Tag Archives: Cruise

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Regina & Chris’ Honeymoon Cruise from Ushuaia-Punta Arenas

Regina and Chris returned in November from a 3-night Adventure Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas as part of their Honeymoon in Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Our trip was incredible and the cruise was definitely a highlight of our honeymoon! We are thankful for all your help for making it happen!’

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How were Swoop Patagonia

Swoop were very attentive, friendly, knowledgeable, and responsive.

What did we do well? 

We were a little late planning our trip and wanted as much flexibility as possible. It was very helpful that you guys took the time to respond to many of our questions (via chat, email & Skype) despite the time difference to help us think through options and still book the cruise in a timely manner.

What could we have done differently? 

Nothing that I can think of.

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

Definitely.

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How were our partners who ran the Cruise?

Wonderful and memorable. We are so glad that we booked the cruise although it was a bit pricy. We loved how it was outdoor and environmentally focused, and the ship was not too big. We were spoiled with delicious meals, beverages, and excursions.

How did you enjoy their itinerary and excursions? 

They were great! Although we did not get to disembark at Cape Horn, the staff explained that 100 miles per hour wind is something that doesn’t happen often. It was amazing to have experienced it on the boat. We loved that the places we visited during days 2&3, which were more private (only accessed by our ship), and ending the cruise with an early morning walk around the penguin colony was incredible. We could understand why some of folks, who could afford it, did the round trip ride.

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How were their staff and guides? 

They were professional, friendly, knowledgeable, and just fantastic!

What did you think of the vessel? 

The ship was modern and quite stable, rooms were surprisingly spacious and comfortable, and the zodiac boats for the excursions were great.

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

Absolutely not. It was just perfect.

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

We visited Glaciar Perito Moreno, which was an incredible day trip, Mendoza and Buenos Aires.

What was the highlight of your trip overall? 

The cruise was definitely a highlight of our overall trip, and it was a perfect indulgence for our honeymoon.

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

Flying into Ushuaia is amazing as the plane goes over the snowy peaks so closely before landing into a town at the end of the continent. Day hikes to the Tierra del Fuego national park is great – we combined Pampa Alta trail and Costa trail to get the view from the top and along the water. It ends up being about 8 miles and well worth the effort. Being indulged on our cruise after few days of roughing it in Ushuaia enhanced our appreciation for everything on the cruise even more.

Larry & Susan’s Trek in Torres del Paine & Los Glaciares, & Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

Larry and Susan returned in March from a trip to Patagonia with friends Jane and Jim. Their trip included an Independent trek in Torres del Paine and El Chalten, followed by a cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in planning and arranging it with Swoop and our partners in Chile and Argentina…

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

Speaking for Susan and myself, I think that the most important point in terms of the structure of the trip was that it worked very well.  I believe that there are certainly logistical and language issues with a trip such as this, and I feel that the arrangements made by Swoop and the other operators were well worth the money.  Having self-arranged trips elsewhere in the world, at least 5 times previously, going via Swoop was a different structure, and I would encourage others to do likewise, especially with potential language issues.

What were the highlights of your trip?

In El Chalten, we were pleasantly surprised that a small village of its size has the amenities that it does.  Nothing like walking into the Mirador for Fitzroy, and walking out to enjoy a pint at the microbrewery, followed by a great restaurant meal, and a good sleep at Kaulem. For me, El Chalten was the highlight, given the total surprise at what we had expected for facilities, and the relative ease at getting into the objectives.

The cruise was wonderful; great meals, wonderful tablemates, very knowledgeable interpreters.  The choice of a berth in the lower deck was the right one, given the rough seas, going towards Cape Horn.

Swoop is commended for recommending Parc Nationale los Glaciares; this was a highlight also.

How did you find the Trekking in Torres del Paine & Chalten?

I would not describe the “W Trek” as a life-changing experience.  Having hiked, scrambled, and climbed in the Canadian Rockies for 35 years I guess I have been spoiled.

The trails in both countries are well maintained and clean; the daily itinerary was very do-able, for people of our age and relative fitness.

We found the Refugio staff to be less than helpful, not at all service based, and the meals monotonous and of dubious quality, especially some of the vegetarian options.  I certainly think these young people could learn a lesson about guest expectations and service from the folks at Palermo, and on the Cruise.  I picked up bed bugs at one of the Refugios as well.  Could they not charge a little more, and offer a little more?

On the ground , we found your partners in Torres del Paine very helpful and a good resource, although we also took in the 3:00 p.m. talk at Erratic Rock.  She could do with a little more prominent sign.

How were your other accommodations during  the trip?

In Buenos Aires, we found the Palermo Hotel and its concierge service quite exceptional.  We are not normally effusive in our praise, but Luke really picked a winner here. The facility in El Calafate was unexceptional,  no strong memories, one way or the other.

In Chile, the people at both Erratic Rock were helpful, and it was appreciated that they held our spare kit while we were elsewhere (as did Palermo, in Buenos Aires).

The B&B in Punta Arenas could have been better.  We were in side by side rooms, nearby the upstairs dining area.  Noise from the front desk carried, the staff seemed to be oblivious to their all night “yakking” and then the German group got up (or maybe never went to bed) at 4:00 a.m. or so, to have breakfast.  So, a real lack of commitment to other guests, and I’d encourage you to find something smaller, and quieter.

Overall…

In conclusion, a well planned and well organized trip, for which considerable recognition should also go to my wife, Susan, as well.  I really think her secret job is also tour operating, and should you have any vacancies, please keep her in mind!

This is a trip we have been working on since we read Bruce Chatwins’ book, “In Patagonia”, in approximately 1980.  We still have the book, and brought it along to reread.  Then, we were poor University students and all we could afford was “armchair travelling”.  So, 34 years later and the circle closes.  We have fulfilled one of our dreams as a couple, between armchair and wheelchair, I guess you’d say.

Thank you, once again, for the effort. Cheers! Larry.

Iain Motorcycle Diary

Ian’s Motorcycle & Adventure Cruise in Patagonia

Ian returned in March from a Motorcycling trip throughout Chile and Argentina, during which he also took a cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas. Here he tells us about his experiences on his trip, and in booking through Swoop and our partners…Iain Motorcycle Diary

What did Swoop do well?

Swoop were very helpful and efficient. They responded quickly, got in touch rapidly with people who knew the answers to my questions, and most importantly enabled me to take my motorbike with me on the trip.

What could we have done differently?

Nothing.iain cruise 2

How did you enjoy your Cruise Itinerary and Excursions?

The cruise was really good, there was always something to do and there was no chance to get bored. If anything there was to much to do and little chance to just admire the scenery we were travelling through (but that was more my fault for wanting to go to all the talks/presentations etc)!

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How were the staff and guides on your cruise?

Excellent. The ship’s crew were incredibly helpful in getting my bike on the boat and securing her. The expedition crew were all incredibly helpful, very knowledgeable and good fun.

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What did you think of the Cruise vessel?

It was modern, well designed, and very comfortable.

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

I would have potentially done a longer trip. We had very bad weather and so didn’t make it onto Cape Horn Island, or round the Horn. I’m not even sure I’d change this though, as it meant that I saw Cape Horn, a legendary landmark amongst sailors across the world.

I’m going to be able to annoy people for the rest of my life when they say ‘that’s a little bit choppy’, responding with “well, it’s not gale force winds at Cape Horn…”

70 knot winds at Cape Horn

70 knot winds at Cape Horn

What was the highlight of your trip overall?

Taking my motorbike to Cape Horn, and potentially having the most southerly motorbike in the world for a while!

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

-Do it, you won’t regret it.

-Don’t expect it to be a cruise, throw yourself into the expeditions, talks etc.

-Take warm and waterproof clothes (as recommended).

-Listen to the crew.

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

Yes! My trip started in Buenos Aires, I drove down to Ushuaia, took the Cruise to Punta Arenas, then went to Porvenir, Puerto Natales (and Torres del Paine), Calafate (and Perito Moreno glaciar), Chalten, Carretera Austal, Chiloe, Pucon and am now in Santiago. It’s all been amazing but I think Chile might just be edging it as a favourite at the moment!

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Why not take a look at Iain’s blog from his trip!

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Puma Tracking and Adventure Cruise Patagonia

Kush and his friends returned in March from a trip to Patagonia during which they embarked on a Puma Tracking trip in Torres del Paine, followed by a 4 night Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here Kush tells us about their experiences on the trip…

‘It’s an incredible feeling seeing a Puma on foot less than 5 meters away from you. All of us were elated and kept replaying every moment again and again. It is a fantastic experience.’

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How was your Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia?

The cruise was fantastic. We really enjoyed the food the hospitality and the excursions.

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How was the Puma Tracking trip? It was again fantastic. I can’t recommend our guide Carlos enough. He went out of the way to accommodate us and to make sure we were comfortable at all times. He even woke us up as early as 0430 and brought us back home as late as 2200 just because we were so determined to see Pumas. He carried packed lunch with us on our hikes and put up an extraordinary spread in the middle of nowhere. He was great and so was our driver.

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What was the highlight of your trip overall? We managed to see Pumas and that was the highlight of the trip. We saw a sub-adult drinking, walking stretching and eating a day old Guanaco carcass, and the next day in the early morning we saw an adult (most likely its mother) walking quickly across the steppe. It’s an incredible feeling seeing a Puma on foot less than 5 meters away from you: all of us were elated and kept replaying every moment again and again. It is a fantastic experience.

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Is there anything you would have changed about your trip? At our accommodation at Hosteria Pehoe we had problems with hot water, and the food at our first accommodation at the Ranch was very poor, but other than that it was good.

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Overall… Overall we had a great time and I will definitely be returning with a few adjustments to the accommodation.

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Perito Moreno, Torres del Paine & Whale Watching

Rebecca & Carolyn returned in March from a trip to Patagonia during which they took a trip to Perito Moreno Glacier, followed by a W Trek in Torres del Paine, and a Whale Watching trip from Punta Arenas. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip, and in booking through Swoop and our partners…

image[2] What did Swoop do well?

 Your suggestions were all great – perfectly aligned with what we were looking for on the trip

What could we have done differently?

Nothing

How did you enjoy the W Trek, Whale Watching trip and Perito Moreno hike?

All were phenomenal. The Whale Watching Adventure cruise was a particularly unique and special experience. It was the most remote, relaxing (and educational!) trip I’ve ever been on. We spent hours on the boat sailing through the remote straits of Magellan, slept in tents on one of a hundred or so uninhabited islands in Tierra del Fuego, and for three days did not see a single trace of another human! It was an incredibly special trip that brought us into the depths of nature. All proceeds of the trip go to fund the research operations of the group, and spending time with the scientists, learning about their research and the whales, was a truly special experience. It was a very remote trip, and we were perfect for it, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who wasn’t comfortable spending a lot of time on a boat in rough seas, or camping in remote locations. That said, it was the most amazing thing I’ve probably ever done!

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How were the guides on the trips?

All great! 

Is there anything you would have changed about the trip?

Nothing at all. 

What was the highlight of your trip?

It’s hard to pick just one, but the Torres del Paine at sunrise, seeing  Perito Moreno Glacier for the first time, and sailing through the remote straits of Magellan were all pretty high on the list!

image[1]Do you have any tips for other people planning a trip?

Use Swoop and their partners in Patagonia! You made coordinating the trip seamless and stress free and allowed us to really maximize our time in Patagonia.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina?

Not on this trip.image[3]

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Holiday or Hard Work? Luke’s Trip to Antarctica.

Last night  my 7 year old son asked about my upcoming trip…
Where are you going? What are you going to see?  Who will you meet?  Why are you going? Do you NEED to go?

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Let me answer his questions and a few others that are often posed.

What are these research trips all about?
We aim to get out to Patagonia at least twice a year and to Antarctica once a year. We meet with our network of partners across Chile and Argentina – those that we’ve been working with for four years, others who just finished their first season with us, and new partners who are hoping to look after Swoop’s customers in the season ahead.

By day we’re out on the hiking trails, kayaking, horse riding to get first hand experience of the routes, guides and operators that we work with. By night we check out as many accommodation options as possible, from refuges and hostels through to some of the most unique and exclusive properties in the whole of Latin America. For our customers we try to avoid itineraries that involve unpacking and repacking their bags every day; but for us it’s quite the opposite – the rule has always been try a different hotel every single night.

In November 2012 I travelled 1,500 miles overland, staying in a different place each night. Then in February 2013 I treated myself to an expedition climbing Aconcagua  and then ran a three day adventure race around the volcanoes of northern Patagonia.

So of course it’s not just about the practical matters. I love it down there – the landscapes (both the wonderfully familiar and the excitingly new) feed my soul and my passion and drive to help people plan and arrange unforgettable holidays to the Andes. To a large extent these trips are about recharging the Swoop batteries.
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Where are you going on this trip?
Each trip has had a different purpose, but this one in principally about gaining first hand experience of an expeditionary cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula, and forging partnerships with new partners in Argentina and Chile to support our customers.
I will be:
- Spending 2-3 days in Buenos Aires to meet local guides and hoteliers who will support some of our customers when they first arrive into Argentina.
- Flying south to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world and base for not only some amazingly wild and adventurous treks across Tierra del Fuego, but also the gateway to Antarctica.
- Setting sail aboard the Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula for 4-5 days of zodiac boat excursions amongst the icebergs and marine life of the Great White Continent.
- On our return I’ll stretch my legs on a trek in Tierra del Fuego before taking the 12 hour bus up to Punta Arenas (which is better than it sounds, I’ve done the reverse route before).
- We have six different partners based in Puerto Natales alone and we’ll be meeting with all of them.
-  Then flying to the Chilean Lakes to meet other operators and hoteliers and my first visit to the island of Chiloe.
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Do you have any concerns?

Out on the Antarctic Peninsula I’ll be offline for 8 days. I know this sounds ridiculous but I’ve always been there for customers planning their trip, and those on the ground in Chile and Argentina. The decision has been a hard one for a long time, however things were made a lot easier yesterday when Sally Dodge joined the Swoop team. Sally has been a Tour Leader in Chile and Argentina for the last 8 years and her knowledge of the region and passion for helping people explore it are very special indeed. I’m confident that our customers will be in very good hands while I’m away.

And, yes, I’m a little nervous about crossing the Drake Passage. It’s the most infamous waterway in the world, and this is the last voyage of the season. However, like anyone Antartica bound my overwhelming emotion is the excitement of catching my first glimpse of the icebergs, whales and the peninsula itself.

For my son Alec let me answer your questions in a few words…

- I’m going to the most charismatic city in South America, a wild island at the end of the earth, a place where the whales live amongst huge icebergs, the gateway to the eighth wonder of the world, and a land of lakes and volancoes.  

- I’ll meet dozens of guides, expedition leaders, hoteliers and travellers, each of them with their own wonderful story to tell

- Yes, I do need to go. Swoop needs the best of friends and helpers down there, and every year we need to learn about new places to go and things to see and do. But it’s also time to recharge my batteries…Swoop’s batteries.
 
And, in a few years time, when you’re ready, it’s going to be a lot of fun introducing you to Patagonia and Antarctica.

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Barbara & Douglas’ 5 Week Patagonian Adventure

Barbara and Douglas returned in February from a 5 week trip that included a 4 night Patagonian Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Here they tell us about their trip, and their experience of booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Swoop Patagonia was the main reason why we had such a successful trip… Luke was absolutely brilliant in helping with our itinerary’

What was the highlight of your trip?

Our trip was 5 weeks altogether with 4 nights of it on the cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. Overall the cruise was one of our many highlights, with the landing on Cape Horn very special and the experience at Pia Glacier quite something.

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina on your trip?

Yes, we visited Santiago and Valparaiso before flying south to Balmaceda where we picked up a rental 4×4. We spent a week driving south on the Carretera Austral and were able to drop the vehicle at Villa O’Higgins. This was difficult to arrange and expensive but we managed to book through a local agent and Europcar.

Another highlight was our 2 day crossing into Argentina, from Villa O’Higgins, by boat and on foot and our first sighting of Mt. Fitzroy! 5days in El Chalten was a recommendation from Luke which was excellent, great day hikes and fantastic food and drink.

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We had a brief visit to El Calafate and visited Perito Merino glacier, then on to Puerto Natales to go to Torres del Paine. We completed  the W Trek ourselves using pre booked refugios which proved to be very good and Luke had given us advice about this.

The weather was kind and the scenery was awesome. We went to Punta Arenas and the the cruise after this. Spent 2 nights in Ushuaia and 2 nights in Buenos Aires before flying home.

How well did Swoop Patagonia do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trip or operator for you?

Swoop Patagonia was the main reason why we had such a successful trip. Luke was absolutely brilliant in helping with our itinerary and we organised the whole trip ourselves using  Luke’s knowledge and advice. He directed us to their excellent partners for both our flights and our cruise booking.

Were you well looked after by the cruise operator?

The cruise operator was excellent, not cheap but a very special part of our trip at the end of our 5 weeks. We were ready for some luxury and they hit the mark, nice cabin, great meals, excellent service and well organised excursions.

How did you find the services and excursions provided?

Services and excursions were all very well executed, swift disembarkation for all excursions with safety a high priority. Enjoyed the on board presentations by knowledgeable staff.

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Was there anything that you wish had happened differently/or not happened at all?

Not at all, all our pre planning paid off and we would do the exact same.

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

-For anyone planning to do the crossing from Villa O’Higgins to El Chalten: be aware that the company Heilo Sur in Villa O’Higgins does not operate this any longer and the website information is out of date. The boat across Lago O’Higgins is now run by Robinson Crusoe, the man and horse who helps with luggage was not there(!) so be prepared to walk the 22kms if you go. Robinson Crusoe sold us tickets for a bus from Desertio Lake to El Chalten which never turned up.

-Bring American dollars if you plan to visit Argentina as this is the currency they wish.

-The crime levels in Buenos Aires seem to be escalating, we heard many reports of street crime and scams to distract tourists while pickpockets were at work.

-The walking tours for tips are an excellent way to see a city, we did these in Valaparaiso and Buenos Aires

Rob’s Patagonia Cruise

Rob recently returned from a Patagonia Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia and back to Punta Arenas as part of a wider trip to South America. Here he tells us about his experiences on the cruise, and booking through Swoop…

How was your trip?

Overall I had a great time and the overall enjoyment was greater than I had anticipated before departing.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip for me was always going to be the landing on Cape Horn, and this was one of the prime reasons for undertaking the trip in the first place. The glaciers, the penguins and the wind and the waves were all part of a fully supportive cast and all played their part in making the whole thing so good.

Did you visit anywhere else in Patagonia?

I didn’t visit anywhere else in Patagonia other than the Cruise, but continued on to visit other areas of South America.

How well did Swoop and our partners do in planning and arranging your trip?

The holiday was planned well and if there were glitches they were not major and were probably because I hadn’t read the itinerary properly.

Is there anything you wish had happened differently?

The cruise itself was excellent in most respects.

I do feel that more care could have been taken by the ship in ensuring that there were at least 3 English speakers out of the six people on each meal table. On the return leg we had five -a Chilean doctor and his wife who could speak Spanish English and some Italian and who was happy to translate in order to be inclusive, and the lovely smiley mother and grandmother of the waiter, who could speak no English. At the mealtimes when the doctor was not present or engaged in doctoring there was a lot of pointing and smiling but not much else! I don’t remember being asked which if any other languages I could speak or understand.

How were the other sections of your trip in South America, organised by our partners?

All of the trips and events around the cruise were good particularly the tour of Santiago. The guide was informative and knowledgeable and obviously loved her job and her city.

I was surprised by the day adventure up into the hills on the turn around day in Ushuaia as I don’t recall that being mentioned. It was enjoyable but came as a bit of a surprise to get a phone call saying that the guide and land rover were outside! I still can’t see it mentioned on the itinerary.

I suppose the one slight problem for me was the transfer from the cruise ship to a rendezvous in a café c 0.5 kms away. My bag was 18 kgs and had no wheels and I struggled somewhat even over that distance (I had earlier in the trip hurt my leg a little bit). I think that someone older than I would have struggled more particularly if it had been raining and /or very windy even over such a short distance. Many travellers were being met with taxis, perhaps to get to the airport, but I think a meet and greet at the ship would be a nice idea.

Apart from these few relatively minor things the trip was thoroughly enjoyable and was helped by the large amount of support out there -it wasn’t just getting you to the airport, it included check in, emigration, customs etc and really took the pressure off.

‘I would have no hesitation in recommending the whole experience to others. Despite the little grumbles it was really a wonderful holiday…Thanks a lot for making it so enjoyable!’

John & Laura’s Christmas Trip to Patagonia

John and Laura returned in January 2014 from a Christmas trip to Patagonia, where they took a Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, and a Kayaking trip in Torres del Paine (both organised by Swoop), as well as arranging a Self Guided W Trek and various other day trips independently. Here they tell us about their experiences on their trip…

‘We had a great time…it was a brilliant trip!’

 

What was the HIGHLIGHT of your trip?

The 3 day Kayaking Trip and the Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia were probably the highlights… the kayaking for being a bit wild, and the cruise for being very luxurious but also in a wild place.

On the kayak trip on Lago Grey we were close to an iceberg when it turned over. I think the guide was rather shocked as we were within about 5m of it!

Did you manage to visit anywhere else in Chile or Argentina on your trip?

We started off in Buenos Aires (the only place that was hot), and from there we travelled to El Calafate, and on to El Chalten.

We then headed back to El Calafate, and on to Puerto Natales, from which we took the W trek in Torres del Paine, and a Kayaking trip.

Afterwards we headed to Puerto Natales, and on to Punta Arenas, from which point we took a Cruise to Ushuaia, and then headed back to Buenos Aires.

How well did SWOOP PATAGONIA do helping you plan your holiday, and finding the best trips or operators for you?

Very good – booking the kayaking through Swoop with a reputable company with good access to the lake was the most useful and didn’t cost much more (if any)* than the other quotes we had. 

*NB, you will not pay any more by booking through Swoop than you would by booking direct with a local operator. Read more about how we work here.

How were the OPERATORS Swoop put you in contact with?

Both the companies you put us in contact with (the Kayaking and Cruise companies) were very good.

How were the other operators you found yourselves?

Other operators were a little patchy.

We found a great guide kayaking for a day in the Tierra Del Fuego national park but the kayaks weren’t very good (although the clothing was).

We also did half a day of Horse Riding which was OK but I really wanted to see the gauchos and how they managed the estancia and the landscape. That seemed difficult to arrange although Estancia Mercedes sounded the best but was booked up. 

Was there anything that you wish had happened DIFFERENTLY or not happened at all?

-Traveling on Christmas day was a PITA.

We had to leave at 4.30am and had a few hours kicking about El Calafate in the bus station as everywhere was closed. At least we managed to do it but getting information was a challenge (thanks for your help by the way – but it was pretty clear that the bus operators just made things up as they went along). Some buses were completely empty (e.g, El Chalten to El Calafate at 4.30am! on Christmas day :-) and others seemed to be fully booked so we had to run around to get a seat, even days in advance.

-We decided to book our W Trek in Torres del Paine independently [without Swoop's support], and this was awkwardIt was very unclear from the website we used if we could cancel or rearrange the bookings.

On this trip we had a mix of tents and bunks, and availability was tight. But when we got there it seemed like certain guides were taking groups around who had booked late and companies must have been holding group bunk reservations, which we might have done had the procedure been clearer.

The tents were pretty pants to be honest. Neither of us are very tall but we struggled to fit in the tent with a small amount of kit – and it rained and rained and the tent leaked – partly as kit was unavoidably touching the sides and the ventilation wasn’t very good. They ought to spend more money on them considering how much they charge.

Also, Vertice’s huts were noticeably better than Fantastico Sur’s in the quality, warmth, food and service despite costing the same. In fact, accommodation seemed to be a lottery – for USD45 in Buenos Aires we got a huge posh suite with a kitchen but for USD135 in Ushuaia we got a pokey, noisy ground floor room that was somewhat dated. We booked both late due to the uncertainty with our plan. There is little correlation between price and quality.

Do you have any TIPS for other people who are planning a trip?

1. Don’t travel on Christmas day

2. Try and get up to date info – even the latest Lonely Planet Chile is pretty poor for accuracy, which was frustrating.

3. It is an expensive place to visit, everything and everyone seems to have a chunk of your money, taxes, booking fees etc. Planning a budget was difficult – they are not afraid to ask for tips!

4. TAM airlines are not very comfortable, or attentive

5. It is cold. Even colder than I expected

6. Don’t eat for a week before or after a Cruise (the staff here were fantastic, friendly and fun – superb)

7. I think I’d advise against travel over Christmas as it is windy, very busy, expensive (due to availability) and there is nothing particularly extra to see. If (when) we go again I think we’d wait until February or March.

8. It was very safe at all times and we never really got any hassle – even from the stray dogs.

Some of that sounds a bit blunt but none of it spoiled the trip (or is any different to any of our other traveling experiences). We saw another person with a Swoop buff and they seemed very happy too. I’ll pass on your details to anyone who is interested in planning their own trip – I think you’ll hear from my mother once she has rounded up a few of her trekking buddies!

Family Trip to South America

Lyn and her family returned recently from a trip to South America, where she and her family embarked on a 4 Day Cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas. Here she tells us about their experiences…

 What was the highlight of your trip?

There were so many!

We loved the Cruise, and we also loved Iguazu, Salta and the north, which we enjoyed much more than I expected, it was rather spiritual the scenery was stunning.

We really want to go back to Chile, it was too short a stay , the people were lovely, and the estancia we stayed at in El Calafate was fantastic- in fact we just loved everything! Writing about it makes me quite emotional!

I’ve never done the guide thing before but this was the best thing ever. The guides were superb, each in their own way and sooo knowledgeable.  They took us to things we didn’t know about or might not have bothered with and there was nothing that I felt was a waste of time. Everyone turned up on time, and was enthusiastic, the transport was good especially in the north (fab guides in Salta).  Worth every penny.

How did Swoop Patagonia do in helping you plan and arrange your trip?

Thank God for Swoop Patagonia… we might have still been wandering in Argentina without your help.

How happy were you with the Operators we put you in contact with?

Your suggestions were spot on and putting us in touch with your partner, Steph, was inspired…what a girl! Nothing was too much trouble, she was always to hand, full of ideas and advice, couldn’t recommend her highly enough. Her personal contacts for guides in Rio and BA worked brilliantly, (as did those through Wanderlust).

All of the accommodation was excellent, there was a real variety and everything lived up to Steph’s promises. Even our last minute request for change of itinerary during the holiday itself was handled efficiently and without fuss and worked really well for us. So big thanks to Steph.

Is there anything you would have changed about your trip, looking back?

The only thing I could have wished for was to stay longer , especially on the estancia- I have fallen in love with the country and its people and definitely want to return…..

On behalf of all of us, thank you so much for you help and if you need someone to recommend you or your partners, I’m your girl.