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Reviews

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

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702 Reviews

  • Reviewed April 2020

    6 Snow Leopards, two Oracles and a Woolly Rabbit!

    Ladakh is a beautiful region of Northern India. Add to that the friendly welcome and the variety of wildlife and culture and you have a destination that it would be hard to find fault with. This was my second visit and this time I was there to see Snow Leopards. Except, of course, they're so rare that the chances of spotting just one would be very low. And indeed spotting just one was impossible - I saw a total of 6 during the 10 days I was there, including relatively close sighting of a mating pair on our first day in the mountains, a mother and her two cubs and a solitary Snow Leopard rolling in the dust to hide its scent before hunting. Our group as a whole saw 12. This amazing tally was due largely to the experience, skill and dedication of the spotting team and our leader, Valerie, who between them took us to the right places at the right time and found the well camouflaged big cats where we may have only seen a buff coloured rock. And let's not forget the Blue Sheep, Lammageier Vultures, Bearded Griffon, Golden Eagles, Woolly Rabbits, Uriel Goats and Alpine Chough. This is a challenging trip - cold, altitude and remoteness all add to the adventure although its well within the abilities of anyone with the right kits and who has trudged the hills in the UK. But it's worth it for the experience of the incredible Himalayan landscapes, the unique culture and the amazing flora and fauna. If you have the chance, book the trip that coincides with the Stok Festival, a colourful and spectacular celebration of Tibetan Buddhism in the form of music and dance culminating in the appearance of the village oracles.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were many inspirational 'stand out' moments for me. These are a few of my personal ones. Watching the mating behaviour of a pair of Snow Leopards; the Oracles in a trance at Stok; having a local ask me if he could take a photo of me and his little daughter; the 'Street Kids' walking tour of Old Delhi. I loved standing outside the tent at 6.30am, watching the mountains light up while drinking a cup of steaming hot black tea. The rush up to the viewing platform when one of the spotters shouted 'Snow Leopard'. One of our crew demonstrating the correct way to slide down a frozen river on a flat stone.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    This is my second trek with Valerie and she proved to be every bit the excellent leader on this trip as she did on the previous one. Knowledgeable, understanding of individual and group needs, Valerie's decades of experience in the region enabled her to be flexible with arrangements and cope with the changes forced on us by the Covid-19 outbreak at the end of our trip. Evenings were spent listening to her tell us about the region, the wildlife and the people. The crew she had picked were excellent and dedicated to the roles they played. They were clearly very loyal to Valerie.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    In general, come prepared for cold weather. The nature of this particular trip means you will be standing around searching for wildlife or viewing and taking photographs so the heat normally generated trekking will quickly go. I found I was wearing a thick down jacket most of the time simply because although the sun can be warm, there is usually a cold breeze in the valleys and much of the time is spent stationary. If you're out all day, as soon as the sun disappears below the mountains the temperature drops very quickly. I wore thick winter socks for the same reason. The terrain underfoot was, in general, no harder than UK hills and a 3 season boot would probably suffice. We didn't need crampons but 'yaktrax' or similar might be useful as we had to cross a couple of frozen rivers. The Exodus kit list is a good starting point; vary it according to your own preference for cold weather. Don't skimp on the sleeping bag as this is your refuge and a good night's sleep is important. You don't need lots of changes of clothing because you don't end up sweating a lot and everyone is in the same situation. Exodus provide top quality spotting scopes (Swarovski) but you might want to bring your own, which can help with spotting and will enable you to digiscope. The nature of our encounters with Snow Leopards meant that big lenses were necessary because of distance and digiscoping would be ideal in these circumstances. Some great photos were taken with scope and mobile phone. Our encounters lasted a while, so a tripod (or at least a monopod) would makes things easier on the arms. But don't forget camera kit to cope with the amazing landscapes, villages and festivals too. Be aware that there is close scrutiny on the internal flights - all our camera kit had to come out of the back packs and was checked by the security people at Dehli before boarding the internal flight.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Approach this trip with realistic expectations and you won't be disappointed.
  • Reviewed April 2020

    Excellent trip

    A very well balanced and well organised trip - a very good combination of a little time in Delhi, time at a festival and of course looking for snow leopards and other wildlife. We were incredibly lucky to see lots of snow leopards along with lynx, blue sheep, eagles and a mountain hare. Loved the festival too - lots of colour and a fascinating experience. The crew were efficient, knowledgeable and helpful - in fact, really couldn't have hoped for more. The hot water bottles at night were particularly appreciated! Quality of the hotel in Leh was great too. It was a shame we had to miss out on the homestay but coronavirus meant that we were asked not to do it by the local people (a very fair request). I found that where required Valerie was great at allowing flexibility during the trip and, all in all, I don't think it could have been better organised or executed. Just make sure you have lots and lots of very warm and appropriate clothing as it's really cold - and apparently it was warmer on our trip than it normally is!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the pair of snow leopards on the first day.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Factor 50 sun cream and as many warm clothes as you can cram in your bag.
  • Reviewed March 2020

    Awesome trip, feel close to nature

    Whenever I think about to travel, every time I think about South zone because of their diversity, culture, beauty and nature. Finally I decided to visit South Zone and trust me nothing can be better than this. You can get everything here like colonial hill stations, beautiful temples, relaxed lifestyle, extra-ordinary scenery and the best food in India.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Houseboat trip is the one.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Amazing
  • Reviewed March 2020

    Excellent Tour with superb Tour Guide

    My first trip to India and with Exodus, this certainly wont be my last. Everything ran smoothly and was so informative and magical due to the charismatic and thoughtful tour leader Sam G Benjamin.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    So much culture! Impromtu detours courtesy of Sam which was so interesting and which if we were travelling solo we would of missed. For example the Hindu festival at a temple with elephants, magical. The tuktuk rides! The walk around the rural village.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Brilliant could not have wished for better.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go with the flow!
  • Reviewed March 2020

    A fantastic introduction to Northern India.

    This was a wonderful trip. It needs some stamina as there are a lot of early starts and long journeys. Keep an open mind and take it as it comes, there are many rewards. The group got on really well and we had some great laughs. The tour guide was brilliant and was central to the success of the trip. It's made me want to see more of India.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    So many of these. Some of the hotels were so pretty with gorgeous gardens. I really value this on a busy trip so you have a bit of down time in the sunshine. We saw 2 young tigers in Ranthambore and this was a highlight. They were beautiful .Felt a bit alarmed the number of trucks all scrambling to view them, but they seemed ok and not traumatised. The Taj Mahal is very beautiful and Varanasi is beyond belief, especially the evening prayers which are akin to a scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was amazing. Such a lovely friendly man, had us all eating out of his hand I'd say. He has done the trip so many times and knows every inch of it. He joined in with us and shared the fun. He was organised and gave very clear instructions for the itinerary each day. Was sad to say goodbye.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You need to love curry, journeying and you need, as on many adventure holidays, patience and an ability to take things as they come. The e-visa service seemed to cause problems at the airport, but it was a difficult time with Covid19. I had a year visa which meant I got through immigration very quickly. Those with e-visas took forever. Take your Powerbank out of your main luggage. Take some warm clothes for the early starts, it takes a while to warm up. No-one was ill, the facilities were nowhere near as bad as you might think they would be, even on the overnight trains and stations. Didn't open my medicine pack. Due to the time of year, I came back with pink and orange hair from Holi, but I'm getting used to it. All but 2 hotels were really good, but you take the rough with the smooth on these trips.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Go. You'll love it. it was one of my best tours and I can't wait for the world to get going again.
  • Reviewed March 2020

    Snow leopards found

    If you have ever dreamed of seeing the elusive snow leopard then this is the trip for you. Don't think about it just book it. Ladakh is an incredible region and you couldn't ask for a better guide than Valerie. Been there, done that and probably knows the location of every rock on the mountain. As for the area - if you saw nothing but the scenery you would get your moneysworth, however the team scour the countryside for wildlife - with lammegeiers and golden eagles regularly sighted overhead. As for the snow leopards themselves we had 12 sightings - an extraordinarily good year, some were very distant and only visible with the fantastic Swarovski scopes. However we were also lucky enough to get a mother and cubs sighting and a mating pair at distances under 600m - this isn't a petting zoo - which is clear enough for binoculars and long lens cameras. Photographers with a dslr need to thing 500m or bigger with tripods and teleconverters. It will not be Africa Serengetti encounters, but that makes them even more magical. Failing this kit the guides are adept at taking mobile shots through the spotting scopes - good enough for keepsakes and memories of an incredible trip. It is cold though and involves trekking on rocky trails - so heed the trip notes, get good warm boots and kit and enjoy your complimentary hot water bottle ( after a lovely filling meal) Icing on the cake is the Street Kids tour of Delhi and the inspieational stories of the work done by the charity. Can't thank Valerie and team enough and gladly go and do it all over again - if she can take the stress of getting my mountain of camera kit through customs.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing a mother and two cubs on the same day we saw a pair of snow leopards above camp. Everyone raced up the hill to the spotting scopes, forgetting the altitude. We were still chatting excitedly over our luck at evening meal, having watched them for 3 hours.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie is rightfully a legend - she knows everyone and even read us local tales from a book. She lives and breathes the region and that in turn feeds into the group and how good the trip turned out to be. She is also widely respected by the local people and staff, case in point one evening a ranger had his own client with an eye problem - first port of call was Valerie to see what she thought.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't scrimp on a warm sleeping bag, proper boots for the terrain and warm layers. This is not extreme terrain but you will enjoy life a lot more if you are comfortable. Take a small bag to leave in Delhi and another drybag of something to change into when you get bag to Leh. Likelihood is you will be wearing same clothes for daysin camp so just be warm.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Probably one of the best experiences I have done. I had thought I'd be lucky to see snow leopards once. To have 12 sightings, a lynx and then high tea in The Imperial just made the trip beyond my wildest dreams. Thanks to Valerie, the crew and my camera porter / assitant photographer Chosgun. Without whom the 600mm lens would have travelled up trails a lot slower.
  • Reviewed March 2020

    A wonderful trip taking in a wide variety of locations and experiences.

    This taster of the tropical south of India offers the traveler a wide variety of locations and experiences, and while some may be more appealing than others there is always something to appreciate and enjoy every day. There are sharp contrasts between the manic street life of cities like Madurai and the peace and calm of the more rural locations such as Munnar, Periyar, and the backwaters of Kottayam. The pace of the trip varies and some days are more full-on than others, but there are opportunities to recover from the more strenuous periods and sufficient optional activities for those with the energy to keep going. The itinerary takes in plenty of interesting diversions, and more than a few extracurricular surprises. At the end you will be amazed by how much you have packed into the trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    So many unforgettable moments, it is very difficult to select just one. The trek through the tea plantations at Munnar was an early highlight, although the mists and low cloud obscured what should have been stunning views. The whole experience at Madurai was amazing: a constant wall of sound, with crazy drivers (and a rollercoaster of a tuk tuk ride at night), an unmissable early morning heritage walk (with such a diversity of activities unfolding), followed by a visit to the wonderful Meenakshi Temple, and dining out on street food in the evening. The stop off at the spice garden was informative and offered an opportunity to sample and buy the local products. The cookery demonstration at Thekkady got everyone involved and was highly entertaining (with some tasty food as the end result), while the homestay gave us some of the best food of the whole trip. The houseboat experience was possibly the most inspirational moment, so peaceful and relaxing and a splendid way to wind down towards the end of the itinerary.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We could not fault San in any way. He was an exceptional leader with excellent interpersonal skills, and he organised the whole trip in a professional and responsive way. His knowledge of all aspects of local Indian life, culture and society was amazing and he was always ready to offer just the right amount and level of information, whether explaining what we were experiencing or answering questions from the group. His sense of humour engaged with the group and helped to make us a unit. We were aware he was having to deal with a number of issues behind the scenes (the spread of coronavirus was a constant concern) but he managed them calmly and kept us informed about everything we needed to know. We were always confident that he was acting in our best interests and giving us the best possible experience.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You need to take a travel plug for the basins if you want to use them for washing or shaving, as few - if any - of the rooms have them. Make sure you take plenty of hand sanitizer and apply a rigorous hygiene regime at all times, to avoid any unwelcome bugs; if you are careful you should be fine. Take a travel toilet roll or tissues out with you as outside of the hotels few toilets have any toilet paper. There are plenty of opportunities for laundering clothes during the trip and they are very cheap. Using them could reduce the amount of clothes you need to pack.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Don’t expect much from the visit to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary: it really is a matter of luck if you see any wildlife, let alone elephants (our guide tried valiantly but in vain to locate them), and you won’t see much from the boat cruise on the lake there unless you are seated right on the outside or the front. Day 6 in Madurai was very full-on and some in our group found it too tiring towards the end, after an early morning start for the heritage walk followed by visits to the temple and palace before a long evening out sampling the street food. All of these events offered wonderful experiences, however it might be better to have the street food walk on the previous evening (Day 5) to allow for a more leisurely end to Day 6.
  • A great holiday

    This trip was pretty much exactly what it said on the label. A varied ride through contrasting states. Well organised and well run. No problems and a lot of fun. A good balance of riding and relaxation.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Nothing particularly stands out. There were many interesting things to see but for me there was no one inspirational moment. This is not a negative comment - it was all good with no real highs and no lows.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Shekar - Excellent. He was organised and always very considerate. He led well and although some minor incidents must have raised his stress levels he coped well. He loved to talk and would use two words when one would do but he was interested in improving his English (which was very good) so as to communicate more efficiently. Sometimes he made up the odd facts, particularly dates, but this was just an amusing characteristic and one would not treat his historical knowledge too seriously.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    In our group everyone had done at least one cycling trip with Exodus before. There are some quite long days so I am not sure I would recommend the ride for first timers unless you were already keen cyclists. India is a mad place to cycle but quite safe once you get to grips with the techniques of getting through the crowds as one exits or enters a town or city. It is hot - low 30's C - but this is fine.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Hotels are varied from decent tourist establishments in towns to home-stays in rural areas. The latter are perfectly comfortable and interesting places. Many do not serve alcohol which is a bit of a bore because many, like myself, appreciate a cold beer after a hard hot ride. This is partially overcome by the guide organizing a supply which we could sneak in to our rooms (known as health drinks). This is Ok but arranging to meet in someone's bedroom for an end of day drink is not the same as having a social time in a bar. Some places you cannot be seen to drink in public so that includes no alcohol with meals.
  • Reviewed March 2020

    Wonderful first experience of Northern India - highly recommended!

    This was an amazing "starter" trip for anyone wanting to begin to experience India. Packed with highlights, everything ran like clockwork (yes, even the train!) and there were no disappointments - friendly people, incredible sights, amazing experiences and incredible food. Highly recommended!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were several highlights but, for me, Varanasi was just amazing and a place I will never forget. It is hard to put into words, but it is amazingly moving, vibrant and life-affirming - truly a unique place that should be visited by everyone. Fatehpur Sikri, Jaipur, Agra and our amazing tiger sighting all ran Varanasi a very close second, though.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our tour leader really brought India to life. He could handle any questions we threw at him but, best of all in my opinion, was his interpretation of India’s many religions. Rather than a dry talk about each religious site – Hindu, Sikh, Muslim – he vividly described what each religion meant to him, bringing out the colour and vibrancy of each which more than matched the amazing temples and activities we saw. Even as an old student of RE, I learnt more from our tour leader on this trip then I did in3 yrs of studies and without ever feeling I was being lectured to. Really great, and a real enthusiasm and love for his country and culture on show - much appreciated!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Get involved and try everything - whether it is dressing up or trying the local delicacies, just do it! The optional evening boat ride in Varanasi is very atmospheric and moving and really shouldn't be missed. If possible, sit on the left hand side of the bus so you have a better view of all the amazing street life - great for photos and it means you definitely will never be bored on the longish road journeys.
  • Reviewed March 2020

    A highly informative trip that covers three states in south Inddiaa

    The trip covers a significant part of south India; our bus covered 2,800 km. At times, the trip seems rather rushed with only one night stays in some locations. This said, our leader Santo certainly got the best for us. Street food, a variety of hotels, different languages, beautiful green countyside, fresh fruits and vegetables, food not too spicy when requested, fantastic elements of the trip spent on boats etc. Exodus, as always, had all angles covered and we were able to enjoy ourselves, especially the walks and boat trips with interesting wildlife to see.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The houseboat trip was the highlight for me, sadly only one night on the boat, could have extended this!!!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Santo was excellent. I have never had a better tour leader. He is so well-informed and is great company. Without him, the trip could not have beeen so enjoyable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do cover all angles as far as power connectors are concerned. The variety of sockets in hotels is nothing short of mind boggling.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thr trip could benefit from one less location so that single night hotel stays are limited/avoided. The chances of catching sight of tiger are very slim indeed! The option to travel on the Miniature Blue Mountain railway was not offered. But, we did travel on a 1 metre guage railway.