Tag Archives: Review

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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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Magan’s Extended Paine Circuit & Kayaking in Torres del Paine

Magan returned in January from a trekking and kayaking trip to Torres del Paine. Here she tells us about her experiences on her trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘The experience was AMAZING – I absolutely loved our group and Swoop and their partners were wonderful!’

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What did you think of your itinerary?

The Extended Paine Circuit itinerary was great! The John Garner pass day was super long and super hard but glad that we chose to keep going and not stay at the El Paso campgrounds.

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The glacier hike was amazing – it was shocking to me that many people that we were hiking the Full Circuit with were unaware of that option and were very disappointed that they hadn’t put it in their itinerary.

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How was your guide and accommodation on your trip?

Our guide (Eduardo) was PHENOMENAL: super knowledgeable and patient with us, and a huge enhancement to the trip! I would definitely recommend him to anyone!

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My celiac disease was well tended to well and many of the refugios were great! I hated the Refugio Paine Grande where the boat was located – I felt like I was at Disney and it took away from the experience.

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Did you manage to visit anywhere else on your trip?

I continued to travel in Chile – but just to Santiago and to a yoga retreat.  I also hiked the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu – the entire trip was amazing!

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the trip was the John Gardner pass and the Glacier hike – they are very hard to beat!

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Dennis’ Sailing trip from Ushuaia to Cape Horn

Dennis returned in December from a 7 day sailing trip around Cape Horn. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our sailing partners…

Thank you Chloe and a big thanks to Luke also! Because I am the worst travel agent ever I had a few snags in my overall travel plan but the sailing trip that Swoop Patagonia organised for me was better than I could have imagined!

How were Swoop Patagonia?

I really appreciate you and your help in finding me the perfect trip for the way I like to do things, thank you! I like the way I could communicate and get answers from you guys and felt very comfortable with the trip before I even got going, thank you for that also!

How was Swoop’s Sailing partner?

Atilio is a great man and a great captain; professional and personable. I would sail with him anywhere. The way he was able to time sailing windows to get us around the horn was remarkable! He truly worked himself and his boat hard to make sure we SAFELY but surely made the ultimate goal of the sailing. I am sure that just the experience of sailing with someone so knowledgeable about the boat and his environment would have been enough, but we really got the vibe from him that if there was a chance to make it around safely, he would give it the best chance possible, and that is what he did!

I would strongly recommend anyone of any or no sailing skill to set sail with him. He let us get as involved as we liked and even though I am sure we got in his way sometimes, he never let on and was nothing but encouraging to us! I have met many people, and have worked on many boats in my travels so far, and I put him at the top of the list as a truly great person of the world.

Did you visit anywhere else on your trip?

I had a great time driving down to Ushuaia and camping around when I was not on the boat, the roads were decent, gas was very available and finding places to camp was pretty easy.

The national park in Ushuaia was very friendly and clean and had a few great hikes to go on in and around the park. My problem was I did not get the proper paperwork for the rental car and it got a bit messy, that was just the car company and me and some miscommunications, part of me being a terrible travel agent, oh well, it got exiting!

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of the 20 days spent in Argentina and Chile are for sure meeting the captain and experiencing his environment for the 7 days I spent with him and his boat, it was a great time! I have a lot of pictures and even more memories!

I look forward to seeing what the next adventure brings and will use your services and recommend you to everyone I meet who may need your services!!! Thank you again, Dennis.

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Jeanette’s Backcountry Ski Trip in Bariloche

Jeanette and her family returned in July 2014 from a Winter Backcountry Ski trip in Bariloche. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

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What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of our trip was the Backcountry skiing at Baguales Lodge.  The accommodations were a rustic dream, getting there was an adventure, the food was gourmet, and the skiing spectacular.

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

Buenos Aires: we ate at two great restaurants in Sal Telmo (La Brigada) and Palermo. We went to the San Telmo market on Sunday and the Teatro Colon.

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

Swoop helped us find the best trip operator in the area, choose our outdoor adventure activities, and referred us to the best guide company.

[Here’s some more information on How Swoop Work.]

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Were you well looked after by our partners in Patagonia & their guides on the trip? 

Yes, definitely.  Mike and Juan did a great job planning our itinerary, managing all our backcountry and avalanche gear, guiding us while we were in Patagonia.  They are knowledgeable, experience, professional, entertaining, and attended to our every need. We couldn’t have been happier.

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

We wish there had been more snow at Cerro Cathedral and Frey, but even under those circumstances (which no one has any control over) our guide provided us with alternatives that were excellent.

[Here’s some more information on Weather in Patagonia]

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

Contact Swoop Patagonia and their recommended partners.

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Leo’s Winter Adventure in Torres del Paine

Leo returned in May from a Winter Trek in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us a little about his experiences on the trek, shares some wonderful photos, and provides some helpful tips for other people travelling to Patagonia in Winter…

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I completed the 3-day Winter Highlights trek with Swoop’s local host – Victor. It was a really memorable trek. Torres del Paine has both peaceful environment and stunning views in the winter.

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We tried to arrange trips to Calafate afterwards but we didn’t have enough time sadly. We travelled to Easter Island afterwards.

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The temperature is already below zero on the mountain but you are still warm if you keep walking. A walking stick is very helpful when walking on frozen land with slippery ice surface.

Thank you for helping me to plan this awesome trip!

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Luke Reviews Casita Chil-Hue, Chiloe

Britt and his wife have lived here for 15 years, and have built two cabanas and a couple of smaller lodges in the land around their home. You couldn’t ask for a host more knowledgeable of Chiloe’s history and culture and passionate about sharing it.
He cooks a great breakfast too!

I stayed in the Casita which would suit a family of 3-4 really nicely, with a beautiful bedroom, kitchen/dining area and a loft area that kids would love.

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I woke up here to wonderful views out to the Pacific, put on my trainers and took as little as twenty pace to reach the beach and enjoy a wonderful early morning jog. The beach lies on the northern coast of Chiloe and stretches all the way to the island’s second town, Ancud.
It was a beautiful morning and, as is the case all the way along the coastline of Chiloe I saw so many different birds and not a single human being.
Screen Shot 2014-05-30 at 13.15.45Ancud is a 10 minute drive away, and given that the town has little to offer in the ways of nice restaurants and bars that’s probably no bad thing.

Use this as a base on Chiloe if you want:
peace and tranquility and wonderful hosts, just a few feet from the ocean

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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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Off the Beaten Track Expedition in Torres del Paine

John and his friends returned in February from an off the beaten track trekking and kayaking expedition out of Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his trip and his experiences in booking with Swoop and our local partners…

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Did the itinerary fit with your plans and aspirations for the trip? 

Yes the itinerary was as I had hoped and fitted our aspirations.

How would you describe the route, and terrain?

The route was manageable in general; we had one hard day of 10 to 12 hours, followed by an easier day of 6 hours. It was demanding overall due to the fact we trekked for 2-3 weeks overall, camping throughout.

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The Oggioni Pass was demanding, but not overly so, and took us about 10 hours. Cristian did say he might change the plan to go to Perros Camp rather than Dickson on coming down the pass but in my opinion it would be a pity to miss Dickson Camp, which is a lovely setting.

How was your guide?

One error from our guides was to try and take us ‘off piste’ to a higher track when going over the John Garner pass. This was a bit much for us on an already long day. He did learn from it but could have discussed it with us beforehand. I think he felt we were going well and were up for a challenge and felt as we had a guide we should make use of him by going off the track. In reality, Perros Camp to Lago Grey Camp is a long enough day without adding a couple of hours detour.

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The Pingo Valley was blissfully quiet although Zapata Camp had lots of mosquitos. Climbing Zapata was a demanding day and we were on the hill for 15 hours (5am to 8pm), partly because we started at Zapata Camp, not the Base Camp, and this did add and hour at the start and end of the day. Personally I think this was sensible and cannot see the sense of moving camp an hour nearer the mountain and taking a day to do so.

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The river crossing was also difficult and the usual crossing point was impassable. The crossing point used was above the lake and involved 2 smaller river crossings. I would have thought this was a more sensible and reliable route to use. Our guide had not used it before himself but I suspect he may do so in the future.

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The day on Zapata was windy and at times it looked doubtful if we could continue. To the credit of Cristian, we did plough on through difficult winds when it may have been tempting to stop and did make the summit.

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The 2 older members of our partly (aged 60) did not do Zapata but did have a long and rewarding day in the Fossil area around the mouth of the Tyndall Glacier. Having done Zapata, I feel their decision was a good one, as they would not have managed to last the day or move fast enough over the ground. To do Zapata you need to be able to sustain a long day in the mountains and move promptly over uneven ground.

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Our 2 guides were both very good and spoke excellent English. Cristian was extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife especially the birds and knew all the English names and their calls. For me that was a real bonus.

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Jamie, the cook, made some excellent food and this was very much appreciated by us all but especially by Richard, who sometimes feels ill on extreme exertion if not fed well but did not at all on this trip.

Jose, our Kayak guide was perhaps the most impressive as he did all of the cooking and guiding himself.

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Did our partners in Torres del Paine do a good job with the planning and logistics?

I could not really fault the operator’s planning and logistics, which was very flexible throughout the trip. For example they managed to get a food dump to Camp Dickson for us to pick up to avoid too much food being carried over the Oggioni Pass and arranged for wine to be carried into Zapata Camp and fresh coffee for the kayaking when we said we found Chilean coffee poor.

The kayak down the river was a lovely way to finish. At times it was windy and the single lady who joined us needed a tow at one point and the two Germans who joined us on the first day fell in, which must have been miserable we had wet suits which were fine the guide had dry suits and I know Cristian was considering dry suits for future multi day trips.

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Would you recommend Swoop for its help in finding the right trekking route, guide and operator for your trip?

The benefit of Swoop from our point of view was a contact in the UK and an ability to arrange a bespoke tour. Most companies just want to sell the W trek and are not interested in any other options.

Bo & Deb’s family trip to Patagonia

Deb & her family returned in February from a trip to Patagonia during which they spent 6 nights at a private lodge on the edge of Lake Nahuel Huapi, and embarked on some trekking in Bariloche. They then headed to Los Glaciares National Park for some trekking in and around El Calafate and El Chlaten. Here Deb tells us about the highlights of their trip, and their experience of booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘Bo and I want to thank you for helping us to arrange a trip of a lifetime that came through for us in a mighty way. We had such a greatly blessed time!’

Every place we stayed was very nice and the private lodge in Bariloche was by far the most incredible accommodation and lodging experience of our lives! What a place and the personal, kind, professional staff there added so very much! Every meal and every snack was homemade and precisely made and we enjoyed such tremendous food and times together! The Argentinian barbecue topped it off the last night we were there.  What an experience!

Thank you so much for helping to arrange all of this! It so set the tone for the rest of our vacation, which was also top notch in different but appreciated ways! Patagonia is spectacular: Majestic mountains, beautiful glaciers, all just sensational.

All of our tours and guides were better than our best expectations: expert staff, who were friendly, helpful, endearing, and the transportation which went smoothly and was timely and comfortable.

Thank you for your advice, help and the wonderful results we enjoyed from your services and planning. Our LORD, my husband, much prayers and Swoop Patagonia teamed up to bring forth a real WIN WIN!!! Our regards and best to you.

John & Pene’s trip to Torres del Paine

John & Pene returned in February from a 5 week trip to Chile and Argentina, during which they spent 5 days exploring Torres del Paine National Park from an eco camp on the edge of the National Park. Here they tell us about their experiences on this trip, and in booking through Swoop and our partners…

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight of our entire trip was definitely Torres del Paine and our time in the eco camp.

Summer arrived with us and we spent three days hiking in perfect weather. Paine is truly stunning, not just the rocks, but also the enormity of the space and the big, big skies.

How was your stay at the eco camp?

We felt sure we made the right choice in this eco camp, which was a lovely place: the yurts were perfect and the guides’ enthusiasm and passion for the park was infectious.

The food was good, though not exceptional, and it was a pleasure to have good wines and beers readily available. It was also a pleasure to meet and enjoy the company of other guests in small groups, and we felt that four nights/three days was probably the right length of time.

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

Your advice was spot on and your administration was responsive and efficient.

Thanks also by the way for the ‘buffs’ which were awaiting our return and which will I am sure come in useful when I walk the West Highland Way later in the year.

Is there anything you would have liked to happen differently?

The main downside, which I know you recognise, is the distance you have to travel both in getting there and once you are there. I did the base of the towers, the horns and the condor cliff and each day I spent a minimum of 4 hours in transit. The situation is made worse this year because they are repairing the road, which means it is closed for large parts of the day and we had to return on a more circuitous route. Being driven through the park is no great hardship but it is disappointing when you have spent so much time, money and effort getting down there not to be able to spend more time in outdoor activities. For anyone spending more than 4 nights there they probably need to think of some alternative activities closer to hand around the Camp itself or on the outskirts of the park.

Another area of some confusion and frustration was in the timing of pick-ups. We were told we would be picked up at Puerto Natales at 5.30pm, then at 5.00pm and in the event they arrived at 4.00pm when we were out. We were not alone in having such difficulties, others complained of worse. Given that time in the Camp is so precious this is one area where they need to make improvements in their arrangements.