This magical region at the worlds edge is an unexplored territory that offers a lot to do without...
Fishing in Luxury
I never thought that fly fishing could be a fancy affair. Sailing through Patagonia with the Nomads of the Seas on a one-of-a-kind ship, I learned that luxury and the great outdoors are not mutually exclusive.
I never imagined I would be whisked from the boat by helicopter, either, soaring above the sea into the heart of the Chilean Patagonia. Hovering just above the spongy green treetops shrouding the mountains, we flew over snow-capped volcanoes and hidden lagoons. And that is precisely the charm of this adventure: getting to areas inaccessible by land, places where no human has ever fished before.
The Atmosphere, the mother ship of Nomads of the Seas, was conceived specifically to take fly-fishing enthusiasts to remote areas with the best trout and salmon fishing surrounded by views of pristine landscapes. With accommodations for only 28 passengers (and 32 crew), this safe and rugged ship was designed to navigate rough seas while indulging guests in comfort and elegance at the end of the day. It is outfitted with all the eco-friendly technology necessary to prevent harming the surrounding environment. The Atmosphere also is equipped with: a six-passenger Bell 407 Helicopter (painted red for the “wow factor”); a fast and powerful Zodiac Hurricane 920 that holds up to 18 passengers and boasts GPS and other super-powerful technologies (as used by the U.S. Marines and James Bond, I imagine); six light and speedy jet boats capable of running in the shallowest of waters; and six zodiacs meant to be toted by helicopter.
All this to cruise through the canals and fjords of Chile’s southern coast, where the Andes disappear into the Pacific, and to anchor the ship in tranquil inlets – a different one every time in order to minimize impact on the ecosystem. Accompanied by expert guides, groups set out every day by one of the many means of transport. And they fish. And fish. And fish.
If you hop aboard the helicopter, it will leave you at the mouth of a river where an amazingly rugged craft, capable of effortlessly navigating the rapids, hides among the vegetation, waiting to carry you up river. Or you can use the zodiac that the helicopter carries to get to that perfect spot. The real thrill of this adventure is extreme fly fishing for species like rainbow trout, brown trout and brook trout in sizes rarely seen in the northern hemisphere, or for Pacific salmon, with the odd Atlantic cousin popping up occasionally just to keep you on your toes.
Led by expert and former area tour operator Osvaldo Anwandter, the fifteen guides are true professionals: marine biologists, forest engineers and others with similar experience. They are chosen from among nearly 2,000 candidates and have had 1,800 hours of training in aquatic entomology, botany, zoology, ecology, navigation, safety and hospitality. They are also knowledgeable in the biology of local wildlife and can tell you everything you want to know about salmon, trout, whales, and all manner of birds and plants. Setting out together for a week at a time, the fishing enthusiasts and their guides soon become fast friends, celebrating at the end of each day with hugs and toasts. According to guide Rodrigo Pérez, “A guide’s greatest pleasure is for the guests to leave happy.”
Chilean entrepreneur Andrés Ergas holds the key to this venture. He launched this initiative that was three years in the making and involved building the Atmosphere to spec in the shipyards of Valdivia, Chile. He wanted to create a truly deluxe passenger ship also suitable for fishing and nature tour expeditions. While sharing the wonders of the previously unexplored, virgin landscapes with his passengers, Ergas refers to this unique craft as “an embassy in Patagonia.”
The expeditions depart early – between 7:30 and 8:00 in the morning – and fishing really works up an appetite. Everything is impeccably planned, with an aperitif and a delicious lunch unpacked on the shore at the appropriate hour. In the event of rain, which never dampens a fly fisher’s spirit, small waterproof tents provide a dry luncheon. Guests enjoy a full day of catch and release (following the company’s eco-friendly rules). Once the customary trophy photos are taken, ‘the captive’ is carefully returned to the water, “so it isn’t traumatized,” in the words of one of my travel companions. Then the guests return to the boat and immerse themselves in one of the outdoor Jacuzzis filled with steaming hot seawater, a cold Pisco sour in hand, retreating afterward to the sauna or choosing from a variety of therapeutic massages.
Then it is time for cocktails or perhaps a Chilean wine tasting followed by an exquisite dinner with two courses and dessert, all prepared with natural products from the region. The menu is created exclusively for Nomads of the Seas by renowned Chilean chef Guillermo Rodríguez. Three young and talented chefs work under 26-year-old chef, Jonathan Elitin, to prepare the fare. Some examples of the mouth-watering dishes on the menu are: spider crab gratin with spice crackers; salmon sashimi with ginger and cold cucumber soup; grilled oysters with squash soup. And for dessert? Creamy caramel morsels with chocolate-laced vanilla ice cream served on a bed of berries or chilled white wine flavored with strawberries accompanied by butterscotch-flavored lúcuma cream and pear and raisin compote. Yum!
If you don’t fish or are on a family trip, Nomads of the Seas offers daily ecotourism activities that include excursions in the super Zodiac to observe whales and other aquatic wildlife in the company of expert marine biologist Gian Paolo Sanino, whose passion for preserving and respecting nature is unparalleled. Fifty percent of the world’s cetaceans (the order of the sea mammals that includes whales, dolphins and porpoises) inhabit the waters of the Chilean Patagonia. Depending on the season, you can see orcas, blue whales and humpback whales, among others, eleven dolphin species and hundreds of sea lions, as well as a wide variety of birds, including cormorants, kelp geese, upland geese and Magallan and Humboldt penguins. The expedition may involve trekking through dense native forests or relaxing in hidden thermal springs, with cocktails or lunch on land. Every day is a surprise.
After dinner, there is time for socializing. The tastefully decorated main cabin, done up in soothing tones of brown and beige, offers a living room with library, a bar and a dining room. The commons and the cabins are all the work one of Chile’s top interior designers, Enrique Concha. Everyone shares their day’s photos, applauding the best and biggest catch, there is music and – if the mood strikes – dancing.
The day ends in an elegant cabin with an extra plush bed, luxuriously soft sheets and a down duvet, a bath with rainfall showerhead, super hot water and soft and cozy cotton bathrobes.
What more could you ask for on a fishing trip?
Nomads of the Seas
The Atmosphere sets sail from the Nomads of the Seas Marina in Puerto Montt. Departures: Every Saturday from November to April, returning the following Saturday.
(Prices for reference 2007-2008 season)
From US$18,594 – $24,098 in single Deluxe or Premium cabin.
From US$14,870 – $17,850 in double Deluxe or Premium cabin.
US$12,644 – $16,386, single; US$10,115 – $12,138, double.
Includes all meals, an open bar and transportation to and from Puerto Montt airport.
A Typical Day
Breakfast: 06:30 – 08:30
Daily excursions for fishing guests:
Group 1, jet boat (three jet boats per group): 07:30 – 18:15
Group 2, jet boat (two passengers and one guide per jet boat): 08:00 – 20:00
Helizodiac / Helidrift (two passengers and one guide per Zodiac or boat): 08:30 – 19:40
Helifishing (four passengers, two guides and the pilot): 10:00 – 18:35
Excursions for non-fishing guests:
Whale, dolphin, sea lions and bird watching, photo-safaris, visits to glaciers and hot springs, trekking.
Thalassotherapy, sauna, massage, wine tasting: 18:30 – 20:30
Audiovisual presentation of the day’s adventures: 20:00 – 20:30
Cocktails: 20:00 – 20:30
Dinner: 20:30 – 22:00
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