Just a quick introduction. This is also my first West Africa trip - and my first Exodus trip as well, although I have been to a few other African destinations. Looked at one or two other places with "another adventure travel company", such as Ghana and Burkina Faso, but this one didn't need visas, which is handy when booking at short notice. I'm flying out from Manchester but I'm supposed to join the tour flight in Lisbon (in theory).
Great to hear from you! Yes, it is good not to have to worry about getting visas in advance, isn't it!
I'm coming down from the North of Scotland, but will be joining the group at Heathrow as I can't travel direct from Inverness to Lisbon. I'll look forward to meeting you, hopefully in Lisbon, but otherwise when we arrive in Dakar.
Jo, sounds like an expedition just to get to the airport! Personally, I think I've only got a scheduled 90 minutes to transfer in Lisbon, and I can't help feeling my baggage may follow me around Africa two days behind. Happened to me in Uganda a couple of years ago.
Where else have you been with Exodus? I've been with Explore and Journey Latin America before, but the itineries in the brochures all look pretty similar these days.
I hope you have better luck with your luggage this time!
This will be my fourth trip with Exodus. I have also done the South African Walking safari, which was a wonderful introduction to that part of the world; the Gorillas and Masai Mara trip; and last year I went on the Highlights of Botswana trip, which was one of the best holidays I have ever had. The wildlife was amazing!
Like you, I have travelled with Explore too, and have always enjoyed it. Both companies are really excellent. Yes, the trips do look very similar in many respects, and sometimes it is quite hard to choose.
Looks like you're fond of Africa too! My Uganda trip was also to see the gorillas (that was with Explore) and I went to Namibia with them - my first balloon flight over the desert at dawn was probably the highlight. I've also been to Kenya a few times and Tanzania, as well as Egypt and Morocco. The Okavango Delta is on my "bucket list", but there are so many other places I really want to visit - as far as Africa goes, I think Ethiopia is a must and I've had my eyes on Mali for a while, but it seems to have been dropped by most companies. Not sure if there is some sort of insurgency going on at the moment. Currently I'm chasing up my yellow fever certificate, which seems to have gone walkies so I might have to get it done again before I go. I wondered why you would need one coming from the UK, but I think it might be when we cross from Senegal to Gambia that we'll actually have to show it. I should be pretty immune by the time I get there...
When I booked they said there were five people already signed up for this trip . Wonder if they'll come onto the board?
Yes, I do love Africa! Like you, I have sometimes been tempted elsewhere (India and Nepal with Explore and also with Himalayan Kingdoms) but I always seem to gravitate back.
I'd like to pick your brains on Namibia if I may when we meet, as it is an area I'm very interested in visiting. The various Ethiopian options all sound fascinating too, and I notice that Zimbabwe is now featuring in a few brochures again as it is becoming more stable. That's certainly on the wish list.
I do hope your yellow fever certificate turns up. It would be irritating to have to do it again whilst you are still covered.
I think we may be up to seven now. I'm very much looking forward to meeting everybody.
Yes, I think the after-dinner conversations with fellow travellers are part of the experience. The people on these types of trips are usually a fairly worldly bunch. We might be doing some mutual brain-picking (if I can spare any) because it sounds as if you've been to Bhutan when you talk about Himalayan kingdoms? I've also travelled to India, Nepal and Tibet with Explore but I think I'd like to go to Bhutan before I settle down in front of the fire with my pipe and slippers. I've been travelling regularly for a quarter-of-a-century now and I still have quite a long wish-list; it's always interesting to compare it with other what other people find interesting. Besides Africa, my personal favourite destinations are South America and the Middle East.
I decided to upload a picture for my avatar (the default one reminded me of somebody I used to know).
I'm afraid I haven't been to Bhutan - yet! It's another one on my wish list, as is Tibet. For treks in that area I can strongly recommend Himalayan Kingdoms (I think they have now changed their name to Mountain Kingdoms) who have a very interesting list of treks for all abilities, and who also arrange mountainering expeditions for those with a better head for heights than mine!
Outside Africa and the Himalayas one of my best holidays ever was in Japan. It was run by Explore, but sadly seems to have been discontinued. The walking was perhaps less interesting, but we were accommodated in traditional ryokan rather than international hotels, and the hospitality was amazing. And the gardens and temples were magnificent.
Your avatar is a vast improvement on the default option! It looks as though you were somewhere rather interesting at the time?
I suppose the penguins are a bit of a giveaway - yes, it was Chester Zoo! Seriously, it was Port Lockroy on the Antarctic Peninsula in 2003. I went with JLA via Buenos Aires and Tierra del Fuego. One place I can honestly say it felt like being away from it all, and I really didn't want to get back to work! I'm afraid my ancient and frail body is probably no longer up to long days of trekking; years of football and skiing in the dim and distant past seem to have combined to give me a rather dodgy knee these days. And like you, my head for heights isn't great - I'm slightly nervous about what awaits us in this cliff ascent up to the village in Senegal (sweaty palm time?). I suppose at least it's optional if it looks a bit daunting.
I did go to Japan back in 2010, on a more conventional tour. It was September, but I wish I could have gone in the Spring when the famous cherry blossom is out - it looks stunning in pictures. And unfortunately, Mt Fuji didn't have its spectacular snowy top. But the bullet train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto was great.
Doing all these trips is one beneficial side-effect of taking voluntary redundancy when our site was closed in 2009. So much better than having 2-3 weeks per year!
Ah yes, Chester Zoo is a wonderful place! And I'm sure Port Lockroy is too, although I confess that I haven't been to the latter. It sounds a wonderful holiday.
Voluntary redundancy certainly does have its good points! That happened to me a while back too and for I while I made the most of my leisure. I am now happily self-employed, and one great benefits of that is that I can take my holidays whenever I like.
I'm a little bit apprehensive about the cliff ascent in Senegal too. I'm no longer up to long treks either, although I do still enjoy shorter, more moderate walks. I shall probably be Tail End Charlie, especially on the steep bits, but I would imagine that as it will be very hot nobody will want to go all that fast. I am going to take a walking pole with me as I'm told that the path is a bit rocky in places. Sometimes I have found that the severity of the climbs are a bit exaggerated in the trip notes, so perhaps it will be a lot easier than it sounds. But it's good to be able to opt out, and if I feel unhappy about when I see it it I shall certainly do so. One thing I really do not enjoy is vertiginous drops!
Indeed. I'm fine up Blackpool Tower or any other high building, and even at 2000 feet in a balloon, but I don't like scrambling along ledges - which I have had occasion to do on a few trips. It's not the height that kills you, it's hitting the ground!
Don't know if you've noticed but I think they forgot to amend the accommodation key in the revised notes for the trip for Days 2 and 4. I assume the new notes should say "FC" for the Lampoul desert camp on the way to St Louis. Always find sleeping in tents a bit embarrassing - everybody else snores! It's also a bit confusing that the text for Wassadou says we stay at a "riverside camp" whereas the key says Basic Hotel. I've emailed the Operations Exec (Aurelija ...) to confirm one way or another. I suppose the main thing is it should have a roof.
The symbol next to the thread says this trip is now a "Hot Topic"!
Yes, funnily enought I was just reading through the notes again last night and noticed that. I'm sure your assumtion is right, but always as well to double check! I also notice the baggage allowance is now 0 kgs! However, I am going to be guided by the earlier trip notes on that one. It was given as 20 kg back then.
It was good to note that a money changer will vist our hotel on the first morning. I was wondering about that, as I think it unlikely that the airport exchange would be open when we arrive. That makes life a whole lot easier.
Good to know that we now qualify as a 'Hot Topic'!"
Yes, I thought I travelled light but 0 kg is pushing it a bit even for me. Not only are we a hot topic, but your post activity has gone up to two stars. I'm determined to get a star for myself - I haven't been given one since I was about 6 years old (probably for drawing)!
So I have! And I'm sure you'll get one too before too long!
Aurelija tells me that the accommodation at Wassadou on Day 5 is actually in bungalows. (That means you need to shake your shoes out in the morning before you put them on.)
Thanks for that. Bungalows sound rather good, but I hope the contents of the shoes aren't too interesting! My pet hate is cockroaches, but I could do without scorpions too.
I've also been in contact with Aurelija. I asked about mosquito nets, and she confirmed that they were provided in hotels that don't have air conditioning. I also asked about taking gifts to Iwol as this is sometimes expected on visits to tribal villages. She replied that it was not expected, but people could if they wanted.
Not too fond of scorpions, but then they probably don't like me very much and I'm much bigger than them. I suppose people will turn up with biros and crayons and stuff that they can use in the schools. I did read somewhere that Exodus and similar companies officially disapprove of giving items to individuals in these places, and that they should be donated to places like schools if people want to. Do you think air conditioning actually stops mosquitos from going about their business? They seem to be determined little so-and-sos whenever I've come across them!
Just received the Exodus "Wildlife Encounter" brochure, and I was looking at the North Pole trip. Very enticing but I'm not sure that at £16000 it's something I'll be booking in the next couple of years.
Wonder how many more posts I need to do before I get my star.
Ant, you've got yout gold star! Congratulations!
Yes, I've heard the same about giving presents to individuals. And I remeber one very unpleasant experience in Thailand some years ago when we visited one of the hill tribes (the Akha). As soon as we arrived we were surrounded by villagers of all ages, pulling and shoving to get to the front demanding gifts quite aggressively. It was almost a mob experience, and quite intimidating. I might take a few biros or something, but that experience made me slightly disenchanted.
I'm not too sure about air conditioning. I'm also not too sure how many of our hotels will actually have it anyway. But I might invest in one of those electric coils just in case (assuming that the electricity is working in such hotels!) And loads of Deet of course!
I've just received the 'Wildlife Encouter' brochure too. There are certainly some very exciting trips in there, although I agree that the thought of spending £16,000 on a short holiday does make the eyes water a bit. There is a very attractive new one in Namibia I liked the look of though. And there is also one to Malawi and South Luangwa (also in the main brochure) that looks most appealing. I really must look at another continent at some point though, if I can drag myself away from Africa.
The Namibia trip seems to be mostly northern Namibia, particularly Etosha, which seems strange as it is described as a "desert" safari and the main desert is down in the southern Namib-Naukluft area, and along the Skeleton Coast. Etosha is more semi-arid, scrubby terrain. Looking through the brochure reminded me I still have to "do" Madagascar, and outside Africa I've long wanted to see the Komodo dragons in the wild. I went to Java and Bali a couple of years ago, but trips to Komodo usually depend on getting on board some sort of cruise, which is expensive for single travellers. At least these days they have stopped the practice of baiting the dragons in front of a tourist hide, and you actually have to track and find them in order to get your photos.
I've decided I'm going to need another lifetime to see everywhere I want to see.
Yes, the new Namibia trip doesn't cover nearly as much ground as the other trips in the brochures. I think that's because the focus is more on wildlife than anything else. Provided you don't mind long days in a vehicle (which I don't) the other itineraries offer more variety though.
Madagascar looks wonderful! So does Borneo and the Orang Utans. Komodo dragons are fascinating creatures too, and if you actually now have the opportunity to track them that does sound much more appealing.
You're right - one life is definitely not enough!
A gradual thaw taking place down here, so I'm coming out of hibernation. The snow seemed a bit hit-and-miss up in Scotland, though I suspect they're a lot more used to it than down in the south-east. Always amusing to see the way 5 cm of snow causes such mayhem that it inevitably becomes the big headline story on the national news. The only thing that really concerns me is if I have to catch a flight in those conditions; but it never seemed to be a problem when I used to go skiing in Alberta. Hopefully, things will be moving in the right direction by the end of March. Are you flying down to Heathrow or travelling overland? It will be a little strange putting the clocks on the night before, only to turn our watches back to GMT when we get to Dakar.
The saga of my yellow fever certificate continues. I am now on my second circuit of the various NHS branches involved (GP practice, vaccination centres (all three!), local primary care trust, regional..., national....), none of whom seem to have any idea how to get hold of the records - a bit like pass the parcel. I don't know if you've ever read any Kafka, but I think now I know where he was coming from.
Any idea how many have booked up for the trip now? Still no new takers on the board, I see.
I'm pleased to hear that the thaw has now started, and I understand that warmer weather is on the way! I do hope that it will remain that way now, and that you will have no problems with your flight from Manchester. That's the last thing you need with such a tight connection.
I'm flying down the previous day via Gatwick (no alternative from Inverness) and staying overnight with my brother, who lives not too far from Heathrow. He is very kindly putting me up on the way home too, so I will be able to sleep off any affects from the over-night flight before travelling onwards.
Yes, it will be odd to have to change the clocks twice! However, it means it will seem like a bit of a lie-in after our first proper night in Dakar. I always like that bit about moving the clocks back!
Your ongoing Yellow Fever saga does sound a bit protracted. Surely somebody must have a record of it somewhere. But I do hope it turns up, and that you won't have to have it done again.
I have not had any updates about numbers. I know it's not fully booked yet because I checked the 'Prices and Availibilty' bit on the web site, and it is not yet saying anything to indicate that it's almost full, so at present it still looks like being a smallish group.
Still no new takers on the board. If anyone else is following this conversation please do join in. It would be lovely to 'meet' you.
Decided that they're never going to find my jab yellow fever details, so I've opted to have it done again next week. The local clinic was asking for £100, but there is a Travel Clinic about 7 miles away who are only charging £50 for jab + certificate. I know they always say "shop around" on consumer programmes, but it seems ridiculous that NHS charges can vary so much between neighboring authorities. What anti-malarials are you taking? I've been given Malarone, which I think are the same ones I took in Uganda (one a day).
Hard luck - how frustrating! It's amazing how the prices do vary from one oganisation to another, but £50 seems very fair. That's what I paid two years ago when I had it done, but some people were asking a lot more.
I'm using Malarone too. It seems to work very well for me, and I have never had any side effects from it, so I'm more than happy to be using it again.
Have you received your joining instructions and flight documents yet? Seems to getting a little late (normally 2-3 weeks prior to departure).
Yes, I received them about a week ago, followed a couple of days ago by a change to the group flight departure time from Heathrow. So if you haven't received yours yet it looks as though they may have got lost in the system!
Very much looking forward to meeting you soon.
Aaaargh! Rang up Exodus who told me the instructions had been sent on 1st March, but they would send them again. I normally use Outlook Express for my email, but I'm on Virgin Media so they all come through that portal. So I went into Virgin and checked in spam and, sure enough, there they were...even though nothing from Exodus had ever been binned before! Typical that they let all sorts of unwanted junk through but hold back something important.
Anyway, all's well that ends well, I think. See you hopefully in Lisbon or at Dakar passport control, along with our mystery companions. I'll be the one looking stressed.
Aaaaaargh indeed! I sometimes wonder at the logic of technology! But I'm relieved to hear that all is well now.
I'll watch out for you in Lisbon. I was, of course, going to look for a man in a red puffa jacket surrounded by penguins! But watching for somebody looking stressed should narrow it down a bit. I will be the one looking bored, as we have a 5 hour wait in Lisbon for the ongoing flight!
I hope you have a problem-free journey and an easy onward connection.
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