James Bryan




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?”

James Bryan's Trip Date:

4th Jan - 16th Jan 2019

Overall, how was your trip?

Whilst there were clearly great highlights (“Big Ice” and the French Valley being our favorites) and everything was well organized in terms of transfers /pretrip logistics we have to admit that we were fairly disappointed in the overall experience provided and would like to share some areas for significant improvement in our Patagonia trip. Our general feeling is that we paid a very high premium for Swoop to organise this trip (in comparison to the costs we saw on the ground and what fellow travellers were paying for the same activities) and as such would struggle to recommend the company to our friends. 1. We specifically asked before the trip the trekking logistics and what we would need to carry (as from previous experience we knew that the enjoyment of trekking can vary greatly with additional weight), and were advised that all camping equipment and lunch during the El Chalten would be provided each day, and that therefore we would only need to carry our personal belongings / clothing. It was therefore a surprise to arrive at the office on day 1 and be passed and asked to carry a (heavy) sleeping bag and lunch for all 3 days, which we did not have space for considering we had brought appropriate bags sized to carry only our own things as advised. This meant that we had to hang the sleeping bags off our rucksacks which was extremely uncomfortable, and that lunch was a) squashed and therefore partly ruined throughout the 3 days, and b) nowhere near enough in quantity to keep us energised throughout the days considering the level of energy we were using trekking and the cold weather (a tiny roll and small empanada per day with a few snacks), leaving us hungry every afternoon. We saw many other groups trekking who were having hot soup / drinks prepared and lunches carried by their guides that were clearly more plentiful and of a much higher quality. As well as this, the dinner on day 1 at the refugio that we were given was a bowl of polenta with a dollop of tomato sauce on top, so again not substantial as well as extremely unappetising (considering we were asked what we wanted, requested something with meat, but were provided this whilst the staff ate a meat platter next to us). The second night camp and food were much better but the first night was a disappointment given we thought we had booked a premium operator. 2. At the time of booking we were told we could choose the Estancia day trip. We asked about this a few weeks before the trip and were told “we have already booked you on the Estancia Cristina trip” and so we trusted your judgement given that you already knew we were adventurous and liked trekking. However the trip selected involved a 1 hour coach journey, 3 hour boat, 1 hour 4x4, some time for lunch, a museum tour and then 3 hours back on the boat / bus. Given that we had to wake up at 6:30am to do this trip this was not a pleasant experience and we would never have chosen this if we’d known the itinerary of the day, which we didn’t even find out until on when on the boat. Here we heard that there were two other options for the trip that included trekking which we clearly would have preferred (our option was full of older travellers and families who were unable to walk distances), but were advised that it was too late to switch at this point. Other guests we spoke to had a similar perspective that it was a very long day of travel for not very much. 3. Ecocamp is in a wonderful location and the food and accommodation is fantastic. However we had 3 significant issues: a. One of the major reasons for selecting this option were the different activities that we could do each day. On the first day we selected the “Towers trek” only to find out that we were in a group of around 20 relatively slow walkers which was extremely frustrating for us. After a lot of tedious and tense back and forth with the guides, we eventually persuaded them to let us go ahead if we signed a waiver (the experience however left us with a sour feeling considering the staff appeared to be annoyed). Seeing us do this, a couple of other guests also joined us on this saying they also wouldn’t have been able to cope with the slow speed. The second day was a Sunday and even the guides themselves admitted that the choice of tours was poor so we spent the day at the camp (again, with other guests who agreed). On the third day we did the French Valley trek but were disappointed to learn that the guided section did not go all the way to the French Valley, but only to the Italian campsite and hence not to the French lookout. So again we asked to sign the waiver (which again took a lot of time and convincing) so we could go ahead and see the French Valley itself. It was amazing but when we returned to the boat we were asked by the guides not to talk about our experience with the other guests (as they knew they had all missed the best part). On the 4th day the tours repeated themselves from Day 1 so we booked ourselves on our own horse riding experience. So overall we didn’t use any of the guided excursion throughout our entire 4 day stay at EcoCamp. b. There was a frustrating atmosphere amongst the guides of “rushing” everybody to be on time. We fully agree it is good to be punctual but felt we were constantly being “chased” by the guides to be on time with say 3-4 reminders during breakfast (despite never actually turning up late!) of when we needed to leave which does not make breakfast a very pleasant experience. Similarly for example on the French Valley hike described above, the guides were far too conservative with the time it would take to do things which meant either guests missing out or lots of standing around waiting for boats / buses. We personally also didn’t head to the final viewpoint specifically because of this, despite other walkers having been able to make it. c. Other guests were on “Adventure” packages which involved kayaking / horse riding whilst we were on a “Classic” package that we were not aware of until we arrived (aware of the activities, not aware of the different options and the name). In fairness to Swoop none of the other guests knew the names of the packages or that other options were available so I think this is the fault of EcoCamp but we would have like the option to do other things (we ended up walking down to the visitor centre to book our own horse riding and paying an additional $90 each) d. At dinner one of the guides said to us “this is quite an expensive hotel but not so expensive” which unfortunately for us summed up the attitude of the guides and the general way the hotel is run. They are correct it is not as expensive as some of the luxury hotels in the area but that is not a good benchmark. It is a very expensive hotel by any measure and the standard of the service and general desire to adapt to the needs of different types of guests just was not there. We were with other younger people who felt the same, that the EcoCamp is well catered for older visitors on the “classic” package or people doing the W Trek but not for younger people on the classic package. Overall for the EcoCamp experience which was a significant part of the cost of the trip we were left disappointed and we would like to request a part refund for our stay, given we were not given the option to select our package, did not do any of the guided excursions and had to pay additional fees for the horseriding. We would also like to request compensation for the Cristina Estancia tour considering the quality of the experience and trip which we hadn’t chosen ourselves. Please let me know if you have any questions and we look forward to your response.

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