Explora en Patagonia – Puerto Natales – Chile

explora-hotel-salto-chicotorres-del-paineEmerald green lakes and breathtaking mountain chains create a magical setting within the Torres del Paine National Park. It is here that Explora en Patagonia welcomes guests to experience the spirit of exploration in the legendary footsteps of famous adventurers such as Magellan, Drake, Humboldt and Darwin.With unusually shaped granite peaks, glaciers, lakes and waterfalls, plus unique flora and fauna, Torres del Paine is considered one of the world’s most spectacular parks. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978.Strategically set on the shore of Lake Pehoé, Explora’s Hotel Salto Chico was conceived as an exploration base site. It features refined comfort for total relaxation and the best gear ideally suited for exploring Patagonia. Each day choose from five different explorations on foot, horseback, van or boat, accompanied by Explora’s expert bilingual guides. After a day of invigorating activities, return to the comfortable environs of the lodge that has been carefully designed utilizing traditional lenga and cypress woods plus handcrafted slate and copper accents. Enjoy the indoor heated lap pool, exercise machines, sauna, massage rooms and open-air Jacuzzis at the nearby Casa de Baños del Ona.Explora’s restaurant features locally grown produce, regional cuisine and wine from the lodge’s own vineyards at Viña Gracia de Chile.


  • 6 Exploradores Suites with a view of Macizo del Paine
  • 36 Cordillera Paine rooms with a view of Macizo de Paine
  • 7 Salto Chico rooms with a view of Salto Chico Waterfall
  • 1 Rio Paine room with a view of Salto Chico Waterfall

explora-relaxationServices: Dining room, Bar, Room Service, telephones with international direct dialing, game and music room, library, laundry, safe boxes in rooms, internet, indoor heated pool, sauna, fitness center, massage, open air Jacuzzis.Activities: Daily explorations by foot, horseback, van or boat.

explora-hotel-salto-chicoPlease contact Jill for current rates.

Closest Airport: Punta Arenas

Time Lapse Video: Torres del Paine

Flowers and trees and birds and stars and glaciers, and all the other wonderful things that surround us in the world. We have all of this beauty around us and yet grown ups often lose themselves in offices and imagine they are doing very important things. Can you recognize the flowers by their names and the birds by their singing? … Young people, I hope you will take a long time growing up! Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)

Pousada Maravilha – Fernando de Noronha – Brazil

maravilha-for-blog3Located 200 Nautical miles off Brazil’s northeastern coast, Pousada Maravilha is the first 5 star luxury inn located on the tiny island paradise – Fernando de Noronha. Blending seamlessly with its natural surroundings, Pousada Maravilha’s 5 private bungalows and 3 suites offer breathtaking views of the stunning turquoise bay. Muted tones with colorful accents highlight the simple interiors and set a mood of quiet tranquility and reflection. This beautiful island is the perfect destination for those who love diving, snorkeling, wind surfing, hiking or honeymooners who want to escape from it all and enjoy some of the best secluded beaches in South America.


maravilha-pool maravilha-viewRooms: 5 private bungalows and 3 suites. Cable TV, AC, balcony

Services: Restaurant, swim up pool bar, massage, tour services, transfers, excursions

Activities: Diving, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, fishing, boating, bird watching, horse back riding, island tours, and bicycling.

mirante-do-forteClosest Airport: Flights daily from Natal and Recife airports

Google Maps: Fernando de Noronha

Image Gallery: Fernando de Noronha

Rates: Please contact Jill for current rates.

Welcome to South American Escapes Blog

estrela-jpgJill Siegel – Brazil Travel Specialist – Biography

I am a Brazil Travel Specialist with over 25 years experience working exclusively with the Brazilian and South American travel industry.  For the past 7 years I have been one of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine’s “Top Travel Specialists” for Brazil travel.   My interest in all things Brazilian began during my flute performance studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Many Brazlilian students attended this famous international music school, and I felt drawn to the friendly outgoing nature of these talented classmates whose infectious enthusiasm inspired my immersion in all things Brazilian including music, Portuguese language, literature, history, art, politics and wonderful cuisine. I was fascinated by the novels of Brazil’s famous literary genius, Jorge Amado, “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands”, never imagining that 17 years later I would find myself spending a wonderful day with him at his home in Bahia, Brazil.

jill-and-angelaWith a strong desire to live and work in Brazil, I sought a position with a Boston based travel company called International Weekends and was soon on my way to Rio de Janeiro to manage an inbound charter tourism program. During this working hands on experience I was completely immersed in the Brazilian culture and found myself fluent in Portuguese after one year. Working with travelers visiting from all over the United States quickly became a challenging and educational way to learn a great deal about the Brazilian Tourism Trade.

ariau-best-arial-viewAfter 6 years working in Brazil, I returned to the United States and became the Official Travel Coordinator of NGOs for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development also known as The Earth Summit, which took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This was the largest environmental conference to date, gathering together heads of state from over 120 countries. My client list ranged from the Natural Resources Defense Council to recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. Many of my clients were scientists, environmentalists and politicians from all over the world who had a great interest in visiting the Amazon Region during their participation at the Earth Summit. The Amazon State Tourism Authority sponsored my visit to Manaus and I was able to research many travel options available ranging from a unique tree top lodge to Amazon River cruises.


carybe-and-isabel-allendeisabel-and-friendjorge-amado-isabel-allende-carybeIn 1997 I was contacted by the great Latin American author, Isabel Allende, to design and arrange an itinerary for an upcoming visit to Brazil including the Amazon, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. It was during this trip with Isabel where I found myself visiting Jorge Amado in his home in Bahia. What a thrill it was to spend the day with two great Latin American writers, and Amado’s dear friend, Carybé, considered one of the greatest Brazilian Artists of all times. Carybé’s famous mural stretches across the International Arrivals Building at JFK Airport.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the years I have also had the pleasure to know and work with the great ethnobotanist – Dr. Mark Plotkin, author of “Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice”, and featured in the Oscar nominated Imax documentary “Amazon.” Nothing can compare with the fascinating experience of accompanying Dr. Plotkin on a trek through the Amazon Rainforest. Dr. Plotkin’s vast knowledge of plant and wildlife never ceases to amaze me.

I have also had the opportunity to bring National Geographic photographers to the Amazon region as well as the Pantanal in Western Brazil. These trips have allowed me to see these regions through the eyes of some of the world’s best nature photographers including Mark Downey and Rick Sammon.

Other clients have included Susan Sarandon, director George Tillman Jr. (Men of Honor), The Ralph Lauren Family, director/photographer David LaChapelle, and Matthew Chapman, great great grandson of Charles Darwin.

I am available for consultations, custom designed travel itineraries, and all aspects of travel planning to Brazil and South America.

Watch a fascinating video with Dr. Mark Plotkin:


Dr. Mark Plotkin visits Google to discuss his book, “Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature’s Healing Secrets.

Contact:  Jill Siegel

Back in the Trees Again – Ariau Amazon Towers

ariau-best-arial-viewIt had been two years since my last visit to Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel and I was more than eager to get back in the trees! Upon my arrival I was greeted by the “welcome committee”, a playful troop of woolley monkeys with the irrepressible Natalie in the lead. She immediately took to my shoulders and gave me the appearance of a Russian with one of those funny fur hats!



suite-divina-sunlitThe staff had fun making sure the rest of the rambunctious troop did not enter the reception area and kept them distracted on the boat launch. After convincing Natalie I would be around for a few days she released the monkey grip she had on my head and let me check-in and find my suite. This time I had the pleasure of the “Suite Divina”, with a 360 degree panoramic view into the rainforest canopy! This is truly heaven, three days with only the sounds of tropical birds and monkeys howling in the distance! Good-bye phone, fax, computer! Hello! Piranha fishing!



amazon-sunsetFinding my way down Tower 5 and onto the catwalk suspended over Ariau Creek, I spotted two bright red macaws perched on a tree. Spider monkeys scurried playfully at my feet as I carefully and quickly entered the restaurant on top of Tower 4, making sure none of my little friends would slip in as well. One of the absolute delights of Ariau is the regional Amazonian cuisine served up buffet style three times a day. At breakfast, an array of tropical fruits that are not even known outside of the region are displayed beside a large selection of warm homemade Brazilian pastries, breads and soft cheeses. A delicate white manioc pancake the color and texture of lace is enjoyed lightly spread with sweet butter. Homemade jams and jellies with exotic Indian fruit names such as cupuaçu, jaca and acai add just the right touch. Then there is the Brazilian Cafezinho.  Need I say more?

jimmy-and-roslyn-carter-at-ariauLunch and dinner feature the absolutely exotic Amazonian fresh water fish, the two-meter long pirarucu and the delicious tambaqui both prepared in the regional manner. On one wall of the restaurant are displayed hand carved plaques honoring illustrious guests who have also been initiated into Ariau’s magic – Bill Gates, Isabel Allende, Jennifer Lopez, Prince Frederick of Denmark and Jimmy and Roslyn Carter among many others.

After lunch our little international group pile into a motorized canoe with Ricardo our guide and we’re off for the afternoon to explore the flooded forest. As we leave Ariau Creek and approach the Rio Negro an indescribable feeling of vastness fills me with wonder as we approach the mouth of the Anavilhanas Archipelago – the largest grouping of fresh water islands in the world. Here the river becomes an ocean at 17 miles from shore to shore. Pink dolphins leaping from the water create a magical landscape only equaled by a Peter Max painting. The sky seems to go on and on forever. We enter the flooded forest and the motor is turned off, all at once the wonder of the rainforest explodes around us as we navigate the backwaters. The primordial forest, vines, lianas, bromeliads, butterflies – this is why I came, it is all right in front of me. I have returned to the place that I love. post by Jill Siegel