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 July 2017
    Garry Ward

    A really good trip

    This was an excellent first rip to the Azores for me. The itinery is full and varied without feeling hectic. At first glance I thought the trip itinery only included two whale watching trips, which for me would have been the bare minimum for a holiday headlined as a whale watching holiday. As it happens the first full day in Horta is a whale watching day with boat trips in the morning and afternoon, so effectively two trips in one day. There is then the chance to go on another whale watching trip on the optional activity day which kept me happy anyway. Spending time on three islands made me feel I was having as good a look around as could be done in a week. You could say four islands if you count sitting on the aircraft for 20 minutes or so while it made a stop on Terceira. The hotels are good, in Horta we stayed in the Hotel Do Canal on the sea front road at one end of the harbour. In Ponta Delgada we stayed in the Hotel Do Colegio, much smaller and older than the Do Canal but with more character set in the narrow old town style street of Ponta Delgada. At first I didn't appreciate how close the hotel Do Colegio actually is to the centre of town but it is very well placed even if that isn't apparent when you first arrive. The itenery includes dinner if you're a northerner like me or lunch if you're not, which was always huge portions, usually of a local speciality. The first day includes a visit to Peter's Cafe Scrimshaw museum. Scrimshaw is artwork on the teeth of Sperm whales which were of course hunted from the Azores in times gone by. As a whale and conservation fan I still don't know how I felt about that but I appreciate it is a part of the history of the Azores.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It had to be spotting a blue whale. I hadn't seen one before and it was one of the main reasons I chose to visit the Azores. So to see one on the first day out on the boat was the jackpot. What a huuuge beastie they are! The Azores and it's people also very positively impacted upon me, I just liked it there. I will be back.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nuno is/was a fantasitc and very experienced guide. He has a great sense of humour that was never far away. He communicated the important stuff to us well, we were never left wondering what happens next or what is the plan for the day or the next day etc. He was as flexible when necessary without compromising the itinery. Of course being from the island of Pico in the Azores he knows what he's talking about. Exodus do very well to employ his services.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The Azores experiences very changable weather, even more so than the British Isles. The temperatures remained mild throughout our early June trip but cloud and rain could come and go out of nowhere in minutes. I would suggest bringing some light weight packable waterproofs. That changable weather can also impact upon the view at scenic sites. On the way to somewhere it could be blue skies ahead but 15 minutes later upon arrival thoroughly cloud covered.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The trip notes state there are greater chances of sighting blue whales in June. Although we saw one off the coast of Pico and Faial (on the 12th June) the boat captain told me it was a lucky spot since blue whales aren't often seen that late in the year in the Azores. April and May is apparently the time with the highest chance of spotting blue whales. The Azores Airlines flight from Gatwick currently arrives very late at night in Ponta Delgada, even later if you have a delay in excess of an hour like we did. I understand Azores Airlines changed their schedules after this holiday's itinery was created. We consequently arrived at the hotel in Ponta Delgada in the early hours and then had to be up shortly after 5am for the onward flight to Pico and then ferry to Horta/Faial. I got about 3 hours sleep after a long day of travelling. I don't think any of the group felt particulalry great that day. If that flight schedule persisits it might be worth Exodus considering altering the order of the holiday to spend a couple days at Ponta Delgada/ Sao Miguel first rather than Horta/Faial.
  • Reviewed June 2017
    Mark Davey

    Four Seasons In One Day

    It may just be a saying but it is certainly true that you can experience all four seasons in a day while in the Azores, so go prepared. However when the sum is out you will enjoy breathtaking scenery and see whales, dolphins, turtles and other sea delights.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The highlight was without doubt seeing a blue whale which we shadowed for sometime in calm waters. This was followed a close second by the scenery of the islands of Faial, Pico and Soa Miguel

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nuno our group leader was a superb, as he was friendly, helpful, well organised and has a very good sense of humour. He ensured that everything ran smoothly,

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Ensure that you take clothes for sun, cold (at sea), fog and rain. While we had all four, it was surprising how quickly the weather changed. So if it is foggy or wet while having breakfast do not worry too much as things will change within an hour or two.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    While not within the control of Exodus the evening flight from Gatwick is not much fun if like our flight it is delayed by 80 minutes and you arrive in your hotel at 2am local time and need to get up at 6am for an early start the next day, All the experts brought in for individual trips were engaging and gave a strong indication that they really cared about the whales, dolphins, birds or flowers and the overall environment. Be prepared for a full day of activities, broken by a large lunch of local produce.
  • Reviewed May 2017
    christopher 'dave' richardson

    azores whale wating may 17

    Fin whales 6, common dolphins leaping Risso and bottlenose dolphins close by were exceptional. Nuno the tour leader fantastic. Group excellent. Bird watching severely disappointing and considering setting up tours of my back garden as species very similar and more numerous The tour was however partially spoiled by the flight itinerary changes which were not reflected in the tour programme. Leisurely does not include landing at 1130pm and flying out again at 830am. loss of option day due to programme and flight changes was a disappointment and the tour leader leaving before the end of the tour due flight changes, ours and his, was not ideal. Hotel in Horta excellent Hotel in Ponta Delgada the Collegio was incredibly noisy in the plumbing department and bottle recycling at 1230am on the first night. The final 3 nights saw us get lucky with excellent room but lack of bar/comfortable sitting area due to ongoing refurbishment wasn't good on a group trip. Single coffee machine only at breakfast was a personal gripe from a caffeine addict. The knowledge and enthusiasm of the young naturalists/biologists/boat pilots was infectious

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Common dolphins surfing the waves between our groups two boats as they observed us observing them

    What did you think of your group leader?

    After 15+ exodus trips Nuno with the exception of leaving early is one of the best. Considerate to all. Patient to the extreme, but I can't wait for another surprise.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    leisurely does not mean inactive. Fair amount of walking required. Make sure clothing can be dried quickly as humidity makes drying things difficult. There was a perpetual warm dampness?! My trainers will never recover.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Drying facilities in hotel would have been really useful. Elasticated trousers as lunch portions with free flowing wine are generous.
  • Reviewed May 2017
    Joan Richardson

    Whale and Dolphin watching in the Azores

    A delightful holiday somewhat marred by the international flight times (not exodus's fault). For an older traveller like me an arrival after midnight followed by an early morning local flight was a little arduous as it gave very little opportunity to sort out medication and toileting. The scenery was spectacular and very varied and the food was well prepared, good quality and locally sourced. The land based bird watching trip was enjoyable but the bird varieties were similar to those in the U.K.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the dolphins surfing the waves between the boats. Also of seeing the Fin Whales. I was sad that the Blue Whales didn't turn up but that was not anybody's fault.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    A delightful man. Very well informed, kind, and helpful.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Clothing for all types of weather.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The departure day was also somewhat wasted by having to wait around for the transfer as there was no activity planned owing to he tour guide having left us the previous evening.
  • Reviewed May 2017
    Shaemala Anpalakhan

    A Bucket List destination

    Accommodation: We stayed at pleasant hotels both at Horta and Ponta Delgada. The hotel at Ponta Delgada did not have a tea/coffee making facility in the rooms but I understand they had just opened their rooms post re-modelling in April (this wasn't a be all end all situation). However considering that most days were spent outside, the rooms were more than sufficient in terms of having comfortable beds and high pressure hot water out of the shower to rest at the end of the day. Flight timings: the first day the time was pushed back to a 8pm flight from Gatwick which meant a 11pm (local time) landing at Ponta Delgada. Not necessarily an issue with Exodus but more due to the actual airlines. Activities: whale and dolphin watching was great fun. If using the dingy I would recommend sitting at the front for a more bumpy (fun) ride through the ocean! We had our marine biologists guide us through identifying Cory shearwaters and the marine mammals. A good trip to the lakes with beautiful pictures. A short trip to the tea plantation(complementary traditional Azorean pastries provided by Nuno) and the pineapple farm (this would be the place to buy your liquors and jams-appropriately priced and authentic-although our coach driver claims you can brew any kind of fruit liquor at home with a higher alcohol content) Unfortunately due to the weather a free day (where optional activities could take place) couldn't take place and we used it to ensure the activities on the official trip dossier were completed. On the evenings that weren't scheduled with activities we were able to walk around the islands (we visited the botanical gardens on Ponta Delgada) and sample the local cuisine. All reasonably priced. Our last day saw us having lunch cooked via the heat generated from the volcanoes underground prepared for six hours beforehand- delicious! Finally lovely trips to thermal spring waters rich with iron lovely for a mid day soak! Group: great bunch of people coming from different backgrounds and contributing to a lively camaraderie.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Hitting >15000 steps a day ( so you know are getting fit on this holiday) Our marine biologists were inspirational enough to consider a career change! The location has also made me seriously consider a move here to continue my current job!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nuno was a brilliant guide clearly hardworking enthusiastic and great at his job.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Rainproof trousers and jackets. Walking boots. Seasickness tablets if you are prone to this. T shirts and shorts. A few pairs of jeans. Swimming costume. I wouldn't recommend overpacking as you are able to use the sinks to wash your clothes and it would leave space for souvenirs. A couple of fleece jackets for when you are out searching for shearwaters.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I have enjoyed this trip and will be planning further trips here to get experience with the other activities the islands have to offer.
  • Reviewed October 2015
    Gerald Spalton

    Rather disappointing

    Luckily we had booked a few days in Lisbon ourselves before the trip and Exodus were pretty efficient at organising the non-group flights for us. Otherwise we would have been returned home feeling less than satisfied. We also organised a walking tour in Ponta Delgado ourselves with the splendid help of the San Miguel tourism office. On the actual tour, the hotels and food were of a high standard and the transport was well organised. However - firstly the brochure should have made it clear that the October trip is out of season for the included activities. As far as birdwatching is concerned we visited the nesting sites of shearwaters and terns. Unfortunately October is outside the nesting season for both so the nesting sites were basically empty. One shearwater chick was seen but no terns were nesting. We did see the shearwaters both at sea and landing after dark and this was inspirational. We were kept waiting for over an hour though for the sea trip to see the shearwater nesting sites as the boat that had been hired for 9 a.m. was found to be out of commission due to faulty electrics so eventually Marco had to rebook with a different cruise firm to get our trip under way. Now for the "whale watching". Of course wildlife is unpredictable and there are no guarantees, but in October very few whale species are to be expected anyway and this should be made clear in the brochure. Our first morning of whale watching from Faial island (4 hours) we saw a pod of about a dozen dolphins and a distant glimpse of beaked whales for a few seconds. On the same afternoon the trip was cut short (1 hour 15 minutes!) because the crew felt that it wasn't worth searching. Unfortunately our final whale watching trip from San Miguelwas cancelled owing to windy weather. All of our trips into the mountains to view the volcanic and lake scenery were spoiled by low cloud, mist and rain which meant that the views were virtually non-existent. We did bathe in the thermal lakes on San Miguel island - in pouring rain on both days. Furthermore October is too late for flowers as the hydrangeas, agapanthus and azaleas are well past their best.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching the Corey's shearwaters return to the cliffs after dark under a crystal clear starry sky.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader Marco was excellent; he is extremely knowledgeable about the culture, history, geography and geology of the islands and did his best to keep the group cheerful when reorganisations were needed or when the weather spoiled activities.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't go in October.

    Reply from Exodus

    Reply from Exodus

    We are really sorry that Gerald found this trip to be disappointing because of a lack of wildlife sightings. Our local team has advised us that certain species of whales and dolphins can be seen in the Azores throughout the year, however we acknowledge that May and June offer the greatest possibilities of sighting blue whales in particular. Regrettably it transpires that our 2015-16 Discovery brochure was printed with a typo and the asterisk relating to blue whale sightings should have been applied to the May departure of the tour rather than the October departure. We are sincerely sorry for this error and have written to everyone who travelled in October to apologise and offer compensation. We were very pleased to read that Gerald found Marco to be an excellent tour leader and we hope that despite the disappointing wildlife sightings Gerald enjoyed the other aspects of his holiday.

    Rachael Stone - Customer Services Manager

  • Reviewed October 2013
    Anonymous

    AZORES: WHALE & DOLPHIN WATCHING

    My rating missed the Excellent mark only because the whales were not at the rendez-vous, which Exodus can hardly be blamed for. Another trip of a lifetime for me, full of discovery and unexpected pleasures. Go Exodus!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I will never forget being perched at the front of a small boat, enjoying the antics of the dolphins (common then bottle nose), when they were swimming under the boat then undulating across the waves and even jumping right out. I took loads of pictures and films, knowing that three quarters of them would be ditched as there's only so much wave action you want to keep (none?). But then you have the pleasure of discovering that precious photo of a mum and baby dolphin jumping out together. Pleasure at the time and pleasure when I got back. Smiles all around.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We had two group leaders, Nuno on Pico and Faial islands, and Bruno on Sao Miguel island. They were both marvellous in their own individual ways. Nuno was adorable and couldn't do enough for us, while Bruno was so enthusiastic I thought he would jump right out of his seat. They were both extremely knowledgeable both in terms of local information and languages, their English was perfect (and their French wasn't bad either). They both went out of their way to help us discover those islands and their hidden treasures (like Peter's cafe in Horta, which became my HQ as it had a wonderful atmosphere and free wifi). Similarly, when I asked to see something which wasn't on the menu, it was no problem for them. Both top class guys.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do bring good waterproofs (including boots) as if it rains, it pours buckets. I regret to say I wasn't prepared enough (though I thought I was) and got soaked a few times. But hey, that's part of traveling, there will always be something unexpected, even if you've done max prep.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Be prepared not to see the whales so you won't be too disappointed if they don't turn up. See them as the cherry on the cake (some cherry!). The cake is the dolphins, the volcanos, the caldeiras, the plants, the birds, the people, the cafe, the hot springs, the rock formations, the lakes, and yes even the weather as when it's nice it is very very nice.
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