Tag Archives: penguins

Ian & Sue’s Patagonia Adventure

Ian & Sue’s Patagonia Adventure

Ian and Sue returned in December from a 24 day trip to Chile and Argentina that was designed and arranged by Swoop Patagonia. Here they tell us about their experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop.

‘We had the best holiday of our lives and would recommend it (and Swoop) to anyone!’ 

P10490_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1866

Ian and Sue Feedback

The package you put together for us exceeded our expectations in every way.  The quality of the accommodation and guides was very high, and the choice of locations and activities was spot on for us.  We would recommend Swoop to anyone (and have done so).  The varied and unspoiled landscapes, the geology, and the incredibly rich variety of wildlife made Patagonia our perfect destination. If we are able to return to South America, I hope it will be under your auspices!

Ian and Sue’s Itinerary

Ian and Sue began their trip with a city tour of Santiago, followed by a night in the Hotel Boutique Oporto.

[Read Swoop’s list of recommended hotels in Santiago]

The city tour was faultless- a conversation with the courier led to an instant change to our afternoon itinerary, substituting a poet’s house with the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, and providing a driver to give us more time.  


Pre-Columbian Art Museum, Santiago

Our guide had been a guide in the museum, so was amazingly knowledgeable. We ate at Como Agua Para Chocolate, and loved it.

[Read swoop’s top picks for restaurants throughout Patagonia]

The next morning they flew on to Puerto Montt, and the nearby island of Chiloe for a 3 night stay at Chil Hue, for 3 days of excursions to take in the local scenery, wildlife, fishing villages and penguin colony.

Our guide met us on arrival and drove us to Ancud, stopping several times on the way to show us birds etc.

P01760_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 228

Chilean Wigeon


Ringed Kingfisher







He was a fantastic guide with a wide knowledge of natural history, and the history of the island.  We had a great day out – including a short trip out to the penguin colony where we saw Magellanic and Humboldt Penguins.


Magellanic Penguins – Chiloé







The next day, our itinerary was to have been a visit to several of Chiloe’s wooden churches.  We had already visited a couple, and knowing our interest in natural history, our guide (Jamie) proposed a visit to a private national park owned by a friend of his (Parque Tepuhueico). 

P01870_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 240


 After visiting Castro en route, we had a fantastic trek in the temperate rainforest.  Jaime had helped set up the trails, and had translated the interpretation boards into English, so was the perfect guide. 








On our last night, we went out for a traditional meal in Ancud. Needless to say, we loved Chiloe!

P02440_Patagonia_2014_Ian_SX220_01 175


Ian and Sue’s next stop was Punta Arenas, where they spent a day exploring the city, and the King Penguin Colonies of Tierra del Fuego.


On arrival at Punta Arenas, we were met by our guide, who dealt faultlessly with our questions.  Hotel Ilia was one of the nicest and friendliest places we stayed. The room was large, light and airy.  The decor was attractively modern and arty, and the breakfasts were great. 

Punta Arenas exceeded our expectations. It was a friendly and characterful Chilean city: a bit ramshackle in places, but full of charm (and feral dogs…).  O’Higgins provided a wealth of restaurants to choose between.  We ended up going to Brocolino both nights, and enjoyed it very much.

Our day trip to see the King Penguins on Tierra del Fuego was a great success. It was a full day, but very variable and enjoyable.  We were in a small group in a mini-bus, which stayed with us all day. 

P05120_Patagonia_2014_Ian_SX220_01 277

King Penguins – Tierra del Fuego

Porvenir was an attractive (v small!) city with a surprisingly good museum.  The penguin site (not yet referred to as a “colony” as they hadn’t bred successfully yet) was great – with interesting plants as well as birds.  


Lighthouse, Porvenir

P07950_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1354

Chimango Caracara







The guide was excellent, stopping the bus to show us foxes, guanacos and rheas, and pointing out the dolphins on the short ferry crossing on the way back to the mainland.  On return, the bus dropped us off at O’Higgins for a meal as it was getting late.



P08072_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1366

Patagonian Grey Fox







The following day, Ian and Sue headed to an eco camp on the edge of Torres del Paine National Park for 3 days of excursions.

P07700_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 078

Patagonian Skunk


Lago Pehoe – Torres del Paine







We were picked us up in the afternoon, and driven to our accommodation, stopping several times en route to look at features, wildlife etc. The eco friendly camp we stayed at exceeded all our expectations.  We had the nearest yurt to the lake with distant views of the “Horns”.  


Patagonia Camp

P06692_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1152

Patagonia Camp







On arrival, the staff explained the options available for the next day.  The evening meal was great, with as much of the house wine as we wanted to drink (and the offer of a bottle to take back to the yurt) together with unwise quantities of pisco sour before and after the meal.


Lady’s Slipper


Patagonian Red Fox







For our first day of excursions we elected to go on the Fauna Trail Hike.  This was ideal for us, providing a good introduction to the scenery, flora and fauna of the area, together with an unexpected view of the rock paintings (see their wine label – and visit Majestic in the UK).  




Rock Paintings – Torres del Paine







We were also introduced to the lavish picnics provided by the camp.

P07290_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 016

Magellanic Orchid

P07550_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1303

Yellow Orchid






The next day, some of the trips could not run due to high winds. The guides asked us if we would like to go on a trek they hadn’t included in their list for some years, and the three guides, and just the two of us, had a great day out.  


P06480_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1086






They shared their maté with us, explaining the simple ceremony involved, and we felt very included.  We had a fantastic view of an Austral pygmy owl.  

P06690_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1117

Austral Pygmy Owl

The last  section of the walk was very challenging for me – a narrow path on loose scree – and they seemed to have forgotten my vertigo.  They admitted that if this section of the walk had been longer, they would have graded the walk as “Difficult” rather than “Moderate”!

P07360_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1255

On our final day at the camp, four of us had elected to go on the Grey Lake Boat Trip, but on arrival at the jetty, we found that the boat had been cancelled due to high winds. Instead, we did the Grey Beach Hike in the morning (very close views of a pair of Magellanic Woodpeckers), together with a short hike to the Lake Toro viewpoint in the afternoon. 


Magellanic Woodpecker

This provided a great day out, and showed off the guides’ ability to think on their feet.  We rounded the day off with a self guided walk to the local waterfall.

Patagonia_002_Waterfall at Patagonia Camp

Our stay at the eco friendly camp was the high spot of our holiday. The accommodation and surroundings were great, and the guides were all of the highest quality: we felt really looked after.


Following their stay in Torres del Paine, Ian and Sue headed across the border to the town of El Calafate, where they visited the Perito Moreno Glacier, and took some day hikes from the nearby town of El Chalten.

P07820_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1320 The hotel in El Calafate was friendly, comfortable and stylish.  We were directed to the Laguna Nimezwhich was a must (we ended up going there again the next evening).  Not feeling able to face the queues at La Tablita, we ate at La Zaina, which was very good.

P08070_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1387

The day excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier was a great success.  The guide was, as usual, everything we could ask for.  Although the viewpoints provided great views of the glacier, we found the boat trip well worth it, providing closer views of the ice walls, together with the sculpted icebergs floating in the lake. 

P08780_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 337

Perito Moreno Glacier

P08200_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 234

Perito Moreno Glacier






The boat lingered at each viewpoint long enough for everybody to get the photos they wanted.

P08880_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 366

Perito Moreno Glacier

On our excursion to the Petrified Forest, our guide was very knowledgeable, both geologically and botanically.  

P09770_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1722

Petrified Forest

In addition to the geology, this trip provided our best views of the flora of the steppe

P09390_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 553P09440_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1756







Following the excursion, we were taken to El Chalten.  Hotel Lunajuim was very friendly- the room was great, full of quirky modern art produced by the owner’s wife: we enjoyed our stay very much.  We ate at the Estepa, which we liked very much, and returned to on our last night.

P06830_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1140

Our excellent guide took us (together with a picnic) to Laguna Capri.  This was an ideal trek for us, culminating in a satisfying view of the glacier.  We ate at La Tapera – very good again, with a great choice of wines displayed in the wine racks with price tags tied round the necks.

P10460_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 1862P10230_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 694






The following day our guide Zoe took us to Lago del Desierto.  She was a great guide, and managed to show us torrent ducks, which had been on my list of “hope to sees” (and give us an excellent picnic). 

P10990_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 877

Torrent Ducks

P10900_Patagonia_2014_Sue_02 080

Ashy Headed Goose







That evening, we ate at La Vineria, which must be one of the best wine bars in the world!  Their smoked platter was worth a mention as well as the wine.

On our last day in El Chalten we took a self guided trek towards Laguna Torre – we only made it to the three viewpoints en route, but the views were spectacular, and the route easy to follow.

Patagonia_003_Scenery above El Chalten Patagonia_004_Scenery above El Chalten






The next stop was Tierra del Fuego, for a few days exploring the birds and wildlife of the National Park.

P01800_Patagonia_2014_Sue_01 233

Southern Lapwing

P01180_Patagonia_2014_Ian_SX220_01 124

Black faced Ibis







Hotel Tierra del Fuego was a good place to stay – quite central and fairly near the waterfront.  We ate at Le Estancia – the food was quite good, but the service was patchy – much of their efforts seemed to be directed towards rich Americans presumably on their way to Antarctica.

Patagonia_006_Black Necked Swans at Tierra del Fuego

Black Necked Swans

Patagonia_007_Upland Goose at Tierra del Fuego

Upland Goose







The guided excursion to Tierra del Fuego National Park was enjoyable.  Our guide was knowledgeable, and urged us to suggest any changes to the itinerary we wanted, although we did find him a little impatient.  We ate at Moustacchio for the next two nights.  We found it very friendly, with a wide menu of well-cooked food (as Sue is allergic to crab, we tended to avoid predominantly fishy restaurants). 

The following day, our guide had booked us onto a Beagle Channel cruise, which culminated in a visit to an estancia, followed by a two hour minibus transfer home.  We decided to stay on the boat to return to Ushuaia rather than take the bus.

P13060_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_02 1567P12820_Patagonia_2014_Sue_02 378


This was one of our favourite days.  The weather was cold and wet but, on arrival at the penguin island, the sun came out, and the boat beached on the sand, giving us the best views we had ever had of penguins going about their normal lives. 

P13230_Patagonia_2014_Sue_02 483

In addition to the Magellanic penguins, there were a few Gentoo, and three King Penguins.

P13260_Patagonia_2014_Sue_02 478

For their final few days, Ian and Sue visited Buenos Aires, where they spend time exploring the city; it’s museums and art galleries.

[Read Swoop’s blog post about things to do in Buenos Aires]

On our departure day, our guide had already taken our details, and checked us in on line for our flight: this was a great idea- I wish other operators had done the same. After checking in at our hotel, we visited MALBA (a fantastic gallery). 

P13970_Patagonia_2014_Sue_02 571

The Hotel Esplendor was friendly and helpful. That evening we went to a nearby Parilla recommended by the hotel – it was OK, but I think I will stick to your recommendations in future! 

Our group tour of Buenos Aires in the morning was excellent.  The guide was very informative, and when one of the passengers expressed an interest in visiting Evita’s grave, she just added it to the itinerary.  At the end of the tour, she dropped the passengers off wherever they wanted.  

P15450_Patagonia_2014_Sue_03 051

A warning to other travellers: we were squirted with something outside the National Gallery, but when people offered to “assist”, we shouted at them until they went away (successfully avoiding robbery – although my mobile was later pinched on the underground: but that’s another story). 

A visit to El Ateneo, a bookshop in a converted theatre, should be on everyone’s to do list: there is even a cafe on the stage.  As an alternative to steak, we ate an Italian restaurant highly rated by the hotel (Il Gran Caruso): this was excellent.

P16230_Patagonia_2014_Ian_EOS400D_03 408

On our final day, we had a tour of the Opera House (very good), and spent the rest of the day at the San Telmo Market.  We really enjoyed ourselves, but are still kicking ourselves that we bought so little – everything was amazingly cheap and stylish.  

P16830_Patagonia_2014_Ian_SX220_02 094

Our Iberia flight home arrived back early, and we managed to catch an earlier coach home.

A satisfying end to the best holiday we have ever had. Thank you, Sally!

Nicholas’ Full Circuit in Torres del Paine

Nicholas returned in January from a Full Circuit in Torres del Paine. Here he tells us about his experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop and our partners…

‘In a nut shell… IT WAS SPECTACULAR!! What a great way to start my 10 week journey in South America.’

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

I could not have planned and arranged this 9 day Full Circuit without your valuable help. Your site popped up first and explained the Full Circuit in detail, which got me REALLY excited to conquering the Torres del Paine!

You guys did an amazing job by in helping me put the final touches into booking my trek. I would definitely recommend you to all of my friends or anyone looking to go to Patagonia.

How were Swoop’s Partners in Torres del Paine?

They were brilliant with the organising of transportation and minding the extra bags at the national park. Catering had its ups and downs, but the guides are absolute legends! I liked every single minute with them…. whether we communicating in Spanish or in English I had a great time. The other group members were really nice too – great people to spend time with during the trek. We had a big group of 12 people with 2 guides and a few porters.

What did you think of the eco friendly camp in which you stayed?

The camp was good. I was in a tent for the full circuit, but from what I saw of the camp, it was clean and well organised, and home to many nice people.

How was your Full Circuit itinerary?

When I read about the itinerary, I thought ‘well this does not sound hard at all’. Months later I set foot in the National Park… OH MY GOD! It was challenging, but I like to push myself to the limit and it was worth it- every minute you are taking a photo that is spectacular.

It there was one negative, it was that the group often split up, with people going off at their own pace, and openers going off with another group! This is only a minor thing, but I would recommend the guides keeping the group together, and communicating better with people who are falling behind.

What was the highlight of your trip?

There were so many highlights, but the main ones were…

Day 2: Leaving Camp Dickson to Los Perros

Day 3: Climbing a mountain (for me it was the first time climbing a mountain and also setting foot on snow!)

Day 5: Camp Pehoe to Los Cuernos. WOW the French Valley is B-E-A-UTIFUL!

The final day was VERY special because we left the campsite Los Torres at 1:30am (yes a.m. not pm!), and walked along the track looking up at the moon, high and bright. We used nothing but torches to guide us to the spectacle of Torres del Paine, which we reached at 4:30am, just in time to see the sunrise. Ohhh man that was BEAUTIFUL!! A LOT of photos were taken there but when I put the camera down, all I did was just look at the mountains and say to myself…

‘I cannot believe that I am here, I must be dreaming. It is just too beautiful to be true. I now have officially completed… actually no CONQUERED the Torres del Paine Circuit.’

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

Be prepared and fit, if you think that you are developing a blister on your ankle, STOP and fix it before it is too late and make the most of your time there memorable!

Did you visit anywhere else in South America before/ after your Full Circuit?

After Torres del Paine, a friend from my group invited me to go to Tierra del Fuego and see King Penguins, that was awesome. Then I was in Argentina with my relatives from Buenos Aires and from Rafaela (near Santa Fe). I spent time in Buenos Aires before Christmas in Rafaela with the rest of the family and made small trips to Rosario and  Santa Fe, they were memorable and fun.

‘Overall I have had a spectacular trip. Torres del Paine, and Argentina with the relatives, memories that will NEVER be lost.’

Rachel’s 35 day Adventure in Patagonia

Rachel’s 35 day Adventure in Patagonia

Rachel returned in December from a 35 day trip to Chile and Argentina, planned and arranged through Swoop Patagonia. Here she tells us about her experiences on the trip and in booking with Swoop Patagonia.

helfer horse

Wow – what a great holiday for me. I always wanted to experience the size and wilderness of this far off land but for a long time did not know quite where it was. My trip covered only the lower half of Patagonia, and I still travelled 4,000 Km from the bare Steppe over the mountains to the tropical forests around the fjords of Chile, ending at Cape Horn, somewhere I never thought I’d get the chance to see.

Rachel’s trip began with a stay at Las Marianas Hotel in Bariloche, ‘a lovely, friendly hotel with a great café with a nearby cafe that had a tree going up through the middle of it- they made delicious soups!’.

She then travelled north for a 4 night stay at Estancia Huechahue where she spent 3 days horse riding, walking, and taking part in estancia life…

This working Estancia is about the size of Purbeck- it was absolutely wonderful, the highlight of my trip for sure. Magnificent European trees towered above this elegant country ranch, which looks out onto a beautiful landscape of lupins and lavender alongside a steam, and the irrigated mown lawns led into big apple tree orchards. The pink/grey hills rising up to granite tops with condors, vultures and from the green fields down by the river the weird cries of the Ibis were breath taking. Except for unexpectedly strong cold gales trying to blow us off our horses, we had a wonderful spoilt time riding here. We had some very exciting days here, ended with drinks in front of a fire and fantastic home cooked meals; this was very different from the next 18 day road trip that followed! 

The next part of Rachel’s adventure was a road trip from Bariloche to Chalten, and then from Chalten to Ushuaia

On this part of the trip I travelled with a group of 12 people, mainly from Australia and New Zealand in a strengthened bus (to take the rough roads and steep hills over the high steppe of barren soil with the odd tussock and a few bushes). We had a wonderful guide and driver for this part of the trip. Mel, our guide was just wonderful, the best guide. She made the trip so interesting by adding her own anecdotes and stories. I also loved our driver, Franco, who took great care of me, was very sweet and supportive, and kept the bus very clean. There were Guanacos, Condors, miles of fences made of wood and plain wire, no habitation or any sign of tracks going anywhere. Just persistent biting cold wind that tried to blow one over. 

This part of the trip took Rachel first to Coyhaique, where she visited another Estancia and then along the famous Ruta 40 to El Chalten, where she enjoyed some lovely (although wet and cold at times!) walks in Los Glaciares National Park, and spent time relaxing and looking in the local arts and craft shops ‘I wish I had done more shopping here!’. In El Calafate, she stayed in an ‘absolutely gorgeous’ hotel, with ‘a lovely lake view room’, and took a tour/ walk/ boat trip to the Perito Moreno Glacier.

‘The Perito Moreno Glacier was absolutely spectacular and incredible- definitely a highlight of my trip’

Next, Rahcel’s road trip took her to Torres del Paine National Park,  where she hiked to Grey Glacier, the French Valley, and The famous Towers of Paine.

‘The Grey Glacier was just lovely, and the French Valley was absolutely fantastic’

From Torres del Paine, Rachel’s trip headed across the Magellan Strait to Tierra del Fuego, finishing in the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia, where she visited a King Penguin Colony, a type of Penguin usually only found on sub Antarctic Islands.

‘The penguin viewing was extraordinary, and allowed us to see the beautiful creatures at their very best. It was exceptionally good.’

helfer pengs

Tierra del Fuego was where Rachel ended the road trip buy taking a catamaran through the waters of the Beagle Channel, spotting a variety of wildlife including sea lions, and a variety of bird life. The next day she took a day trip to Martillo Island to see colonies of Gentoo and Magellan Penguins, which was ‘absolutely fascinating’, followed by a day of bird watching in Tierra del Fuego National Park.

The final leg of Rachel’s trip was our Fuegian Glaciers and Cape Horn Cruise , which took her out into the Beagle Channel, to the Pia and Garibaldi Glaciers where she went on a ‘wonderful walk’, and then through Glacier Alley.

‘Everyone on the boat was very friendly- the company was superb and the boat was not too crowded, with an experienced and well-travelled crew. 

The remainder of the cruise took Rachel to Wulaia Bay, and Cape Horn, but unfortunately the ship was unable to land here due to bad weather, nonetheless, Rachel said that it was ‘worth every penny’.

Her trip ended with a stay at the ‘unbelievable and lovely’ Arakur Hotel in Ushuaia, before flying back home to the UK.  Below Rachel lists some of the highlights of her trip…


One of the main highs for me was feeling fitter than I have for years so I could enjoy the hard walking up the mountains through the spectacular old southern beech woods besides tumbling streams falling into large lakes, looking at glaciers, craggy mountain tops, moss, flowing lichens, small alpine flowers and hillsides red with fire bush.

Then there was the highlight of sitting in sunshine listening to the blue 5 mile wide glacier calving, and watching huge blocks tumbling in the lake.

Spending time very close to 70 king penguins and ending with sailing the Beagle channel and seeing Cape Horn were wonderful also.

Helfer 1

Mary’s trip to Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares and Tierra del Fuego

Swoop helped Mary plan her independent trip to Patagonia in February, during which she spent some time in Santiago, Valparaiso, Torres del Paine, Los Glaciares, & Ushuaia. Here she tells us about her experiences…

I’ll tell you what, we barely scratched the surface! There is so much to do in Patagonia!!! We flew into Santiago, saw little of the city, but what I saw I liked, and we also spent a day in Valparaiso.

Next we flew down to Punta Arenas and got straight onto a bus to Puerto Natales, where we took a day trip to Torres del Paine and trekked up to the Torres on a one-day trek, beautiful and knackering! Wish we’d had the time to also see the Cuernos but eh, can’t do everything and glad we at least made it to the Torres.

Also, alarmingly caught bed bugs from a hostel called the Singing Lamb! Not impressed and hope I have got rid of them successfully and not imported them into the UK. I was riddled with bites so first stop once we got to Calafate was a laundry for a complete wash of all items, including backpacks, camera bag etc! We were lucky to get a coach there; for a while (until we checked with every single company!) it looked like we would have to change our plans and stay longer at Puerto Natales so would definitely recommend booking that particular coach well in advance!

From El Calafate, we took a day trip to Perito Moreno (astoundingly awe-inspiring for a place that is so popular with tourists). We then went on to El Chalten, where we climbed up to Laguna de Los Tres and Fitz Roy, it was scorching hot!!! Could not believe it. The owners of the posada where we stayed had recommended we drive to the north side and start from there rather than from the village, which I think was a great idea and made the trek much easier than it would have been if we had started from the centre of El Chalten. All of it was most enjoyable.

We then flew to Ushuaia. The city, as I am sure you agree, is not much to write home about to be honest but we got our stamp for having visited the most southern city in the world! It was also surprisingly expensive to eat out though I must say we decided to go “posh”! Lovely food at Kaupe and Volver, compared with the UK the prices are fine of course but not what I had expected in Argentina. We did take a trip to Isla Martillo to see the penguins (you can’t ever have enough of penguins!) and cute smooching sea lions, which was great. On the way back to Punta Arenas, we took the coach and saw baby orcas in the Beagle Channel, which was also fantastic. We also did the coast trail at Ushaia national park, a piece of cake after Fitz Roy and the Torres :-)

All in all, it was a great holiday and thank you both so much for your help. Hopefully we’ll get to go back there soon, it would be great to see the fjords and do more trekking, although we would definitely give Ushuaia and Punta Arenas a miss :-) . We would also love to see more of Chile, Pucon, Puerto Varas, the lakes etc etc etc… :-) Rather fancy the north as well…

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!’

Cruceros Australis; a journey to the End of the World through Chile’s little known fjords, glaciers & bays

Cruceros Australis; a journey to the End of the World through Chile’s little known fjords, glaciers & bays

I’d been looking forward to the Australis cruise for quite a while now and had been anticipating what it was going to be like during my time in Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas. When the day arrived, I was impressed with how smooth the boarding process was. You just had to drop your luggage off at the Cruceros Australis office in the main square of Punta Arenas between 1 and 5pm, fill in your details and you were handed a pass to put your passport in and given information about the cruise. Then you just had to go down to the harbour at 6pm ready to board.

The very short shuttle to the cruise allowed you to take in the Stella Australis in all its glory. Although it has capacity for 200 people, it’s not overwhelmingly big at all, and in fact only 130 people are actually on this trip with it being early in the season. Once on board we were shown to our cabins and given about 30minutes to settle in. My cabin, number 325 was far more spacious than I was expecting with twin beds, a chair, radio, closet and shelves to store your clothes, a neat bathroom and of course, a lovely big square window to watch the mountains rolling past. Although there’s no laundry service on board, the personnel looking after my room gave me a bag of detergent as I had a few items of clothing that I needed to wash. The fact that you can adjust the temperature of your room very easily meant that my clothes dried pretty much overnight.

The welcome drink at 7pm was held in the Darwin Lounge for English speakers and in the Sky Lounge for Spanish speakers. The crew has generally kept the two language groups separate throughout, in order to keep it simple, although I think a few people would have liked it if the groups could have been a bit more mixed somehow. The welcome drink of cava/cocktail/wine/juice was followed by a welcome address by the ship’s captain and an introduction to the staff, from the smartly dressed personnel in naval gear down to the waiters. We were entertained by a local folklore group who sang 3 traditional Patgonian songs and danced for us, which was a nice way to start the trip. Then the focus was really on safety. In the itinerary in my cabin, there was a note about trying on your life jacket to make sure it fitted properly. I hadn’t done it yet, but they highlighted this again in the compulsory safety meeting at 7:30, as we would wear the life jacket each time we went out in the zodiac boats (something I couldn’t wait to do!). So after hearing about safety on board, it was pretty much dinner time, 8:15pm.

The ship has two main bar/lounge areas and the dining room is located at the bottom of the ship, with views on each side through big square windows. The food on offer that evening was delicious. We started off with a starter of salmon pate in a smoked salmon coating with salad and bread. This was followed by prawn and vegetable soup which was light and refreshing and then I had a light white fish with potatoes. For desert we were presented with a vanilla mousse with liquor at the bottom and a chocolate stick, I was really impressed by the food and the way it was presented on the plate. I sat with a group of Australians who had come from Melbourne and the waiter asked us if we’d like to keep that arrangement for the rest of the trip. I was fine with it, as they seemed a really interesting group of people, but if you want your own table etc then just let the waiter know.

After dinner we were ready for the itinerary briefing at 10pm in the Darwin lounge. This started off as a recap of the safety instructions, and although I was annoyed that the guide was repeating himself, it’s important that everyone knows how to get in and out of the zodiacs and knows what time to meet and where. He also showed us the route that the ship was taking by highlighting it on the screen as well as the places we’d be stopping the next day. This was interesting and I was excited to hear that we were going to see penguins at Tucker Islets as they’d just started arriving for the mating season, whereas I’d been told previously that it was unlikely there’d be any there at this time of year.

That night I slept soundly in my cabin looking forward to the next day and without any sea sickness I hasten to add, the water was actually very calm on the first night..