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Turtle, Ecuador

Reviews

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

Here at Exodus we thrive on feedback from our customers. It’s the only way we can ensure our trips continue to be the best they can be. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of the trip you’re interested in, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.

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Reviews

Galapagos is great - but not this tour

My two star rating doesn’t reflect the Galapagos Islands themselves, which are a potentially five star destination. Rather the rating is of this particular trip to see them. As you’d expect, the Galapagos are a wildlife lover’s dream, particularly if you like marine wildlife. Whilst the variety isn’t massive, the numbers are and the ease of seeing things is unmatched , and many creatures can’t be seen anywhere else. The snorkelling is outstanding with excellent visibility and huge numbers of fish etc. as well as lots of exciting bigger things like turtles and sealions that will happily swim right up to you.

Unfortunately this Exodus trip did not feel like the best way to see this incredible place, particularly not for the very high cost, and I was very glad to return home. The tour leader was poor, which greatly affected the quality of the experience. The first nights in Quito were on my own – there was no group – which is not what I expect from a ‘small group’ tour. I knew there wouldn’t be any trip leader accompanying us (me) but I did expect there to be other travellers.

The boat is very cramped and uncomfortable and if you are a solo traveller and have to share it is really difficult even if you get on well with your roommate (thankfully I did). For two nights the air conditioning wasn’t working meaning I was unable to sleep and ended up trying to sleep on deck in the rain. If you sleep in the top bunk it is a vastly inferior experience as it is very hot and cramped and hard to climb up. There were spare cabins on the boat but we were not given the option to use them, not even for an additional fee. There were also bigger cabins upstairs but those were allocated to others despite us being the only pair sharing with a stranger. There was a sense that Exodus passengers were second-class.

The trip is mis-graded as ‘leisurely’ when it is far tougher than the moderate trips I have taken with Exodus recently. The trip notes at the current time do not accurately describe the level of fitness required or that you need walking boots etc. I could have been much better prepared had I known. There is very little leisure time, which is fine if that’s what you are expecting but is not indicated by the trip notes at the time of writing.

I would definitely not recommend the trip to solo travellers or even friends travelling (unless you are happy sharing a double bed). For solo travellers it might be better to look at land based itineraries. For couples it this trip might be worth it, provided you are fit and don’t mind short walks in difficult situations and if the tour leader was different from the one I had.

Most Inspirational Moment

Snorkelling with sealions, iguanas, turtles and penguins in crystal clear water was incredible. I also really enjoyed the optional day trip from Quito to Bellavista lodge in the Mindo Cloudforest - ideal for those who like birds.

Thoughts on Group Leader

He was knowledgeable and as someone from Galapagos could provide an interesting insight into life there. However his communication and organisational skills were below those of the Exodus leaders on all the (many) other trips I have taken and this did cause multiple problems that affected my enjoyment of the trip. It probably didn't help that he was trying to lead walks for 12 people with a vast ability range, with no second leader to assist.

Advice for Potential Travellers

At the time of writing, this trip is rated as 'leisurely' which is the last way I'd describe this holiday. It was far more strenuous and busy than other trips I have taken rated 'moderate'. There are multiple activities each day, to a tight timescale, and with little turnaround time to completely change clothes etc. between each in very limited space. The snorkelling is easy for anyone who can swim even a little, but the walks - whilst short in length - are on very poor paths, usually including lengthy steep uphill and downhill sections, in blistering heat and high humidity. They require a decent level of fitness. The notes currently do not advise taking walking boots - you definitely need to do so. The best thing about the trip is undoubtedly the snorkelling, so if you cannot swim or don't want to snorkel it would be a waste of time seeing the Galapagos this way. You need to bring clothes to swim in (or a proper rash suit) as the sun is relentless and you will burn in minutes. Whilst sold as a group trip, you may find yourself alone for the section in Quito as I did. Therefore if you are travelling solo prepare yourself accordingly. Quito is not the safest city in the world and the hotel is some way from the centre. I managed fine but it would have been better if I could have prepared myself ahead of time for that rather than assuming I'd be with a group of other travellers. Exodus seems to book flights with KLM as standard but I travelled with Avianca via Bogota which I think gave a much better set of journeys both there and back. It means leaving late the evening before instead of extremely early the following morning, but avoids a dangerously tight connection at Amsterdam, means waiting in a much nicer airport than Schiphol, and gets you home sooner. There is very little 'downtime' on the trip so if you are considering an extension, do it at the end and not before - and consider giving yourself a day or two to recover particularly if you are working and have a demanding job. The mosquitoes have to be seen to be believed - take repellent but prepare to be bitten a lot - including through your clothes. I wore DEET and it made no difference. Have anti-histamines and bite cream at the ready.

Suggestions

This was not a typical experience of an Exodus holiday and I hope that following the detailed feedback I have given they will make some changes to the trip notes and consider the tour leaders they use. However they cannot change the nature of the boat so I still would advise solo travellers against it.

What a magical place....

The trip was all arranged by Exodus and I can’t fault the organisation, it was faultless throughout the whole Journey.

The Cachalote Explorer was fine, it’s not a super luxury motor yacht (its correctly advertised as a first class motor yacht) being a converted fishing boat, but the accommodation was perfectly adequate and the crew were very friendly and super efficient. The rooms were cleaned daily with clean towels by Martin who was also the waiter and bar man, and very good at it to. The chef was very good and was delighted to help one of our vegan passengers with different dishes every meal (which she often shared with the rest of us! Lol)

The ship is a little noisy when travelling at night with the engines running, but I had some noise suppressing head phones that dealt with this. No one else really complained and I guess you soon get used to it after a tiring day

The food was very well presented in buffet style for breakfast lunch and evening meal and there was always plenty of food. In between meals there is a tray of bananas, fruits and various biscuits and snacks

Would I book it again, certainly yes without hesitation

Most Inspirational Moment

This is very difficult to answer as every day we encountered new wonders, wether it be animals or beautiful landscapes. People have asked me what was the highlight, and I can’t really say to be honest. I personally enjoyed the walks on virtually untouched islands, sea lions, marine iguanas the list is endless. Some of the sea life you can see from the boat it amazing. I spent many hours on the sun beds on the rear deck and some of the views of the islands from the boat, well it’s like some magical kingdom.

Thoughts on Group Leader

Luiz was excellent, a very knowledgeable guide approved by the Galapagos National Parks and always around to answer any questions we needed however difficult

Advice for Potential Travellers

Firstly take plenty of cash for any alcohol drinks/incidentals on the boat. The trip notes and also the book handed to us by the boat crew state you can pay by credit card, you can’t. I went to pay the bar bill which was around $300 (don’t ask! Lol) and they said they could only accept cash which put me in a very difficult position The organisers should make this clear, and I can definitely confirm this directly affected the crew tip as most of it had to be used to pay the bar bill instead if them, which was very unfortunate but I had no choice Take sturdy boots, and waterproof sandals are useful for any wet landings If you are a light sleeper, ear plugs at night or in my case noise suppressing headphones were perfect.

Suggestions

Do it, it’s a trip of a lifetime and when you get back you will sit in your chair and think, wow, did I really just go there .......... When we landed at Baltra Airport in Galapagos, at the very moment we touched down I had a lump in my throat, and tears in my eyes. It’s the sort of trip only someone like David Attenborough gets to do right?