Santiago, born in southern Patagonia, Argentina, is an ornithologist, birder, photographer, fisherman, climber, and writer. His love for the outdoors drove him to pursue a degree in ornithology and later in tourism, which over the years allowed him to combine his love for nature and the outdoors with his work as a birdwatcher, naturalist, fly-fishing, and mountain guide. He has been guiding trips in Patagonia, the Antarctic, Arctic and anywhere you can go on a ship in the world for 32 years now. You guessed it, pelagic birding is a bit of a thing for him…
However, his main passion is conservation and research. So when not ‘working’, he does field work, mostly in southern Patagonia and is the current President of Asociación Ambiente Sur – an NGO that seeks to protect the environment and educate the new generations on a sustainable way of life in southern Patagonia. From 1999 to 2014 he coordinated the project to save the now critically endangered Hooded Grebe, an endemic bird in Patagonia, as well as the creation of the Patagonia National Park in Argentina, a massive protected area that aims to save the grebe and some of the least known habitats in South America.
His articles and stories have been published in scientific journals and popular travel magazines and a few books. Since his musical abilities are rather poor, he has produced a couple cds of the beautiful bird sounds of South America, Patagonia and Antarctica. He is also an eBird reviewer for southern Argentina, the Falklands Is., South Georgia and the South Sandwich Island.
He lives in Punta Arenas, southern Patagonia, Chile, with his wife Melissa and his son León.
Find out more about the guide
When did your interest in birds and wildlife begin?
When I was 15th or so my father bought a field guide and bins that were meant for his father who used to hunt and cage birds. It did not work to change him but it did very much change me!
Why did you decide to work as a birding and wildlife guide?
I was already guiding fly fishermen when I was 17th and some of the fishermen being British were also looking for some of the interesting birds we have in Patagonia. I realized quickly that there was a number of people that traveled the world to see birds and that got me hooked on birding more and making a living by birding all the time!
What do you enjoy the most of guiding a tour?
Always the birds and seeing people’s reaction when they see something new.
What tour would you recommend for a visit to Chile?
Chile is a very straight forward country to travel around but this should not fool you, there is a lot to explore. I would recommend taking either the long trip that covers the whole country if you have the time or explore different main regions as separate trips, perhaps combined with slightly longer stays at some places to experience the many things there are aside from birding.
Which is your favorite species? And why?
The one I’m looking at and the one I have not seen yet!
Are you involved in any research or conservation projects?
Yes, for many years I directed the Hooded Grebe Project in Argentina and am very much involved in one of the NGO’s that still works to try to save this critically endangered bird.
What do you do when you are not guiding?
Birding, fishing, raising my son Leon, growing vegetables, building things.
What dish or drink would your recommend visitors to try?
Curanto y Carmenere!
Why did you decide to live in Patagonia?
I was born in Patagonia and tried to live in many other places of the world but never felt complete so I always came back.
What do you enjoy the most about outdoor living?
The sounds of nature, the calm, sunrises (I love waking up very early!)
¿Wine or beer?