Each year, hundreds of humpback whales make the 8,000 km journey from the frigid sea off Chile to the warm waters of Colombia’s Pacific coastline, gathering in bays and coves by the dozens or even hundreds to mate and calve their babies before beginning the long trip back. In recent years, as the security situation in the region has improved, local tour operators have begun to capitalize on this event’s natural appeal, offering guided tours and boat rides to view the gentle visitors. Though it requires a certain level of commitment to reach the remote area, it’s made worthwhile by the payoff upon arrival: hundreds of miles of untouched coastline, jungles filled with some of the world’s most amazing plants and animals, and whales that come so close to shore that, legend has it, you can see them from your hammock on the beach.
Photo: Ilan Greenfield
There is a certain time of year when from the high-rise buildings overlooking Guayaquil’s teeming and tropical “malecón” (or, riverside promenade) you can catch sight of Mount Chimborazo. Now, Chimborazo is the highest peak in Ecuador, at over 20,000 feet above sea level and it is, technically speaking, the highest point on Earth from the Earth’s core, since it lies on the so-called ‘equatorial bulge’ (never mind the Himalayas; they’ve been cheating all along). Back in Guayaquil, we’re at no feet above sea level at all. The air is warm; it’s heavy. The humidity is sweat inducing. The plants that grow here are deep green and the trees are tall. The city’s main river—Río Guayas—is about to roll into the immense Pacific Ocean.
Photo: Jonathan Hood
Vast Torres del Paine national park, located in Chilean Patagonia, just a few hours from the southern city of Punta Arenas, is one of Chile’s proudest and most-visited national parks, and with good reason.
The park’s 600,000 acres comprise a vast ecosystem of glaciers, forests, steppe, glacial valleys, lakeside camping, a striated massif, and the granite spires of the towers for which the park itself is named.
Photo: David Berkowitz
Fascinating facts about the most isolated island anywhere, courtesy of explora Rapa Nui
Between June and mid-December, some of the largest mammals in the world, Southern Right whales, gather for breeding season in the Atlantic waters just off the Valdes Peninsula. The wind-whipped coastline in Argentine Patagonia, about 870 miles south of Buenos Aires, is the best place in the country for incredible wildlife-spotting opportunities. Along with whales, you can also see Magellanic penguins, elephant seals, sea lions, and dolphins year-round.