Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

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

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  • Reviewed January 2019
    Richard Bowman

    Amazing wildlife adventure

    What an incredible trip! Costa Rica is everything that we had hoped for and more. The wildlife and scenery was spectacular, and the tour gave us a great experience of all of the different areas of the country. Each day felt like it couldn't be topped only for the next to be even better. We had a magical Christmas in Tortuguero and New year in La Fortuna. Exodus had thought of everything to make the holiday special and our guide was simply awesome and really made the holiday. The hotels were in some great settings and grounds, were comfortable (more than adequate) but not luxurious. We would highly recommend for families that love nature, the outdoors and new experiences, and like to meet new people.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It's really difficult to highlight a best bit as the whole trip was incredible. The boat rides on Christmas day in Tortuguero and seeing all of the amazing wildlife is hard to beat, being so up close, felt like being in a wild life documentary. Rafting was incredible fun and the guide was very funny. The beaches and warm sea were just gorgeous, especially when you thought of home! We really enjoyed sharing the experience and getting to know the other families. Relaxing at the end in Dominical and seeing the stunning pacific sunset. Our guide was very passionate about his country and we learnt so much not just about nature, but about the geography, history and government of Costa Rica. It was fascinating and not something you would necessarily know if you traveled independently.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our trip guide, Jonny, was simply fantastic. He'd won the award the previous year for exodus' best guide and it was easy to see why. As a guide he was incredibly attentive to the groups mood and needs and was always planning ahead so that our trip went as smoothly as possible and that we got the most out of our time. He was also a great ambassador for Costa Rica, using the journeys to tell us about the country's history and the lands we were traveling through. Above all he was a incredibly passionate and knowledgeable naturalist, helping us to spot some amazing wild life and learn a little of this fantastic country's eco-systems.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I packed walking boots which were heavy, trainers are fine. You do need a waterproof as the weather can literally change in minutes! Be prepared to be up and out around 6/7am on trip days - this sounds early but the sunrise is 5.30am and everyone is up and about (also this is when you see the best nature and the UK time zone helps!). Your routine just adapts, early rise and early bedtime! Wifi was available in all hotels but signal patchy. A travel washing line is useful - we did do a laundry load in La Fortuna which was reasonable but hotels are not cheap. Food is generally not cheap. Budget as exodus advises and you'll be along the right lines.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This trip has inspired us all to travel more and we would definitely use Exodus again and wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. Travelling over the Christmas/New Year period was a fantastic tonic!
  • Reviewed September 2018
    Annette Dawson

    Fabulous trip!

    The trip was well planned out and so very relaxing and enjoyable. The hotels and especially the food were awesome. Would absolutely take another trip like this.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The canoeing was so relaxing and fun. The scenery was beautiful.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The trip was self guided which was what we liked.
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Natalie Charles

    Amazing Adventure with Teens

    A wonderful couple of weeks focusing principally on the wildlife of Costa Rica. We went at the start of the rainy season and were lucky with the weather, but don't think you'll be suthbathing (much) as Exodus keep you moving!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    My thirteen year old son told me that the Pacific coast beach we visited was the most beautiful place he'd ever seen.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent, excellent, excellent. Gio has an exceptionally calm, professional and efficient manner. He's also incredibly knowledgeable and endlessly enthusiastic about his country. On top of that, he understands the importance of group dynamics and ensured that we formed a happy group. I really don't think we could have asked for a more thoughtful, organised and all-round nice guy to lead our holiday!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Two things - 1. If you're travelling in the rainy season, ignore the advice to travel light as you cannot dry clothes (everything is constantly damp) 2. Ignore Exodus's terrible and costly advice to take dollars. You need enough dollars to get you to a cash machine, then withdraw local Colones and use them everywhere - otherwise you will be ripped off by terrible dollar exchange rates offered in shops and restaurants.
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Caroline Richardson

    Wow, wow, wow!!!

    Costa Rica is a fabulous country and well worth the long flight. We went as a family of 5, parents of nearly 50, my mum in her early 70s and 2 girls aged 10 and 12. We were looking for a change from the usual pool / beach holiday and gosh, it was different!!! The wildlife is nothing short of phenomenal. We saw spiders, snakes, macaws, crocodiles, lizards, fantastic birds, frogs etc...... the list just goes on. The plantlife was great - plants we have at home in pots in the house growing tens of feet high in their natural habitat - it was quite something to see. It was also very educational, not just seeing plants and animals in their natural environment, but also other experiences such as the trips to the chocolate / cacao plantation and the sloth sanctuary. And it was great fun, especially the white water rafting and the zipwiring in Arenal. It was however, quite exhausting. I must admit we were not quite prepared for the pace, the early mornings and the long coach trips, but, in retrospect, they were all for a reason and all worth it for the sights and sounds and experiences in each location. And of course, I must mention our guide Glenda and our driver Mauricio who were quite simply, marvellous. Their professionalism, efficiency and enthusiasm for their country made the holiday very special for us.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I think we all enjoyed the quiet boat trip in Tortuguero - how Glenda managed to find a waterway all to ourselves given the amount of traffic on the main river I will never know. But the chance to see turtles, crocodiles, various birds including toucans and macaws, monkeys, lizards etc in their natural habitat with the added highlight of the 2 dolphins was marvellous. The white water rafting and zip wiring were such fun and we all enjoyed the adrenalin rush! And seeing something new almost at every turn was great. Traipsing back to our room one afternoon we came across an armadillo, seeing a coati in the grounds of the hotel, howler monkeys moving across in the trees above the swimming pool... etc. I could go on.......

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nothing short of fabulous. Glenda was so knowledgeable and her telescope managed to pick out things that we could not even see with the naked eye. Mauricio was always there incase anyone wanted to finish a walk early and his keen eye also spotted other treats hidden in the trees. Glenda's enthusiasm for her country and her willingness to share this with us was much appreciated. Our experience of Costa Rica would not have been half as good without her...

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It is hot and humid in August and clothes all get very damp. Anything that gets wet, stays wet. So pack clothes in ziplock bags and keep them zipped wherever possible. Dry-wicking clothes are perfect and do not bring anything that cannot dry easily. A ball or something for the kids to play with in the pools is a great idea. And test your waterproofs before you travel. These need to be industrial strength as when it rains I mean it really rains!! Stand in the shower for 15 minutes on full blast and check those seams!!! If your kids are remotely travel sick - think about travel bands on their wrists as the roads are windy and bumpy. Connecting or family rooms are rare however if you have young kids the rooms normally have 2 double beds so you could all sleep together although it might be quite tight! A zoom camera is a must and maybe, as we did, another soft bag to throw in the washing and / or hiking boots when these are not being worn will keep the suitcases relatively clean and organised.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Come with an open mind - this is not a five star country and yes it does rain - loads!! However, the experiences are well worth the early morning starts and the requirement to pack up and move on every 48 hours. It is, admittedly, quite daunting. The concept of spending 2 weeks in close proximity with 3 or 4 other families and hoping the kids get on and the parents find common ground. However I feel we were incredibly fortunate on our tour and met some lovely families. The kids had great fun together and the parents did too! Looking at other reviews this seems to be a common theme, so do not delay and book today, you will not regret it!!
  • Reviewed August 2018
    CLARE HUDSON

    COSTA RICA FAMILY ADVENTURE

    This was a really memorable holiday. Costa Rica is an extraordinary country with a plethora of fantastic birds, animals, and flowers to see - and the big appeal of it when travelling with children is that on any expedition you ALWAYS see something. Hotel gardens themselves are places where anything can happen - I had one of the most exciting bird sightings (a trogon) in the garden of our hotel in Dominical - where we also saw a boa constrictor in the stream by the hotel. It really did feel like an adventure - the itinerary packs so many experiences into a short space of time. It was great for our 11 year old daughter to have other children in the group to make friends with - that made her braver and more tolerant of some of the long journeys and physical challenges of so much torrential rain. What makes it all work is the style of the tour - yes, there is a busy itinerary but our guide always sought to offer choices of places to eat and things to do, so it felt quite organic and we never felt over-managed or regimented. Her deep local knowledge, and that of the driver made a huge difference. Costa Ricans are friendly, efficient and proud of their country and that made this trip special too.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    My daughter and I loved the rafting trip at Sarapiqui - which was the "floating safari" rather than the white water version as we felt too nervous to do that. In fact, because of heavy rain the night before the water was quite stirred up so it was actually quite thrilling. The guide on this raft was wonderful - he made it really fun. She also loved the zip wiring at Sarapiqui, and we all enjoyed the hot springs at La Fortuna - absolutely magical in the twilight. But the stars of the show were all the animals we saw - especially sloths and monkeys, and endless iguanas!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Katia was one in a million - so knowledgeable and such a brilliant communicator. Long journeys were broken up with really good background on where we were and what we were seeing, and she gave us really good historical, cultural and social background too. - As a birdwatcher I really appreciated her willingness to take us on 6am bird spotting strolls. I would never have seen half so much if she hadn't shown me it - and her passion for flora and fauna is infectious. I will never forget her detailed description of the social organisation of the leaf cutter ant! She is a born leader - always managing to make things feel organic and informal, while doing masses of contingency planning behind the scenes. She also treated us all as individuals and sought to offer options that would appeal to each of us. Her local knowledge of restaurants was invaluable - she gave us choices and took us to great places.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We went in the rainy season - and boy, did it rain. Not just an hour or two a day, but torrentially for hours on end, especially on the Caribbean side where it rains more or less all the year round. And when it isn't raining it is more often than not very overcast. Once we got to the Pacific side the weather was much better - sunshine for at least half of every day. So be prepared for the weather - it can be demoralising. Others have mentioned the difficulty in drying clothes out - our guide was ingenious and took us twice to local laundrettes where a service wash was efficient and far cheaper than in the hotels. Returned either same day or following morning. Hotels are simple - but we liked the simplest one, at Cahuita, the best because you could hear the ocean from the garden. We had a miserable time on the optional turtle trip at Tortuguero locally run, not organised by Exodus. We had to walk through rainforest to get to the beach and, because of heavy rain, floodwater was nearly up to our knees - the pitch dark and the warnings about going single file because of the risk of snakes resulted in our daughter being absolutely terrified. We did see turtles but by this time she was unable to enjoy and just wanted to feel safe again. It felt very overcrowded and not really in the interests of the turtles. But the river trips made going to Tortuguero worth it. Do consider doing what we did: we booked a hotel on the Pacific coast and stayed on for five more nights after the tour relaxing, swimming and whale watching. Really worth it - after travelling all that way.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a really good way of seeing fantastic wildlife and visiting a tropical country very different from our own, with children. The organisation and the guide take all the stress out of this kind of travelling leaving you all free to get the most out of the experience. The Caribbean coast is wetter but it is really fascinating and shouldn't be missed - its Afro-Caribbean heritage making it very different from the rest of the country.
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Tim Newham

    Excellent intro to Costa Rica - outstanding guide Edward

    Wow, just back from our 2 week adventure. I don't usually do reviews but this one is definitely worth a few lines! Firstly, our guide Edward absolutely made the trip for us. Enthusiastic, unfappable, great with kids. Very knowledgeable about all aspects of the country, particularly wildlife and specifically birds (Edward is a trained and expert ornithologist and took keener members on a couple of early morning twitching trips). Edward gauged the needs of our diverse group really well, and made just the right number of decisions for us to keep it relaxing without being constraining. A special word for how he dealt with a favourite cuddly toy being left in a hotel (when we noticed about 200 miles away). Edward's connections, organisation and determination led to a reunion the next day! Costa Rica, generally, delivers exactly what it says on the tin. Amazing wildlife and landscapes. The big highlights for us were the additional paid-for trips. White water rafting was exhilarating, with just enough thrills to feel edgy for our 9 and 11 year olds, whilst feeling completely safe and in control. Zip wire near Arenal volcano was similarly exciting. As someone with an intense dislike of heights (I feel wobbly in thick socks - and seriously, struggle to stand on a step ladder) I'd encourage anyone like me to go for it. The start and interim platforms are deep in the trees, so don't feel at all exposed or high. And the "zippy" bits are, yes, high above the valley, but high enough for the drop to be abstract and so fast there's no time to look down! The only slightly tricky bit for me was the walk (down a spiral staircase - think of a fire escape) at the end. Tips: - Everyone accepts dollars, and debit cards work everywhere too (including all the restaurants). - It's wet in August! (as everyone kept reminding us - it's a rainforest...). Doesn't interfere with the enjoyment at all but anything that gets wet, will stay wet and then smelly. If we went again we'd take 7 days worth of clothes and get them washed (i.e. and also dried) at a couple of hotels. This was fast and efficient when we tried it. - We travelled 1000 miles on fairly slow roads (so, a bit more than 20 hours in total) over the 2 weeks. For younger kids, bring activities for the coach. Feedback for Exodus (other than the obvious "it was all great and Edward is amazing") Cahuita didn't really do much for us and also featured the weakest of the set of hotels. Nothing specifically bad about it (so don't worry, prospective bookers!) but maybe drop that (and the 2 long-ish transfers) for more time around Arenal? The last 36 hours felt a bit flat/wasted. Maybe have an early start, drive straight from Dominical to the airport on the last day, and have an extra night in Dominical? Overall, and excellent trip, well worth the money, and we'll be back for more in the future!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing our first sloth in the wild!
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Chantal Sargent

    Inca Trail Challenge and Amazing Amazonia

    An experience of a lifetime, but definitely not for the faint hearted! The Inca Trail is stunningly beautiful, with incredible wild flowers and birdsong, offset by incredible challenging, unrelenting steep and uneven steps up, followed by deep, slippery and very steep steps down... whatever anyone says otherwise, however fit or athletic, coupled with altitude and decreased oxygen levels, this trip is a challenge! The porters are incredible- so encouraging and happy as they run up (and down!) the steps, singing! The wonderfully refreshing and beautiful Amazon sights and sounds was a reward beyond compare! Take a good set of binoculars to the Amazon and ‘video’ the sounds....

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Standing alone on the last morning of the Inca Trail, looking out over the incredible panorama below- listening to the birdsong, admiring an overhanging wild orchid, with a lama munching in the bush behind me. In the Amazon, seeing a female jaguar on the riverbank, being teased by a male, whilst we rowed into the sunset, on the Tambopata river, on our last evening- what an absolute privilege!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Bobbie was simply outstanding! His knowledge of Inca history was superb, but more importantly, his understanding of people, his positive psychology and his humour, helped us get to the top of Dead Woman’s Pass alive! His gentle encouragement, with no pressure to rush, but also his ability to make us feel safe, in some desperate moments where we felt we couldn’t go on, need commending- thank you Bobbie!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is a tough trip- certainly not for the faint hearted and I would suggest, a significant challenge for younger teenagers. One needs to be athletic and be able to walk up steep hills ( as a training exercise), without getting breathless. No amount of fitness training in a gym can prepare one for the altitude, coupled with unrelenting, steep uneven steps up, and very deep, slippery and steep steps down. If one feels uneasy being at a height looking down, this is not the trip for you! The best advise is to have good Leki walking poles with rubber tips, and descend the steps sideways, like a crab, to save ones’ knees! Keep poles very long when going down, and short for going up! When packing the duffel bag, pack your stuff in a big see through bin liner first. Take lots of layers and thermals for the night- it is sub zero, wet and lonely at the top, without a proper, thick 4 season sleeping bag! I would recommend hiring a sleeping bag. Day pack: do not use a bladder- they leak! Keep a water bottle round your neck- (buy a bottle holder at the shop where you have breakfast, before the trail starts), and a bottle of lucozade or similar in the side pouch- do not let your sugar levels go low! Take sucking sweets that are easy to unwrap and suck whilst walking- chewing and walking and breathing, up those steep steps is impossible! Take some bars of chocolates- you will crave chocolate! Keep a bag of small change (1soles) for the toliet stops on parts of the Inca trail (no toilets higher up). Take acetazolamide ( ask your GP) to prescibe 250mg tablets (not modified release). The recommeded dosage is to start taking it in Cusco the day before the trail starts ( if one feels dizzy, nausea/ vomiting, breathless and as if head is going to burst) An adult should take half a tablet (125mg) twice a day until the last moring if the trail, and a young teenager a quarter of a tablet twice a day. This was recommended to me by a Professor of Pulmonology, I chanced upon in our Cusco hotel. He was a Godsend! One can buy ‘Oxyshot’- small cannisters of Oxygen at the pharmacies- go to a pharmacy if one feels one may need advise- they were excellent! A good tip to acclimatise, is to go a few days early, before the trail starts, and stay in Pisac. (which is slightly lower in altitude to Cusco). We stayed at La Casa del Conde, just outside Pisac, overlooking The Sacred Valley- superb accomodation and views, and one has to take a ‘tuk tuk’ to get to it from the town, as it’s up a track! Pisac has a fantastic market and quaint restaurants- well worth spending 2 days there at least. Do an open top bus tour from the Place d’Arma in Cusco which takes you to various ruins- Saksaywaman- brilliant experience! Take a good headtorch on the trail and for the Amazon. Use a ‘bumbag’ to keep your camera/ iphone, lipice, tissues in- for easy access whilst walking. Take a daypack that fits: waterproof trousers and light waterproof jacket, rain poncho, beanie and waterproof gloves for the top of Dead Woman’s Pass. Wear good polarised sunglasses for the glare. Take a small memory foam pillow in your duffel bag- will make your camping experience much better!! Wear waterproof trousers to sleep in if you get cold and put your duffel bag under your mattress, at the foot of your tent, to prevent slipping down your tent! Take a power bank to recharge camera/ phone to take photos. Wear hiking liners- to prevent blisters. One needs to adhere to the tipping guidelines for the porters especially- they are brilliant- you need at least 230 soles per person for the Porter’s kitty, then additional tipping money in the Amazon for the Amazon guide, the Posadas lodge staff, the boatman and then your main guide for the trip. ( recommended $5 per person per day) The tipping is a hidden extra which definitely needs to be acknowledged prior to taking this trip. There is no cash facility in the Amazon but we could pay for our extras/ drinks using Visa. Have a pisco sour and lomo saltado in Cusco at ‘Baco’s’- both to die for! Take lots of videos both on the Inca trail and especially in the Amazon- the sounds are quite spectacular- especially the jungle call! Most importantly, enjoy every moment, take in every sight and sound as if it were your last, and ENJOY the beauty and the freedom! Don’t rush to get to the campsite- you’ll miss out!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I did this trip as a 50th birthday family adventure and fundraising challenge, for a Conservation charity in South Africa, for leopard rescue. Seeing the jaguar on our last evening was a ‘spiritual’ moment for me! And as our guide said at the outset of the Inca trail, heading to Machu Picchu is ‘a pilgrimage’! It is a challenge which needs careful planning, both for the fitness, the equipment and gear, but more importantly the mental challenge as a whole- the travel there and back is a challenge in itself! Make it a lifetime event- share your experience... write a blog.... it’ll make you feel whole.
  • Reviewed August 2018

    Costa rica family adventure

    What a fabulous experience only made possible by our wonderful guide Glenda Araya, our fantastic driver Mauricio and 3 families who met as strangers and ended the 2 weeks as one big, happy family. It may have rained every night (and when it rains it really rains) and we may have witnessed some of the most amazing thunder and lightening I have ever seen, but that didn`t detract from the scenery which was stunning and the wildlife which was up close and fascinating. Every day involved a new experience whether it was gliding slowly on a boat through the deserted waterways of Tortuguero ( made possible by Glenda`s expertise in managing to capture a quiet time of day) or chewing on raw cacao beans on the chocolate tour then sampling the finished product or white water rafting, something I always said I would never do but somehow it seemed right to be brave and give it a go. You lose track of the days of the week and really it isn`t important- just let go and enjoy the experience as everything is organised for you.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Gliding slowly though the waterways of Tortuguero National Park with no other boats around us- just the forest,the water and us. Glenda, our guide, and Jeffrey, our boatman, helped us spot dolphins, turtles, a host of birds and iguanas. Magical.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Glenda was approachable, fun and also had an extensive knowledge of her country and it`s flora and fauna. Armed with her trusty telescope she allowed us to capture amazing videos and pictures and spotted wildlife which, quite frankly, I would never have seen had she not been with us. She was very patient even when the group were dithering about the rafting and what grade of river we would be on as some of our insurance didn`t cover certain grades of river. She made several phone calls to try and clarify this for us and found out the information and came with us for the experience.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring a poncho ! Bring lots of quick drying underwear as nothing dries if you wash it. There is a laundry service in most hotels the cheapest was at Montechiari at Arenal. Everyone took suitcases - I only mention this as I was unsure when it said `pack light` whether it meant rucksacks or not though you still need a day rucksack, and definitely bring walking boots or shoes.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you are wanting a relaxing holiday to put your feet up by a pool this may not be the best trip for you. If you want to see this wonderful country and pack as much as possible in and still have a few afternoons or mornings to relax then this is the best way to do it.
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Fiona Crawford

    Peru

    Trip to Inca trail/Machu Picchu was amazing

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Inca ruins on inca trail & Amazon Lodge

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader from Peak DMC was 10/10. Frank dealt with lost luggage, last minute bookings, questions on environment, fauna, flora, everything with a smile and a giggle; nothing was too much. He and his colleagues from Peak made this trip, every aspect of it.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Peter Whittle

    Family Adventure

    This was an excellent family holiday to a magnificent and inspirational country full of adventure opportunities and wonderful wildlife. Our tour guide, Hector, was excellent and very knowledgeable. There was a lot of travelling, but the destinations were worth the time spent travelling. It was the wet season, but the rain didn't cause any real difficulties or stop the planned activities. Accommodation was good, mainly in lodges, and the food everywhere was better than expected from the guide books. The wildlife is amazing and generally so close to hand.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Probably the turtles laying eggs at night time, although the scenery, the oceans and the wildlife are all inspirational.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our tour guide, Hector, was excellent, very knowledgeable, good English, gave us options to consider, and dealt with the few problems that arose very well. He made sure that we did as much as we wanted, gave good commentaries and has very good knowledge of the birds, animals and insects. He was very patient with the children. The two drivers we had were also professional and drove safely.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    A great family holiday, the children of various ages all got on well together, but the humidity can make drying clothes almost impossible. However the laundry services offered by the hotels were generally cheap and quick.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Our third Exodus holiday, all have been excellent. Exodus policy of using local staff is very good.
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