Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

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

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19 Reviews

  • Reviewed February 2016
    Sally Wade

    Ethiopia in Depth

    A thoroughly enjoyable holiday with many memorable moments

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    walking at 10,000ft in the Simien mountains over a carpet of thyme. the rock churches in Lalibela the mule trek

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gabre was a very attentive and informative leader

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    go with an open mind

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I don't think so
  • Reviewed February 2016
    Amanda Sutton

    Ethiopia in Depth

    Fascinating trip learning about a culture I didn't know much about. The West has a distinct impression of Ethiopia and is was great to challenge those ideas.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I really enjoyed the rock hewn churches in the north and Lalibella. We were lucky to be there at Christmas and could watch all the pilgrims.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leade (Gabre) was very good. He had a lot of passion and his country and its potential and was also able to answer any questions we had. Our group was quite mixed in terms of interest and physical capabilities and Gabre ensured everyone was included and could participate at their level.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to cover up in churches, fasting days and travel days in the bus.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We had a great driver who looked after the minivan very well. However bigger transport would give everyone a bit more room on long travel days and assist with the unsaved roads, which are of course an avoidable.
  • Reviewed February 2016
    Peter Rogerson

    Ethiopia in Depth - Timkat Depature

    A very enjoyable trip in a very interesting country. Ethiopia is a fast growing and exciting country, and within Africa, a population second only to Nigeria. The infrastructure is improving fast and its mainly young population are starting to enjoy the freedoms of an education and an emerging confident country. The rural areas remain very poor, but infrastructure, including electricity and improved irrigation and transport links, mean that Ethiopia is no longer the barren, drought prone region imagined by most westerners. In fact, during the rainy season, it must be one of the greenest countries in Africa, and the people are generally very friendly and welcoming. Addis in particular is something of a building site, but most of the other towns have concrete shells intended as future apartment blocks and hotels, and there are apparently more university graduates than jobs in many areas - so the future of the country appears bright - although there are still challenges with over-population and the amount of available land for farming. Most people are still subsistence farmers, and the economy is yet to open fully (you can't own land for example), and if the population is to continue growing, more efficient methods of farming will need to be adopted. However, Ethiopia is already a generally good place to travel. The hotels are good and clean, and despite the worries of others, hot water is generally available, and most places have Wi-Fi of varying quality. The country also yet, hasn't become a tourist mecca, meaning you will not have the place to yourself, but you certainly won't be experiencing the crowds of other more well known destinations. The scenery is wonderful - I hadn't realized quite how mountainous most of the country is. We were there in the dry season, but it was clear that following the rains, when everything greens up, it must be spectacular. Ethiopia is also very culturally distinct from anywhere else I've been in Africa - things start to look very "Ethiopian" quite quickly, being a blend of Jewish, Arabic and both north and southern African, as well being close to Sudan, so it comes across as a real melting pot of cultures and ideas.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We were there for the Timkat departure. I would seriously recommend taking this departure if you can, as the festival was a wonderful experience to be a part of, and there seemed to be parades and festivals everywhere we went - for example we also got caught up in the St. Georges day parade in Lalibela, and came across plenty of other related festivities. The moment when hundreds of young men jump into the Facilides pool in Gondar at the conclusion of the festival for the ritual baptism was a real highlight of all my travelling, not just this trip. It is difficult to imagine the trip without Timkat as this was such an integral party of the experience, so if you are considering this trip, try and do that one. I was also very pleased to have spent some time with the Geladas in the Simiem mountains. I'm not sure how lucky we were to come across them, as they move while they graze, so you only have about 15 minutes before they're all gone, but it was great to see them. The Simiems themselves are beautiful - I am seriously considering the Simien Trekking holiday as a result.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gebre was excellent. He has been leading Exodus tours for many years, and was clearly very experienced, knowledgeable and very patient with some of the more challenging members of the group. The trip ran like clockwork and we didn't need to really worry or think about anything. Gebre worked tirelessly for us every day and was a great tour leader who clearly enjoys his job.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I was very surprised at how good the hotels were. Many are resort style hotels, intended for tourists, and government owned I think (part of the Ghion chain). The downside was that there were often other European tour groups there, rather than Ethiopians, so you were a little removed from Ethiopian life, but there were certainly no issues with them, and there was generally wifi, hot water, bars and souvenir shops. They were a mixture of being close to town or a little out of the way, depending on where we were. The "Basic" hotel in Debark, near the Simiens, was actually perfectly good, and probably my personal favourite as they had a nice bar on the street, frequented by locals, and from what I recall, good food in the restaurant. Every child in Ethiopia seems to have been told that foreigners won't give them money and that begging is bad. Consequently, they all want pens. If you bring a suitcase full, they won't last an hour. The ubiquitous "hello pen" ... became a constant companion everywhere we went, but this was more endearing than irritating, and the Ethiopian adults generally won't let them get out of hand, delivering sharp rebukes to any groups of over eager children. We had been warned about pick pockets and things like that, but none of us really had a problem. It made you initially suspect people who were overly friendly, but don't let this cloud your behavior and most people are just very friendly, and basic precautions will most likely be all you need to be concerned with. Certainly, the towns and cities are very safe, generally. Beer is readily available - costing between 12 birr (the cheapest I found in a local bar) up to 25 birr in the upscale hotels. It comes in half pint bottles and you can get it anywhere. St. George was the best I think, although there were other options. I changed all the money I thought I'd need at the Ghion hotel in Addis, which offered a good rate I think - about 30 to the £. changing money elsewhere was not that easy, so I would suggest changing it up at the start. I managed with about £400 worth for the 2 weeks, which included quite a lot of beer and some souvenirs. Meals were generally about 100 birr, but with additional courses, anything up to 200, and you pay for most lunches and dinners. Most souvenir shops will quote in dollars too, so I carried some extra for that. Lalibela is the place for souvenirs - there are loads of cheap shops in town, and opposite the hotel, and some of the stuff is quite good. There is a Tej bar in Lalibela (honey wine). This is surprisingly hard to get hold of otherwise - I tried - but Gebre took us to a nice local place on the final evening to try some. Talla is a locally fermented "beer" - it tastes like scrumpy that has gone off, but is ridiculously cheap. I took a good pair of walking boots for the Simiens and around Lalibela. You will need shoes with a good grip, but good trainers or walking shoes will be fine I think. There is some walking on uneven ground, so if you use poles, bring them with you if you think you might need them. The optional walk in Lalibela is worth doing - although I opted not to use the Mules due to some not unfounded concerns about animal welfare. Check that your mule is healthy and fit before you get on it, please, as some looked very scrawny and others, not particularly healthy at all. The walk was actually very enjoyable too, so if you like your walking, you can always avoid the painful thighs that everyone else seemed to suffer from the previous day and take the views in from foot. Take some sweets or snacks for the bus journeys, as they can be long, and there may be quite a gap between breakfast and lunch on some days. You won't really have access to any luggage while on the bus, as it will be on the roof, and during the day, only what you carry in your rucksack, so pack accordingly. A head torch would prove useful in some of the darker churches. if people ask to have their photo taken, they may be expecting some "photo money" money - but they won't mention this until after you've taken their picture. 10 birr was usually fine, or 5 for the kids. If you're happy with this, then you may get some great pictures, but obviously, think before you take the picture and whether you want to pay for it. Not everyone is like this, however, but do ask first as many Ethiopians are not used to having their photo taken and, women in particular, not comfortable at all with it. Exercise discretion, essentially.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Just that your ideas of Ethiopia are probably wrong. A very beautiful and fast growing country, very green after the rains, and with a vibrant and colourfully unique culture, I am certainly very pleased I went.
  • Reviewed January 2016
    Michael Hardiman

    A Wonderful Tour

    Amazing culture, history and scenery.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were lots of great moments, visiting the churches of Lalibela and sitting among a vast troup of Gelada Baboons are just two of the highlights.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gebre was first class, anticipating all of our needs. He looked after our large group with skill.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Remember there is quite a variation in temperature so pack accordingly. Hotels in Ethiopia are not up to European standards, but most of the staff are friendly and helpful.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A fantastic introduction to Ethiopia and you'll come away wanting to see more of this beautiful country.
  • Reviewed November 2015
    Elizabeth Evans

    Ethiopia in Depth

    This trip opens your eyes to an oft neglected and misunderstood place. Ethiopia is not brown and parched. Ethiopia is not 1984 and Live Aid. Ethiopia is a beautiful place, with so much to see and a people very proud of their long and interesting (independent) history. Ethiopia is a surprise and a joy to visit.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were lots of wonderful moments but the highlight for me was sitting on the top of a hill in the Simien Mountains next to a herd of Gelada monkeys eating and playing and grooming each other. I would like to apologise to David Attenbrough - I remember watching a documentary where he was standing in amongst a herd of Gelada and shouting at the TV, "Well, that would never happen!" How wrong I was. A truly special moment.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gabre was full of enthusiasm for his country and he is a great ambassador for Ethiopia. A warm, funny, intelligent man who wanted to tell us so much and share everything with us. He went above and beyond for us. The trip ended on Saturday afternoon but several of us had expressed an interest in buying coffee and seeing some opals and Gabre gave up his free time to help us do that. He was always available to ask questions and to give food and eating places advice. He also very gallantly took us to a tej bar to sample the local brew - an acquired taste!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Please go with an open mind and a sense of fun. I did not have a warm shower for about 5/6 days and in one hotel I had no water at all. Did it matter? No. The Simien Mountain hotel is basic but it is clean and that is what counts. A lot of the hotels were a pleasant surprise and far exceeded my expectations. Try and read up on some history/literature before you go - The Emperor, The Barefoot Emperor, In Ethiopia on a Mule.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Please go to Ethiopia - it has got everything (except a coast!) You will not encounter history and buildings like it anywhere else in Africa. It is unique in that respect. The scenery is beautiful. I remember one day as we stopped for a photo opportunity, looking back down in to a valley and thinking, "That looks like the Swiss Alps". The people are friendly and the kids love waving at the ferengi in the bus and shouting "You, you, you! The Gelada are wonderful to see and there is some great bird life. I would love to go back again to Harar and to the south. Fingers crossed I get the opportunity to do so.
  • Reviewed February 2015
    Sonia Richardson

    Ethiopia in Depth

    A fascinating and beautiful country which I first visited 2 years ago and was keen to revisit. I was not disappointed although we were mostly travelling the same route as on my previous visit. Our Tour Leader, Gebre, was excellent; knowledgeable with good people skills and a sense of humour.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I think revisiting the first painted church on Lake Tana.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gebre was excellent.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be tolerant about waiting for service in cafes and restaurants and of the dust; be prepared to have your preconceptions challenged; Ethiopia is such a rewarding country and with luck, you will leave with some different perspectives and some wonderful memories.
  • Reviewed February 2015
    Nancy Aldridge

    Ethiopia in Depth February 2015

    Wonderful mountain scenery and sights for the intrepid traveller.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Every day had something or several things but the mountain scenery and roadside scenes were amazing.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Kind and willing to fit extra requests into the schedule. Very considerate and proactive if there were any problems.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The days travel to Labelia was too long.
  • Reviewed February 2015
    Caraline Marchant

    Ethiopia in Depth

    A full-on trip to a truly African country. It has the people, history, culture, and scenery all in one country.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The spectacular scenery throughout the country, but particularly in the Simien Mountains, together with the smiling and friendly faces of the people of Ethiopia, most of whom had so little.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gebre was an exceptional tour leader who was always helpful and patient with us. A man who truly loves his country and wanted to convey that to everyone who would listen.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Although this holiday is rated as a 2, travelling in Ethiopia is never easy with some very long and tiring days. Two whole days were spent travelling to Axum and Lalibela and so travellers should be aware that most of these days will be spent in the bus. Also remember to be patient as things generally take longer to happen and comfort standards can vary considerably.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Water was a problem in some of the hotels, with hotels turning off the water supply totally before 6pm (even the cold water). However that being said, if adventure is what you are after, go before Ethiopia steps into the modern world.
  • Reviewed February 2015
    Carol Field

    Ethiopia in depth

    A fantastic trip to an amazing country. The travelling was sometimes long and hard but the scenery and sights made it all totally worthwhile.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Constantly feeling on top of the world looking out over mountain tops in every direction.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Gabre, our tour leader, was exceptional. Sensitive, patient, good humoured and very knowledgeable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The travelling can be hard and long - take snacks and music!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The group was too big -18 is too many Although the trip notes warned about the possibility of lack of hot water there were still complaints within the group - perhaps this needs to be highlighted as people don't seem to realise our very privileged accessibility to water