Penguins and Seals | Antarctica | The Ultimate Travel Company

CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA TEAM

MEET CLAIRE

Claire specialises in travel to South and Central America, as well as Antarctica.
Claire | Expert Page | Ultimate Travel Company

CLAIRE

When I was thirteen years old my father’s job took him to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic for three years. Whilst my sister and I were shipped off to boarding school in the UK – the long summers spent on Hispaniola awakened a passion in me for the Spanish language and Latin America, I have been returning ever since.

Before University I took a Gap year and travelled down through Central America before arriving in Quito, Ecuador where I spent several months living and working as a volunteer teaching English.

I spent two years of my early twenties living in the far north of Chile, teaching English and hopping on long distance coaches to explore new parts of the region at any given opportunity. Upon returning to the UK, I sought a job which allowed me to escape my desk and delve back into my explorations at least part of the time. I have now been in the Latin America and Antarctica travel industry for over a decade. I embarked upon my career in travel from the sleepy Buckinghamshire village of Waddesdon and traded that in for four years in the urban jungle of Singapore, in 2016. The pandemic brought me back to the UK where I was fortunately able to remain in travel, honing my Antarctic knowledge as a Polar Specialist for a UK operator before joining Ultimate in May 2022.

Latin America and Antarctica as destinations rarely disappoint, but it’s the details that really make the magic. I come to work each day to make sure that each trip is as special as it can be.

Claire | Expert Page | Ultimate Travel Company

MY FAVOURITE PLACE

This is a tough one as there are so many magical spots, Chile will always feel like home to me and is such a stunning country of extremes. That said, in terms of cities, it is hard to beat Buenos Aires. A tremendous patchwork of clearly defined neighbourhoods each with their own identity – stroll the wide avenues of Recoleta admiring the Belle Epoque architecture, hunt for antiques in the romantic, cobblestoned San Telmo, snap photos of the colourful Caminito in working class La Boca, dine in the refurbished warehouses of the modern Puerto Madero. There is such a vibrancy to the city – it boasts all the glamour of a European capital with a distinctly Latin soul. Argentine passion exudes through the local football rivalries as much as through the sensational Tango. There is no need to search hard for beauty in Buenos Aires but the city’s hidden gems – local markets and speakeasy bars of back alleys are truly a delight – exploring with a local guide is an absolute must. Don’t even get me started on the steak and wine!

MY FAVOURITE HOTEL

Tierra Patagonia is simply stunning. Beautifully set into the mountainous landscape, the luxury lodge is barely visible on the approach. Just outside Torres del Paine National Park, overlooking Lake Sarmiento, the all-inclusive lodge provides the perfect base to explore the jewel in Patagonia’s crown. Incredible guiding and excursions menu – both inside and outside the park; great food and wine and a beautiful spa to unwind after a long day’s trekking. Customer service is next level – the height of professionalism and personal touches. The icing on the cake was an incredible puma sighting in the park which made my Tierra stay all the more magical.

MY MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE

Arriving in Antarctica on my first trip; after two rather rocky days crossing the Drake Passage with no land in sight, flinging back the curtains on the morning we arrived to the most incredible pristine expanse of the White Continent, genuinely moved me to tears.

I expected to be enchanted by the penguins, enraptured by the history and numbed by the cold. I was not prepared for the impact this dramatic, inhospitable land would have, for the magnitude of the scenery or the silence or indeed the beauty and versatility of the ice. I was completely spellbound.

MY TOP TIPS

  • Even a few words of Spanish (or Portuguese for Brazil) go a long way in Latin America, not everyone speaks English and locals are hugely encouraging of any effort made to communicate in their language
  • Classically Latin America was a tough destination for the vegetarian traveller, with the term often interpreted as ‘doesn’t eat red meat’ but times are changing, and certainly large cities offer a variety of vegetarian and vegan restaurants – please do flag dietary requirements in advance to be sure you are well-catered for
  • Be sure to take the time to experience the destination and not just from behind the (phone) camera lens, I have certainly been guilty of not soaking in a perfect sunset or two out of eagerness to try and snap the perfect shot
  • Don’t skip Peru’s capital Lima – it is worth a couple of days for the gastronomy alone and Barranco’s Hotel B is the pinnacle of boutique city hotel excellence. Watch out for the pisco sours – they pack more of a punch than it seems!
DESTINATIONS

SPECIALIST AREAS

CLAIRE’S TRAVEL JOURNAL

CLAIRE’S TRAVEL JOURNAL

Claire | Expert Page | Ultimate Travel Company
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