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 April 2012
    Anonymous

    GALAPAGOS WILDLIFE CRUISE

    A fantastic trip, a true 'once-in-a-lifetime' experience.   The locals like to haggle over costs and Taxis agree a price prior to your getting in the vehicle!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The fabulous wildlife.  The birds and reptiles are very colourful but the flowers are mainly yellow! 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The impressive knowledge of Silvia (our guide) and her total enthusiasm holds her followers spellbound.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If travelling 'solo', think hard about a cabin to yourself!Take as few clothes as possible, things can be rinsed out and dry quite quicklyDo not get pressurised into giving fantastic tips, make up tour own mind and tip privately.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    GET OUT THERE BEFORE YOU ARE TOO OLD OR TO DECREPID TO ENJOY IT TO THE FULL!
  • Reviewed April 2012
    Anonymous

    JOHANNESBURG TO CAPE TOWN

    This is an amazing trip that allows you to see a wide range of places and things.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I agree with the other reviewer who said this trip has many highlights, but no one "inspirational" moment. My favorite things included: sunset over the ocean in Tsitsikamma, Lesotho (the area where we stayed was beautiful and peaceful), hiking in the Drakensburg Mountains (stunning!), listening to lions calling outside the camp on a sleepless night in Swaziland, seeing the animals in Kruger (from lilac-breasted rollers to wild dogs to elephants), and exploring Cape Town (fascinating!).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rob was our guide and Sifiso was our driver. It's difficult to separate one's efforts from the other's, as both worked tirelessly to make our trip as comfortable, easy, informative, and enjoyable as possible. Both have an amazing depth of knowledge about the countries visited and the things you're seeing. Don't hesitate to ask questions! You'll be surprised by how much they can tell you about the most random subjects imaginable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to spend more money on optional activities than you might anticipate from the list in the trip notes. Few of the optional things are all that expensive individually, but particularly in the game parks, you'll probably want to do several things (both sunset and sunrise drives, for example), so it adds up. A friend of mine always recommends you take half as much clothing and twice as much cash as you think you'll need, and that's probably good advice for this trip.If you can, do the trip from Jo-berg to Cape Town and not in reverse. That way you're ending up in a beautiful, easy place. Doing it in reverse means you're ending at the airport in Jo-berg, after a long day of driving. However you do it, spend some extra time in Cape Town. It's a lovely and fascinating place! And as cheesy as it sounds, the double-decker tour buses are a perfect way to see the town and areas around it.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    In many ways, this trip was way out of the norm for me. I'm not exactly a prissy girly-girl, but just from reading the trip description, there would seem to be way too much "roughing it" for my usual taste. But weighing that against my desire to see these places, I decided I could handle it. And I can tell anyone who might hesitating for similar reasons that they should go. Yes, there's a whole lot of the great outdoors on this trip, but in the best possible ways. I never stopped being amazed by the ever-changing landscape. You see everything from craggy, misty coastline to wide plains covered in scrub brush to mountains to pine forests. And it seems to change completely at least once an hour. I've never seen such diversity over such a relatively concentrated space.The shine never wore off of seeing the different animals, and not just in the game parks. You never knew when you'd see a monkey on a fence post, or an eagle overhead, or zebras in a field. Then once you're in the game parks, it intensifies. Every bush could be hiding a rhino or some brightly-colored bird, and every bend in the road could reveal a pack of African wild dogs or a lion napping in the shade.In terms of optional activities, I would definitely recommend doing as many game drives as you can. We had good luck seeing animals both on sunset and sunrise drives, though the big cats were limited (we saw two lions and no leopards).My friend and I did four optional activities of note. First, we flew into Jo-Berg and took the Premier Classe train down to Cape Town to join the group. That was a fascinating experience, as most of the other passengers were not foreign tourists, but rather people from South Africa returning home to or visiting friends/family in Cape Town. All of your meals are provided, and it's a comfortable way to make that journey, if you have the time. (Note that the train station in Jo-Berg is in a terrible part of town, so be careful with your transportation there!)Second, the township tour in Cape Town. They can arrange this to suit your schedule, so it's possible to do a Robben Island tour in the morning and the township in the afternoon. The guide they recommend is a young man who's involved in several projects in Langa, and he offers wonderful insight into an area that I knew almost nothing about. That tour completely changed my perception of townships and was one of the most fascinating and rewarding experiences on the trip.Third, we did the tree canopy tour in Tsitsikamma. Our guide said it wasn't one of the "Weeeeeee!" type of tours, but it totally was. It's an excellent chance to see some incredible birds and learn about the various trees and plant life in the area. You're always secured to something, with three safety lines when you're on the cables and with two on the platforms, so it feels very safe.Fourth, diving in Mozambique. It was an interesting experience, but not because of the diving (which was dreadful due to poor visibility). You have two options, diving in the lagoon or in the ocean, but the ocean trip requires at least four people or payment for that many (650R per person). The dive shop has good gear, and the people are quite nice (it's currently owned by an American ex-pat). However, even though I had fun, I can't really recommend it. The boat they use is a rubber pontoon-type of thing, and getting back in requires launching yourself up and being dragged the rest of the way in (I was covered in bruises afterwards). The lagoon sites are also covered in sea urchins, which, when combined with the terrible visibility, makes diving there a tricky proposition. If you do want to try the diving, go for the ocean. It's supposed to be beautiful.  One of my concerns when I signed up for this trip was the hiking. The pace of this trip is listed as "leisurely/moderate," but one person's moderate is another person's death march. The hiking was not at all bad. It was never required, so you could always sit it out and/or ride the truck to the end point. I had my concerns about the day-long hike in the Drakensburg, but for me, that ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. It is mostly uphill on the way out, but it's generally quite gradual. At its farthest point, the hike becomes a more complicated and strenuous scramble over rocks, but it's easy to sit that part out (which I and several others did). The views on that hike are stunning, and it felt wonderful to walk after so much truck-sitting. If the weather's nice when you're doing the hike, it's likely to be pretty uncomfortable for part of it, because you'll be in direct sun. We got lucky in that regard because it was cloudy, but that did partially obscure the views. Now for a word on the camping. I have never liked camping and probably never will. I decided to go on this trip in spite of the camping, rather than because of it, because I wanted to see South Africa and the best trips all require at least some camping. I can say that the camping on this trip was great, almost always more comfortable than the hotels (which isn't intended to be a criticism of the hotels, but rather a compliment to the quality of the campgrounds). The tents are, of course, smomewhat cramped with two people and their luggage inside, but plenty large enough to be comfortable (and a good deal larger than the tents some of the other tour companies were using). The views from the sites were often spectacular (Tsitsikamma and Drakensburg), the facilities fantastic, and the locations convenient. The one exception was the one in Mozambique, which was comfortable and pleasant, but had other issues (see below).My one disappointment on the trip was Mozambique. The whole excursion up there felt like an inconvenient detour, requiring way too many hours of backtracking over the same roads. The trip notes refer to experiencing "vibrant" Maputo and having a chance for a fun night out. On the reverse trip, you're only in vibrant Maputo for about three hours, and a good chunk of that is taken up with waiting for the ferry over to your hotel across the bay; your fun night out is at the hotel restaurant. I have been told that Maputo actually is pretty fantastic, but you're not there long enough to see much of anything other than derelict buildings and trash, or to experience anything other than heat. The campsite where you spend two nights is beautifully located near the water, but it's seven bumpy, twisting, rutted kilometers from the town. My friend and I did get into town for the diving and had a great dinner there, but we were the only ones in our group who were able to have anything more than cursory contact with the place. I think I would have preferred spending more time in other areas on the itinerary and avoiding Mozambique entirely. All in all, it's a great trip!
  • Reviewed April 2012
    Anonymous

    MT TOUBKAL WINTER CLIMB

    A weeklong trip that somehow manages to squeeze in a bit of everything into the time you are there.  From the hustle and bustle of Marrakech to the peace and tranquillity of the high Atlas, this trip packs it all in.  A really great trip, definitely one to go on and you don’t have to be that experienced!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On the way up to the refuge and the summit of the mountain, you don’t get to see a clear sight of the actual summit.  It’s not till you are quite close that you finally get to see the marker above you.  However, once you are finally there the view is stunning.  The panorama is breath taking, the snow capped flanks of Toubkal give way to the greens and browns of the foot hills and plains that stretch into the distance as far as you can see.  What better reward can you ask for after a morning’s mountain climbing?I also found the second day to be just as exciting, as the summit day.  We ascended the summit in clear weather with glorious sunshine, which made the views spectacular.  However the next day was in stark contrast, plenty of snow had fallen over night and was continuing to fall all day.  Visibility was dramatically reduced so we were unable to climb much higher than 3800m, but saying that we still managed to get to near the top of some adjacent peaks.  This truly felt like a winter climb as we made steady progress both up and down the mountain in the falling snow. You couldn’t see much, but was a great day out from the refuge with fun being had by all who went on it.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader Hassan was really friendly and fun.  He had a great sense of humour that ensured that we had a really good trip.  Mohammed the mountain guide was also great, although his English wasn’t as good as Hassan’s he still made sure that we had a good time up the mountain.  Both were really good and looked out for our safety, overcoming the changing weather and kit with a calm and professional demeanour.  The cook always managed to rustle up fantastic meals that were so welcoming after a day of fun in the snow. 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    On arrival in Marrakech it is quite warm in the sun, so it’s a good idea to pack a few warm weather clothes.  However, for a good deal of the time up the mountain it will be cold, so pack warm clothes too.  As advertised the refuge is quite basic, so don’t expect too many mod cons.  Whilst there is a fire in the main lounge area it can still get quite cold inside, especially with the lack of internal doors on the ground level, so pack some warm clothes to wear around the refuge itself.  I took a down jacket with me that came in handy at various points on the trip.  Take a good book, and a pack of cards, that way you can have a peaceful moment to yourself or have a social game of cards with the rest of your group, guides and other residents of the refuge.  Definitely don’t forget to take some ear plugs, you will probably need them.When you arrive try to get a bunk bed away from the door and walls and if possible on the lower levels.  I had an upper bunk for the first night and got a bit damp from all of the condensation in the room at night.  Moisture also means that the floors in the refuge can get quite slippery, so take care, especially when going up and down the stairs.  There is also a shower, but be warned, there is not an endless supply of hot water and it can run out, leaving you to have a cold one, and that is really quite bracing!  Still, it is possible and well worth it if you want to clean up.  There were a couple of plug sockets so you can charge batteries and phones (though you will have to share with everyone else).  The refuge can also get quite busy, so despite not seeing may people on the way up to the refuge, it was surprising to see just how many people were staying there.  When it is busy it does mean that it’s not always possible to get a seat in the lounge, but there are other places to sit and have copious cups of sweet tea - not always mint!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This isn’t a technical climb, and slow and steady progress at your pace should see you to the top.  You don’t need to have all of your own kit, as you can hire equipment when you book.  Age should not be a problem, as we were passed by another group that consisted of members all over 60.  There is a possibility that you might suffer from some altitude problems, most of our team made it to the summit with just mild breathlessness.  The guides will go at the pace you need to go and there are plenty of chances to stop and rest if needed.Go on! Give it a go.  You'll be glad that you did.
  • Reviewed April 2012
    Anonymous

    THE AMALFI COAST

    This was a delightful trip with beautiful coastal walks together with the opportunity to see Pompeii, Vesuvius and Herculaneum.  The accommodation was in a friendly family run hotel, with comfortable en-suite rooms and excellent food. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    At Vesuvius I took the opportunity to join the group in a guided walk right around the circumference of the crater, including to its highest point.  As a fairly novice walker, this was more than I would normally have expected to do, and a fantastic experience.  It took us away from the usual tourist crowds on a ridge walk around Vesuvius' brim.  This was slightly challenging to people who have never done a ridge walk (like myself); our guide advised us on whether he thought each of us would be able to do it, based on our behavior during previous walks on this trip.  Although I am not marvelous with heights, I managed to do the walk without too much difficulty, and I am extremely glad to have had the opportunity of a professionally guided walk in such a dramatic location with spectacular views.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was an extremely experienced walker with a great deal of knowledge of the area.  As well as leading our daily walks, he was able to offer advice and tips to help make our trip as enjoyable as possible.  It was also clear that he was able to rapidly evaluate and respond to each of our capabilities during the walks on this trip. 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This trip does involve quite a bit of walking and while highly enjoyable, I would describe it as walking holiday with sightseeing rather than a sightseeing holiday with a bit of walking.  If in doubt it would be worth reading the 'leisurely' and 'moderate' grading in the Exodus Walking & Trekking brochure before deciding on this trip.  Even 'leisurely' walks are expected to be 4 to 5 hours during the day.  This trip is not really for someone who does not enjoy walking.  That said, as a fairly novice walker, I had no problems, but I did take care to be equipped with good quality walking boots and comfortable socks.  Also remember your sun-cream!  For novice walkers who are happy to 'have a go' I would definitely recommend it. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The family-run hotel was extremely friendly, which created a really pleasant atmosphere.  Look out for the opportunity to develop your pizza-making skills if you get the opportunity, and do not miss out on the ice-cream in Amalfi. 
  • Reviewed April 2012
    Anonymous

    DELHI TO KATHMANDU

    An exhilarating trip,with lots of experiences. Not a restful holiday,but one which will linger in our memories. The Annapurna extension was worth adding on for the views, peaceful surroundings and physical activity after lots of bus journeys!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching evening prayers on the ghats at Varanasi from a boat on the Ganges. Sunrise over the Taj Mahal. The beautiful Amber Fort. Peace and calm trekking in Nepal.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sanjay Sihag was a very well organized and efficient group leader. He was also good company and helped us to gel as a group. He was flexible to circumstances,making sure our very active days were well balanced. On our one stressful trip,the overnight train, already overfilled with police being mobilized across the state, he helped get everything organized and made sure we managed to get on and keep together.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Follow your guide's advice about eating, drink the readily available bottled water and take hand gel-none of our group had major problems with tummy upsets. Go with an open mind to get the most from the things you will see and experience,Both good and bad, and be prepared to revise any preconceptions! Although the days were well balanced, be prepared for some long travelling times.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This trip was a real experience,shared with a great bunch of people who got on well as result.
  • Reviewed April 2012
    Anonymous

    GALAPAGOS WILDLIFE CRUISE

    A fabulous trip that allows you to experience the varying scenery and wildlife of the different islands to their fullest.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Snorkling with the turtles.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Sylvia was first class and had a wealth of knowledge about the Islands which she was always keen to share.  She made sure to tell us about the history, geology and wildlife of each island and was extremely informative.We were also very well looked after in Quito; airport transfers were reliable and efficient and the guide in Quito (Stefan) provided us with maps and suggestions for places to visit during the free day. 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure that you don't take any denominations larger than $20 notes as you will not be able to spend them in Ecuador.Pack light - there is virtually no storage space in the cabins.Photographers - you get very close to the wildlife and I nearly didn't take my 70-200mm lens on this trip as I suspected that I would not use it much.  However, I actually used this lens more than any other so I would strongly recommend taking a medium range zoom lens, and this lens is vital if you are interested in bird photography. There was snorkling offered at least once, and often twice every day.  The Cachalote has wetsuits, fins and masks that you can hire very cheaply.  However, if you are of small build and want a wetsuit that fits properly you should consider bringing your own.  Most of the time the water was warm enough not to wear a wetsuit but the sun is very strong and I would strongly advise wearing a wetsuit during all of the snorkeling sessions if you burn easily.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Take insect repellant; mosquitos were in abundance on some (but by no means all) of the islands.Good quality walking sandals (preferably closed toe ones to avoid stubbing your toes on lava rocks) are adequate for most of the walks; you may want to consider bringing walking shoes if you need ankle support.This is not by any means a strenuous holiday; most of the walks are on the flat and are not at all hurried.  You have plenty of time to experience the wildlife and none of the landings felt rushed. It can, however, be very hot so you need to be able to cope with the heat to enjoy this holiday fully (it was around 35 degrees most days).  On most days you have around 2 hours after lunch to relax (sometimes longer) before you get off the yacht for the afternoon excursion so there was a very nice balance between activity and relaxation time.I was really glad that I chose the 2 week trip on the yacht as it gives you the opportunity to experience the whole variety of the islands.  If you can only go for one week then bear in mind that the eastern islands have more abundant wildlife (especially birds) and the western islands are more volcanic.  Having said that we still saw most of the variety of species on the western islands that we saw on the eastern islands, just not in the same numbers.   The turtles, however, are far more abundant on the western islands. 
  • Reviewed April 2012
    Anonymous

    LAND OF THE TIGER

    Everything was perfect. Being on your own you are always a bit apprehensive at the start but the leader and the nature of the trip soon allayed these fears.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were so many but I will identify three; first seeing such a variety of wildlife including the tigers, second the Exodus sponsored school at Bandhavgarh and third the Taj Mahal.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Probably the best leader I have experienced in my many years of travelling. He was always there when you wanted him without being "in your face", he was always cheerful, well organised and most importantly he was knowledgeable - the best.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you are thinking of visiting India don't think any further book the Land of the Tiger with Exodus.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This tour really gives you a taste of India as well as an appreciation of its wildlife. It is fully packed with new experiences every day. Thank you all at Exodus for a truly wonderful holiday.
  • Reviewed April 2012
    Anonymous

    THE AMALFI COAST

    The walking was varied with great views every day and the hotel owners were determined to put pounds on us with their delicious food.  My calf muscles were groaning after the steps to Amalfi but otherwise the walking was reasonably easy.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The walking with views.  Pompeii and Herculaneum.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Friendly thoughtful person, well organised.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Walk up and down a lot of steps before you go.
  • Reviewed March 2012
    Anonymous

    GUATEMALAN HIGHLANDS & VOLCANOES

    A great trip - It was AMAZING when we heard, felt and saw Santiaguito Volcano erupt and saw the rust cloud bellow up high into the sky!!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Joan-Carlos (of Restaurant Sabe Rico, Antigua) was our cook for the time of our camping – His passion, enthusiasm, support to locals and presentation of the food was far beyond any expectation - Something I will always remember – He was a true gentleman and inspirational ambassador of Guatemala and all things good!!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    FAB - Guides (Pedro and Pablo) were very passionate about and proud of their country! So much so that sometimes you felt it was their holiday and not yours - they spent lots of time searching out birds and photographing! On a few of the evenings one of the guides would down-load his pictures of the day and we would have a slide show – And also some local music!! 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I'd say taking walking sticks is a must - a help on the way up and great support on the way down.Also if you go around March time, it's the end of the dry season so the paths are VERY dusty, take trousers you' re willing to be damaged or throw away after!! Also you could consider taking some protection for your mouth for breathing in the dust (like a light scarf).

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Good that only 8 in the group as meant trek never spread out too much.Dont' get me wrong this is an excellent trip!... but to improve1. The main reason for me picking this tour was to see molten lava, and I didn’t. The trip notes use the word ‘molten’ on the day-2 activities, and there’s a picture in the trip notes of someone stood next to molten lava. The word molten and the picture need to be removed from the trip notes, so others are not disappointed like me. If not I will consider contacting Trading Standards in approximately one month. (But d2. Disappointed in the excess polystyrene packaging used for the packed lunch of day-12 (Georginas Hot Springs). Considering we were in the most agricultural area of the trip, very poor breakfast (white bread, ketchup and processed cheese sandwich) of day-13 (Georginas Hot Springs). Nothing can compare to Joan-Carlos' breakfats!!! 3. Suggest guides turn off their mobile phones while on trek/walks. They had walkie-talkies so mobiles not necessarily needed.4. For the last two nights the group was split across two hotels, which was disappointing - Appreciate this would not generally be the aim.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    Many thanks for your feedback on the Guatemalan Highlands and Volcanoes trip - it sounds like you had a wonderful trip! The lava flow on Pacaya does shift regularly, but I have reviewed our Trip Notes and updated the description and images to most accurately reflect the latest situation on the volcano. I am also speaking with Georginas Hot Springs to see what we can do to minimise packaging and improve the breakfast offered during this excursion. It's great to hear that you found the breakfasts made by Juan Carlos to be a highlight!

    Vicky Boughton - Trip Manager for Guatemala

  • Reviewed March 2012
    Anonymous

    CAMINO DE CUBA

    The trip was rated moderate, however one of the days was really strenuous.  We hiked for almost 11 hours.  It was very hot, though we were hiking under trees so it was mostly shady.  The rest of the trip was quite gentle hiking.  We learned a lot about Cuba during the trip from our very knowledegable guide.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Visiting a farm house in Vinales and watching a famer roll and smoke a cigar from his home grown tobacco. Swimming in the Carribean.  This was an extra activity added by our Guide at our request. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was very, very good.  Good logistics and interpersonal skills.  We also had an excellent driver.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The climb up Pico Turquino and on to the second bunkhouse is a very long day.  When you get to the top of the mountain there is no actaul view because of the vegeation, however there are good views on the way up.  The bunkhouse accomodations at the base camp prior to the ascent are very basic (though you can get beer there!)  Our guide had the foresight to bring vegeatables for our supper at the bunkhouse. The 'toilet' facilities were pretty bad.  

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The trip was very varied and we saw a lot of different aspects of Cuban life.
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