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 March 2018
    Audrey Walker

    Southern India kaleidoscope of life and colour.

    An amazing insight of Southern Indian life, culture, wildlife, transport, travel, beautiful beaches, luxury hotels, excellent food. Every day was a new adventure. My memories will always be of lovely, friendly, open hearted, colourful, vibrant people of this wonderfully diverse country.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On my first day in Mamallapuram, I was traditionally blessed with henna by friendly lady after Holy-man fire cermony in a tiny rock temple. I really enjoyed my stay in the colonnial style hotel in Coonoor, where we were treated to hot-water bottles in our beds, together with sleep blessing card and flowers. Cochin city was an amazing mix of cultures, history and tradition....outdoor laundry; Dutch Palace; Jew Town with 400yr old synagogue; Catholic Basilica; Chinese fishing nets. To be able to experience a Hindu Temple Festival was a very special moment. Finally for me, was the Ash Ceremony on Varkala holy beach at sunset. What a fitting end to a very special tour.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Lukas, was a very kind person, whom tried to please everyone. He was well educated in history and culture, which he was able to explain to the group in perfectly spoken English. He gave us a wonderful experience of the many fascinating ways of Indian life. Lukas was a real gentleman.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for early morning starts, lots of travelling, walking, full of historical information, with one day of leisurely cruise through Keralan back-waters. Good idea to take own drink bottle to cut down on plastic waste.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Just wonderful experience. All accommodation was of excellent standard, with very keen staff more than eager to help in any way possible.
  • Reviewed March 2018

    Classic South India - Premium

    A thoroughly enjoyable trip to South India using premium hotels and at a leisurely pace (although still plenty of early starts and not nearly as much free time as suggested in trip notes). I am generally reluctant to leave lengthy reviews of our Exodus trips as I complete the Exodus survey at conclusion of the trip and can't really be bothered repeating myself on an online review. However as I always read the reviews before booking an Exodus trip I now realise that I really should help other travellers by leaving my review. This trip starts at Chennai airport for those travelling on the group flights from London. After battling with Indian beaurocracy and queues at immigration there is then a 2-3 hour drive to Mahabalipuram where we stayed for 2 nights. The Chariot Beach Hotel was lovely although most Exodus rooms had a scenic view of the car park rather than sea view. Rather than spending the rest of the day relaxing our guide decided to take us sightseeing to view lighthouse and butterball before returning to the hotel for a group dinner. Day 2 was spent sightseeing in the morning with a short break in the afternoon at the hotel before more sightseeing then dinner at a local fish restaurant. Day 3 had a fairly early start for the journey back to Chennai via temples at Kanchipuram and a comfort break at a silk weaver/shop. We stopped for lunch at a roadside transport cafe and arrived back in Chennai late afternoon with time for a quick swim in the rooftop pool of JP Hotel. Day 4 started with a very early wake up call as we had a long train journey from Chennai to Mysore. The train journey took 7 hours but we were well looked after. The hotel provided a breakfast box then on the train we were served breakfast, mid morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack plus a bottle of water and free newspapers - British Rail take note! In Mysore we stayed at Windflower Resort & Spa for 2 nights. All the rooms were located around a stagnant pool and this was the only location on the trip where we suffered from insects in our rooms (a huge cockroach and lots of small insects) and disappointing food in the hotel restaurant. We did lots of sightseeing in Mysore and managed a short trip to the bazaar before meeting for dinner on Day 4 but didn't get any free time in Mysore on Day 5 as suggested in trip notes. Day 6 saw us travel from Mysore to Bandipur National Park for 1 night at Bandipur Jungle Lodge. The accommodation was fairly basic but nice and clean. We had a game drive late afternoon on Day 6 and then a further game drive on Day 7. Unfortunately our entire group was taken out in a large, noisy bus type vehicle and I'm sure that the size and noise of this scared all the animals away as we saw very few animals or birds during the two drives. The NP guides were quite poor at spotting wildlife - when birds were spotted it was usually by some of the group. We didn't see any elephants or tigers although were told that there had been previous sightings of both by previous groups. Several times we drove to particular points in the NP and were told that a tiger had been spotted there the previous week but clearly the tiger hadn't been told that we were coming and hadn't waited to see us. We left for Conoor after our morning game drive on Day 7. There was no opportunity to visit the elephant feeding station as mentioned in the trip notes and I can only assume that the second game drive put paid to this activity. The drive was interesting as we climbed up to the hill station and we were disappointed that the guide made no attempt to stop the bus at one of the many viewpoints to let us take photos of the view or the tea plantations. We stopped at a local fast food restaurant in Ooty for a late lunch on the way to Conoor but had no free time or opportunity for sightseeing before the bus left again for Conoor where we stayed at the Gateway hotel. On Day 8 our first stop was at a tea factory which also sold chocolate before the bus then took us down to Ooty and dropped us at the Botanical Gardens. We had time to walk round the gardens but I didn't feel that these were impressive and would happily have given this activity a miss. After the park it was time for lunch except that in order to get tickets for the Toy Train back to Conoor some of us had to queue with the guide for tickets. Once the tickets were eventually purchased there was then no time to go for lunch as Lukas insisted that we were all at the station by 1pm for the train. It was very disappointing that we had no time to visit St Stephen's church or wander round the bazaar and I'm not sure why we couldn't have got the later toy train back to Conoor which would have then given us a couple of hours to enjoy Ooty. On day 9 we had the long drive from Conoor to Cochin. I think everyone was dreading this long journey as previous reviews had commented on this but the updated trip notes did warn that it could take 8-10 hours and once we had made our way down the winding mountain road the main roads were busy but traffic flowed smoothly and, after a stop at a coffee cooperative cafe for lunch, we arrived at Cochin late afternoon to stay at another Gateway Hotel. The hotel gave us a complimentary harbour sunset cruise and then the group headed out for dinner using local Tuktuks for transportation. Day 10 started off with a sail across from the hotel to Fort Kochi where we were met by bus and taken sightseeing. Again the sightseeing took far longer than suggested in the trip notes so we had no free afternoon for individual sightseeing and certainly no opportunity to eat fish caught by the local fishermen. In the evening we were taken by bus back over to Fort Kochi to watch a local cultural show and then for a group meal at a local restaurant. On the way back to the hotel we happened to come upon a local festival with elephants, musicians and music which was a very noisy, colourful spectacle. On day 11 we drove from Cochin to Alleppey to board our houseboat. This was a very comfortable experience although the houseboat was not luxurious with threadbare towels and patched bedlinen but the food was of a high standard and airconditioning made things much more comfortable at night when the boat was moored. The backwater cruise finished after a short sail of an hour back to the boat mooring then we transferred by coach to Varkala, arriving late afternoon after stops for morning coffee and lunch so, once again, the free afternoon promised in the trip notes failed to materialise. We met up again as a group to walk along the clifftop path at sunset before eating dinner in a local restaurant. Day 13 was our final day together as a group and we all did our own thing. Some people took the opportunity to sunbathe at the hotel pool, others to shop for souvenirs at the numerous stalls that line the clifftop path. We met up as a group at sunset for our final group meal before all heading off in separate directions on Day 14.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The experiences were so varied it's hard to pick out one but probably the backwaters cruise. Apart from the gentle throbbing noise of boat engines the only sounds were from nature and the singing from a local church.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I was actually a bit disappointed with our leader, Lukas, on this trip. He made no attempt at the start of the trip to make sure everyone on the group introduced themselves and did not interact with group members unless they instigated this. He did not provide information about sights on the coach journeys unless a question was raised. He did not stay at any of the hotels with us - not sure if this was an Exodus or local policy so unless an evening group meal was organised we were just left to make our own arrangements and eat in hotels. For solo travelers this meant eating alone or tagging along with other couples. When we stopped for lunch at local restaurants or roadside cafes it would have been helpful if Lukas had given us more guidance as to what foods were available on the menu.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't expect an Exodus leisurely holiday to be leisurely - it still means early starts and long days. Read up in advance about the area you are visiting then read it all again when you get home as it will then make more sense. Use lots of antibacterial handwash,

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    On this trip there was always fresh drinking water available on our coach yet at every hotel people still used the bottled water provided in the hotel rooms. India has a major problem with rubbish - it litters their roads and rivers and blots the landscape. If you take 16 guests x 12 nights x 2 bottles then that means almost another 400 empty plastic bottles just from our trip
  • Reviewed February 2017
    Victoria Ahearn

    Classic South India

    The holiday overall gave me a very good experience of Southern India. unfortunately I felt the trip notes were very misleading. The majority of the coach journeys were longer than stated the worst being from Coonor to Cochin (trip notes 5 - 6 hours) this took 10 hours and we were told that on a previous trip it had taken over 11 hours. If we had known there would be so much time spent in the coach we may well have considered some other holiday in India. There were other things that were underwhelming e.g the botanical gardens in Ooty which although it was a pleasant park was devoid of flora and every member of our group looked for orchids (see trip notes) but found none. There was also a mention of buying fish from fishermen in Fort Kochi and having it. cooked for lunch in a local restaurant but there was no mention of this when we were there. We were looking forward to more free time to explore or just relax but possibly due to extended time on the road this was not possible. I felt we had far less time outdoors than I would have liked but maybe I had wrongly anticipated the holiday format.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Mysore, we had a very good local guide and covered a lot of interesting palaces and temples in the time there. Our Exodus guide also took us to the Kaveri River to observe rituals etc., to the Chamundshwari temple high up overlooking Mysore and the Nandi statue carved out of solid granite these three places being additions to the Exodus itinerary.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Eugene our leader was excellent. He did not overload us with information but was always keen to give additional details when asked. He was very knowledgeable, had a good sense of humor and coped well with everyone in the party of 16.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Unless you are the sort of person who enjoys "coach trips" my advice would e to think twice about this trip. Ther was a huge distance covered and a lot fitted in but it was not an ideal holiday for myself or my husband. We do no regret the trip as the plusses were greater than the niggles!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Rewrite the trip notes.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We would like to thank Victoria for her review, although we are very sorry to learn that she was disappointed with the trip notes. The times stated in the trip notes are based on the actual driving times and they do not include photo, tea, comfort or lunch breaks. Whilst the roads are generally good, unfortunately local traffic and road conditions can sometimes slow us down. From Coonor to Cochin, the journey is in fact approx. 8-10hrs due to a hilly section with lots of bends, and following this feedback we have reviewed the trip notes and updated them accordingly. Buying fish from the local fishermen in Cochin and having it cooked at one of the restaurants is an activity that can be done independently during your free time in Cochin. It is not always mentioned and organised by the leader as it is a recommendation from our India experts in the UK office, however the leader will of course assist should you wish to do this.

    Louise Ungless - Product Manager for India

  • Reviewed March 2016
    Malcolm Hurley

    South India: A classic

    We loved the tour, which was greatly enhanced by our fabulous leader San. Everyday was pretty much filled with varied activities, you must be prepared for some early starts and long journeys. Most lunches and evening meals were done as a group (optional), on the leaders recommendations, which were usually very good venues and excellent value for money. The standard of accommodation throughout was very good, sometimes exceptionally good. The local people were very friendly, polite and a joy to meet. We always felt safe, except the chaotic roads can be a challenge to your sanity!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Mysore was a great place, with a vibrant atmosphere and beautiful palaces. We particularly loved the market, but some of the group found it rather daunting and overwhelming.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    San was a fabulous leader - very attentive to our needs, nothing was too much trouble. He did everything he could to keep the group happy and informed, often adding extra attractions to our published itinerary.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take advice from the leader, who is so knowledgeable. Just go and enjoy it.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thank you for a most enjoyable holiday.
  • Reviewed March 2015
    Rhiannon Havard

    Ms Rhiannon Havard

    The trip encapsulated the culture, landscape, scenery,architecture, cuisine, people of S.India, wildlife. So diverse, so enjoyable and comfortable accommodation at the end of a busy day.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I don't know about inspirational but so memorable - at last seeing a tiger, the train experience Conoor to Ooty. Learning about life and history in S.India. The wonderful,atmospheric stay in Conoor hotel. Tha cruise on the houseboat from Allepy.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    So friendly, efficient, helpful, calm, knowledgeable, good company, always a smile -a very good trustworthy leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for some early mornings and full day travel

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I will savour this trip for a long time. It has to be said that the group dynamics was good - good company.a
  • Reviewed February 2015
    Richard and Linda Davies

    Classic South India

    A thoroughly memorable experience enhanced by an excellent guide and interesting fellow travellers

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The sight of so many cheerful and well behaved school children sharing the sights with us. This bodes well for the future of Southern India. Others include the national litter campaign which has the potential to make so much difference. Then of course the wildlife sightings particularly such a wide range of wonderful birds.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    As mentioned above, Bali's enthusiasm and knowledge enhanced the trip for all of us. We have travelled with many great guides in the past but feel that he was exceptional. Our considerable thanks to him.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    No. Just look forward to a varied and well planned trip.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thanks again for giving us such a varied experience.
  • Reviewed March 2013
    Anonymous

    CLASSIC SOUTH INDIA

    My wife and I chose this premium trip because we thought it would be a gentle introduction to India.  We were not disappointed.  The hotels were very comfortable; the food was good; the travelling was not too hard; and the towns, while busy, were manageable.  Although most people remain poor, there was little "in your face" extreme poverty.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were a lot of good sights (my own favourite being the Pallava temples and rock carvings at Mahabalipuram) and memorable moments (including the bustle of Chennai station in the morning, the elephant encounter that Michael Canham has mentioned, and sunset on the beach at Varkala).  But for me the most inspirational moment was on the houseboat in the evening, listening to beautiful singing/chanting from the nearby village.  I found out the next day that this was a prayer service for a lady who had recently died.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Santosh was an excellent leader, with lots of local knowledge and contacts, and good at reconciling the disparate tastes of our group.  He regularly went the excellent mile in organising extra little things to do, and found us some truly excellent restaurants in Kerala.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You will eat best if you stick to Indian food.  While most of our meals were very good, we had a couple of disappointing lunches when we were taken to places catering for more "western" tastes.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We, and most of our group, were disappointed by the backwater cruise.  The standards of food, service and general housekeeping were poor.  Also, the houseboats were newer and bigger than advertised (4-5 bedrooms), and too big to go into any side channels.  So we just went up and down the main channel, with a lot of time spent moored up.  Having said that, the cruise does get you closer to village life, especially if you take the opportunity to go for a walk whenever the boat is moored, and I got a lot of good pictures (plus the inspirational moment noted above).
  • Reviewed February 2013
    Anonymous

    CLASSIC SOUTH INDIA

    4th trip to India, bit of a different world in the South, probably go back North next time.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    A Tiger, some happy!!! elephants, a remarkable encounter with a very sad!!! female elephant. A rarely seen event, a privilege, probably the wrong word just about everyone was in tears by the end. Waterbottles in the bed. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The usual very high standard for an Exodus group leader, just the same as for the other 16 trips.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you are new to this form of travel trust the leader he will only take you to places where the food is safe and the beer is cold.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The last 2 nights, make sure you eat at a beach side restaurant afer 6pm, big fish maybe the best you'll ever get.
  • Reviewed November 2012
    Anonymous

    A Good Introduction To This Amazing Country

    This trip offers a broad variety of experiences and a good introduction to the country for India virgins, without being too in your face or overwhelming.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The experiences were so varied it's hard to pick out one, so here's a selection: seeing a tiger in the wild, drifting along the Kerela backwaters in a houseboat, sampling the food, the friendliness of the people (we never felt threatened or hassled), the train journey, the hill stations ....

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Suresh is considerate, hugely knowledgeable and quietly effective.  His clear confidence and comptence allowed us to relax into a hectic environment and just enjoy the holiday.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Relax into the trip.  Practically every day is different, so it takes some energy to get the best out of it, but it's worth it.  Although this is a premium offering (and the accommodation is very good), we were exhausted at the end, but in a good way.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you are new to India but are a bit worried about the crowds, noise and dirt, then this is the trip for you. Sure, there are lots of people, but never in an overwhelming way.  Sure, you will see poverty and beggars, but not all the time.  The food is basically vegtarian and sticking to veggie dishes will probably reduce the chances of contracting Delhi Belly - but you must, you really must, enjoy curry to enjoy this holiday.  You will come away with a good taste of India and probably tempted, having broken your duck, to return some day and maybe sample the more hectic north.
  • Reviewed November 2012
    Anonymous

    CLASSIC SOUTH INDIA

    We chose this trip because the itinerary was interesting and varied and it more than lived up to our expectations in every respect. We have been on lots of Exodus holidays and this was our first "Premium" holiday. It ranks as one of the best we've done.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It's really hard to pick the best from this fantastic trip. Southern India is wonderfully fertile and we loved seeing everyday activities in the countryside - tea picking, the rice harvest, carrots being washed (yes really!), sugar cane converted to sugar. Our guide Lukose often just stopped our minibus to pick up on activities as we passed by on the road. We were a small group of six and the group dynamics worked well, always a bonus.  Accommodation was excellent throughout. Cruising along the backwaters in a houseboat is a very special experience too. I should mention that at "Ooty" we found ourselves involved in a celebration of 140 years of the railway and were the VIP guests being interviewed for the newspapers and TV - we have press cuttings of our moment of fame!!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Lukose Thomas is a  really professional leader who takes his job and responsibilities seriously. He is clearly a leader of many years experience and not fazed by any difficulties - for example when we found I'd left my credit card in the machine at the previous hotel! He worked hard at following our interests and was keen to research any areas where he didn't know the answer. This doesn't mean he lacked a sense of humour either - we all really enjoyed his company for our two weeks and felt privileged to have such a great leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

     The climate is REALLY humid and you have to get used to being permanently damp. Because you stay in some hotels for two nights it's possible to get laundry done and we all found that necessary - it's returned beautifully pressed, and on one occasion in a lined basket with flowers on top! It was quite cold and very wet up in the hill station so a waterproof and/or umbrella is essential. Some of the hotels have good swimming pools and there was time on this trip to take advantage of them.There is a lot of curry - it's possible to eat it 3 times a day, but if you're not keen on spicy food it is possible to find alternatives.  

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It was our second visit to India, the first with Exodus and it was good to be back with our favourite travel company! Travelling with Exodus you get a real feel for the people and the way of life as well as the country itself.  There is a fair amount of driving on this trip and Lukose had some ideas for improving the one very long day's drive which are worth following up. We were just six in a nine seater minivan, not counting driver and guide so were comfortable - with nine it would have been a bit cosy. Train travel  in India is just a brilliant experience, not to be missed.
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