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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?”
Suzanne's Trip Date:
19th Nov - 1st Dec 2022
What was your most memorable moment?
Puma Tracking was an incredible experience. Our guide Matias was a skilled tracker and knew the animals and their behaviors. He was extremely respectful and knowledgeable of land, flora and fauna. Having Petaca and her cubs approach us on her own and accepting us into her world was very moving and humbling.
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Which of the following best describes your adventure?
On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend or colleague?
9 out of 10
On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your trip: Pumas, Penguins & Whales; Wildlife Tour?
7 out of 10
On a scale of 0 to 10, how would you rate your trip: Safari in Southern Patagonia?
7 out of 10
Tell us about EcoCamp
Eco-Camp was an INCREDIBLE experience. I would return in a heartbeat and stay for a week. The place is nothing short of magical, healing, spiritual and supportive. It exceeded all expectations regarding the camp, lodging, staff, guides and meals. My guides, Carla and Sebastian, were genuinely kind and loved nature. The camp itself should be a model for all parks as to how to exist in a fully self-sustainable eco-system that replenishes the land and leaves no trace. Eco-Camp allowed me to process some deep feelings of loss and begin to find strength within myself in order to live life without my partner. I will always remember Sebastian allowing me to cry on his shoulder while hiking the Cerra Paine and telling me that the mountains (specifically the towers) can pull deep feelings out of you but they also replace those feelings with strength. His empathy will forever stay with me.
Tell us about Torres del Paine
Torres Del Paine is a place where you NEVER get tired of the view and the mountains surrounding you. They are constantly changing with the light and weather elements. The area is respected and loved by locals and visitors. I never saw a single piece of trash. It is nature at its finest.
Tell us about the Wildlife
Matias Ballarini was an OUTSTANDING guide. Over the 8 days spent with him, myself and and the 2 other travelers became a little family. We were 3 single travelers that shared a common love of flora and fauna. Matias's knowledge of the animals and geology was limitless. Being with him for the Pumas and Penguins was unforgettable and the memories will be with me for a lifetime. I always felt safe under Matias's guideance. This is a huge thing being a single, female traveler in South America. Matias always communicated the structure for each day. We always knew what we were doing and when. It was greatly appreciated. We laughed a lot together. I hope our paths cross again. He is a true guide in every sense of the word.
The Whale Expedition was horrible. The itinerary stated we would be on the "motor yacht 'Esturion' for a fascinating 8hr journey." It was not a motor yacht, but a small 13-meter shrimp boat called the "Tanu." The crew had never sailed together and were all new. Sebastian, our assigned guide who picked us up, handed us over to to Jonathan once we got on the boat. Jonathan had never been a guide before. There were 7 guests on board and 5 crew (Sebastian, Jonathan, Benjamin, Terry and the captain, Simon. Jonathan would randomly share information with 1 or 2 people, but not inform the rest of us that he was explaining things. The 8 hour boat ride to San Carlos III island was actually 10 hours since the Tanu could only travel 7 knots (10mph). We were in 6-8 foot seas so most of the time had to be spent below deck. The boat was old. The side railings between the bow and stern were not to code for a guided tour. They only came up to our knees. When we finally reached San Carlos III island we were so happy to be off the small boat. It had been 10 hours of no structure, no education, and very little guide interaction. The crew was more interested in drinking their mate the entire time. The Tanu had one lifeboat that held 6 people. There were no additional lifeboats or lifeboat emergency canisters that inflate. One guest was an experienced sailor who had sailed to Antarctica 3 times. He was horrified by the boat conditions, its crew and its safety. Once we got to San Carlos III island, we were all very excited to go birding. The island is home to the snipe and the red-headed woodpecker. Our guide, Sebastian, declared he would now be leaving us to go birding for the next 2 days and would not be accompanying us on the boat. The 3 of us asked to come. We were all well-trained naturalists and had spent the past week birding when not puma tracking. Sebastian said, "NO! You cannot follow me" and disappeared into the woods. Our paid guide had just ditched us and used the boat trip for his own agenda. There are no trails on the island. The wood stairs that lead above the camp were rotten and in disrepair with a "danger" sign. One guest tried to go up and reach the biological station, but was quickly turned around when a step gave way beneath him and he cut his leg on a rusted nail. I tended to it with my first aid kit. The guides just shrugged and said we cannot go anywhere outside the camp. We were basically stuck between our domes and the communal dome. Needless to say, we were not "equipped with magnifying glasses, to discover the lichen- and moss-rich biodiversity of the sub-Antarctic forests" nor did we "explore tidepools" with our guides as per the itinerary. Once on the island we were just told dinner would be at 7:00. Prior to dinner, there was a happy hour. The snacks and Pisco sours made by Terry and Simon were appreciated. The dinner dome was warm and cozy. Jonathan opened his laptop to begin the Power Point presentation. Our excitement quickly turned to disappointment as his second slide showed the migration pattern of humpback and orcas. The chart was a zero population for November/December (SUMMER) and showed the whales arriving in April, May and June. My itinerary said, "This park is also home to a summer population of humpback whales and occasionally see whale and orca which use these waters as feeding grounds.” That is completely false. A guest asked, “Why are we here then if there are no whales? Will we see any?” Jonathan replied, “You see the graph, they are not here now, but maybe you will see 1 or 2, but probably not.” We all just looked at each other stunned. Then I asked, “What will we be seeing then?” Jonathan replied, maybe some sea lions, birds and penguins.” I responded, “But this trip is called “Whale Expedition.” Jonathan said, “Yes, but there are no whales here right now.” 10 hours on a boat in 6-8 foot seas, no whales and we cannot leave even explore the island beyond the boundary of our domes. I prayed that the next day would be calm seas and hopefully the experience in the zodiac boats (as stated in the itinerary) would be different. My eco-dome was a nice safe-haven. I'm glad I brought my bed-liner since the description said, "comfortable twin-bedded domes" and some guests were not happy that it was actually a sleeping bag for the bedding. The domes have a wood-burning stove, but they must have wood added every 2 hours so unless you wanted to set an alarm every 2-hours during the night, the fire will go out and the dome will be very cold. I chose not to do that and was fine in my Bedliner (which provides 10 extra degrees of warmth), the sleeping bag and 2 duvet blankets. The next morning, I went to the beach searching for the zodiac boats. The itinerary stated, "We'll start with another humpback whale-watching session aboard the zodiac boats in the morning and if we're lucky, we may see the endemic and scarce Chilean dolphin while sailing these waters. The whole afternoon will be spent watching these whales at close quarters and with no other visitors. This intimate experience will be enhanced by the surrounding beauty of the mountains, glaciers and pristine forests.” There were no Zodiacs. We were loaded back onto the Tanu shimp boat. BTW, we know it was a shrimp boat by the visible outraging. As soon as we were in the Strait, the Tanu was being tossed around in 6-8 foot seas. We saw 2 whales far in the distance, but the Tanu could not go fast enough to reach them and they swam off into the horizon. We next came upon a “Pajarada” aka a feeding frenzy. This happens when the little Magelantic Penguins stir up the fish from below and the birds above swarm. It was interesting, but it was the only visible life of interest, so the boat went around and around and around the Pajarda for over an hour as we gripped the stern railing as to not be flung over-board. We were in 6-8 foot seas for 10 hours. I understand nature and the weather are beyond control, but the fact that we were out there to begin with when it was clear we would not see anything since the whale migration period had not started yet was beyond ridiculous. Benjamin (a deck-hand) was actually a Marine Biologist who specialized in whales. However, due to an unwritten hierarchy of the crew, was not allowed to take lead as an informational guide. He was actually embarrassed by the lack of structure and the fact that we were sold a “Whale Excursion.” It was so rough, everyone came inside. The chef began to prep lunch, but his level of cleanliness was questionable (wiping his running nose on his hand and then touching food to slice), we all asked to help chop veggies for the soup. He was happy to give up the chore and at least we knew our hands were clean. We were told there would be snacks, coffee and tea on board. We were constantly having to ask for water to be boiled for coffee and tea. Snacks consisted of one sleeve of Oreo type cookies in a bowl before lunch. We stopped at the glacier which was very beautiful. However, we were more interested in seeing the Stripped CaraCara that inhabited the cliffs above the Commeran nests. Once again we were disappointed. “No. The Stripped CaraCara only come here when the Commeran chicks hatch. They swoop down to eat the chicks. There are no chicks right now. The stripped CaraCara will not be here until much later,” said Johnathan. We proceeded to go in circles in front of the glacier. After 10 hours, we returned to San Carlos island. Half the guests de-boarded and were being given instructions on the beach by Jonathan, who then turned to leave with them. I had to call after him to stop and then said, “Jonathan, you cannot only give instructions to half the group. Wait for Ryan, Nick and myself please.” Everything about being a guide seemed to annoy him. Again, ZERO structure. The wine served in the evening was greatly appreciated. Sebastian, our MIA guide, rolled in for dinner and wine and then promptly left again for more over-night birding. After dinner, one of the original biologists of the marine park, shared some videos of him tagging the whales…from a Zodiac. He said you can only get this close in a Zodiac boat… and of course, we did not have zodiac boats…but it did not matter…”because the whales are not here right now." Everything about this trip was ridiculous. I relied on my travel mates to just laugh at it all. The next day, we were happy to leave the island. Sebastian, our guide, rejoined us for the voyage home and ignored us. We made one stop at an island with Magalantic Penguins, but the Tanu could not get very close. We were told we needed smaller boats to get closer since it was shallow. For the next 7 hours we battled 6-8 foot seas again. Lunch was a nice lentil soup. We skipped the bread after seeing the cook have a a very smelly intestinal issue (the smell mandated we all go above deck) and then with dirty hands proceeded to slice the bread for the table. We were all so happy to finally return to Useless Bay. We had spent 30 hours at high seas over 3 days. The crew themselves, were anything but presentable. I understand when camping, bathing is a luxury and we all look disheveled by the end. However, the crew began the trip looking like it had been weeks since they had seen a bar of soap. Their clothes were also in dire need of being laundered. It was overall, very unprofessional compared to the cost of this trip. All of the above complaints were shared with Claudio of Far South Expeditions. He said Sebastian was a known problem and acted like this often. He also said that in 2023, they would not be offering the Whale Expedition during the summer months (Nov, Dec, Jan). However, no offer of reparations were offered. I hope this information helps you re-evaluate when this tour is offered and the type of people who run it. Especially the boat and crew. It felt like a major Bait and Switch and False representation of the trip. It was a really bad way to end the trip, all of which could have been prevented by just not offering the excursion and requiring a safe boat with a professional crew for future excursions.
Do you have any recommendations for Swoop, or feedback about the team?
I was very interested in the Antarctica trip through Swoop, however, because of the whale excursion experience, I am no longer interested.
Would you be interested in travelling to Antarctica with Swoop?
Would you be interested in travelling to the Arctic with Swoop?
3 people found this review helpful