United States Of America
Customer Rating On return from their adventure we ask customers: “On a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the highest, how likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend or colleague?”
Christine Huang's Trip Date:
17th Nov - 5th Dec 2017
Overall, how was your trip?
It was amazing! Every aspect of it was phenomenal (except for the king penguin excursion, will get to that). I was really impressed with how well it went, logistically. I think Swoop did a great job of making sure that there wasn't a lot of downtime (other than the travel from point to point, which couldn't be avoided and was still minimized as much as possible). And I appreciated that there were multiple guides so the group could split up and be flexible if necessary. The group, for the most part, was phenomenal. Everyone was excited and enthusiastic and for the most part very supportive of each other, emotionally and physically. I've made some good friends for life!
In one sentence, what did you think of Patagonia? Did it live up to your expectations?
It was AWESOME! Totally exceeded my expectations!
Would you visit again?
How was the service that Swoop provided?
My Swoop rep, Zoe, was incredibly professional and responsive. It was a pleasure working with her.
How likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend?
10 out of 10
How was your Patagonian adventure?
Our tour leader from Walk Patagonia, Sofia Graneros, was phenomenal. She met us at the airport and took the time to get to know our small group of Christine & me + Nick & Jane before making sure we were on the right shuttle from the El Calafate airport to El Chalten. Our accommodations in El Chalten were awesome and spacious and welcoming. Off the main beaten path, but right next to the Walk Patagonia office and still with easy access to the main drag of town. Our trekking guide, Rosio, was super sweet and also set a great pace. She made sure to push us where we needed and also to slow down for picture opportunities. She was super communicative and encouraging. She also made sure to keep an eye on the weather and kept a good pace such that we avoided all major weather issues just in the nick of time. Both Rosio and Sofia were super punctual, like Swiss clocks, which we really appreciated. Special shoutout to Sofia on multiple fronts: I wasn't part of the day where they took a boat ride to view the Perito Moreno Glacier, but it sounds like she went out of her way to introduce the group to mate and also lead a group yoga session along w/ Krystyna. She also did a phenomenal job ushering us across the border to Chile. It was a bus journey that was somewhat fraught considering the shuttle to the bus stop arrived an hour earlier than she or we were told. She had to run around the hotel waking us up in the morning so we wouldn't miss our bus connection to Puerto Natales. We made it in time, but didn't get a chance to grab lunch, so she begged and pleaded w/ the bus driver to let her make a pit stop where she hoped out for 5 min and grabbed a massive plate of sandwiches for all of us and saved us from starving on what was ultimately a 6-7 hour transfer (bus broke down for several hours at the Chilean immigration office, before getting fixed w/ a German passenger's duct tape roll). She was amazing throughout and also kept her cool and her professionalism. She also got locked in her room one night in El Chalten, but she kept her cool then too. I cannot say enough good things about her. She is a bad*ss in the best of ways. I know she didn't get to sleep much throughout the trip, but we never felt more than safe or secure or well taken care of with her. I would highly recommend Sofia as a future guide w/ Swoop and Walk Patagonia. My first impressions of Chuma when we met him at the Chile Nativo office were, what are we getting ourselves into? He looked like he had lived out in the wilds for years and had just come in from out of living in nature for the last 5 years. But both he and Fernando, the other Chile Nativo guide who was shadowing/assisting him for the week, were amazing. They were a bit addicted to mate, but it also gave us a chance to take breaks. They were funny and communicative and humored us a lot w/ our photo breaks. They had a different style from Sofia, but were still great guides. A lot of times, we had to break the group up into two for various injuries or speeds, but we always felt well taken care of. That was one thing that Chuma emphasized: we are one group, we don't leave anyone behind. Chuma would often lead the group and then let Fernando be the caboose, behind all of the tour attendees. At times, we did have to break into two groups or leave one person behind due to injury, but never in a way where we felt abandoned. Tim had to stay behind on day 1 of the W up to the towers b/c of a badly sprained ankle and the extreme climbing involved. On day 3, Tim and I skipped the walk up to the French Valley and went on straight to Refugio Paine Grande together after splitting off from the rest of the group at Italian Camp. Chuma made sure that we knew the path was well marked and that another Chile Nativo guide named Jaime was accessible if we needed support. And he gave us one of his radios in case needed to communicate w/ the main group. Generally speaking, the W was great. I also have to commend Chuma for being a guide who knows EVERYONE. I have no doubt that one of the reasons we got preferential treatment at refugios is b/c Chuma is like the man about town on the circuit and Fernando previously worked in management at Refugio Paine Grande for 3 years prior. They were both amazing guides. The only real hiccup I had throughout the trip was the King Penguin excursion from Punta Arenas. I had contracted some sort of norovirus (diagnosed by Krystyna, an infectious diseases doctor back in Canada) while on day 2 of the W, but it seemed to clear up. By the time we got to Punta Arenas after the end of the main tour, I was feeling a lot better, but then got sick again. By the evening of the last official day on tour, I was feeling really badly with (sorry for the gory detail) stomach pains and passing blood instead of stool. Nick was still present, and he's a retired pathologist, so he said I could take some immodium, which I did. I stayed at Hotel La Colet to sleep while Nick + Jane & Christine went to explore Punta Arenas and grab some dinner. I slept okay and woke up hungry, so I then serendipitously found them at La Mesita Grande for dinner (recommended by Chuma!) and was able to eat some dinner. The next morning though, I felt awful. I didn't really eat any of Hotel La Colet's delicious breakfast spread before the shuttle arrived. Jane & Nick encouraged me to go b/c we still thought that I could always take the shuttle back if I started feeling badly, before getting on a boat. This is where my complaints start, and they are probably not Swoop's fault, but due to bad communication by Swoop's partner. First of all, the agenda seemed to indicate that we would take a shuttle to a port, then take a boat over to Porvenir, then take another transport to the penguin location. This was not at all the case: we were w/ the same shuttle the entire time. Also, the partner was supposed to be named Protours, but the shuttle had "Selknam Tours" printed on the side instead. The tour guide, whose name I never got, was HORRENDOUS. First of all: SHE DIDN'T SPEAK ENGLISH! She kind of made noises that there would be a subsequent guide who did speak English, which made me think I could explain my illness and potential need to leave early at a subsequent point, but this never happened. I kept thinking I would be able to explain my illness, and the opportunity never came up. At one point, we picked up a girl who spoke both French and English, and the guide would occasionally (maybe 15% of the time), ask that girl to translate for us. But for the majority of the time, all explanations were in Spanish. Also, she never once inquired about if I was feeling okay, even though I hardly left the bus and was laying down on backseats every chance I got. She just willfully ignored me in my obvious pain. Also, she tried to pawn us and the other English-speaking couple off on a Uruguayan, English-speaking tour guide from another shuttle (super unprofessional) during the tour portion that included stops at an outdoor monument to Selknam natives and the Selknam museum. Other complaints: not being told that we would be taken, no choice, to a restaurant in Porvenir where we were expected to get lunch. I stayed in the bus, but my sister went inside because it was warmer. She came back to the bus b/c she said that she wasn't allowed to stay if she wasn't going to eat there and pay for food. We waited for 45 min outside in the bus by ourselves. Furthermore, we were never told that we would have to pay an additional 12000 Chilean pesos for the entrance into the penguin facility, once we finally made it there. Final complaints: she fucking chain-smoked the entire time! We even had to wait for her to finish her cigarette on multiple occasions before the shuttle could get going, at which point she would enter the shuttle stinking of cigarette smoke. After a day in hell, we were the last to be dropped off and I exited the shuttle in tears. Still not one word of concern or apology. This was the absolute worst part of my experience, and this is including the fact that as soon as we got back to Hotel La Colet, the receptionist called a taxi to take me to the ER, where I was admitted and administered an IV for severe dehydration. The doctor also diagnosed gastroenteritis and diarrhea and prescribed antibiotics. I'm back in the states now, but this is after 2 ER visits in 2 countries in the span of 4 days and a diagnosis of a bacterial infection. Anything you should do differently next season: Find a different partner for the king penguin excursion, or don't offer it at all. It was the worst part of the trip and totally not worth the extra $200USD. In fact, I think Swoop should demand a refund b/c you were deceived if your partner made all those promises as to what the attendees could expect and they so badly failed to deliver.
Do you have any tips or advice for other people planning a trip to Patagonia?
Avoid Selknam Tours for the king penguin tour. They are the absolute worst. Swoop Patagonia is great! Totally worth going through you guys. I will absolutely recommend you in the future to any friends looking to plan a comprehensive Patagonia trip. Other trip attendees felt the same way.