We just returned from a wonderfully diverse trip arranged by Tom Damon. We traveled via Buenos Aires to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, with a cruise from Ushuaia toward Cape Horn, and plenty of hiking and glacier viewing through the Beagle Channel and Straits of Magellan, followed by five fabulous days/nights hiking in the stunning Torres del Paine national park (Chilean Patagonia), and finally a blissful period for relaxing at the end in the Colchagua Valley (Chile’s Napa Valley equivalent). Tom listened to what our goals for the trip were and implemented them expertly, securing the best rooms in the best lodging in each location. He is very detail oriented and as a result our trip was effectuated nearly flawlessly, which is quite a feat in such remote locations.
Highlights were our stays at Explora Torres del Paine and the all-inclusive recommended by Tom at the incredible Clos Apalta Residences and winery. Rather than leaving us on our own to navigate flights, Tom connected us with the flight consolidator he works with, which was brilliant as for a modest fee, the consolidator monitored changes in our flights (of which there were a number) and covered us on alternates, in a way that saved me the stress of booking and rebooking our air.
Tom is very knowledgeable about the areas of Argentina and Chile we visited (offered us the best lodging options and some excellent restaurant recommendations) and he works with very good quality local providers in each country. Ours was a logistically challenging trip, but Tom organized it so it ran smoothly and was a real pleasure for us. I highly recommend Tom and would use his services again for any travel to South or Central America.
My wife, kids (10 and 12 years old) and I had a fantastic trip to Peru, hiking four days on the Inca trail, visiting Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley, Cusco and Paracas. Wendy put us in touch Tom Damon, who created a great itinerary, got us lined up with superb guides, and made it so that all went seamlessly.
Everything about the trip was wonderful. We divided it in two parts. First we did the Cusco/Machu Picchu region for about ten days, then we went to the Paracas Desert/coast for about five days. Our thinking, which turned out to be wrong, was that the adults would thrill to the hiking and Inca portion of the trip, and the Paracas portion would be the reward for the kids. In fact, we all enjoyed the whole trip, but the Inca portion was what we will all forever remember.
We did so much and saw so much, that I cannot describe it in great detail, but in general, we were blown away by all that we learned about and saw of the Inca civilization. Their growth and all they accomplished in only a hundred years still has me dumbfounded. Visiting the Sacred Valley, which is in the Cusco region, was a great way to start. We saw a number of Inca ruins, and learned a great deal from our guide Ronny. The Inca architecture, engineering, farming, food storage, religion, social systems, political systems, communication systems, and on and on…. Every bit of it was jaw-dropping and fascinating.
But for me, what heightened the impact was four days hiking and camping on the Inca trail. Akin to taking a Nile cruise to see sights that would otherwise be inaccessible, hiking from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu gave us the chance to see not just individual, hard-to-access sites, but even better, to see the connections between them all and get a sense of how the Incas knit it all together—areas with different climates, environments, agriculture, foods, etc. Walking the centuries-old trail and encountering still-standing aqueducts, temples, waystations, and granaries along the way had a profound impact that I do not think would have hit us had we only hopped from site to site by train or car.
The trail itself was a good challenge but there was never a moment when any of us—kids or adults—thought we’d taken on too much. The kids did great, even up at 14,000ft, laughing and having fun the whole way, even if they won’t admit it. Law requires hikers to have a guide and porters, and our team was superb. It wasn’t glamping by any stretch—the food was good but simple, and we slept on mats on the ground in regular tents—but the porters did all the work. They set up and broke down camp, carried 95% of what needed to be carried, brought us hot beverages in the morning. And then as we huffed and puffed up the trail during the day, they literally ran past us up or down steep inclines (some of them in open-toed sandals!), as if it were a walk in the park.
(The packing list Tom Damon provided was spot-on. We skipped bringing rain pants because we went during the dry season, but all his other recommendations were perfect.)
Aside from the Inca ruins we saw along the way, the natural beauty was almost overwhelming. Every step through the Andes was breathtaking. Any vantage point on the trail whether verdant or dry could almost move you to tears, it was so gorgeous.
When we got to Machu Picchu late the fourth day…, what a reward. Everyone has seen pictures, but to pass through the Gateway of the Sun and see the complex surrounded, even dwarfed, by the dramatic topography around it, well, it leaves me without words just thinking about it.
All the hotels in Cusco/Machu Picchu were excellent. We loved every one of them. But the star of the hotels was the Inkaterra Machu Picchu hotel. I’ll never forget that first hot shower, that sumptuous meal, or the comfort of that bed after four days on the trail. (I don’t know what it is, but we’ve found that hotels in Ecuador and Peru have the comfiest beds in the world—even in little $20/night places we’ve stayed in little mountain towns.) This hotel is unique in the village of Machu Picchu—formerly Aguas Calientes—in that it has beautiful, secluded grounds to roam, whereas most other hotels are pretty tightly packed together.
During the whole trip, the staff was 100% there to help and make sure all went well. For example, I would have expected the drivers to simply do their job and drive, but they went the extra step. They knew all the roads and shortcuts, but also made sure we were comfortable, well fed, and had snacks and water. Whenever we stopped and got out, each of our drivers kept an eye on the kids to make sure they didn’t head in the wrong direction or get swarmed by street vendors. If one of the kids got bored or tired, they were there to take the child back to the bus to rest. And all of it with kindness.
All the places Ronny took us for lunch were delicious, and we had the chance to try foods we never had tasted before such as beef heart and alpaca meat—both as delicious as could be. Don’t knock it till you try it! One day for lunch in Cusco, when the kids were beat and we were looking for something casual and easy, Ronny—who is from Cusco—took us off-itinerary to his favorite hole-in-the-wall roasted chicken joint, which was as memorable and tasty as any meal we had.
I could write about that Inca part of the trip for days, and I am all charged up now just thinking about the memories. My mind and heart are overflowing.
At any other time, the rest of our trip would have shined more brightly, but honestly, it pales in comparison with Machu Picchu. We had fun in the desert/beach region of Paracas, and saw some some cool stuff—penguins, flamingos, sea lions, cormorants in the wild—and we ate well (I love tacu-tacu), but hey, we had just hiked the freaking Inca trail! Of this part of the trip, the big highlight was the stunning Huacachina oasis and the roller-coaster-like dune buggy ride around its environs. Big fun.
Big thanks to Wendy and team, our TTE Tom Damon, our guide Ronny, and all the on-the-ground staff who blew our minds.
Tom worked with my wife and I for over a year to organize the best trip possible based on some of our special needs and desires. He was an absolute pleasure to work with and was able to provide extraordinary detail and service during the long planning sessions. Our goal was to go to Patagonia in Chile, without rushing around all over the place, guided privately, and have a pampered feeling with good food and accommodations. He actually listened to our requests and followed through with them! Tom truly excelled in this regard. He set us up to spend the entire trip in or next to Torres del Paine National Park. Our first week was spent in an Awasi villa with an incredible view of the tower side of the Massif. Awasi was a terrific place that proved that it REALLY cares about its clients. My wife and I are wildlife and landscape photographers and Tom arranged for us to have a photographer and nature lover for our private guide for the entire week at Awasi. Awesome. For the second week he set us up in a great room at Explora Salto Chico with an even more stunning view of the Massif — horns side. Explora was just OK but the amazing view made up for some of the negative aspects of the hotel. We will never forget that view! While there was some dysfunction in the airline travel (no fault of Tom’s), Tom was with us all the way making sure we were clear about our options. We have traveled to many places (this was our 4th WOW person trip) and I feel that no one could have done a more efficient job at getting us to a hard place to reach like Patagonia, Chile. Kudos all around to Tom Damon. We would not hesitate to benefit from his expertise again. WOW!
Tom designed a Christmas/New Year’s trip to Chile for our family of six. He rose to the challenge of transporting us down and back up half the length of the continent. He organized visits to both Patagonia and the Atacama desert, securing rooms at Hotel Las Torres in Patagonia and Explora Atacama. Both were excellent choices for their top-notch adventure staff and boutique experience. He pretty much had to plan three trips because we originated in San Francisco, New York and New England, and we had three different time frames. He and his staff handled the transportation logistics smoothly. And, I’m not just saying this because I’m writing a review for Wendy’s WOW List, but the best part of the trip was the Wendy WOW Moment. We had a private stargazing evening hosted by French astronomer Alain Maury, at his observatory called SPACE (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations). We have a video he recorded on my son’s cell phone where he described what we were seeing on the Sea of Tranquility on the moon — particularly the smudge where the U.S. Apollo 11 landed.
Tom Damon planned a fantastic two-week holiday hiking trip to a part of Chile that I had never been to … the Lake District south of Santiago … an outdoor enthusiast’s playground. Of the many activities offered (hiking, floating, white water rafting, cultural visits among others), I would say that the heli-hiking in Pucon with my guide, Patricio Garrido, who is also a professional photographer, was a standout. Our pilot, Benjamin, was great fun and anxious to show us private spots, tucked away in the mountains, that had phenomenal views and absolutely no other foot traffic. What a phenomenal experience. It’s like we had the world to ourselves for the day. This was the third time that I have used Tom for trip planning in South America. He chose terrific properties which offered impeccable service and every possible amenity. Vira Vira, an AndBeyond property, was exquisite.
After two Covid delays, we were finally able to take our trip to Patagonia organized by Tom, and what a trip it was! Tom was gracious and helpful in handling our changed plans and when the time came to go, he was helpful in every aspect of the trip, including coaching us through various forms necessary to travel from Argentina to Chile and then to take a subsequent charter flight. He and his travel agent, Gabriela Proano, were particularly helpful when our flight from SFO to Houston connecting to Buenos Aires was delayed, so all connections were missed. They got us on the first available flight two days later, which was a blessing since we would have landed on the same day the Argentinian football team arrived after their World Cup victory. Basically all of Buenos Aires shut down and celebrated. There would have been no way to leave the airport. Talk about a silver lining! Our trekking guide in Argentina, Juan, was fantastic and particularly expert in helping five people with mixed skills get to the base of Fitz Roy. The service Tom arranged to get us from El Calafate to the Explora Torres del Paine was efficient and knowledgeable. All transitions were handled smoothly. Tom really knows his stuff—he knows the area, knows the wrinkles that can happen in any trip to a remote destination. We felt completely prepared for this glorious trip. Thank you Wendy Perrin and Tom Damon!
My husband and I had a great trip to Chile over the holidays 2022. Tom Damon did an excellent job planning and executing every detail of our travel. We visited the beautiful wine region, Santiago, and the amazing Atacama desert. We enjoyed so many activities from horseback riding, a cooking class and wine tasting at the Vik Chile to hiking sand dunes, photographing flamingos and the salt flats while at the Alto Atacama resort. Our guides and transfers were flawless, and Tom was even able to step in and negotiate a late checkout on our last day so we could have time at the spa before our long journey home. Next time we hope to make it to Patagonia and would definitely work with Tom again.
Since returning from two weeks of trekking in Patagonia, I can’t quit showing off my trip photos! Every time I looked, a National-Geographic-worthy photo leapt into my iPhone.
My goal for this trip was to get in as much trekking as possible—specifically, I wanted to see what my improving fitness level would allow me to do and challenge myself to do more but still get home in one piece. Tom’s trip suggestions and logistics planning were spot-on, and he was able to secure great private trekking guides in each location of the trip, as I wound my way through Chile and Argentina.
First, Torres del Paine: Oh my goodness, what a location. Scenery, wildlife … it absolutely has it all. Tom suggested that Explora was the most advantageous location to do the sort of trekking that I was interested in, and it was perfection.
My guide for three days, Francisca, was delightful, knowledgeable, and encouraging. On our first half-day trek to view wildlife, we saw everything, including the elusive puma … taking an afternoon nap. We had him all to ourselves for over an hour. On some very long, back-to-back treks over the next two days (Grey Glacier and the French Valley), she and I had some terrific conversations, shared our personal stories, and learned a lot from each other, given our different cultures and generations.
Crossing the border and entering Argentina, I was seamlessly transferred to another guide and driver, Juan and Beto, who showed me some of Argentina’s most gorgeous terrain. We hiked to the base of Cerro Torre and the very next day to the base of Fitz Roy. I have to confess I had serious doubts that I could do these hikes, but Juan was very encouraging and guided me through … he took my goal seriously … and I had three gorgeous treks in El Chalten (and sore feet) to show for it.
On our way back to Calafate to view the Perito Moreno glacier, Juan and Beto invited me to share the mate (mah-tay) experience with them—a tradition practiced by all the locals: a warm emulsion of (mostly bitter) local herbs. I was so thrilled to be offered the opportunity to experience it the way the locals do (versus ordering it at a restaurant just to say that I had). I’m pretty sure that Juan and Beto got a kick out of watching the “gringa” trying to finish it, which one must do before returning it to the one who prepares it.
On to Ushuaia for a final three days of trekking through Glacier National Park. Ushuaia is not on everyone’s radar screen, unless there is a cruise to Antarctica involved, but it should be. It’s an interesting, evolving place in a very remote part of the world that you don’t really hear that much about. The mountains on Beagle Channel make for some really striking views. On our hikes (through sun, wind, light rain, and even a curious 10 minutes of hail which happened on a clear, sunny day) my guide, Santiago, was very engaging and shared a lot about his country (current economy, government, growth and job opportunities in Ushuaia) and his family.
I leave in just under a month for another hiking trip that Tom planned for me over the upcoming holidays—in Chile’s Lake District. Stay tuned!
Our trip to Patagonia was incredible. A couple of days in Buenos Aires was a great way to break up the long travel and a treat to explore an interesting, colorful city with our guide, Claudio.
Tom’s suggestion to spend 4 nights on a small ship exploring the glaciers of the Beagle and Drake channel was spot-on. We loved adventures in the zodiacs every day, as well as amazing guides and very good food.
The highlight of the trip was Torres del Paine. The most beautiful place we’ve ever seen.
So glad we stayed at Explora, with the best view in the entire park, fabulous guides to take you hiking and great food and service!
I just got back from the MOST AMAZING trip to Perú! Tom Damon heard me loud and clear when I initially said this was an adventure trip for my girlfriends and I, and he delivered amazing guides, wonderful and challenging experiences, unique visits to learn all about the Peruvian culture and its people, and just an overall incredible 10 days! The hotels were luxurious and the attention to detail, including every transfer from hotel to airport to train, was seamless! We even made some last-minute changes while on the trip, which were handled easily. Our WOW Moment was exactly that…an unexpected WOW! Thank you Wendy. I came back to the U.S. in love with Perú and anxious to return to South America.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Tom is beyond amazing. We engaged with him in 2019 for a trip in the summer of 2020. Of course, that wasn’t possible. He kept us up to date for over 2 years on the status of travel. We wanted to hike the Inca Trail into Machu Picchu and then hike Huayna Picchu so it was a bit tricky to understand when everything would be open. Luckily we were able to do both hikes. Our trip was to be 2 weeks but my husband ended up being sick so we didn’t get to do the first week of our trip. Tom was great about rearranging everything so we could keep the 2nd week itinerary. The hotels were all as expected and in walking distance to nightly entertainment (except the Sacred Valley). Our guide for 4 days was Jose, he was native to Cusco and extremely knowledgeable on all things Andes. He was easy to be with over the many long days on trains, cars and hikes. Everything was perfect — Henry, the overall in-country contact, made our last day special with a WOW Moment. We will go back to Peru in 2024 and use Tom to do our Amazon trip.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Tom did such an incredible job planning and executing our trip to Peru. We originally planned it for 2020, then rescheduled to 2021, and rescheduled a final time to 2022. With Tom at the helm, rescheduling because of Covid was an absolute breeze and relieved so much of the pressure associated with the pandemic. The team in Peru was incredible and the experience was closely tailored for my family’s unique preferences. There is no way this trip could have happened without Tom’s help! Strongly recommend anyone going to Peru work with Tom, particularly during pandemic times.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL My husband and I were scheduled to take two trips back to back (they were trips postponed twice due to covid) in Chile and Peru. As the travel dates approached, the requirements for entering Chile and the rise in covid cases in Chile had me worried. I cancelled the Chile part of the trip (for a third time!). With airline tickets booked I now had 8 days free. So, best to ask Wendy! She connected me with Tom and he did a great job finding activities that didn’t overlap with our other planned activities.
Our guide Claudia was delightful. She is a wealth of knowledge but knows just how much information to give each person – doesn’t leave you with questions and doesn’t overload you with information. In Lima, she brought us to an open market where where she shops and she introduced us to all kinds of fruit and vegetables we had never seen. We had a cooking class and a pisco sour making class. We went to a tasting of sustainable sourced Peruvian chocolate bars. For history, we went to the Larco Museum. Claudia could write books with the knowledge she has about Peru’s history and she shares it in a very understandable way.
While in Paracas we went to Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve for my nature fix. I could never have done this on my own. So glad for Tom’s itinerary.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Galapagos Islands, Land Based, Galapagos Safari Camp (February 27 – March 6, 2022)
Alison DeCamp (plus husband and two young-adult children in their mid-to-early 20s)
Back in October my husband and I began thinking about how to celebrate his upcoming 60th birthday. He decided he wanted an “adventure” rather than simply a “vacation.” But we also wanted our kids to join us, one of whom is finishing up his Masters and therefore bound by a school break schedule. We considered Europe, Scandinavia, and Iceland, but late February/early March was our window (and cold weather might not cut it), we had only around 9 days (so we would be better off not dealing with jet lag) and we had never been to South America. What about Machu Picchu? Or Patagonia? Which is where Wendy Perrin and Tom Damon come in.
I’ve known Wendy’s name from years of reading her advice column and was really lucky to have chosen Tom to help us plan this trip. Tom was incredibly patient, explaining just how far Patagonia is from us in Michigan and that the time of year was the rainy season in Machu Picchu. With his help, choosing the Galapagos was the very best decision we could have made, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have come to that conclusion without Tom. Then it was a matter of land based vs. water based. I’ll admit, I don’t think we were the easiest people to deal with–we wanted a smaller boat for at least 7 days and that didn’t exist, but Tom reached out to Galapagos Safari Camp and made that work perfectly for our family. It was a great combination of being in one location with daily excursions both on land and water.
From that point on, Tom connected us with a Latin America flight specialist who got us really great flights at a very fair price (also taking into account leg room for our 6’3″ son). She kept us up-to-date with any flight changes and Tom was very prompt with any Covid protocol changes in Ecuador and/or the Galapagos both before and during our travels. We have been very, very cautious about Covid (neither wanting to catch Covid nor wanting to spread it) and felt completely safe during every step of this trip. Everything we did and every place we went, people were courteous and careful.
Approximately two weeks before we left we received a very detailed itinerary that honestly went off without a hitch. It explained everything so well that it left me absolutely no room to have any type of travel-related anxiety. If the itinerary said Gloria would be at the airport, BOOM! There’s Gloria! If it said our guide, Jose, would be at Safari Camp at 7:20 am, you’d better be ready at 7:15. And aside from that, the little things I never would have known were possible, were so incredibly helpful. Having Gloria guide us the correct way through the airport was so great when we flew to the Galapagos. Arranging for day rooms at the Wyndham was such a nice touch, and one I never would have known existed. And being welcomed at the VIP lounge in the Baltra Airport (where EVERYTHING was handled while we ate brownies) was incredible. (Our son claimed he felt a little out of place in the VIP lounge, but I have to say it didn’t stop him from eating all the food lying around).
I would highly recommend Tom Damon. He was patient while we decided just what we wanted to do and helped arrange it around different schedules, he saw to all the minor (and major) details, explained things so thoroughly, was always accessible to answer questions, and even contacted me the day before we left the Galapagos to give me some updates and suggestions for testing before leaving the islands. Tom made this trip so much better than if I had planned it myself, and I would use his services again in a heartbeat.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Just back from the holidays in Chile, December 22, 2021 – January 7, 2022. This was my second trip (Russia in October of 2021) using a Wendy Perrin travel planner. I had had such a great experience with Wendy’s first suggestion that I decided to try her again. I was looking for a travel destination over the 2021 holidays that involved a place that was warm and that I had not been to before. With Brook’s advice and counsel I settled on Chile and followed her recommendation to use Tom Damon. To cut to the chase, I could not have been any more pleased with Brook’s recommendation and with Tom’s trip planning and assistance. To get the covid questions out of the way … all of the assistance with necessary testing and country specific entry documents was invaluable and relieved a lot of pre trip stress. Tom did a great job with all of those details, which would otherwise take away from the joy of travel. As for the trip itself, since I wanted to save Easter Island, the Lake District and Patagonia for a future trip this coming year with friends, we focussed on Santiago and its environs, wineries, Valparaiso, Vina del Mar and the Atacama desert. The highlights:
1) Vina Vik in Millahue Valley, south of Santiago – what a phenomenal location, beautiful art and architecture, terrific young staff and fabulous food. Every detail taken care of no matter how small. I hiked every day starting with the first afternoon I arrived, took a tour and had a tasting at their winery, took a cooking class with their chef, Camilo, which started with choosing our ingredients for lunch from their organic garden, and also took a mixology class with their bartender and learned the secret to a pisco sour. There was also the option to take day trips to other nearby wineries.
2) City tour of Santiago, a walk through the boho neighborhoods in Valparaiso (shopping, street art, great food) and a fresh seafood lunch in Vina Del Mar. My guide, Valentina, was interesting, knowledgeable and had a great sense of humor. She was a wealth of knowledge about current events in Chile (I’m a nerd about politics … they have just elected a new president and are writing a new constitution). She also knows where to go for the best Peruvian food (which I was on the hunt for). Our driver, Rodrigo, was fun and interesting and simplified a lot of our logistics.
3) Winery tours – In addition to the days spent at Vina Vik, we made stops at Vina Montes, Harás de Pirquie (organic) and finally, the giant, Santa Rita (phenomenal and interesting tour and lunch). All great places, all different and interesting tours and tastings. And of course, great wines.
4) And last, but not least, the Atacama desert … an unexpected pleasure and my favorite experience, hands down. You’ll have to humor me here, as I cannot say enough good things about this special place. I didn’t know what to expect when Tom first suggested the desert, but I went with it anyway and followed his advice. I never knew how beautiful the desert, this desert, could be. From every angle, at every time of day … the colors. Awasi, a Relais and Chateau property in San Pedro de Atacama, and their staff, did not disappoint … an interesting and authentic local property, fresh and creative food, an energetic, caring and engaging staff, and attention to absolutely every single detail. Every guest is assigned their own guide/trekker and 4×4 vehicle for the entirety of their stay. As luck would have it, I had two guides with me, Jota and Thibeaux, both very experienced and knowledgeable (also fun and funny) and who have worked with serious trekkers over the years. I am not a serious trekker, but they always made me feel as though I was the most important thing in their day. What a joy they both were. My first afternoon there we sat down and discussed my goals for the time I was to be there and developed a plan/calendar from that discussion. It was at that time that I apparently told them that I wanted to challenge myself, but still make it home in one piece. Each day we trekked, (always to a new and interesting place, i.e. the salt flats, the petroglyphs, canyons, etc) they added a little more difficulty, gradually increasing the elevations, and offered me technical instruction when appropriate and necessary. We’d hike in the morning and in the afternoons, never in the middle of the day when the heat was at its worst. One morning we left at 5:30 a.m. to drive to the geysers in time for the sunrise. On the way back they stopped at a scenic overlook and cooked me breakfast out of the back of the 4×4. On what would have been my last day to trek before heading to the Calama airport the next morning, Jota and Thibeaux convinced me that I could trek to the summit of Toco volcano (elevation approx 18,400 ft). I took a leap of faith and extended my trip an extra day in order to make the ascent (Tom and the Awasi staff made it easy for me to do this by handling all of those last minute travel logistics also). I hadn’t come prepared with the appropriate clothing to do the trek, so Jota and Thibeaux loaned me socks, gloves, long underwear, a heavy parka and a knit beanie. And, from the Toco base at 17,000 ft, with their encouragement and gentle instruction along the way when I became uncertain, I made it. An hour and 4o minutes for the ascent and 45 minutes for the descent. It was hard, and I had plenty of doubts along the way and I could NOT have done it without the two of them. On the way back to San Pedro, we stopped for lunch (again out of the back of the 4×4), and then they called ahead and made arrangements for a massage upon my return. When we got back to Awasi, the staff was waiting outside the front gate to congratulate me. A day that I will never, ever forget. And all because of their encouragement. That night at dinner, Pablo, the sommelier, recommended an infusion (tea) with rica rica to help me recover from the affects of the altitude. In sum, a phenomenal leg to the trip that resulted in achieving several personal bests and an unforgettable time in an infinitely beautiful desert.
Lastly, back to Tom … I goofed up my own last day of the trip in Santiago by unwittingly packing an expired personal covid test kit. Tom stepped in and fixed that as well. He made my last days in Santiago memorable and very enjoyable on extremely short notice. Kudos and thank you.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL I traveled to Peru in June, 2021 with my son and son-in-law. Our original plan was scuttled by COVID and our original outfitter. That’s when I found Tom Damon. Tom’s expertise on the area was immediately clear. With Peru just re-opening from COVID closures, Tom put together an itinerary that let us experience Machu Picchu and the Lares Trek. The agenda was perfectly paced – time to acclimate after arriving in Cusco followed by challenging hikes with stunning scenery. The guides were extremely knowledgeable – we learned so much about Peruvian life, past and present. The support staff attended to every detail – making sure we had appropriate supplies each day, great meals, taking great pictures and more. Our journey included classic Inca sites in Cusco, Sachsayhuaman, Chinchero, Ollantaytambo, a 3-day trek to Lares and finally the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. We enjoyed delicious meals in local restaurants and while camping. While a few COVID restrictions and closures remained, Tom and the local guides worked around them so all we noticed was the non-existent crowds – we felt like we had the place to ourselves! Overall, we had a fantastic trip and happily give a 5-star rating.
Tom did an excellent job putting together our trip to Santiago, Patagonia and Easter Island. Tom kept up with the current political environment in Santiago, and at the last minute changed our hotel destination to keep us safely away from the demonstrations. Our guide Brenda, and our driver Marcos, did an outstanding job. The day trip to Valparaiso was definitely worth it. The Explora lodge in Patagonia is amazing. The scenery is so beautiful that it almost looks fake. Make sure you take advantage of the horseback riding. And the Explora lodge on Easter Island is equally amazing. The food at both locations was great.
Our February 2020 trip to Patagonia exceeded our expectations. Tom’s itinerary was spot-on, the hotels were perfect for each location, the in-country flights and all the transfers to and from airports and towns were seamless. Our guides in each location were amazing; they were extremely knowledgeable and we enjoyed the time we spent touring and hiking with them.
I highly recommend our last Patagonia hotel, Tierra Patagonia, next to Torre de Paione National Park.. The hotel is designed to fit beautifully into the environment. It is a luxury hotel with the most amazing staff and guides. The activities we participated in each day, especially the hikes, were amazing. It was the perfect way to spend our last 5 days in Patagonia.
This is the second time we have used Tom Damon and once again, he did not disappoint. I highly recommend him and his team and hope to use him on future trips.
Tom was great throughout the whole process. It’s the accommodations in Puerto Natales that perturbed me. They would not accommodate us for dinner and vegetarian (which we requested was not available). The room was right over a busy street and a glaring sign kept me up all night.
Outside of that our guides were wonderful and the trip was a success.
Tom listened to our needs and organized a flawlessly executed trip for us to Patagonia. We started by flying to Buenos Aires where an efficient transfer was organized to get us to the domestic airport for our flight to Ushuaia where we were met by our guide, Gascon, for the next 3 days. We were interested in bird watching and Gascon is an expert birding guide and found us many of the endemic species of the area. A highlight of the area was a visit to Martillo Island and Haberton ranch where we saw three species of penguins and on the way back had close encounters with two humpback whales. We then boarded the Stella Australis which was to be our home for the next 4 nights as we sailed towards Punta Arenas along the Beagle Channel. We had outstandingly good weather (not so good for the melting glaciers!) with visits to Cape Horn, multiple glaciers and a giant penguin colony. The water was dead calm for much of the trip with one day having a high of 73, no wind and no clouds in the sky (very unusual). After our arrival in Punta Arenas we were efficiently transferred to the Explora Lodge in Torres del Paine National Park. This was our third visit to an Explora Lodge and it did not disappoint with outstanding hikes and gourmet food to come home to, as well as more good, albeit windy, weather. Our final leg of the trip involved two nights in Santiago at the excellent Singulair Lasterria Hotel with a great day out exploring the city with Katia, followed by a night flight home to the snow in New York. All in all a great way to see Patagonia.
Tom picked the perfect ship for the Galapagos and arranged the perfect schedule in Peru. Although we have mostly previously been independent travelers, the finer details of this trip were much nicer than we could have arranged for ourselves: a cabin on the La Pinta (in Galapagos) that was convenient and did not lend to motion sickness; really excellent specific hotel rooms (including a few happy surprises in the form of upgrades). Our guide Romulo in Peru was one of the friendliest people we’ve ever met and uniquely positioned to inform us on the world of Machu Picchu (since he grew up there). Very considerate of our abilities but also challenged us.
I would also say that the itinerary as a whole was masterfully planned by Tom. He put us in the Sacred Valley in Peru for two nights before we moved on to Machu Picchu. Not only was the hotel amazing (Sol y Luna), and the sights spectacular (I loved the weaving demonstrations and the villages of Ollantaytambo and Pisac and others), but two extra nights at altitude meant we had no real problems with altitude on Machu Picchu itself. Despite crazy high windy roads, our driver was excellent and we never had a moments anxiety. So we had a truly fulfilling trip-of-a-lifetime we dreamed of, unencumbered by illness or discomfort. We really will never forget this or stop talking about it.
Tom Damon was great to work with from the first call. Our goal was an active trip to Macchu Pichu and the Galapagos and Tom delivered. Guides were great and luckily in better shape than my wife and I. Thanks to all!!
One of the most distinguishing aspects of Tom and his team is that they really listened to us and were very responsive and flexible in helping us design the right trip for us. The staff on the ground in Peru was very easy-going and, at the same time, very professional and on top of everything; we really feel like we got a wonderful sense of the people and the culture through them. While we consider ourselves seasoned travelers, their insight and assistance at the airports was welcome and especially helpful when we encountered last-minute delays and the general airport chaos that ensued
Our trip was excellent. Tom Damon was very knowledgeable: He had recently been to the Galapagos and traveled aboard the same vessel he recommended for me and my two family members who were also on this trip. The Santa Cruz II is the sister ship to the National Geographic Explorer which I had already checked out. We got better rooms on the Santa Cruz II and it cost less than the alternative. Some of the naturalists are freelancers, so we got a naturalist we might otherwise have had on an alternative ship.
In Quito, we were treated to what might be called a Wendy Perrin Special Moment. We (just the three of us plus our guide) were taken to the roof of Santo Domingo Church for a tour and heavy appetizers after dark. Two lovely local ladies hosted us (one was the caterer and the other was dressed in local garb). It was very special and exclusive. I don’t know if it was Tom Damon or the local tour guide who made it happen, but it was very memorable. Thanks. We had a wonderful time in Quito and in the Galapagos. Blessed by great weather and very friendly fellow travelers aboard the ship.
We had nothing but positive experiences with Tom Damon and his team. Tom spent a great deal of time with us at the beginning, first on a long phone call and then re many emails as we refined the trip and itinerary, which became an 18 day trip to Chile and Peru. Everything was taken care of, including hotels, flights and a private guide and driver in Peru. During the trip, Tom was in touch about several in-country flight changes. Having someone else deal with all of these details allowed us to relax and maximize our enjoyment of the trip.
We had a two week trip to Chile, one week in Patagonia and second in Atacama desert area. All recommendations of hotels and activities were spot on and the trip ran very smoothly. We had never been to South America and this was a Wonderful introduction to the continent.
Our 2017 trip had to be canceled at the last moment. We contacted Tom and he immediately addressed our issue and promptly rescheduled our trip for the following year with minimal effort on our part.
Now that we have returned from the rescheduled two week trip to Patagonia and have had time to reflect on the majesty of the experience, we’d like to take this opportunity to thank Tom for his support and share some comments.
Tom listened to our needs and wants and architected a super trip that touched on every one of our requests. The areas we visited, the lodges he selected to include ideal rooms and cabin locations, the transportation between venues (both plane and car) were all perfect and the logistics executed flawlessly. The local guides picked by Tom were all very professional, friendly and tireless in their efforts to share with us the history of the area. We can’t imagine a better way to experience Patagonia than the trip itinerary laid out by Tom.
Lastly, Toms team came to our aid at the very end of the trip when the homeward flight we booked was suddenly canceled. His team negotiated with the airline staff on our behalf and secured hotel space, meals, and local transportation. The last thing you want after enjoying a wonderful trip is a hassle trying to get home.
Many thanks, Tom and yet another “trip of a lifetime” created by one of Wendys talented TTEs.
Tom Damon does it again! After having to cancel our trip at the last minute, he helped us reschedule for our next available dates. Our trip included our first ever WOW Moment. We had Max the driver for our entire trip and he was wonderful. Our two guides were smart, knowledgeable, and offered their personal experience which added to the experience. We spent a few days with Valparaiso as our home base. Our hotel was an amazing boutique property set in the hills with a room overlooking the port. Tom arranged some great lunches where we got to enjoy local food and wine. From the city, we went to the wine country and visited three different valleys and had private tours at two vineyards and a gorgeous lunch overlooking the countryside at Vina Vik. Our second hotel contained a museum and we could peer right inside from the atrium outside our door. We then moved on to Santiago and had a tour of the major sites and took the cable car to the overlook to see the city. Santiago is a big bustling city, but old city areas are very walkable and have the Pre-Columbian Museum which is a must see. We had reservations at Restaurante 99 and Borago, both on the World’s Best list and specializing in Chilean Cuisine. The last day our driver picked us up for our surprise WOW Moment. We were treated to a private-chef-cooked lunch at Motemei. The chef created a 6-course meal right before our eyes. It was an amazing experience! (Thanks, Wendy and Tom!).
Brian McCaffrey – May 2017 – Peru including Puerto Maldonado, Cusco/ Sacred Valley/ Machu Picchu, and Lake Titicaca. Travel was a two-person trip with an accent on active experiences such as hiking and sea kayaking. Tom worked with us to construct a tailored itinerary for a two-week adventure-filled trip. The in-country experiences were extraordinary in all aspects – we stayed at beautiful properties, the guides and drivers were knowledgeable and friendly, and the individual unique experiences we planned were incredible including a cooking class in Cusco, a stay in a tree house one night in the rainforest, and a 2.5 hour sea kayaking excursion on Lake Titicaca. Due to a late schedule change, Tom needed to advance the entire trip itinerary 2 weeks. He successfully rescheduled everything and still got us into his preferred properties. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Peru and would use Tom again to plan our next adventure to South America.
Here are the reasons we like how Tom arranged our trip.
1. Placed an agent at Lima airport when we transfer from international airline to domestic airline and provided lunch sacks
2. Vegetarian meals were provided for me when I traveled with my husband and my mom
3. Recommended Amazon cruise that fit our budget
4. Available throughout our trip and solved problems
5. Quality and service of Tom’s partners are excellent in South America.
6. Refunded money for unsatisfactory experience in Rio de Janeiro
Tom Damon and his team’s attention to detail was comprehensive and made us feel well looked after ( or as my wife said, we were treated like children which were not a pejorative assessment just that the guides and the ground operations were terrific and flawless ).
They had selected partners who were fully committed to making our trip memorable and without stress. The cruise was terrific and our guide at Cusco and the rest, Rosa was the best we have ever had anywhere
Tom Damon was a superstar from planning to execution. Tom listened carefully to what was important to use and designed a trip that was perfect for us. Our guide who accompanied us through Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu grew up right outside of Machu Picchu Pueblo and had worked with archaeologists at the site. His knowledge of the history, culture, and location added so much to our overall trip. We had the best drivers, which was important with all the mountain driving. Our hotels were top notch and we even were upgraded at a few sites. He even secured reservations to Astrid and Gaston. Along the way, we had a few hiccups in the plan, and Tom and his team were right there to help us. We would take another trip with Tom and his team in a heartbeat.
Tom is the best. I’ve done two trips with him, to Peru and Patagonia. My daughter and I are hiking fools, and it Peru, he sent us on a gorgeous trek so remote that in three days, we never saw another tourist. Then we joined the busier Inca trail to approach Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate, a view you will never forget.
In Patagonia, our two-week itinerary through Argentina and Chile was faultless, seamless. When things run that smoothly, you don’t always recognize how much effort it takes to make everything look so easy.
When an East Coast snowstorm blew away my homebound flight, Tom was on top of it, rebooking me on a new flight a day later before all the seats disappeared, arranging for a memorable day of sightseeing in Santiago, and even securing a refund from my original airline.
South America is neglected by U.S. travelers; don’t discount its vibrant cultures and extraordinary scenery. When you book your trip, use Tom!
Great trip from start to finish. Our trip was three weeks in South America during January 2017. Fly fishing in Patagonia, Volcanos in the Lake District, Easter Island and a land based Galápagos Islands stay. The drivers and guides were knowledgeable and a pleasure to be with.
We received some very disappointing news from National Geographic/Lindblad last Friday. They contacted us to confirm that the upcoming (1/26/17) Antarctica trip had been canceled as the Orion suffered main engine failure. This also necessitated canceling our Patagonia trip booked with Tom Damon, Southwind Adventures.
Happy to report that Tom provided truly outstanding support. Despite the Holiday period, he immediately responded to our email. He explained our options, offered to re-book and sent a revised proposal for our new travel dates. Tom eased our pain, guided us through the options and provided us with first rate professional support at a time of frustration.
Yet another reason why your Trusted Travel Experts are the very best.
Continued thanks for supporting our travel ventures.
When I first contacted Tom, I was considering a trip to Patagonia. We had only a week, (thanksgiving week), and after our conversation he thoughtfully suggested Ecuador and the Galapagos islands. I did not realize just how far Patagonia was, and we would be spending quite a bit of time traveling to and fro with little time just enjoying the country. Patagonia just requires a longer trip… So once I came to that realization, I asked Tom what he would suggest for our family, and he suggested Ecuador. It turned out to be a great suggestion… flights are no longer than Europe, and for us, the time change was 3 hours, which is much better than 9, so no jet lag. We ended up taking the Eclipse on a week long tour of the Galapagos. We had so many pinch-me moments from the ship, to the sunsets, and most importantly, the wildlife!! I would definitely recommend Tom for South America trip planning. In fact, we are thinking about Peru for this summer.
Just back from Argentina, where Tom Damon arranged a fantastic few days for us. Some of my favorite hikes of my life, which is saying a lot (Dolomites, Kauaii, Cape Breton I., etc.), with a fantastic local guide. Good hotel choices, outstanding recommendation of where to go in S. America. Super patient and expert to work with. Really outstanding!
Thank you for adding so much to another amazing experience for us, Wendy!
Tom Damon did a great job in planning this 9-day trip for us: Lima, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cusco. The accommodations, meals and transfers were all first-rate, but the highlight of the trip was the top-notch guides Tom arranged for us: warm and welcoming locals whose graciousness was only exceeded by their deep knowledge and passion. Thank you Romulo, Miguel, Erika and Erika! We especially enjoyed the one-day hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and highly recommend it — and Southwind Adventures — for anyone considering such a trip. Truly amazing on every level.
Tom Damon and his staff were great from the planning through to the execution. Given the parameters of it being an active family trip with 2 teenagers, Tom created an itinerary that kept us busy and engaged throughout the week. The sites chosen were perfect, the tour guides were terrific and the accommodations were fabulous. We learned and experienced so much. We would definitely use Tom Damon and his team again when planning our next trip to South America.
Tom Damon and his team did an excellent job in planning and executing our trip to Patagonia. They listened carefully to what we were interested in and quickly reserved hotels/resorts and guides that fit our needs.
The air travel office was very quick to respond to an unexpected international flight delay. They rearranged connecting flights and transfers without a hitch.
Tom Damon did an excellent job of taking the time to understand my travel style, listening to my interests and concerns, and then customizing a trip to Peru for our group of six that was truly extraordinary. Tom and Cynthia (who assisted with the coordination) were very accommodating throughout the planning process as we went through several tweaks to the itinerary to get it just right. This was my first time using a Trusted Travel Expert and I felt they were invaluable in the planning process, saving hours of time in research.
Our trip was the perfect balance of luxury and adventure. The quality of the guides, tours, hotels, and meals all were top notch and spot on. There were many transfers throughout our trip and the coordination and support we received while in Peru were all seamless.
Tom helped us plan a trip to Peru that we returned from a couple weeks ago. We wanted to experience Peru on a very personal level by interacting with the people of Peru through service as well as experiencing the beauty, climate and culture as tourists. Tom planned a trip for us that exceeded our expectations in every way.
Our trip truly could not have been planned or executed any better. Tom nailed everything from the big-picture flow of the trip right down to arranging meaningful service experiences. It was exactly the kind of experience and adventure we were after and every part of the trip was much better than we had even hoped. We were amazed at the beauty and the variety of Peru and our personal contact with the people of the Sacred Valley was incredibly impactful.
As advertised, Tom’s staff in Peru took great care of us. We were accompanied by guides and drivers throughout the duration of the trip who were incredibly knowledgeable and personable. We learned so much about the culture, climate and history of the country and became very fond of our guides and even our driver. Every detail was considered and our travels were safe and stress-free.
We highly recommend Tom Damon for anyone planning an adventure trip to South America!
Tom Damon did an outstanding job making the arrangements for our trip. We had a couple of unusual issues arise, but he took them in stride and handled them efficiently, never losing his cool as a result of our changing our minds from time to time. He was always available on short notice during the planning process. His guides were outstanding, particularly Rosie at Machu Picchu, and the accommodations met or exceeded our expectations.
Traveled in mid-March 2015 to Lima, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cusco. Our experience with Tom and the team on the ground in Peru was first-rate and seamless. During the planning process, Tom was very attentive to our special interests and the ways we liked to spend our time. This was a very rewarding dialogue as our experience was at once rigorous, and culturally and historically enriching. I would highly recommend Tom and his team to create a memorable time in this beautiful and friendly country!
We just returned from a custom tour of the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu and Iguazu Falls arranged by Tom (February, 2015). While February is considered rainy season, we had good weather with very little rain only at night. Everything was just perfect and the execution by the staff was flawless for the entire trip. All of the guides and accommodations were first-rate. We would highly recommend Tom Damon/Southwind Adventures.