Turtle, Ecuador

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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

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  • Reviewed June 2019
    Jane Von Ruhland

    An extra special wildlife based holiday

    From sitting in a hide observing a glittering night time scene , to searching for Chamois from a hillside viewpoint , this trip encapsulates the world of the Brown Bear explained by the expert Julian Perry . He leads the group across an outstandingly scenic mountain terrain and presents the techniques to track and record the presence of Brown Bears in a non-intrusive way . We were very adequately accommodated in a centre-based family run hotel from where we walked or were driven to local forestry trails and areas used by Bears. With a tremendous knowledge of the ecology of the region , the leader identified and enabled us to observe and photograph flora and fauna including many wildflowers , birds , reptiles , mammals , amphibians and insects.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The trip to the Hide at night , lit by moonlight lighting effects , and seeing what was identified by our Leader as a Wildcat at the end of that first evening . Seeing Brown Bear prints and learning of the age and gender . Seeing other signs of Brown Bear presence , like hair , scratch marks in trees . Seeing signs of other mammals such as wolf , pine martin and hedgehog. Identifying wildflowers and butterflies with the leader and other group members.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    A leader who can speak fluently the language of the host country , and with an outstanding experience and knowledge of the wildlife , specifically the Brown Bear based on qualified research , who can present this to and lead a range of walkers and interested wildlife enthusiasts is fantastic . He is very informative and respectful of the history of the region and its people. He is always helpful and made the trip the most special week .

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read and look up information on Mountain animals and wildlife . Go on some wildlife survey work voluntarily with your local group beforehand if you can . It was the first time I had used binoculars but that was not a problem for me because I had some previous experience of wildlife surveys. Enjoy the leaders knowledge . Enjoy the groups knowledge . We were lucky to also have a Badger expert in our group .Enjoy the scenery , natural world and the food and company!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I saw a lot of natural life I had not seen before and would like to go on this trip again. If I did I would like to try to go on a Land Only reservation and travel over ground by train , boat and train to Sophia to meet the group . This way it would be even more environmentally sound, and less damaging as no flight would be involved.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Jonathan Proud

    A superb week of walking in beautiful scenery

    Our base in a small, traditional village in the mountains was perfect for walks into the surrounding area. The biodiversity of the Rodopi mountains is amazing and our exceptionally knowledgeable leader helped us identify mammal scats and tracks, birds, reptiles, insects and plants, many of which were new to me. The walks were at a gentle pace, allowing plenty of time for photography.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I'd chosen the trip hoping to see a bear, but there was so much more to it than that. The number and variety of reptiles and butterflies amazed me. The variety of mammal scats and tracks along the forest paths was remarkable, and Julian was able to identify them for us and tell us about the different species. I loved the evening trips to the bear hide and although we didn't see a bear, we did watch wild boar which I'd never seen before.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local fauna and flora. He was well organised, spoke clearly and, being fluent in Bulgarian, communicated easily with the local people too, ensuring that the trip ran smoothly. During breaks on our walks, he gave short talks covering aspects of bear biology and his research work, as well as the traditional farming practices which have maintained diversity in the meadows and forests.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The walks are at a sensible pace, but the terrain is steep in places, so a reasonable level of fitness will make the trip more enjoyable. At the end of April temperatures varied widely during the day, so be prepared with layers of clothing to add or remove as required.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hotel was of a high standard, being warm and comfortable, with good sized rooms and modern plumbing. The food was delicious, most of it locally produced, and the staff were friendly and helpful. I enjoyed learning about the leader's research work as he checked camera traps and recorded tracks, scats and other signs of bear activity during our walks. We were observers on this trip and there was no pretence that we were 'volunteering'. Having been on unsatisfactory 'voluntourism' trips before, I found this refreshingly honest.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Daniela Amabile

    Beauty, as to be found nowhere else.

    Waking up every morning to the glorious Autumn colours of the Carpathians is something I will remember for the rest of my life. The beauty of the forests, the splendour of the mountains and the simplicity of the life there is something I never imagined. Granted, I was initially inspired by my interest in the Dracula legend to go but after experiencing the wilderness there, I can honestly say that I fell in love with “the land beyond the forest”.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    When I managed to make it to the top of the mountain on the long hike without collapsing :-). Seeing Bran castle. Sitting up at the monastery, looking at the mountains with the sun behind them. The views of the scenery during our lunch breaks in various locations. Being on top of the mountains and looking down at the clouds.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the natural environment of Romania and its history. He also has a great sense of humour that kept us entertained. With his experience as a leader and training in the army, I definitely felt safe and in capable hands. And he was unexpectedly charming.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Try to remain as healthy as possible the week before this trip. I came down with a 24 hour stomach virus 2 days before the trip and it made the first few days difficult as I was still weakened. Also, walking poles are your friends. Definitely learn how to use a pair before you begin.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    No.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    T J

    A Fascinating Adventure!

    This was a truly wonderful trip that combines hiking, wildlife and scientific research, in a unique blend of 'eco-research-tourism'. Exodus - please offer more tours like this!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The whole trip was inspirational, though the most inspirational part is learning about the bears and other wildlife that live in these mountains, then slowly starting to understand how it all fits together. In addition, the Rodopi mountains are beautiful, particularly in Autumn - there are some great hikes in this trip, with fabulous views. The hotel and food were also great, with local milk, cheese and honey straight from the village. It was also good to be based in a single hotel for the week, with lots of walks starting and finishing right on our doorstep.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about all aspects of biology, particularly bears. He is clearly well-known and connected in the local area, and did a great job of making everything run smoothly. One of the highlights of the trip were daily 'lectures' from Julian, usually during our scenic picnic lunches, about the various aspects of bear ecology.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you have a reasonable level of fitness and have some hiking experience, you should be fine on this trip. A typical day would comprises leaving the hotel with a packed lunch at 08:30 and returning at around 16:00, hiking slowly in the mountains in-between. We totaled 75 km and 3500 m height gain over our 6 days of walking, with hikes ranging from 8 - 14 km. So, the pace is pretty slow, as we were constantly stopping to look for wildlife / change camera traps etc. Julian will adjust the pace and route depending on the groups fitness level and interests anyway. That said, the terrain is fairly steep and rocky, though the trails are good. So, if you have new gear or are relatively inexperienced at hiking, it would be a good idea to put in a bit of practice beforehand so that you get the most out of your trip.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Don't come expecting to see a bear. This is not a 'bear-watching' trip, but a chance to explore and learn about the Eurasian Brown Bear and the habitat in which is resides, plus contribute to a long-term research program. We didn't see a bear during our week, though there was plenty of evidence throughout all of our walks. We did, however, see a group of 11 wild boar during one of the evenings at the hide, who seemed to be acting very defensively and on high alert, occasionally charging off into the undergrowth to chase something away. Sure enough, there is a photo of a bear on one of the nearby camera traps at the exact time we were there in the hide, so there is little doubt a bear was within a few yards of us.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Suzy Franklin

    Wildlife and hiking

    A well paced hiking tour with free time to relax in the remote alpine accommodation, in the mountains of Transylvania. This is certainly the place time forgot with small farming communities farming sheep and cattle, and small orchards aplenty. Dogs are tied up or in the fields protecting the livestock from the bears and other predators. The accommodation is basic but comfortable. We went when the weather was getting cooler and at times it was a little cold in the room. We had to remind the owners to put the heating on, which they did! There were 3 course set meals in the evening that were hearty and consisted of local produce but possibly limited if you are vegetarian/vegan. Don't expect there to be snacks like crisps and chocolate to be available, expect local fruits instead! The guide kept us updated on the itinerary during the week and gave a very informative tour of Brasov and Bran. All in all - a place to get away from it all and enjoy a slower pace of life! It was a very noncommercial region to visit and very refreshing in that sense!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The hard work of the people in the bear sanctuary, who had rescued bears that had suffered cruelty and now been given the best chance of life - all funded by donations with no government money! One bear had been blinded and had its claws cut so it would tolerate people having their picture taken alongside it. Quite emotional to hear the sad back history of some of the bears. The good news is that owning a bare is now banned in Romania.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was friendly, quiet, amenable and informative.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take your thermals, scarf and gloves if going in the autumn as it get's cold in the mornings.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Stephen Clements

    Amazing Canada

    An exciting trip around the island of Vancouver. We couldn’t believe the amazing wildlife encounters we experienced, and enjoyed the hospitality of our cheerful Canadian hosts.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the Grizzly bears feed on the spawning salmon with their cubs on the Orford river . it was great to be hosted by the Homalco people in their ancestral home.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Marie- Helen was always upbeat and cheerful. She was resourceful , giving us lots of alternatives. She was dedicated to making sure our holiday was a trip to remember. We couldn’t help getting swept up in her enthusiasm.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Waterproof trousers and a woolly hat are useful for the changeable weather and chilly boat rides. Have a go and enjoy the country.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Be prepared for a couple of longer journeys in the minibus as Canada is bigger than you think.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    William Stanton

    WBB180915

    An excellent trip in a lovely part of the world. Seeing an adult female bear at the bear hide was amazing. Pity she was scared off by a group of wild boar but they were great to see too. The walks were great and weren’t too challenging although be prepared for a lot of uphills!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    See the adult female bear was very good but equally as good was the scenery. I didn’t think this area of the world would be as pretty as it was. Also it was good to see a lot of other wildlife especially birds and butterflies.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian was great. His enthusiasm was contagious and he was so knowledgeable. What he doesn’t know about bears and Bulgaria isn’t worth knowing. He was also very knowledgeable on other flora and fauna.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We booked an extra night in Sofia at the end which I was glad of as it is an interesting city and there are a few decent bars!
  • Reviewed October 2018
    J. D.

    Great and Informative Outdoor Adventure!

    Had a great time on the Bulgarian Brown Bear trip! Trip leader, Julian, was very enthusiastic and well-informed on the region and subject matter. Bulgaria is a beautiful country and the local people were wonderful. The owner of Hotel Yagodina, Maria, runs a great hotel and her and her staff serve fantastic food. Julian took us on some wonderful hikes and provided great information about bear behavior, habitat, biology, etc. Visiting the bear hide in the evening provided a fun opportunity to view the bears and other wild life. Julian made sure we had multiple opportunities to visit the bear hide in order to ensure we had an opportunity to see a bear. The hikes themselves were challenging, but not so difficult that we had any real problems completing them. Julian was willing to point out other wild life during our hikes, and was very engaging with people in the group. Julian is passionate about bears and excited to share the subject with others. He made sure we were taken care of and educated about the wonders of bears!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I didn't have any one particular moment that was the most inspirational, but taking in the vistas at the top of mountains we climbed after a long hike were serene moments. It was relaxing and inspiring to look out at all the pristine nature.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian was an enthusiastic and well informed group leader. He is very passionate about bears and Bulgaria, and was happy to share his knowledge with the group. He was also well informed about many other aspects of Bulgarian wild life and Bulgarian culture. He made sure we were healthy, happy, and well taken care of.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Wear good hiking shoes and be prepared to fill up on delicious Bulgarian food for the hikes! Also make sure to carry some of the local currency with you, there is the possibility to purchase locally-made traditional crafts from the village. I purchased some beautiful hand-made items in the village.
  • Reviewed September 2018
    Tina Nicholas

    Wow what a holiday!

    Wildlife, conservation, expert patient guide, mountain hiking, remote rural village community, and an intimate family run hotel were all the components that blended perfectly together to form this holiday into my ultimate relaxing get away with a dusting of excitement, anticipation, and adventure on top!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Glimpsing a large male Brown Bear sauntering slowly from the dark shadows of the Rodope mountain forest into the moonlit clearing in front of the hide. This precious moment was greatly anticipated & further enhanced by the fact that on the two previous evenings spent in the hide, Jays were the only wildlife that we saw. For me the fact that viewing of Brown Bears is never a guaranteed experience, re- enforces that they are extremely wild animals whose behaviour is still relatively un -influenced by the presence of humans and small scale tourism. Our group were therefore very honoured and privileged to be able to then watch him on this third night in his natural habitat for well over an hour - an emotional, awe inspiring & humbling experience where the previous unfruitful hours were soon forgotten.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian Perry - is a dedicated conservationist who is more than willing to inpart his knowledge about Bulgarian wildlife to anyone who shows an interest. He is also a kind, patient, calm group leader whose attention to detail and organisational skills are second to none. Thank you Julian, you made a potentially good holiday into an awesome one!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Ensure you read the Exodus trip notes. Written by Julian himself, in my opinion these notes describe the holiday and activities perfectly and therefore you can judge if this holiday is your cup of tea or not? Take at least one hiking pole, if not a pair. My pole helped me negotiate some of the steep mountain paths more confidently and safely and it was the one piece of equipment I am glad I packed.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This holiday benefits the local rural remote community by using a small intimate family run village hotel who serve local produce, and display and sell local crafts. Julian and The Bear conservation project also serve to educate the local residents about the facts and myths associated with these large carnivores to encompass a symbiotic living relationship.
  • Reviewed September 2018
    Craig Caldicott

    Whales and bears

    Very good trip . Just prepare for the rain . Saw lots of wild life . Would recommend the trip

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing orcas , whales and bears

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was a great guide . Very knowledgeable and keen .

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take some rain gear

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Canada is a great place
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