Sperm whales follow the coastal currents, spending time in northern Chile around the port city of Arica where they are most apt to be seen between December and February. They also travel further south to the Norte Chico region in the wildlife-rich areas of the Islas Choros, Damas and Chanaral. Marine tours in northern Chile focus on dolphins rather than whales.
People call it the world’s most perfectly crafted hat, one long appreciated by aristocrats, world leaders, stars of stage and screen, and performers of every ilk, from pop music stars to sumo wrestlers. The Ecuador Panama hat became the rage in Europe after visitors saw it at the 1855 Paris World’s Fair. In 1906, a photo of Teddy Roosevelt, appeared on the front page of newspapers around the world, as he inspected his country’s progress on the Panama Canal’s construction. Like everyone else, he was wearing a Panama hat.
Many of our full itineraries for Chile tours and travel to Argentina include destinations to observe penguins. For those that don’t, it is possible to add on a few days to the beginning or end of our tours in order to fit penguins into your vacation.
If your Ecuador tours take you to the Pacific coast, around such villages as Valdivia, Cadaete, Manglar Alto, and Olon in Guayas Province, toquilla plantations are abundant. Inland from the provincial city of Manta is where the most famous of Ecuador’s panama hats are made. In Montecristi, the birthplace of the Panama hat, and many other towns, one may visit workshops to watch the hats being made. To the south, the town of Jipijapa is also well known for its longstanding Panama hat traditions, many originating in nearby villages, such as La Pila and Las Pampas.
Hunched over the straw that is laid out on a wooden stand, the craftsman starts at the crown. He or she weaves the fine strands, keeping the fibers moist, in an ever-widening circle to craft the body of the hat, leaving the remaining strands in a long fringe that resembles a hula skirt. The hat is now ready to move on. The hats are gathered up by collectors who take them to such towns and cities as Montecristi, Jipijapa and Santa Rosa in Manabi Province, to Guayaquil further south or into the Andes for the next stage of work that will prepare the hats for the finishers.
Ecuador’s vicuna protection program is a story of international cooperation among nations that signed the Convention for Vicuna Conservation. After the preservation efforts of Peru and Chile had succeeded in replenishing their countries’ vicuna populations, the two countries came to their neighbor’s aid, donating a starting stock of 1,600 vicunas to the government of Ecuador in 1988. With far fewer vicunas to spare, Bolivia donated animals to Ecuador in 1993, enabling the country to broaden its genetic stock.
It is far more likely that visitors who travel to Peru in the Andean regions will see huacaya alpacas than suris. Of the two varieties of alpacas, the huacaya is far more common, comprising ninety to ninety-five percent of the world’s total alpaca population. The two breeds may be distinguished by their coats. Without crimp, the prized hair of the suri hangs straight down from its body and feels like mohair. The huacaya’s coat appears fluffy and fuller. Most suri alpacas are white and are sheared less often than huacayas.
Llamas prefer high grassland habitats at elevations from 7,000 to 13,000 feet where visitors on Peru tours and other destinations will see them in herds. Domesticated llamas are less social than if they inhabited the wild and have adapted to the status of novelty farm animal and family pet far from their traditional roots in the harsh, cold highlands. The llama reaches maturity at about three years of age. Offspring are born surrounded by a protective group of females after a gestation of a bit less than a year.
Vicunas live in semi-arid grasslands of the Andes on or near hillsides at 11,000 to 19,000 feet in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Ecuador in a range that has shrunk over the past several centuries. They can survive the extremes of temperatures found at these elevations thanks to soft fleece that traps warm air against their bodies. The vicuna uses its speed and exceptional eyesight to protect itself from its predators, the puma and Magellan fox, and communicates with its herd by emitting sounds appropriate to the situation.