Turtle, Ecuador

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

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  • Reviewed August 2019
    Melanie Costello

    An amazing holiday!

    We had spent a long time saving for and planning this trip for myself and my boyfriend. It did not disappoint. It was even better than we expected. From the moment we stepped off the plane, everything was organised. We got the direct flight from Gatwick. The flight was 10 hrs and went very quickly. The rest of our group went via Miami and unfortunately got delayed so ended up arriving at the hotel in the early hours and only had a few hours sleep before the tour started. If you get the direct flight you also stay an extra night at the end of the trip so you get a day to explore San Jose which we did but we felt there is not a great deal to do there. We had 8 in our group and it was a nice mix of ages and we all got on well. The minibus is nice and comfortable with aircon and plenty of room.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing a turtle laying her eggs on the beach at Tortuguero and watching Humpback whales with their calves in Drakes Bay. We also loved watching the hummingbirds in Savegre. This was something I was not prepared for, they are beautiful. Getting to see scarlet macaws up close. A pair landed in a tree right above us and posed for quite a while. Tree frogs, sloths, jesus lizards, basilisks, crocodiles, caiman, birds, bats, turtles, monkeys (howler, spider, squirrel and white face capuchin), coatis.........the list goes on!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Guillermo was excellent. His knowledge of the wildlife was amazing and he spotted things we would never have seen. His enthusiasm was infectious and we were soon all trying to spot and recognise different birds and animals. It's worth noting that the leaders are 'on call' for your whole trip so they work incredibly hard. We were so impressed. One day we stopped for lunch at a tradional Costa Rican restaurant which we would never have gone to withour our leader taking us there. Olman (not sure if I spelt that right) was a lovely driver. His skill driving our bus on some of the mountain roads was impressive. Guillermo and Olman obviously got on very well and made a great team.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a book, there are some long bus journeys and plenty of time to relax in the afternoons. Taking a suitcase with wheels is ideal as there are a few times where you need to move it. I would recommend a hard case or a decent level of water resistance as they may get wet if it rains on the way to Tortoguero. Savegre is cold! Take warm clothes. The temperature difference really is noticeable. I slept with 3 blankets the first night we were there. Take an umbrella. We had ponchos but sometimes they were too hot and a bit too much. US dollars are fine. You can use them everywhere. We had a travel currency card which we used to withdraw dollars as we needed them. ATMS are easy to find and your leader will take you. We thought the food was fabulous. Vegetarians are well sorted and the portions are huge. Prices are about the same as the UK for eating out but we thought that snacks in the supermarket where expensive but probably because we were buying "British type" snacks. Take dry shoes and "water shoes". You have to jump in the sea a couple of times so it's handy to have these. Also a dry bag is useful for the boats to keep cameras dry but also if it rains. All the usual that everyone else has mentioned: sunglasses, hat, suncream, insect repellent, bite cream,torch,

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    At Drakes Bay, the hotel will do your washing for free each day which is very useful if you are running out of clothes. They will also dry out all your shoes so you don't have to put wet shoes back in your suitcase. It's worth mentioning that all the boat journeys are by speed boat and can be pretty bumpy especially when first going out to the hotel from the river. Not for the faint hearted but so much fun. The boat drivers are highly skilled and we felt perfectly safe on every trip.
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Sara Johnson

    Loved it!

    Amazing trip, highly recommended. The itinerary changed slightly, so there was snorkelling on the last day which was amazing, almost as if leaving the best till last! This is for the more adventurous traveller rather than the type of person who likes to sit on a beach, although not as active as it could have been! We saw a lot of beautiful animals and birds, to many to mention, and especially enjoyed the boat trips. We can't wait now for our next exodus adventure.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    For me it was seeing a turtle laying her eggs. Magical! For my husband it was snorkelling which he absolutely loved and saw two turtles, two stingrays and tons of fish.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jorge is an excellent guide, very knowledgeable and with a great sense of humour. He has a great relationship with Henri, our driver. Jorge and Henri gave up there time off so we could get a good view of a Resplendant Quetzal which we spent a good 45 minutes watching. Magical!!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read the itinerary and trip notes before booking! Your move around a lot on this trip which isn't for everyone, although we loved it as we feel we've had a good snap shot of what Costa Rica has to offer. Research the hotels before you go, all details are in the trip notes to see what each one has to offer. Things to take- an umbrella as we ended up buying an one. The rain isn't like the rain in the uk as there is no wind and we noticed its what the locals use, plus you get so hot in a poncho; take a hair dryer if this is important to you as not all hotels provide them, good walking shoes, light clothing, water proof sandals or flip flops are handy for wet landings or walking through streams; towels are provided for snorkelling at drakes bay so we were glad we didn't weigh ourselves with taking a beach towel from home. Take bug spray and after bite cream. Also take plenty of money- we took colons and found we got a much better deal on things for doing so. Walking wise the only walk i struggled with (being exceptionally clumsy as i am) was to the waterfall at Corcovado as it was pouring with rain and it was quite uneven under foot. There was also a large river to wade through to get to it. If you go on the turtle watching tour (very highly recommended) you will have to wear the worst wellies known to man, so take long socks! Some people chose to ignore the advice to wear them and ended up knee deep in mud. Also ignore when told not to take a torch on the turtle watching- we were told not to by the company (not exodus!) and then got told to take our torches out for the walk! Foodwise i did struggle with eating in some places being vegan, but luckily i had taken some items of food with me, such as pitta breads. Its not that food wasn't provided for me, it was more that they only provided one vegan option and it would have meant i had exactly the same meal for lunch and dinner 2 days running. Also it means that you're not just eating fruit for breakfast as places like villa florencia that didn't provide anything i could eat for breakfast ( and all costa rican bread appears to contain milk). For us (my husband has food allergies) the best places to eat were at Cahuita and Drakes bay. Food portions can be small, especially in Totuguero, so was glad of the extra snacks i took. Hotel wise, some of the hotels are what could be deemed as basic, especially Drakes bay. Again, this wasn't a problem for us as we saw the lodges as a base to sleep only, especially as all lodges at Drakes Bay are on the sea front, and you can sometimes see dolphins swimming by. Tortuguero's lodges don't have glass at the windows, just bug nets, which we loved as it meant going to sleep listening to the thunder and frogs croaking, and waking up to the noise of howler monkeys. However, on the flip side it it meant the place is constantly damp, so I'd recommend not unpacking here as it meant clothes got wet if left out the case. Air conditioner is in all rooms except Tortuguero which has ceiling fans. For us, our favourite place was in the cloud mountains at Savegre. Quiet, not over loaded with tourists, and beautiful views. For us, it was paradise.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Exodus should really mention that the turtle watching tour is an additional cost in the trip notes as we were all under the impression it was included in the cost. Also it would be good if Exodus, if possible, could suggest to the company that runs this trip as the wellies provided truly were awful- my orthotics wouldn't fit in them, my husbands leaked, and others in the group ended up with injuries from them. Whilst i appreciated Exodus forwarding my dietary requirements to the hotel, i think it would be helpful if they explain what the dietary requirements means. For example, Drakes bay, under the guidance of Jorge, did me egg and milk free pancakes, only to cover them in honey, which i obviously couldn't eat- although to be fair my husband did appreciate this error. My fault really as i hadn't mentioned to Jorge vegans don't eat honey, but if exodus were to explain what dietary means, especially in places where certain diets aren't common, this would be helpful. This would be especially helpful for places where the guide isn't with you like villa florencia which unfortunately made me ill despite me telling them of my diet. I can see why exodus don't offer the direct flights as standard as part of this trip. It means an extra day in San Jose where there isn't that much to do. We did the art museum and the museum of costa rica- the latter being the greater success.
  • Reviewed July 2019

    Love Costa Rica

    Wonderful experience. This place is in my wish list from such a long time and finally my wish completed. Awesome trip and amazing experience.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    La Fortuna Waterfall
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Mary ( Candy) Duggan

    Fabulous Coasts and Country

    Wonderful, well organised trip full of interest. Great mix of forest, coasts and wildlife everywhere you looked, even sitting outside your room! Thank you to our fellow travellers who made this a memorable holiday.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    So many..... seeing a flock of toucans feasting on figs, sitting watching a group of 19 coatis on the beach at Corcovado National Park, being close to hummingbirds, listening to the rain, frogs and howler monkeys in Tortuguero,

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Erick was great. Wildlife and bird spotting skill was remarkable. He and our lovely driver Henry had a good rapport and made a good team. Thank you.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I found previous reviews very helpful. Read your trip notes! Do take a poncho, easy to take on and off and covers your back pack, and great on the open boats. Even our lightweight rain jackets were too hot! 12 members of our group took the direct flight from Gatwick to San Jose which avoided changing planes and gave us an extra day in San Jose visiting museums and galleries. San Jose duty free shops are VERY expensive, shop before you get there - try Cheiton Moren on Calle 17 a small not for profit shop and museum run by friendly and knowledgeable volunteers selling works by the indigenous tribes of Costa Rica

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The walks were leisurely, stopping frequently to look at birds, reptiles, etc. Only 2 were slightly uneven underfoot. Long drives by air conditioned, comfortable minibus and by boat but the scenery was amazing along the way. We chose this tour as we wanted to visit different eco sysyems and were not disappointed. Tortuguero was a great start, a great cabin in the forest, Cahuita unspoiled and simple with a lovely beach, Savegre, lovely detatched lodge in beautiful gardens, and Drake's Bay, fabulous remote location. Cano island snorkelling was our only slight disappointment as the sea was crowded with different groups and reduced visability due to a storm the day before. Go, you wont be disappointed!
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Danuta Joyce

    Costa Rica - coastal secrets

    The geographical and wildlife diversity of Costa Rica is immense- a real treasure of a country. This trip certainly delivered in giving me an idea of its beautiful scenery and the wildlife therein. It left me wishing to revisit the country to see and experience more. My travelling companions were are bonus - we all knitted well and shared a great enthusiasm for everything. The Costa Ricans I met were engaging, helpful and enthusiastic about their country and what it had to offer.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The diversity of Costa Rica: mountains, volcanos, beaches, forests, valleys, colour and the wonderfully diverse wildlife. What stuck in my mind most, however was one fact our guide told me: the country's energy is mainly renewably sourced- hydroelectric , geothermal.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Erick was great: organisationally on the ball; knowledgeable about politics, history and economics of his country (setting issues and daily life in context) as well as his knowledge of wildlife and the natural world. And ......... what eye sight! He had a great sense of humour which helped bond the group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Beware the US dollar to local currency exchange - you will get change in local currency from shops and cafes which do not follow the official exchange rate! Take loads of small denomination dollars. You need to pay for the loo stop at the transfer point at Tortuguero (currently $1.00). The Osa peninsula is not that isolated (sadly) and the snorkelling was rather crowded but I managed to catch a glimpse of a white tipped reef shark - magnificent
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Ruth Davies

    Loving Costa Rica

    A fabulous tour with a brilliant guide, great scenery and wildlife. Thank you.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the 3 toed sloth coming down trees and vines very close to us.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He is wonderful.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a good alarm clock to get up at 5am to see the wildlife busy with breakfast.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Highly recommend this trip. Also we flew KLM on the return journey back to Birmingham and the staff were great.
  • Reviewed April 2019
    Carole Brown

    A Good Holiday But Not A Great One!

    My husband and I chose this holiday to Costa Rica mainly to be able to snorkel in the Caribbean and Pacific, together with the chance to see such a fantastic array of wildlife. Like mentioned by people in previous reviews, it was once again too rough to snorkel in the Caribbean and our snorkel near Cano Island was cut short because several people felt queasy. We saw a lot of wild life but this trip is mainly geared to bird watchers, which got a little tedious at times. We enjoyed the stay at Tortuguero,l Cahuita and Drakes Bay but the other two stops were rather boring and there was not much to see. We also ended up at a sub standard lodge in Savegre which didn't help, Everyone felt that there was far too much travelling in cramped mini buses with hardly any leg room and on boats.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Probably snorkelling alongside a turtle and hearing the strange jungle sounds late at night and first thing in the morning.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jorge was competent and tried to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. Everything ran like clockwork and he found us a lovely family run restaurant in the mountains to stop for lunch which we all enjoyed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We thought there would be a lot more walking involved and not as much bird watching. The mini bus seats are far too close together and painful for taller members of the group. We didn't think Costa Rica was expensive as described and returned home with a lot of local currency.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Not really
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Nicola Jenkins

    Excellent

    A great trip for those interested in the wildlife of the country, with some walking but also boat trips and viewing in the grounds of the lodges.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I'm not sure that I can pick a single moment as every day threw up wonderful sights and interesting animals. However the view of a moving sloth in the wild was special.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Coped with everything that the group presented him with and very proactive in dealing with any problems.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do check that this is the trip for you. It is not hiking but spending time, sometimes in one place looking for the special view.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    No
  • Reviewed March 2019
    Frances Prior

    Costa Rica

    Overall very good, plenty of wildlife to see and local people very friendly. Disappointed with dynamics of group as although 16 of us 14 were one group so felt like outsiders, they were also a lot older than us so on occasion with specific options for treks and ability we were out voted. Some of the accommodation was very basic no hot or running water for two days at Cahuita and the food was hit and miss. The breakdown of days at different hotels could have been better, spending one night at Florencia arrived in the dark and departed very early so unable to use the facilities, could have arrived a day earlier or at least earlier in the day so could use facilities but rest of group wanted a later start again we were outvoted.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Actually it was the friend I went with, I have terminal bone cancer and she made me feel so special and ensured I enjoyed every day to the fullest, she was inspirational to me

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader was very good, although communication could have been better with how the days were going pan out, timings changed quite frequently of start times, where we were going to eat although had to pander for the whole group some of which were very demanding. Knowledge was excellent and came across very passionate, happy to answer any questions and always very friendly towards us considering we felt we were on our own

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for lots of travel in small coach with many bumpy roads, some of accommodation is very basic. Don't worry about taking local currency as everywhere takes dollas although change is always given in local currency Be prepared to allow an amount of money for tipping which although not compulsory ended up being 220 dollas which hadn't accounted for

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    When considering travellers, you should advise that age groups may vary, we were on a coach with 14 elderly guests and had we known we could have chosen a different date. Date of birth is taken at time of booking and this does really affect some of the activities chosen on the actual break due to varying abilities within the group
  • Reviewed February 2019
    Susan Baxter

    A fabulous trip for wildlife lovers

    The tour is well planned with a mix of early mornings and full days, with down time to spend around the pool or strolling. If you like a tour to be more like a holiday than a frenetic series of hotels, then this is perfect. If you are an activity junkie then it is not for you. It covers a huge variety in a couple of weeks, boat trips, walking, sightseeing and snorkelling, and we saw an amazing range of birds, reptiles and mammals with our fantastically knowledgeable and lovely guide. The accommodation was good, ranging from Tortugero where the individual chalets were in a stunning setting, to Cahuita which was rather in need of TLC but in a convenient location behind the beach. The rooms are as described in the details - comfortable rather than luxurious. The beds everywhere were extremely comfortable, I slept incredibly well! The included meals were all good, the hotels were very accommodating catering for a vegan diet.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing a sloth crawling along behind the beach in Cahuita, we stood and watched while he unsteadily clambered up the tree and around the branches. A lovely meal in a restaurant right on the beach that evening made for a fantastic day.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jorge was extremely knowledgeable and amazing at spotting things. His knowledge of birds was incredible. He was always there if we needed anything and provided information constantly about the wildlife, the country and the activities. He was well-planned and organised, everything went like clockwork -if we were meeting a driver, he was always there waiting for us, if we were meeting a boat it was there without us having to wait in the heat. Checking in and out of the hotels was done extremely speedily, and you overall just couldn't fault him as a group leader he was fantastic!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take binoculars, take insect repellent, take a hat, take a torch, pack as light as you can and have a case with wheels as you are often moving your case about yourself to/from rooms and boats. Don't expect that you will be on your own with wildlife. Costa Rica is popular. There are many boats doing the same thing in Tortugero, the walk in Cahuita NP is a family stroll with lots of people around (everyone looking slightly puzzled that we were in walking boots, hiking trousers and rucksacks when they were all going past in bikinis and flip flops), the Osa peninsula is not wilderness any more, there were lots of other small groups doing the walking trails, and several other boat-loads of people snorkelling and having lunch on the beach. But the wildlife is still incredible.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    From an ethical viewpoint I have huge questions about the sloth "sanctuary" and I strongly urge exodus to re-consider the visit there. These animals are enchanting close up, but having seen them in the wild, viewing them in wire cages with pretend branches, a tiled floor, no enrichment, and no hope of any other existence was heart rending. Keeping them alive in these conditions is not necessarily the kindest thing to do.
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