Turtle, Ecuador

Your words, not ours

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

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  • Reviewed October 2017
    Ross Bishop

    Trekking in Madagascar - September / October 2017

    This trip is a thoroughly varied and perfectly paced active journey through one of the most captivating African destinations I've ever visited. The scenery is constantly stunning, the wildlife which is often unique was a privilege to see and the Malagasy people are humblingly friendly and welcoming.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Inspiration was frequent and varied on this trip: from spotting lemurs in the treetops (we saw a total of 5 species) to being amongst some dramatic rock scenery in both Andringitra and Isalo National Parks. If I had to choose one moment, it would probably be the sense of achievement in reaching the summit of Pic d'Imarivolanitra and marvelling at the remoteness and drama of the surrounding scenery. The Hotel de la Plage at Ifaty on the coast was a gorgeous way to end the trip too with the opportunity to take a sedate pirogue trip out to sea and snorkel on a beautiful reef.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rija worked tirelessly and always with a great sense of humour and patience to ensure that the tour operated smoothly. She was typical of all the Malagasy people we met who continually impressed me with how they achieve high standards with limited resources in a country that is obviously lacking in economic clout.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Although the road journeys are often quite long, the scenery is continually interesting and helps you get a real sense of rural Madagascan life so don't let that put you off. Temperatures can be quite high and the sun can be fierce in late September so sun protection is important. Although accommodation and food standards were generally high, there were a few cases of food poisoning in our group so don't forget to pay attention to food hygiene.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I had high expectations for this trip before I left and they were exceeded by a significant margin. I would urge any traveller who likes to get away from it all and combine activity and wildlife into their adventure travel destinations to seriously consider Madagascar - a country so deserving of the opportunity for economic growth through the sustainable development of its tourist industry. This trip contributes towards this goal perfectly.
  • Reviewed October 2016
    Helen Rogers

    Fascinating experience

    The trip was a great experience. Madagascar is very different to anywhere else I've been in Africa. The tourist industry is less developed, which in itself added to the 'adventure'. This does mean that there was no alternative to eating in the hotels along the way. We covered a lot of ground, which leads to long hours in the bus, but there is lots to look at along the way, and it's the only way to see all the different locations that we visited. The unmade road to Andringita National Park was an experience in itself - in 4x4 jeeps, with planks on top, in case they are needed (and they were) to enable us to cross basic wooden bridges. We saw less wildlife than I had hoped, but never had the dispiriting experience of seeing nothing!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The trekking days were great. The countryside varies - the granite in Andringitra is very different from the sandstone in Isalo. Some of the trekking gradients, particularly in Isalo, were more challenging than I had expected from the trip notes. Be prepared for hills up and down throughout - and some steep drops at the side of the path. It was hot, we needed lots of water. The trekking guides were attentive, very knowledgeable and keen to share information. The porters singing and dancing in the evening in Andringitra was very special, and not just because of the local rum! The night wildlife walk was busy with chameleons, mouse lemurs and a rat, and the local guide's enthusiasm was infectious. The rain forest of Ramomafana was beautiful, but really brought home how horribly deforested Madagascar is. The Madagascan people are lovely, and keen to make contact. The children love having their photo taken, and then seeing themselves on the camera screen. Crayons, balloons etc are very welcome gifts - but take advice from your guide how to give them, as you can provoke a feeding frenzy if you're not careful, or provoke begging. The guided visit to the fishing village was really interesting, with the opportunity to ask questions about local life. The local shop was amazing.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rija worked hard for us, and was always positive and enthusiastic. We sometimes could have done with better details of the day's activity - for example, we didn't know that we would be spending nearly 3 hours at the natural swimming pool in Isalo.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for long days on the bus. There is always plenty to see outside, but I was glad to have an iPod with me for some of the longer journeys. We had a number of power cuts, and some of the hotels switched off electricity overnight. Be alert to charging batteries when you can. A powerbank is a useful backup, and removes some of that stress. I was surprised by the blandness of the food. If you crave something a little spicier, you can ask for chilli sauce ('sakay') at any meal - including breakfast! The first night camping at Andringitra is cold, you do need a warm jacket, gloves, etc. Change your money at Tana airport, the rate is fine and it's much quicker than using a bank. There is very little opportunity to spend money on this trip, around £200 was ample for me. You need a minimum of 50 Euro to change money back on your way out of the country, and the change back rate is poor.
  • Reviewed October 2016
    Peter Rogerson

    Trekking in Madagascar (September 2016)

    A very busy but well paced trip that I thoroughly enjoyed. The trekking is tougher than I'd expected, due to the heat, and there were some stiff climbing and descents, but the paths were very good and the views en route were stunning. Both Isalo and Andringitra, where the majority of the trekking takes place, are very different and offer very different experiences. Madagascar is an interesting country, quite different to other places in Africa that I've been too, but sadly, almost totally deforested nowadays, so the distances between the various national parks are several hours drive apart, meaning some long sessions on the bus. However, the scenery is very interesting nevertheless - Madagascar is not a flat country so there is plenty to look at while you drive. A nice touch was that the bus would stop one side of a village, you'd all get out and the bus would drive a couple of miles up the road allowing you to amble through the village to break up the journey - we did this several times and they were very welcome breaks. This did mean, however, that there was very little wildlife to see outside of the parks, and indeed, within them sometimes. I had expected more if I'm honest, however, our tick list of Lemur spieces was still good - around 6-8 I think. In Ranomafana, the rainforest, we saw quite a few, although they tended to be high up in the canopy. The night walk we did here was excellent though - our guide managed to find 2 mouse lemurs in the dark, and there were lots of Chameleons, and this was definitely worth doing. The beach resort at the end was paradise. You have a free day and although the whales had gone, so that trip was out, some of us elected to visit the fishing village just up the coast, which I loved. You can easily walk to the village, by turning left out of the lodge, but the paid for visit allows you to wander around the village itself, rather than just watching all the boats on the beach. In the afternoon, we visited the "Spiny Forest", which was actually more of a botanical garden, but still interesting. On the camping portions on the trip, the first two nights (in Andringitra) were very basic, and it got quite cold at night, but the 3rd night was at a lodge, which was lovely - and they sold beer there - so was a very welcome place to end the time in the national park. In Isalo, the camp site is in a lovely location, and the porters had kindly brought a couple of crates of beer with them, so we had beer that night too, so it was only the first two camping nights were we had no beer and very basic facilities. The hotels were all excellent and tourist standard for Madagascar. They all had patchy Wi-Fi and the restaurants and bars were good and all sold beer, so we didn't need to leave the hotels in the evening to eat or drink. However, there is only 2 places where you stay for 2 nights, and we tended not to arrive until tea-time, so there was very little unpacking. I think I only had one cold shower during the two weeks.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I loved seeing the mouse lemur on the night walk in Ranomafana, as that was very unexpected. In Anja reserve, you WILL see a lot of ring tailed lemurs, which are great fun, and I loved the time we spent with them. The scenery in the two national parks was stunning and worth the effort to get there. The beach resort at the end was lovely and I really enjoyed the visit to the fishing village Although not a particularly hard slog, getting to the top of peak boby and enjoying the amazing views was also great.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rija was delightful - she always had a smile on her face and was unfailingly nice and polite and it was lovely to meet her.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    1. The beer is quite strong. THB, the national beer, is 5.5%. Even the Skol, the weakest we found, was 5% and there are beers stronger than this. Don't get caught out thinking you are drinking Fosters, or you will regret it the next day (speaking from experience I'm afraid). 2. The first two nights of camping were quite cold, so take some warm clothes for the evening, and something you can sleep in. 3. The food is good generally, and the beer reasonably priced. Just after Brexit the currency had dropped from around 5,000 Ariary to the £ to less than 4,000, but the beer was still around 5000 for a large bottle. A main course for dinner was around 15,000, so still good value. I made do with £300 worth for the whole trip. 4. Get currency at the airport when you arrive as the banks are VERY slow - it took 3 or 4 people about 2 hours to change money at the first money stop, making us very late for the hotel on day 2. 5. During the day it was very hot, even if the evenings were cold, so you will need plenty of water - so take a bladder to put in your rucksack as you'll go through bottles very quickly. 6. When camping, you leave a chunk of your luggage behind. If you have a second Exodus bag, which folds up small, take this to put what you won't need while trekking. The porters will take up to 10kg for you, leaving you with just your day sack to take while walking. 7. washing in the rivers is possible, but awkward. The first couple of days it was too cold in the evenings, but the final two were fine for washing as it was still warm (there were hot showers at the 3rd campsite). 8. On the last day in Isalo, you visit the natural swimming pool, so this is the day to take your cozzies. You will have a couple of hours to rest / swim. Porters bring your lunch to this spot - as it is only 45 mins walk from the bus. 9. I opted not to do the early walk on the last day in Isalo, as you return to the campsite for breakfast, but they saw some lemurs on this walk, so I was gutted to miss that. 10. take a few little gifts for the kids - balloons, pens etc. - they will greatly appreciate it, particularly if you plan on doing the village walk in Ifaty. 11. There was very little opportunity for souvenir buying, apart from the village we visited on the first walk, and on the beach by the beach resort - although one of the masks I bought turned out to be riddled with woodworm, so check this if you buy anything. 12. Ignore the height gain / loss that the trips notes give for the Isalo trek, it's another two days of steep ups and downs, but the scenery is again wonderful. 13. Take loo roll for the camping, and wet wipes if it's too cold to wash in the rivers. Pack as lightly as possible, as you don't see your luggage during the day as it's on the roof, and you have to leave quite a lot behind when camping.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I really enjoyed this trip and I think it had a nice balance of wildlife and trekking.
  • Reviewed April 2016
    Dani R

    Wonderful experience

    This trip was just amazing. An excellent opportunity to discover this beautiful country. During the two weeks, you can discover a big variety of landscapes (rainforest, savannah, beach...) and see many animals. I found it particularly great, that we spent almost two days in the Ranomafana (rainforest) region. I appreciate that there are no visits to animals in captivity/ zoos. During our tour, we saw unexpectedly plenty wild animals. I would say that chances to see many various Lemurs are quite high! The highlight of the trip for me were the two trekking "sequences" with camping. It is just awesome to have a swim in one of the most scenic "natural pools", and then walk refreshed through the breathtaking landscape of the Andringitra national park. I furthermore really liked the sunrise hike to Peak Boby, Madagascar's second highest peak. Eating at the fireplace and singing with the local helpers Malagassy songs was very inspiring and a great experience.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I found the encounter with the lemurs very touching. These animals seem so friendly and it is a great pleasure to observe them.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Armel took great care of the group. Including all sorts of special needs. He has a great spirit, respects the nature and his funny comments has lead to a great atmosphere among all travellers. He supported us in all possible needs (hiking tips, airport transfer, clothing, lost sleeping bags...) We could profit from his multiannual experiences: he showed us animals and places that are otherwise overseen by tourists.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Please be aware of the long driving days. Even if you can stretch your legs during the breaks, those days are very long. I experienced myself - even though I expected many hours in the bus, they became somewhat annoying. But also note that this is just the nature of the trip. Without the travel, it is just not possible to discover all the sites we have seen. And after all, there are of course still many hiking opportunities! So don't let the drives demotivate you, just be prepared for them. And even in the "always sunny south", there can be rainy days. If you are prepared for them, you'll enjoy the holidays weather independently. We also had a great time on hikes in the rain.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    During the two trekking phases, there are local porters that cook, guide and set up the tents for you. They also transport the luggage. You should thus restrict the to-be-transported luggage. Since we can store away luggage that is not needed during the three trekking days, this can very easily be achieved. I even managed to carry my luggage by myself. Personally, I think it is important to respect the native porters/ helpers. Even though they get a (very small) wage, it is nothing but fair to be polite and grateful for the great services they provide. This is not the place to be demanding, but to make new friends. And finally, don't hesitate to book this trip. It will be an unforgettable journey to encounter amazing animals and to discover a wonderful place on earth!
  • Reviewed April 2015
    Sophie Green

    Brillant trip and a great adventure!

    A delightful trip into the realms of Madagascar. Well designed tour/trekking holiday with plenty to see and do. The pace was good and relaxed. The opportunities to see wildlife were maximized at every opportunity and a host of endemic species were on view as well as some stunning scenery. Would definitely recommend.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There are so many...from discovering the "giraffe" weevil, dancing lemurs, views from Peak Boby, entertaining camp fires and Armel's singing!!! Full of diversity. My favorite moment was dozing on a rock to have three ring-tailed lemurs join me for their lunch!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Armel was excellent and a pleasure to spend time with. Without doubt a highly passionate man, with a great depth of cultural and wildlife knowledge. Made for a joyous adventure.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Like any country which has not got a fully developed infrastructure there a few hicups...or indeed bumps in the road! In general the standard of infrastructure was good, roads are a bumpy at times (in other cases not so and there are plenty of stops for stretching legs on the couple of long drives). It can be hot and humid so remember rehydration salts and take on plenty of fluids. The trek portions of the trip are well designed with plenty of breaks/opportunities to take pictures.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This trip is a delight and the speculator views and wildlife were amazing. All the standard hotels were good and had a local touch, very pleasant. The camps were good (tents/mats in excellent condition), and plenty of opportunity for a quick dips in natural pools/rivers. The food is lovely as well.
  • Reviewed October 2014
    Catherine Marvell

    An amazing country

    This is a very full trip and full of interest from the scenery to the wildlife to the people. There is a lot of time spent sitting on the coach, more I think than is spent walking, but looking out at Madagasgar rolling past was never without interest. The accommodation is quite reasonable especially the two nights at the beach resort which was a little paradise. I went September when the country was still needing to green up after the dry winter season but it was still amazingly beautiful and lush in places.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Hard to pick. Seeing lemurs close up in the wild was probably the most expected highlight but also other things that were not actually on the itinery such as the visit to the spiny forest park near Ifaty and the walk to the fishing village at Ifaty were also highlights. The mountain scenery was spectacular and the canyon was an unexpected treat. Opportunities to swim in natural pools.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was good and full of interesting knowledge about Madagascar and attentive but had not had a lot of experience with trekking groups so was not always clear in his briefing about what to expect, what to take etc for the walking. The local staff were all good and the guides great at finding all sorts of interesting things to see on the walks such as weird insects and had good knowledge of plants, birds etc.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If vegetarian dont expect a particularly good or healthy diet. Take nuts or other snacks. Make a decision about what flights to get. I went on the Air France flight which was the group flight for this trip and this meant that we lost the first day of the itinery. We got to the hotel about 2am after the long haul flight and rather than having a day to recoup and spend a bit of time in the capital (as in the itinery) it was straight up the next morning for a long day on the bus. There are lots of opportunities to recharge camera batteries but take lots of memory cards! It may be a bit obvious to say this but it gets very hot.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Every day offered something new and fascinating and the variety and diversity of experience on this trips is quite something.
  • Reviewed October 2014
    Sarah Hargreaves

    Happy Monsters

    An amazing country and a great way to see it, but some questions around the ethical travel policy in a country where exploitation is so evident and the population so poor.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The people are inspirational - the warmth of the welcome and the generosity of spirit in the rural areas is like nothing i have known. The most idylic point was swimming in the lagoons at the base of the canyon having trekked all day in the heat.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was enthusiastic and tried to help wherever possible. He took good care of us all though I think that at points his communication skills were lacking and there was some tension around understanding details of what it a logistically intensive trip. The trip notes could be better set up to assist with this and some expectation management around availability of water / toilets / electricity may also help to condition some of the less seasoned travellers.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take as many spare clothes as you can carry to give away. The children do not ask or beg, but they are often running around in rags with bear feet or odd shoes... an old pair of flip flops can be used as anything from footwear to fishing floats... the people waste nothing and are genuinely grateful for anthing you can spare.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We had an issue with an Air France strike that left us in Tanna 24 hours longer than expected and with no details of connections from CDG back to London - we were completely abandoned by our guide who said we were air Frances responsibility. Becasue we had booked via exodus (as advised at the point of booking) we got NO updates on the fligt status to our email or phones. As the delay was on Sunday we called the out of hourse helpline forExodus who offered absolutely no assistance with regard to infromation on our status not did they offer to try and find out. They only offered to try and assist with paying for a new flight from CDG to london at our own expense and so appeared only to try and capitalise on our distress. I was very disappointed that given the nature of the desitnations you offer that your company was so quick to abandon us. Also note that (though not your fault), the Air France hotel rendered 5 (of 15) of our party bed ridden with a fever and food poisoning for most of our extended stay, an gentleman who had been suffering with prostate problems and had already spent considerable time in a couple of local clinics was also abandoned with us. I am pregnant and mercifully had not touched the food that that poisoned the others so I count myself very lucky. The other issue is an ethical concern - we had a fantastic team (20) of young men who accompanied our 1st trek - they carried all our food luggae and water for 10s of kilometres. I have two issues with this - Firtsly the guidance on the weight limits for this trek were vague and so many partipants had glass bottles of Rum, litres of coke, ipads, multiple changes of clothes for each day as well as other arguably unecessry items that these poor boys had to carry bear foot over mountains in the heat. The second point is the tip. We had pooled the tip pot at the start and I was staggered to later discover that these porters had received just AR5000 each per day... so a total of £4.30 for each person for 3 days of backbreaking work. For a trip that costs close to £3000 I for one would be MORE than happy to tip more. I appreciate that it is a poor country and this £4.30 may well be comensurate with local wages but i would VERY VERY strongly encourage you to try and set a trend to pay a little more, or perhaps provision for better refreshments for them either at the end point or for them and their family's at home once they retrace the full trek in just half a day upon leaving us.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We are extremely sorry that Sarah felt abandoned during the Air France air pilot strike that regrettably impacted on her group. It is the responsibility of the airline to re-protect all flights, but nonetheless, our aviation team worked hard to intervene in this instance to confirm that our clients were re-protected and were able to return home as quickly as possible. We have received very good feedback from other Exodus clients whose journeys were affected by the strike and we are disappointed that Sarah’s experience was not so positive. We have spoken to all Exodus staff members who were on duty this weekend and it is unclear who Sarah contacted, but we are very sorry that Sarah’s group fell ill at the hotel that Air France accommodated them at; our aviation manager has raised this with our account manager at Air France. An Exodus staff member has recently returned from this trip without raising any ethical concerns, but we will review this set-up to ensure that this tour is running in line with our Responsible Tourism policy. We hope that Sarah has some great memories of her trip overall - Exodus Customer Services

  • Reviewed July 2014
    Alison Church

    Trekking in Madagascar

    A breathtaking trip, with the perfect balance of stunning scenery, fascinating wildlife, cultural experiences and wonderful people! Madagascar is a truly unique country with incredibly warm and welcoming people; this two-week itinerary gave a really good glimpse into what makes it so special. I literally loved every second of it.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Impossible to give just one on a trip of such variety; every day had something new and unique. Getting to the top of Peak Boby was a great feeling; catching a rainbow arching over the hills as we drank beer with our feet in the river after our longest day of trekking was magical; dancing round the campfire with the porters under the stars was indescribably special; seeing a stunning sunset over the sea under the palm trees on a white sand beach was gorgeous; catching glimpses of the black-and-white ruffed lemur and the mouse lemur was unexpected; getting up close to the cheeky ring-tailed lemurs was highly entertaining; swimming in spectacular waterfalls was amazing; soaking up the most amazing silent landscapes was breath-taking; being invited into the homes of local villagers was heart-warming; and seeing the smiles and being treated like a celebrity by each and every Madagascan person we met is incomparable.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Armel was brilliant! Entertaining, knowledgeable, inspiring, but most of all with an energy and drive to share with us everything he loved about his country, he made sure that every one of us also fell in love with Madagascar!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't miss Madagascar, it's the most incredible country with the most incredible people!
  • Reviewed October 2013
    Anonymous

    TREKKING IN MADAGASCAR

    The trip was a wonderful introduction to Madagascar. We saw a variety of landscapes, animals and plants as we trekked and drove southward. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Reaching the top of Peak Boby/Spotting lemurs.Dancing with the porters and guides the first night of camping 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Armel was a fine group leader. He handled that demands of the group very well.  

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

     I'd suggest obtaining a visa prior to the trip. This should prevent you from being held up getting through Immigration at the Airport.Bring flavour crystals or a squash to add a bit of flavour to your water. You will be drinking quite a bit of it.  
  • Reviewed September 2013
    Anonymous

    TREKKING IN MADAGASCAR

    This trip was beyond fantastic, it was the first trip I have done with Exodus and the first trek I have done! It was completly fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone, meeting the people, seeing the country and seeing the wildlife makes this an amazing experience!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    When we had walked accross a drier desert area, in 34 degree heat.... we walked into a large crack in a cliff into a tropical paradise... there were palm trees and a beautiful lagoon. We jumped in, had a swim and within a hour were back ontop of the mountain again in a barren, dry, dusty area. ONLY to then go for another area before walking down into a forrest in the valley to our camp site to be greet by lemurs trying to steal buscuits off the table!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader was completly fantastic! He really made the trip with his passion, knowledge, willingness to help and I cannot thank him enough for giving me the holiday of a life time! He really loved his job and gave everything he had to looking after us, I dont know how anyone could do what he does, stay so positive and happy and do such an amazing job!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Remember to take tipping money, there is more of an expectation to tip than I thought there would be so aim for about one hunderd pounds for trip leaders, guides, drivers and restaraunt tips (which given the service is more than desereved!)

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    As a first trek, a holiday, an experience, this blew me away. Thank you Exodus and thank you to our tour guide for giving me one of my fondest memories of an amazing country! If this is on your list and its your first trek, JUST BOOK IT!
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