About Luke

Founder of Swoop Patagonia and Swoop Antarctica, dad of three, and mountain marathon runner.

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About Luke

Founder of Swoop Patagonia and Swoop Antarctica, dad of three, and mountain marathon runner.

Helen’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Helen returned in December from a trekking holiday to Torres del Paine. Here she tells her about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘I had an amazing trip…I loved Chile, it is such a wonderful place. I could not have asked for more. In fact I loved it so much I have now arranged to take a 12-month sabbatical and am going back to South America in October!’

How was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

I spoke to Luke on the phone 2-3 times whilst I was researching my trip to Chile. He had such fantastic knowledge and really took time to help me think through lots of ideas and options. I was really impressed by this as I felt it was going above and beyond what Luke needed to do as he would get no finical benefit from doing so. In the end this helped me lock down my itinerary and resulted in a fantastic trip.

What could we have done differently?

Nothing really. Everything you did during the booking, the little ‘gift’ prior to me going and the follow up work really well.

Would you recommend us to friends, family or colleagues for a trip to Patagonia?

Yes, absolutely.

What did you think of your itinerary?

The part of my trip that I booked with Swoop was the 7 day Full Circuit, and I can safely say this was the highlight of my trip! The trek was amazing and the beauty of the scenery was second to none.

It was fantastic: really well thought out, with a good mix of long days and short days which meant people could recover. We had some days that were fairly easy and then the odd day where you were pushed and hardened. I know the guide was concerned that I had not done any trekking before – and Luke had asked me how fit I was. I managed the trek well but I was glad that I do go running and go to the gym, as the trip would not be good for people without a certain level of fitness.

The food we had was great considering the conditions we were all in. The refugios were rustic, but as I would expect, and to be honest – hope for!

How was your guide?

Our guide was called Mauricio and he was just fantastic. He is so knowledgeable, so energetic, so witty, and judged the group and everyone’s personality very well. He has been doing this job a while so has lots of contacts all around the tour, which he uses very well. Nothing was too much trouble and he ensured all his guests had everything they needed. He also looked after the Porters very well and you can see how he worked to make sure the whole team were happy and content. I can’t rate him highly enough… a seasoned professional at all times.

The group was great and worked really well with everyone just clicking.

Is there anything you would have changed about this part of your trip?

Nothing at all :)

‘So the whole crew and all the people working on the trek where fab and really made my trip as good as it could have possibly been. Thank you.’

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Protecting Torres del Paine

Three years ago while, hiking in Torres del Paine, I was lucky enough to meet Drew, who has subsequently joined a small team of people dedicated to helping travellers and local residents to ensure the sustainability of Patagonia’s most famous national park. Here Drew talks about the Torres del Paine Legacy project, it’s aims and how you can get involved…

With all the beauty that Torres del Paine has to offer, it’s no surprise that the National Park attracts over 175,000 visitors each year. CONAF, the Chilean National Forest Corporation, expects this figure to increase by over 10% per year. But the travellers who visit the park do not go unnoticed…

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What impact are Travellers having on Torres del Paine National Park?

Since 1985, the park has suffered three major forest fires, affecting over one fifth of the park’s 242,000 hectares; sadly, each of these has been started by travellers.

Growth in visitation has increased foot traffic along the iconic W and Circuit treks to the point where the limited trail system is in need of repair, yet the ability to do so lacks both financial and human resources.

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Is anything being done about it?

There are numerous, ongoing efforts to restore the health of Torres del Paine National Park, but with such a massive geographical area and increased strain on resources, it is a long and slow process. It is because of this shortfall of support that the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund was born.

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What does the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund do?

Through traveler-supported sustainability initiatives, the Torres del Paine Legacy Fund enables visitors to become a positive economic and ecological force in the park and in the region through responsible behaviours and direct contributions to enhancement projects.

The Fund’s mission is to enhance the experience and long-term health of Torres del Paine and its surrounding communities as tourist destinations through sustainability projects that are supported by travellers and local businesses.

In partnership with local private and public leaders in Última Esperanza and international NGO, Sustainable Travel International, the Fund is a platform for residents in the community to propose projects that enhance the destination, such as reforestation, trail restoration, and waste management.

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How can I get involved?

We welcome you to join us in this mission. 100% of all donations made will go directly to sustainability initiatives, so you can trust that your generosity will have a direct, indirect, and induced positive impact on the legacy of this destination long after your stay. Here’s how to Donate, please do mention Swoop Patagonia in the ‘how did you hear about us’ section.

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Hiking Off the Beaten Track in Torres del Paine

Ben returned in January from a trip to Torres del Paine, during which he did some hiking ‘off the beaten track’, followed by a kayaking trip. Here he tells us a little about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘The trip was simply amazing. Thanks for organizing and taking care of us. Your help was outstanding and I could not have asked for more.’

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How was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

IMG_4295Your service was great, very personal, quick and wonderful. Thanks for taking the time to talk us through several options and for convincing us to adjust our initial plan.

Your help was outstanding and I could not have asked for more. I would definitely recommend you.

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How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

Swoop’s partners were always great, everything was arranged for and the whole trip was an experience. The whole trip was well planned, exciting but also allowed for flexibility, and the guides were a lot of fun. Overall they are great guys over there.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was definitely hiking off the beaten path, spending nights in the middle of nowhere.

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Mariana’s trip to Los Glaciares National Park

Mariana returned in February from a trip to Los Glaciares National Park. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of planning and arranging your trip with Swoop?

Swoop were great, we certainly would appreciate using your services again.

How was your experience with Swoop’s partners in Los Glaciares?

These partners were an excellent suggestion from Swoop. Zoe was very nice and professional, and our guide Mauro was an excellent person and professional. We loved the experience!!

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What did you think of your itinerary?

The trekking in Los Glaciares was excellent; guide 100% and also the stricture of Pedra Del Fraile and Poincenot camping were better than expected. So everything very good, especially taking into account that we stayed in Refugio accommodation!

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight for us was Pedras Blancas. A difficult trail but worth the effort for the magic landscape!

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

We also visit Lago Del Desierto, and stayed at Aguas Arriba Lodge for 3 days, which was suberb lodge.

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Vicky’s 7 day Luxury Camp W Trek

Vicky returned in February from a Trek in Torres del Paine National Park, based from an eco friendly camp. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘All of us thoroughly enjoyed the trip! Torres del Paine was breath taking – I really hope we have the opportunity to go back again in the future’

How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

Everyone at Swoop was very responsive and prompt – we really appreciated this as we didn’t know much about the logistics of traveling in Patagonia and had never been.  Everyone was very patient with all of our many, many questions. This was very, very much appreciated.  We would definitely recommend Swoop Patagonia to anyone traveling to Patagonia!!

How was your experience with swoop’s partners who ran the W Trek?

We felt that the services from Swoop and Swoop’s partners were fantastic.  The pick up times and locations were clear, and everyone did everything they could to make it easier on us (ie. picking us up at our hostel for transfers, etc.).

How was your W Trek in Torres del Paine?

We really enjoyed the W Trek itinerary! Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of the park, wildlife and geography – we were all very impressed.  The guides were very patient with us and managed the group well.  We were worried about pace of the group if it was going to be a large group.  The guides ended up dividing our group of 14 into 2 groups: our group with 6 people (mostly our age) and then the other group with 8 people, who were mostly older guests.  But they would still bring both groups together at the end of the day so we can chat and socialise which was nice.

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The major thing that we would have liked to change is the responsiveness of Swoop’s partners in finalising the booking. It took them a long time to respond to emails, and we did not receive information on our pick up until after we had arrived in Calafate despite sending multiple emails. We had originally asked them about the Isla Magdalena tours, but they never responded until Harriet from Swoop emailed them for us. By then it was about 3 weeks out and we had already booked our own tours through another operator. Towards the end, I kind of gave up trying to contact them and just directed most of our questions to Harriet at Swoop – so I really appreciate her and Swoop’s patience with us.

Another minor thing that I would have liked to change is a little bit more flexibility on the day that we visited Grey Glacier.  The 2nd half of that day – we drove back from Pudeto to the camp and stopped at 2 lookouts along the way that gave a great view of Los Cuernos. There were a few other amazing lookout points along the way that we didn’t get to stop at due to the guides wanting to keep the group on schedule for dinner – it would have been great to have some more time for pictures and sight-seeing, as this was the only day that we could view the massif from this angle.

What were the highlights of your trip?

We wanted to go to Patagonia for the trekking, and I would say that was the main highlight.  It’s hard to pick a favourite hike – we saw amazing scenery everywhere.  I don’t think we missed too much by minimizing time spent in the cities due to our limited travel days.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

Prior to arriving in Torres del Paine, we spent 3 days hiking on the Argentina side. We hiked Laguna de Los Tres one day and Laguna Torre on the 2nd day. The third day prior to our transfer day to the camp, we visited Perito Moreno Glacier and did the mini-trekking activity there.

After we left Torres del Paine, we transferred to Punta Arenas.  We were hoping to do the Isla Magdalena Penguin Tour but the tour was cancelled for that day due to windy conditions. We did do the Seno Otway Penguin tour instead.

From there we spent 1 extra day in Santiago and did a little bit of sight-seeing in the city before coming home.

Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

Ask a lot of questions and, if there’s time, do background reading on the region.  This was something I had wanted to do prior to leaving but ran out of time.

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Patagonia on the Web – February 2015

 

Swoop’s roundup of all things Patagonian across the web this month.

 Swoop’s favourite Photographs:

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Anna Mazurek (@travellikeanna) is a travel photographer and blogger who recently ticked Patagonia off her bucket list. She has some great photo’s of her adventures on her Twitter, including this one of a rather unusual guy she brought with her to the  Perito Moreno Glacier.

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Adventure motorcyclist Mark Mackoviak (@Not_a_Sherpa), posted photo’s to his twitter of his 2014 adventure in Patagonia.
They really give an insight into what it’s like to ride through the Patagonian landscape.

Blog of the month:

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‘What Patagonia is not’  from the REI blog,  gives a great snapshot of why you would choose  Patagonia.
If you are thinking of travelling to the region this will answer most of your questions and if you would like to find out more get in touch with us! 

Sisi’s Full Circuit from a Torres del Paine eco camp

Sisi returned in February from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine, based from one of the eco camps in the park. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

I had an excellent time on the 9 day Full Circuit! I thought Swoop did an excellent job in promptly answering my questions and helping me to find a trek that suited my dates and other needs at the very beginning. I would definitely recommend Swoop Patagonia to others.

How did you find Swoop’s partners who ran your trek in Torres del Paine?

The guide I had, Hernan, was fantastic – he really made the trek an enjoyable experience for all 12 members of our group!

The member of staff I dealt with before the trip was fantastic at communicating with me up until the point I committed to making a deposit. Afterwards however, it took him much longer to reply.

I also highly recommend that all future customers be informed that it is not necessary for them to bring their own sleeping bags and mats on this trip unless they wish to, as their guide will be able to help them rent these on the first day in Puerto Natales.

How did you find the trip itself?

On the whole, despite the communication issue with the Torres del Paine partners and the disappointment with the sleeping bag/mat, I had an excellent time doing the circuit.

We were very lucky with the weather – apart from the first day when it was ridiculously windy and rainy, we had fine weather for the rest of our trip. Hernan also came up with the brilliant idea of taking us up to the Torres in time for sunrise on our final day, which made it the perfect end to an exhausting, but rewarding 7 days of walking.

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Chantal’s Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Chantal returned in January from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

I had the most fantastic adventure in Torres del Paine! THANK YOU!

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How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop Patagonia was great in informing and accommodating me with a local operator and finding a suitable group for my level of hiking. The website also had abundant information about travel to and around Chile. They also send you a very thoughtful pre-adventure gift :) I would recommend anyone to go through them!

How were Swoop’s partners in Torres del Paine?

Their itinerary was great! The half guided, half self guided circuit I took was planned to be completed in 7 days. The days were ver

y long but it was definitely achievable and worked with my short travel schedule.

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How was your guide on the W portion of the Trek?

The guide (Dorthe) was wonderful providing lots of info about the park (natural history, geology and political history). We got snowed out on our second last day and could not make it through the pass. Dorthe was very good about accommodating the group so we could keep going to finish the circuit instead of turning back. It added an extra day to the trip and we had to improvise for food (and pay a little more $) but it was all worth it! I am also very grateful that Dorthe gave me some second skin for my blisters.The porters were just as awesome!

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

If I were to change anything I would do it in 8 or 9 days instead of 7. Eight days is good middle ground for full challenging trekking days without feeling rushed to have to keep going. I would definitely suggest taking more time to enjoy the park and rest :) The scenery is breath-taking!

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlights were the John Gardner pass and the Patagonian winds! Despite the bad weather I am very fortunate and happy that I was able to complete the circuit.

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Do you have any tips for people planning a similar trip?

I would highly recommend second skin as a necessary first aid item for blisters on the feet. This trek was my first of this length and second skin saved my feet! Also a leash/strap for sunglasses. The wind blew them right off my face and carried them a while. Luckily someone found them and brought them to camp!

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

After Torres del Paine, I took a day tour to Tierra del Fuego to see the King Penguins. My vacation finished with a 5 day stop in Santiago and Valparaiso. Although completely different than the Patagonia region it was good to learn about Chilean history.

It was an amazing trip! THANK YOU!

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Brandon’s Kayaking Trip in Torres del Paine

Brandon returned in February from a trip to Patagonia during which he took a Kayaking trip in Torres del Paine National Park, planned and arranged by Swoop Patagonia and our partners in Chile. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop…

How were Swoop Patagonia?

Swoop did a great job coordinating service with their kayaking partners in Torres del Paine.

How were Swoop’s Kayaking Partners in Torres del Paine?

Swoop’s partners provided excellent communication. They were far more informative and descriptive in their emails that other contacts we had in Chile.

What did you think of the Kayaking Itinerary?

The itinerary was great: we took a 2-day kayaking trip along the Serrano River. We spent the perfect amount of time on the water, with a good combination of work and relaxation. The views were incredible and we really lucked out with the weather. We also appreciated how flexible the itinerary was for day 2.

How was your kayaking guide?

Dan was an excellent guide.  We had complete confidence in his skills and he was a pleasure to spend our trip with.  He does an excellent job of adapting the timeline and style of trip for the individual group.

Is there anything you would change about your trip?

The dinner was a little interesting. We probably would have preferred to not have tuna in the pasta – it would have been great with just the vegetables.  Perhaps they might consider adding something local like pre-packaged smoked salmon or trout to make the meal seem a little fancier.

 

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Karly’s Camping W Trek

Karly and her husband returned in January 2015 from their honeymoon in Chile, during which they took a Trek in Torres del Paine organised by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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How was your experience of booking your trip with Swoop Patagonia?

We had a great time on our trip with Swoop- it was the highlight of our honeymoon in Chile for sure!

What did you think of your W Trek Itinerary?

We would definitely recommend the Camping W Trek to family and friends who are in very good physical shape (we both found the hiking to be challenging, but manageable). We got very lucky with the weather and were astounded by the beauty of the park.

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How was your guide on the trip?

Our guide, Mauricio was extremely skilled and knowledgeable, and a great photographer as well! The meals were good, and my husband and I enjoyed great vegetarian food the whole time.

Do you have any recommendations for us that would have improved your experience?

I think my only recommendation would be to have more ways to tailor the trip for less experienced hikers (i.e. more down time, factoring in more time for the hikes to take pictures). Some of this is really just because I felt I could have spent hours at the lookouts, which isn’t totally possible, but I wonder if it would be possible to get a bit more time to take it all in, as the sights were truly overwhelming and unreal. Overall however, everything was great.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

We also went to Santiago, Vina del mar and Valparaiso, and were able to go to Isla Magdalena to see the Penguins when we were back in Punta Arenas.

Thank you for helping us to plan and arrange this fantastic experience!

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