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“Biggest "penguin colony" in the middle of the Strait of Magellan”
Review of Solo Expediciones

Solo Expediciones
Book In Advance
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USD 133.40*
and up
Shore Excursion: Magellan Penguins Natural Reserve in Magdalena Island from...
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USD 16.00*
and up
Magdalena Island Penguin Tour by Boat from Punta Arenas
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USD 163.00*
and up
Marta Island, Magdalena Island and Punta Arenas City Tour
Ranked #1 of 26 Tours in Punta Arenas
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: FEEL PATAGONIA is a company who navigates with RIBS trought the straight of Magellan and take the visitors to places that they can't get terrestrial way. This way you can really feel patagonia.Also we offer excursions all over Chilean Patagonia, such as Torres Del Paine, Tierra del Fuego & Punta Arenas and its Sourroding.
Punta Arenas
Level 5 Contributor
36 reviews
18 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 26 helpful votes
“Biggest "penguin colony" in the middle of the Strait of Magellan”
Reviewed 9 March 2012

It's amazing the quantity of penguins you can find and enjoy there. Navigation is not uncomfortable and it isn a good alternative depending on the weather.

Helpful?
Thank Nany080
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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712 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
  • Chinese (Traditional) first
  • Chinese (Simplified) first
  • Dutch first
  • English first
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English first
Washington, D.C.
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Lots of Penguins”
Reviewed 3 March 2012

Big Island with lots of penguins waddling about, they are cool to see, but the Island is pretty gross- think of any place that has been inhabited expressly by birds for far too long. Still, you should go to see them!

Visited February 2012
Helpful?
1 Thank lizardious
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New York City, New York
Level 6 Contributor
94 reviews
33 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 28 helpful votes
“worth your time”
Reviewed 25 February 2012

2 hours to get there, 1 hour at the island, 2 hours to get back, leaving at 5 pm
but in the summer it is light until 11 am so not a problem, much better than the pinguinera

Visited January 2012
Helpful?
1 Thank linatoday
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Bristol, United Kingdom
Level 3 Contributor
13 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“los pengiunos”
Reviewed 25 February 2012

the early morning trip is a speed boat and takes 35 minutes from port to island. the afternoon & evening take two hours (five hours in total).

Visited February 2012
Helpful?
Thank dave3293
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Oakland, California
Level 6 Contributor
107 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 104 helpful votes
“Lovely penguins, shame about Solo Expeditiones' approach to safety...”
Reviewed 24 February 2012

We diverted our trip from Puerto Natales in Chile straight on to Puerto Natales, to get a closer look at the base camp of most of the world’s Antarctic expeditions – and, of course, to go take a look at the Magellan Penguins on Magdalena Island.

To take us out to the island, we did our research and decided to go with a company called Solo Expeditiones, who do speedboat trips to the Magdalena Island, with a detour to look at some sea lions on the way back after an hour ogling the penguins.

When we arrived at their office at about 6:50 in the morning, we were brought outside to sit in a number of minibuses. I say ‘a number’, because it appeared that they didn’t know how many people we would be, nor now many minibuses we would need. At first, we were told to get on two buses, before they changed their mind and made us get in a third bus instead.

At the dock, we were wondering how they would get all of us on board one boat. It turns out we didn’t: the yellow boat pictured on all the Solo Expeditiones marketing material was going, but there was a second boat as well: a smaller, white vessel that was a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) like the yellow one, but obviously older.

We have travelled extensively in Thailand, Vietnam, and other places you wouldn’t immediately associate with a good safety record, but this particular boat was easily the dodgiest operation I’ve had the, erm, pleasure, of sailing with.

The briefing was brief but fair enough, and we were made to wear life jackets right from the beginning of the sailing – perfectly normal when you’re on a RIB, but that wasn’t made clear (or, at least, not in English), which seemed to worry some of the passengers.

As we got closer to the dock at the other end of the boat ride 35 minutes later, the skipper suddenly realised he would need to use an anchor, and asked the guide we had with us to get a rope out of a storage cubby at the stern of the boat. The rope was an absolute mess – whoever put it away the last time has no business of touching ropes on a ship; it’s a basic part of seamanship, but make sure ropes are coiled properly and put away so they can be used easily is a crucial part of running a safe ship. I dread to think what would have happened if someone had gone overboard: had they needed the rope to drag someone out of the water, they would have suffered severe hypothermia before they would have made it back onto the boat. Let’s just hope they had a separate throwing line for rescue operations (I didn’t see one).

After an hour on the island, we got back on the boat, and that’s when things started going seriously wrong. After everybody had boarded, the RIB smashed into the dock very hard indeed, and the front Inflateable tube was punctured. We still had the tubes on the right and left of the boat (or so we thought…) but the big rubber flotation component of the boat flopping around at the front of the vessel was… let’s say less than encouraging.

The guide am an announcement that we would have to sit toward the back of the boat. However, the announcement was made only in Spanish, and it wasn’t clear whether the punctured part of the boat was actually a problem or not. I’ve spent a fair bit of time on RIBs, but i have never been on one that sprung a leak in one of the floatation tubes; personally, I would have loved an explanation for whether this is normal or dangerous – but the guide went outside with the skipper after making his announcement, and scarcely came back into the cabin since.

(As a side note: we were at the dock, and there was a second RIB waiting about 50 meters off shore. Yes, it would have been inconvenient to make us wait for an hour for the yellow RIB to make a second trip, but inconvenience should hardly be ranked over safety? Anyway, I might be wrong; but since nobody explained anything to us, I have no idea)

At this point, I should also mention that the front exit on the cabin has a latch on it; a latch that didn’t work. So, to keep the door shut, the guide closed the door with a double hitch knot on a rope. Not a problem if you’re used to boats, but an exit on a RIB – especially on one that has a floppy tube – should probably have been easily available. It didn’t bother me so much on the way out, because the guide was sitting right next to the emergency exit on our outbound journey; he tied the knot, I reckoned he’d be able to ship it off again in no time. On the way back, however, the were a lot of worried passengers (including one particular passenger who was extremely distressed, on the verge of all-out panic – something the guide may have been able to do something about, such as explaining something, or calming him down, if it hadn’t been for the fact that he was outside during most of the return journey), and a few people who were clearly not used to being on small boats. I have little faith in whether any of us would have been able to open the door, if the boat had capsized.

Anyway, as we were returning back to port (for unclear reasons: the lady in the office claimed weather was the reason later, but I’m sure the guide pointed to the front of our floppy boat when he told us (in Spanish, only) we weren’t going to see the sea lions), the ride became very uncomfortable indeed: we were squished onto the rear few benches to leave the front few free.

About half-way through the return journey, we noticed that our back-rest was feeling weird. That seemed like distinctly bad news, too: our back rest was the left flotation tube of the RIB. It kept getting more and more loose as we continued our journey back to port, and the captain got on the VHF radio a couple of times; but at no point did anyone tell us (whether in English or Spanish) what was happening to the boat.

The rest of the trip was pretty tense: the shipper kept steering the boat in sharp turns to avoid certain waves, and at one point we bombed straight through a kelp forest. The engines sounded unhappy for a while, but, again, nobody told us whether this was normal, or a problem of any sort.

We eventually made it back to port, and I asked the skipper whether they normally used this boat. He said “Yes, but only for 20-minute trips”. I then wondered whether it was normal for flotation tubes to puncture or go down. “No, it never happened before”, he said and the started kicking the boat vigorously in frustration, as the guide was kissing one of the passengers (!) and giving her his phone number (!!). All very professional, in other words.

We went back to the office in a minibus, and went inside to complain. The lady in the office said ‘sorry’, but refused to listen to any questions about whether or not we had been safe on our trip. “The yellow boat is mine”, she said. “It is safe”. I checked on their website, where they write about their vessels. The boat we were on was the Isla Magdalena – or, at least, that was what was Sharpied on the back of our life vests – but it didn’t look anything like the boat pictured on their website.

She put me on the phone with the captain (as far as I understand, the captain of the yellow ship? Not sure), who said that the rope issue was not good, and that he probably wouldn’t work with that guide again, because he was new. He apologised over and over again, but wasn’t able to explain whether it had been actually dangerous. “It has never happened before”, which is fair enough, but y’all have to forgive me if a ‘sorry’ and a ‘never happened before’ doesn’t quite cut it, especially when it is contrasted against the tragedy in my current hometown of Buenos Aires, where 50 people died and 700 were injured in a train crash yesterday. it is completely unrelated to today’s trip, of course, but something like that happening does rather bring thoughts of safety to the forefront of your mind.

I also note that they write, on their website, that the yellow boat (‘Isla Isabel’) is listed as having a capacity of 14 passengers. I really hope that is a typo; I didn’t count, but I believe a lot more than 14 people went on that boat this morning.

Between the rope problems, the tied-shut emergency exit, the imploded flotation tube at the front, and the leaking one on the side, the engine problems, the lack of information… We got our money back (and scared away all the would-be-customers in the office in the process), but I don’t want to beat about the bush; any company that appears to be playing fast and loose with the safety of its guests? Yeah, strongly not commended.

The penguins were awesome, but seriously, you couldn’t pay me to repeat this particular experience.

Helpful?
17 Thank HJK81
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
victoria s, Propietario at Solo Expediciones, responded to this review, 24 February 2012
Dear HJK81:
We are very sorry about your bad experience with our company. We are taken serious measurements for this never happened again.
First, always in the morning arrive passengers who don’t have reservation, that’s why we coordinate the mini buses in the morning.
Second, we own three different RIBS Isla Isabel, Isla Magdalena & Isla Marta; all three of them are described in our web site. You are right about the error in the capacity of Isla Isabel, is 40 passengers.
The ribs boats are specially design to navigate in complicated seas such us Bering Strait and Magallanes strait. So it is very save, but they move.
Our staff is working with us since the beginning of our company 4 years ago and we will make an investigation about this situation because is the first time that we have a problem like this.
I know that one of the pontoons was broke but the safety of the passengers never was in risk. The problem was that the captain should talk with the passengers and explain what was going on.
I understand that due the problems you have the money you paid was refound. I know that this doesn´t compensated all the troubles you had.
You can see that we have mostly good critics and we move more than 4.000 clients in a season, and sometimes we have problems because of the weather conditions, and this is not in our hands.
As a small company the safety is our n°1 priority and we have all to lose if something happens, that’s why we are making a full review to the operation of the company.
Sorry about my English.
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