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.

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6 days of Excursions in Torres del Paine

Brent and Megan returned in February from a 5 night stay at an eco friendly camp on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park, where they had a choice of excursions into the park each day. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Megan and I had an exceptional time in Patagonia.’

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How was your experience of booking with Swoop?

We appreciated the advice and insight that Luke was able to give for the hikes and for the possible tours. I would and have already recommended Swoop to other people.

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How the excursions and guides in Torres del Paine?

Our guides were excellent; very knowledgeable enthusiastic about their work. Unfortunately, two days before we left for Chile my wife fell and hurt her ankle so we had to stick to the low intensity excursions but still did one 22 km hike and made it within the allotted time. We were not able to try any of the longer or more intense hikes but still enjoyed the ones that we were able to participate in.

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How was the weather in Torres del Paine?

The weather was good- we had two days of clouds and two days of sun.

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What did you think of the eco friendly camp?

The camp facilities were excellent. It was very nice to have a good bed to go back to after being out all day. The food was excellent, and the staff were exceptional. We would definitely recommend other people to stay there.

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Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

We spent one day in Valparaiso, and then we drove from Santiago to Mendoza in Argentina and toured wineries and ate at some amazing restaurants. Hindsight being 20/20 If I knew how utterly screwed up the border crossings would be, I would have flown.  It was a beautiful drive but the border control experience (and the additional permit fee and insurance) ruined the experience.

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What were the highlights of your trip?

The last day we did one of the view point hikes and had great weather.  Out of the blue we had a Huemul deer wander right up to us.  On the other side of the hill that same morning we observed 22 condors flying above the neighbouring foothill.  It was pretty amazing.

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Patagonia On The Web – March 2015

Swoop’s choice of Patagonia finds online this month.

Swoop’s  favourite Photographs.

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Swoop’s own Harriet Pike has been over in Patagonia meeting with our partners and meeting potential new ones.
She took this great shot of a moody sky over Fitzroy on the
Laguna Torre day hike.

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This ‘Fox on the rocks’ was National Geographic’s photo of the day on the 12th March. This clever fox was picking up scraps of food that tourists had left behind and was taken by Irina C.
Screenshot (49)alanxelmundo on Twiter put this snap of a atmospheric sunrise of over Torres del Paine. What an amazing start to a  day.

Blog’s of the month:

 journeyby.com

lakepaineGreat blog post detailing some of the best hikes available in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego and the practicalities of doing so.
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Travel journalist @SarahDuff put up some incredible photo’s of her 4 month adventure through South America and a great in-depth look at her time in Patagonia, these are essential reads for anyone thinking about Patagonia as their next travel destination.

If you are interested in these hikes or following in Duff’s suitcase’s footsteps , get in touch and we can organise a great itinerary for you.

Maria’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

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

How was your experience of booking with Swoop Patagonia?

My trip was great, thanks for all your help in planning it!

How was your W Trek?

My W Trek was great and I was lucky with the Patagonian weather!

I realise now that I really didn’t necessarily need a guide as the trails are so well marked, and my group walked slower than I would have liked, but it was nice having company, and the guide was very nice too. One day I chose to trek alone, as the Guide decided not to take the group up to the final lookout (due to their fitness levels). Perhaps it might be useful to have treks of different levels of speed.

Harriet from Swoop Says: Generally if people don’t have much trekking experience we recommend that they do the trek guided trek because we don’t know how they will get on. Some people like yourself decide that they would have been fine without a guide and others are not as fit and capable of navigation. In addition a guide adds a lot of value to people’s treks in terms of local knowledge and as you say, being in a group and with a guide is a lot of fun. It is quite hard to divide people up according to ability because we have no way of assessing this but we can definitely warn people that their group may be quite slow so we will bear that in mind in future. I am glad you were able to get up to the viewpoints in spite of your slow group. What great views!

I found that the budget you had recommended did not quite stretch far enough in Chile. Of course I know this was only a recommendation, but even on my very frugal budget (cheapest dorm rooms, no alcohol or souvenirs, local food etc), I struggled. I would advise people to change over more Chilean pesos – maybe 300.

Argentina was much cheaper, although it would’ve been better for me to take euros to change at the unofficial rates, as they were much better than the Blue dollar rates believe it or not

These aren’t criticisms of your services however, just some things that I hope may be helpful. Thanks again for all your help once again!!

Harriet from Swoop Says: It is interesting what you say about Euros, none of us have experienced Euros getting a better rate than dollars so it is something we will look for when we are in Argentina in March. Thanks also for your feedback about your budget. It is very hard for us to calculate budgets for people and it’s definitely something we should have more information about on our site. When I go out in March I am going to put together some more detailed information about budgeting so your information is really useful! 

Swoop’s tips on Currency in Patagonia

 

 

Duane’s W Trek in Torres del Paine

Duane returned in March from a trekking holiday in Torres del Paine National Park. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

How was your experience of booking with Swoop and our partners?

Great thank you, I enjoyed every day of my trip!

I would certainly recommend you and your partners to others, as the information provided to me ahead of time was very helpful. I am also thankful for the accommodations being taken care of, as my Spanish was lacking.

Thanks for the memories.

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Is there anything you would change about your trip?

I can’t think of any negatives – the lowest points, if any, were the refugios, but I enjoyed my stays there as well.

Seeing the many campers nearby, however, and the fact that most if not all of the facilities in the refugios were available to them, I thought that next time it would probably be better to do a self-guided camping trip (tent and sleeping bag already prepared, so I’m carrying only clothes, food, etc.).

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was at the base of Las Torres, as it was also my 40th birthday, and the sky was unusually clear. I also loved the view of Glacier Grey.

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

I highly recommend that others spend more time in Puerto Natales, as it is a very charming town. On second thought, don’t - too many people might alter the charm. :)

 

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!’

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

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

Yes, absolutely.

 

What did you think of your itinerary?

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!