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?”
Grahame's Trip Date:
25th Jan - 13th Feb 2017
Grahame's Ship:Hebridean Sky
Overall, how was your trip?
As a bird watcher and photographer, the penguins were the stand out act followed by the landscapes and ice. I had wondered about the point of visiting the Falklands but after visiting the Black browed Albatross colony I quickly became enchanted. South Georgia is amazing for both its wildlife and the sheer wonderment of its land mass and form. You get a much better sense of and focus on the beginnings and break up of the continents similar to the relationship between the Galapagos Island and Charles Darwin's theory of evolution where you can see it happening. Having visited most prime bird watching areas around the world, its takes something very special to get me going and penguins aside, I would rate Galapagos as a better experience from a bird watching perspective. I hope that somehow in this seemingly out of control period of time across the globe, that Antarctica can continue to be preserved for generations to come and that my children and grandchildren and so on can experience it. I would be very disappointed but not at all surprised to see this happen from from hotel bases on Antarctica in the future. Mankind in general and business in particular cannot help itself in this regard. I was surprised at the mix of people on board the ship and quickly concluded that generally, it is the only generation that can afford the trip. I was surprised at the kindness of the weather which may have been a double edged sword from a bird watching perspective with relatively calm seas reducing numbers of seabirds sighted. I do suspect there were other areas that could have been visited that would have produced different numbers and species but I guess time, accessbility and other ships all play a part in that situation. I understand there were 14 ships in the area at the time. My grown up children have already experienced much overseas travel to remote and interesting places and no doubt my young grandchildren will follow on some day with Antarctica being on their lists. My photographic records are in part, kept for them and in time, my Antarctica bird photos will be uploaded to grahamefinniganbirdphotogrpahy.com where my birding highlights are stored.
In one sentence, what did you think of Antarctica? Did it live up to your expectations?
The magnitude of spectacular land and ice forms, isolation and the quiet at night make one feel insignificant in the overall vastness of the universe and in awe of Antarctica itself.
Would you visit again?
How was the service that Swoop provided?
My overall dealings with SWOOP were very good and given the short notice of my booking, administrative arrangements worked quite well. The ship, its crew and facilities including meals were first class and I would not hesitate to recommend SWOOP and the ship's operator to others. Cabins were larger than I had anticipated and well appointed. I have only two small suggestions/issues to bring up. Firstly, there is only one drinking water refilling station on the ship which got to be annoying. Secondly, Zodiac loading invariably took longer than forecast and passengers were left standing or sitting in four layers of clothes in a temperature controlled room (lecture room). This was quite uncomfortable at times. Quite a few pax on board had booked through SWOOP, were happy with the service and some had previously used the company's services which was a good plug for the company. I will not repeat my medical issue here, suffice to say all involved were extremely helpful and positive in ensuring I made the trip.
How likely is it that you would recommend Swoop to a friend?
10 out of 10
How were your experiences on the zodiac excursions and shore landings?
Zodiac landings were efficient and as I had been in Zodiacs quite a few times before, there were no surprises. It was a little annoying at times when we were required to keep our life jackets on whilst on shore because, with four layers of clothing, trying to negotiate the terrain and your own equipment, it made the trips more difficult than would otherwise be. This was confirmed to trips on shore of either shorter duration of limited landing areas but there was still plenty of scope to take off and store the life jackets on each occasion. Also, being a wildlife photographer, it is important to get as close to the subjects as you reasonably can, and it was a bit of a lucky dip as to which zodiac driver you got as to how good a shot you got of wildlife. Some adventure staff were acutely aware of and knowledgeable of the wildlife and confidently drove the zodiacs accordingly, whilst others had a lesser interest and knowledge and it tended to show. Perhaps they had less confidence in zodiac operation or pax safety was foremost in their minds. Only seemingly a small point, however if you miss that shot of a life time because of it, you never forget it. The yellow headed king penguin is a good example. Having said that, overall, expedition staff were extremely good and efficient. They made the experience as good as they could and worked extremely well as a team. Icebergs and wildlife have been covered in other areas of the questionnaire.
Do you have any tips or advice for other people planning a trip to Antarctica?
I would not stay at the appointed hotel again. It is far to removed from Ushuaia and inconvenient in terms of undertaking outings to the town and other places. I understand the logistics of trying to place 108 people but I would choose an alternative and perhaps future travellers could be informed of the hotel's location before booking.
Anything else? Tell us anything you’d like to share that we forgot to ask! It’s ok to leave this empty too :-)
Just a note on the photos. I was fortunate enough to get a shot of a rare melanistic yellow headed king penguin on South Georgia. We wee around 50-60 metres off the beach in a zodiac at the time which combined with the movement of the zodiac, made it difficult to get a better shot. I will send it to Alex separately.