Tortel, Chile

Oct 14, 2019 - National Geographic Explorer


An early wake-up call alerted everyone to a photo opportunity and view of the full moon setting in clear skies among snow-capped peaks. We were approaching the small, remote community of Tortel. Spread out over a high, rounded hill south of the mouth and delta of the Rio Baker, Tortel consists of 500 inhabitants whose homes and businesses are connected by wooden boardwalks. A spur route off the Austral Highway connects the town to the outside world. But the road ends on the edge of the town and turns into boardwalks spiderwebbed throughout the village.

After anchoring, we took a short Zodiac ride to the ramp in the center of the village. From there, groups of photographers and bird searchers dispersed. Some folks decided to stroll the boardwalks at their own pace. The growing warmth of the sun made a relaxing walk just the right activity for the afternoon.

Having left the community of Tortel, we set a course down the nearby channel to a second spot for some afternoon activities. Everyone made a choice between a Zodiac cruise or kayaking, and everything was quickly prepared by the deck crew. Zodiacs were off with groups of people. Shuttles took the kayakers from the ship to a platform anchored inside the bay off the main channel. The wind was minimal, making the afternoon very pleasant. A small waterfall was one of the highlights of the excursion. Some of the kayakers even made the distance across the bay to the bottom of the falls.

With everyone back on the ship by late afternoon, the course took us southward toward tomorrow’s destination.

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About the Author

Bud Lehnhausen

Naturalist

Bud received an undergraduate degree in wildlife biology at Colorado State University. He then immediately went to Alaska where he worked and lived for 30 years. At the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Bud studied wildlife biology and received a master's degree conducting research on four species of alcid seabird nesting on a remote island in the Gulf of Alaska.

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