Tyrant Muscisaxicola macloviana

Austral Negrito Lessonia rufa

Spectacled Tyrant Hymenops perspicillatus


Swallows | Hirundinidae

Chilean Swallow Tachycineta meyeni

Blue-and-white Swallow Pygochelidon cyanoleuca

Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica


Wagtails & Pipits | Motacillidae

Correndera Pipit Anthus correndera


Wrens | Troglodytidae

House Wren Troglodytes aedon

Sedge Wren Cistothorus platensis


Mockingbirds & Thrashers | Mimidae

Chilean Mockingbird (E) Mimus thenca


Thrushes & Allies | Turdidae

Austral Thrush Turdus falcklandii


Old World Sparrows | Passeridae

House Sparrow ( I ) Passer domesticus


Siskins, Crossbills & Allies | Fringillidae

Black-chinned Siskin Carduelis barbata


Buntings, Sparrows & Allies | Emberizidae

Patagonian Sierra-Finch Phrygilus patagonicus

Common Diuca-Finch Diuca diuca

Grassland Yellow-Finch Sicalis luteola

Rufous-collared Sparrow Zonotrichia capensis


Troupials & Allies | Icteridae

Yellow-winged Blackbird Agelaius thilius

Long-tailed Meadowlark Sturnella loyca

Shiny Cowbird Molothrus bonariensis

Austral Blackbird Curaeus curaeus