Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

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

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  • Wonderful adventure

    This was a marvellous trip and a great way of seeing two wonderful areas of the Arctic. In Spitsbergen we saw polar bears and arctic foxes and sailed through the ice to reach 80 degrees north. In Greenland we saw musk oxen and puffins and the most amazing icebergs. We also visited an Inuit community and had the occasional whale sighting. The ship was great - the Ocean Adventurer. The cabin was comfortable and the food was really good. The operator was first class. We had a great tour leader and a full range of specialist guides, i.e. geologist, ornithologist, photographer, marine biologist etc. They were professional and great fun. the other guests were good company. We had four days around Spitzbergen and four days around Greenland so we were able to get a sense of both rather than concentrating on just one. So polar bears AND icebergs! You don't actually get to see Iceland as part of the tour but you do disembark in Akureyri in north Iceland. We asked Exodus to change our flight back to the UK so we could arrange seven days there. We then drove from Akureyri to Keflavic along the Icelandic ring road seeing the major sights. The waterfalls are truly amazing. Greenland is actually icy and Iceland is green. So we had polar bears, icebergs and waterfalls in a three-week trip. Note: to get to Spitzbergen you fly via Oslo. Exodus brought forward our flight and booked us into a hotel for two nights so we had a short city break as well. There are some great museums in Oslo (Munch, Viking Long Ship and the Fram Museum of Arctic Exploration) and this was a great start to our Arctic journey of a lifetime.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    To see a polar bear jumping and swimming from ice-flow to ice-flow.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The expedition and ship staff were all first class. The operator was very professional and we be very happy to travel again with them.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    See above - the trip covers Spitzbergen and Greenland - you need to make additional arrangements to see Iceland otherwise you just fly from Akureyri to Keflavic for the flight home..

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We'd already been to Antarctica. We found the artic different. No penguins of course but we had polar bears, arctic foxes, musk oxen and puffins - and visiting the Inuit village.
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Isabel Draper

    Nothing like it

    Such a privilege, travelling on a nuclear-powered Russian icebreaker which spends most of the year keeping the northern Russian seaways clear for cargo ships: a brilliant job was due to convert it temporarily for tourists. The dour Heroes of the Motherland were retained to crew the vessel which made it all the more atmospheric, but they couldn’t compete for character with the polar bears, especially the one who was so co-operative for photos despite us having distracted him from his kill. The only downside was that we weren’t warned how hot the boat is: future travellers need to take some light clothing for indoors.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The crunching and shuddering as the boat tackled the ice.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Brilliant, and obviously well-regarded by the rest of the team.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    See above re light clothing.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Neither the Russians nor the Finns can make tea.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Steve Taylor

    Brilliant from beginning to end.

    A cruise around the Svalbard Archipelago taking in fjords, glaciers, and stunning wildlife opportunities.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    A large group of walrus resting on a beach. Polar bears. Bird colonies. Reindeer. Scenery. Everything was inspirational.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Woody, who led the team of specialists on the ship was a bundle of energy. This takes nothing away from the specialist guides who were riendly, knowledgable, enthusiastic and always available to answer questions and support the customers. This was our first cruise mainly to see the wildlife and the whole experience exceeded our expectations, from the helpful Exodus support when booking the trip to leaving the boat everybody was first class. The weather was kind to us too. P. S. The domestic and restaurant staff deserve a mention for being professional and unobtrusive leading to a comfortable voyage.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do not put it off if you are considering a polar trip.
  • Reviewed September 2018
    Judi Friend

    Trip of a lifetime

    This was an excellent trip in every way. The travel arrangements, staff and the ship’s crew were very skilled and ensured that we got the best out of our trip to Kong Oscar’s Fjord and Scoresby Sund. Northern lights, polar bears, birds, swimming, fine food, inspired catering. Just wonderful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I went paddling in an inflatable canoe, among the ice floes. A brilliant opportunity.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    In a fun way, she lost no opportunity to ensure that we got an amazing holiday.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take every opportunity you can, and enjoy travelling with like-minded people. Be nice to polar bears!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Few holidays seem to make any allowances for deaf people such as me. It would have made a difference if the Panorama Lounge had had a loop system to help me to understand talks. Sadly, outside the UK, most folk don’t seem to have heard of such a thing. Text alternatives help, though, and on this particular trip, the staff did their utmost to ensure that I was included. I was impressed.
  • Reviewed July 2016
    Jackie Freshfield

    Spectacular Spitsbergen July 2016

    A very, very special trip that kept on delivering five-star sightings right to the very last moment.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many to choose from… the polar bear right under the bow? The Mexican stand off between two bears on ice right beside us? The bloodied bear feasting on seal surrounded by ivory gulls? Getting up close and personal with walrus around the zodiac? Three-day old Arctic fox cubs? Stunning light in the pack ice that turned our photographs into artwork? And I haven’t even mentioned the whales – bowhead, beluga, fin, minke and blue. Just incredible!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul Goldstein is all about delivery, and that’s why he has such repeat business – close encounters with wildlife are just addictive. Very sadly his wing-man on this trip, Mark Carwardine, was taken ill and had to fly home before the trip left Longyearben so the burden was all on Paul to deliver good cop AND bad cop tactics on the photography front, as well as liaise with the expedition staff to ensure that we maximized our opportunities to see the manifold delights of this incredible archipelago. He did a fantastic job. This was a photographic charter and Paul’s determination for us to fill our memory cards with nothing but the best wildlife viewings – taking into account the major melt this year that required us to go beyond 81 degrees north into the pack ice – paid off handsomely. Nate was a great Expedition Team leader, and kudos to the team members who worked tirelessly to bring us the best wildlife encounters. Particular mention to the Captain of the Vavilov, who seemed able to turn that wonderful ship on a 10p piece when required to manoeuvre closer to a feasting polar bear.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take the best camera and lens that you can afford, and don’t forget a wide-angle lens as the wildlife can be close and the scenery is stunning. Take a lap-top so you can back up and review your photos to release your memory cards – you’ll need all the space you can get, and delete as you go. I found handwarmers very useful to slip into my gloves before an excursion or if we had wildlife close to the ship and were outside for hours at a time. Inside the ship it can be very warm, so bring layers rather than heavy jumpers; and soft trainer style shoes for the ship is fine; it’s very casual on board so leave your finery at home. Don’t get stressed by the photography aspect and remember to just watch sometimes. The Arctic is a very special place, so if you are still hesitating, then do take the plunge (but not literally!); it’s not just the wildlife and scenery, the trip is also great fun and generally full of like-minded people who enjoy a drink and a laugh in the bar after a fabulous excursion.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    You might think that this is a once in a lifetime trip. It’s not. You’ll be hooked.
  • Reviewed July 2016
    Samantha Gargour

    Spitsbergen July 2016 with Paul Goldstein

    I've always judged an adventure by the moments that take my breath away and this Polar Expedition presented these in abundance. To be able to share wildlife moments of such rarity with passionate expert staff on board was a true privilege. It is impossible to explain these events as even the many photos will not do them justice. There is no fixed itinerary and any photographic opportunity is maximised by the 24hr daylight. 'Ships in harbour are safe but that's not what ships are built for' and that is certainly not what the Akademik Sergey Vavilov for. If you are looking for adventure, safety, silence and exceptional manoeuvring skills there cannot be a better ship. The captain and expedition leader were always mindful to position us in the best possible location for photographic opportunities, all the while being mindful and respectful of the wildlife environment. Magnificent glaciers, bowhead whales, polar bears, walrus, arctic foxes, reindeer, you name it, we had it. Travelling with like minded wildlife enthusiasts and photographers alike created new friendships and wonderful memories.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Inspirational is a good choice of adjective for this trip as a whole. Not a moment went by when I was not aware of the environment I was in. Every Polar Bear encounter superseded the next but a truly special experience was being woken at 6am to share our early hours with the majestic bowhead whales. The One Ocean crew were also each inspirational in their own right. It was a privilege to be led by them.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul is exceptional at what he does. As with all trips with him, he works tirelessly to deliver. Top wildlife encounters are few and far between but it seems that most of the ones I've had have been on his trips. You can see why he has so many repeat clients. His charismatic daily nautical views eloquently summarised our moment in time, which most of us could not put into words. He gave many presentations on photography for all levels and sessions in the bar to review our photos, all adding to the benefit of a photographic charter.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Life is short. If you can, do it. Expect to be woken at all hours, better yet, don't sleep! The trip notes are detailed and pretty much tell you all you need to know. Bring hand warmers for those long days scoping for bears (highly recommended). Layers are key and take Paul's advice on how balmy it is with a pinch of salt! Always pack extra in your rucksack for the zodiac trips, just in case. You never know when a 2 hour planned ride can become a 4 hour one. Most of all, put the camera down from time to time and take it all in.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thank you to Exodus team for a well organised trip, Kim Christie who was very helpful with information pre-departure and Andrea who was on hand during the trip. Double check any items to take with them, as this can change year on year (i.e Binoculars & dry bags were provided for us in our cabins this year)
  • Reviewed July 2016
    Alison Telfer

    Spitsbergen Explorer - Polar Bears and More!

    A fantastic, amazing journey up to 81 degrees north (and a bit more!) with Exodus and Paul Goldstein and lots of new friends. The notes tell you what to expect (early morning calls, delayed meals, cold zodiac rides) and believe it for you get it all - and more. Polar bears so close they looked like they wanted to get on board the ship, walrus in the water so close you could almost touch them from the zodiac, Arctic Fox cubs playing in the sunshine, fabulous seas and skies, wonderful staff to help, inspire and support, excellent food (well done chefs!) and a fog bow! (I didn't know there was such a thing!). Reindeer with young in the tundra and - more polar bears. Blue whale, bowhead whale (so rare they were not even on the "tick off" list of sightings), minke whales and birds, birds, birds. Fabulous!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    My first polar bear on ice. Simply stunning.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent. All the "blue shirts", led by Nate, were first class, experienced, confident, helpful and friendly. Could not have asked for more.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for anything, from flight delays with SAS to sudden changes in the weather. Take plenty of memory cards for your camera and a tripod for the deck as you watch the bears amble closer (don;t really need a monopod) and your sense of humour. Above all, remember it is an Adventure of a Lifetime!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Enjoy, don't get competitive about your photos and remember they are your memories, even if not competition standard they are yours.
  • Reviewed July 2016
    Meena Agrawal

    Journey to the North Pole

    Great trip! Our first sighting of a polar bear was amazing. Watching the icebreaker ship going through the dense pack ice was awesome. Standing and spending several hours on the North Pole was a wonderful experience made more special as we reached the North Pole on the day of the summer solstice. We stayed overnight at the Pole on the icebreaker and spent several hours the following day on the north pole. Once in a life time experience!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Approaching and standing on the North Pole was an amazing experience.!!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our Quark expedition leader was very good but all members of the expedition team were very good and worked extremely well as a team.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read about the trip and tripnotes before you go . Having 24 hours of daylight can be difficult for some travellers though it didn't bother me at all. Some of the excursions eg zodiac cruises and helicopter flights (and optional hot air balloon flights at the Pole ) may be cancelled at short notice if the weather conditions and visibility are poor.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Enjoy the trip! It is expensive but it is a once in a life time trip!
  • Reviewed September 2015
    Andrew Fellows

    North West Passage

    Wonderful experience in a very different series of environments.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Zodiac cruising through brash ice and meeting a polar bear only 30 metres away.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent - Solan Jensen is a great individual with a love of the polar regions.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do not assume this trip is similar to either the Antarctic or Arctic cruises. It is very different in many ways.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A great experience
  • Reviewed September 2014
    Judi Friend

    North West Passage

    I thought that this trip looked exciting. I realised before I went that there was a lot of ice at the earlier part of the route. This meant that our tour started from Resolute Bay rather than Cambridge Bay, which was initially disappointing, as I was interested in the Franklin expedition and would have liked to see where it had been. However, it did mean that we had more time in the Lancaster Strait area which is wonderful for wildlife. We saw about 20 polar bears, gyrfalcon, snowy owl, distant narwal and muskoxen and two breathtaking pods of Orcas (killer whales). We had an interesting talk by the CEO of the Victoria Strait Expedition, which was then taking place, and although we were told that no trace of Franklin's ships had been found, we later heard that one HAD been found.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    A large pod of orcas, some even swam under our ship.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    A knowledgeable laugh a minute!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take more memory cards and batteries than you think you'll need. The Arctic is BEAUTIFUL!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The staff were very knowledgeable, and did their utmost to give us a most memorable holiday. I'd just like to see a non-slip surface near the plunge pool.