Chiloe Island lies off Chile’s Lake District and is separated from the mainland by the Chacao Channel. The main Island is 112 miles long but only 31 miles wide and consists mostly of farmland, temperate moss covered rainforest, rugged coastlines and picturesque fishing villages. The main centres of population are Ancud, Castro and Quellon It is an island with its own traditions, customs, legends and music where time has seemingly stood still since the arrival of the Spaniards.
The coast between the island and the mainland is rich in underwater life and the ferry crossing from the mainland often produces sightings of Peale’s and Chilean dolphins, southern sea lions and birds such as Antarctic giant petrel, sooty and pink-footed shearwater and flocks of black-necked swan. On the west coast the rocky islets at Punihuil has a mixed breeding colony of Humboldt and Magellanic penguins, kelp gull, rock shag and flightless steamer duck, and sightings of the endangered marine otter and southern sea lion are common. During the summer months (January to April) a population of blue whales comes to feed on high concentrations of krill and can, with luck, be watched from the shore. In the north of the island is the Chepu River, a beautiful area of mangroves and almost pristine temperate rainforest, which is a stronghold for the critically endangered southern river otter, (rarest in the world). The area is also home to the southern pudu deer and birds including the endemic slender-billed parakeet. The island also has its own nearly endemic mammal: the extremely endangered Darwin’s fox of which there are about 250 on the island – the only other population is in the Nahuelbuta National Park on the mainland.