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

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137 Reviews

  • Reviewed April 2020

    6 Snow Leopards, two Oracles and a Woolly Rabbit!

    Ladakh is a beautiful region of Northern India. Add to that the friendly welcome and the variety of wildlife and culture and you have a destination that it would be hard to find fault with. This was my second visit and this time I was there to see Snow Leopards. Except, of course, they're so rare that the chances of spotting just one would be very low. And indeed spotting just one was impossible - I saw a total of 6 during the 10 days I was there, including relatively close sighting of a mating pair on our first day in the mountains, a mother and her two cubs and a solitary Snow Leopard rolling in the dust to hide its scent before hunting. Our group as a whole saw 12. This amazing tally was due largely to the experience, skill and dedication of the spotting team and our leader, Valerie, who between them took us to the right places at the right time and found the well camouflaged big cats where we may have only seen a buff coloured rock. And let's not forget the Blue Sheep, Lammageier Vultures, Bearded Griffon, Golden Eagles, Woolly Rabbits, Uriel Goats and Alpine Chough. This is a challenging trip - cold, altitude and remoteness all add to the adventure although its well within the abilities of anyone with the right kits and who has trudged the hills in the UK. But it's worth it for the experience of the incredible Himalayan landscapes, the unique culture and the amazing flora and fauna. If you have the chance, book the trip that coincides with the Stok Festival, a colourful and spectacular celebration of Tibetan Buddhism in the form of music and dance culminating in the appearance of the village oracles.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were many inspirational 'stand out' moments for me. These are a few of my personal ones. Watching the mating behaviour of a pair of Snow Leopards; the Oracles in a trance at Stok; having a local ask me if he could take a photo of me and his little daughter; the 'Street Kids' walking tour of Old Delhi. I loved standing outside the tent at 6.30am, watching the mountains light up while drinking a cup of steaming hot black tea. The rush up to the viewing platform when one of the spotters shouted 'Snow Leopard'. One of our crew demonstrating the correct way to slide down a frozen river on a flat stone.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    This is my second trek with Valerie and she proved to be every bit the excellent leader on this trip as she did on the previous one. Knowledgeable, understanding of individual and group needs, Valerie's decades of experience in the region enabled her to be flexible with arrangements and cope with the changes forced on us by the Covid-19 outbreak at the end of our trip. Evenings were spent listening to her tell us about the region, the wildlife and the people. The crew she had picked were excellent and dedicated to the roles they played. They were clearly very loyal to Valerie.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    In general, come prepared for cold weather. The nature of this particular trip means you will be standing around searching for wildlife or viewing and taking photographs so the heat normally generated trekking will quickly go. I found I was wearing a thick down jacket most of the time simply because although the sun can be warm, there is usually a cold breeze in the valleys and much of the time is spent stationary. If you're out all day, as soon as the sun disappears below the mountains the temperature drops very quickly. I wore thick winter socks for the same reason. The terrain underfoot was, in general, no harder than UK hills and a 3 season boot would probably suffice. We didn't need crampons but 'yaktrax' or similar might be useful as we had to cross a couple of frozen rivers. The Exodus kit list is a good starting point; vary it according to your own preference for cold weather. Don't skimp on the sleeping bag as this is your refuge and a good night's sleep is important. You don't need lots of changes of clothing because you don't end up sweating a lot and everyone is in the same situation. Exodus provide top quality spotting scopes (Swarovski) but you might want to bring your own, which can help with spotting and will enable you to digiscope. The nature of our encounters with Snow Leopards meant that big lenses were necessary because of distance and digiscoping would be ideal in these circumstances. Some great photos were taken with scope and mobile phone. Our encounters lasted a while, so a tripod (or at least a monopod) would makes things easier on the arms. But don't forget camera kit to cope with the amazing landscapes, villages and festivals too. Be aware that there is close scrutiny on the internal flights - all our camera kit had to come out of the back packs and was checked by the security people at Dehli before boarding the internal flight.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Approach this trip with realistic expectations and you won't be disappointed.
  • Reviewed April 2020

    Excellent trip

    A very well balanced and well organised trip - a very good combination of a little time in Delhi, time at a festival and of course looking for snow leopards and other wildlife. We were incredibly lucky to see lots of snow leopards along with lynx, blue sheep, eagles and a mountain hare. Loved the festival too - lots of colour and a fascinating experience. The crew were efficient, knowledgeable and helpful - in fact, really couldn't have hoped for more. The hot water bottles at night were particularly appreciated! Quality of the hotel in Leh was great too. It was a shame we had to miss out on the homestay but coronavirus meant that we were asked not to do it by the local people (a very fair request). I found that where required Valerie was great at allowing flexibility during the trip and, all in all, I don't think it could have been better organised or executed. Just make sure you have lots and lots of very warm and appropriate clothing as it's really cold - and apparently it was warmer on our trip than it normally is!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the pair of snow leopards on the first day.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Factor 50 sun cream and as many warm clothes as you can cram in your bag.
  • Reviewed March 2020

    Snow leopards found

    If you have ever dreamed of seeing the elusive snow leopard then this is the trip for you. Don't think about it just book it. Ladakh is an incredible region and you couldn't ask for a better guide than Valerie. Been there, done that and probably knows the location of every rock on the mountain. As for the area - if you saw nothing but the scenery you would get your moneysworth, however the team scour the countryside for wildlife - with lammegeiers and golden eagles regularly sighted overhead. As for the snow leopards themselves we had 12 sightings - an extraordinarily good year, some were very distant and only visible with the fantastic Swarovski scopes. However we were also lucky enough to get a mother and cubs sighting and a mating pair at distances under 600m - this isn't a petting zoo - which is clear enough for binoculars and long lens cameras. Photographers with a dslr need to thing 500m or bigger with tripods and teleconverters. It will not be Africa Serengetti encounters, but that makes them even more magical. Failing this kit the guides are adept at taking mobile shots through the spotting scopes - good enough for keepsakes and memories of an incredible trip. It is cold though and involves trekking on rocky trails - so heed the trip notes, get good warm boots and kit and enjoy your complimentary hot water bottle ( after a lovely filling meal) Icing on the cake is the Street Kids tour of Delhi and the inspieational stories of the work done by the charity. Can't thank Valerie and team enough and gladly go and do it all over again - if she can take the stress of getting my mountain of camera kit through customs.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing a mother and two cubs on the same day we saw a pair of snow leopards above camp. Everyone raced up the hill to the spotting scopes, forgetting the altitude. We were still chatting excitedly over our luck at evening meal, having watched them for 3 hours.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Valerie is rightfully a legend - she knows everyone and even read us local tales from a book. She lives and breathes the region and that in turn feeds into the group and how good the trip turned out to be. She is also widely respected by the local people and staff, case in point one evening a ranger had his own client with an eye problem - first port of call was Valerie to see what she thought.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't scrimp on a warm sleeping bag, proper boots for the terrain and warm layers. This is not extreme terrain but you will enjoy life a lot more if you are comfortable. Take a small bag to leave in Delhi and another drybag of something to change into when you get bag to Leh. Likelihood is you will be wearing same clothes for daysin camp so just be warm.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Probably one of the best experiences I have done. I had thought I'd be lucky to see snow leopards once. To have 12 sightings, a lynx and then high tea in The Imperial just made the trip beyond my wildest dreams. Thanks to Valerie, the crew and my camera porter / assitant photographer Chosgun. Without whom the 600mm lens would have travelled up trails a lot slower.
  • Reviewed November 2019
    Steve Braysher

    Walking, Thunder and Wildlife

    Another outstanding trip from Exodus. It is very cleverly consrtucted, gradually building to the climax in the Drakensberg mountains. There were huge contrasts in scenery, passing through industrial and agricultural areas, the expanses of fairly dry national parks to the much greener hills and mountains of Eswatini, the lakes and Indian Ocean at St Lucia and the stunning mountains of the Drakensberg. The wildlife watching was good, not as easy as places such as the Massai Mara in Kenya, but we did see the big 5 and a lot more besides; on all of the walks there was also the opportunity to see wildlife. If birding is your thing, this is a great trip especially at this time of year as the migrations are just starting. I particularly enjoyed the visit to Isandwala and Rorkes Drift, the scene of major battles during the Zulu Wars together with walking the Fugitive's trail between the two. Weather is never predictable and we went from close to 40C one day in the game reservers to weather and scenery that could have been Scotland the next - but it did give us a chance to make use of the open fires in our accommodation in the hills of Eswatini! (Later in the trip we also experienced the most spectacular thunderstorms I have ever seen - very impressive) The Last four nights were spent in the Drakensberg, two at Thendele and 2 at Witsieshoek. The scenery was stunning and the walk up from Thendele to Witsieshoek showed a different aspect of it - more reminiscent of the Yorkshire Dales. The views from the top are wonderful but unfortunately, as is the way with mountains the weather, it closed in for the last day and the inside of a cloud looks pretty much the same wherever you are! We were a group of 12, thrown together at the start of the trip, who rubbed along pretty well and had some great times together, so a big thankyou to all concerned.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On a trip as varied as this there are numerous experience that are memorable. The time spent at Letaba Ranch, especially the early morning walk through the bush and the chance for some 'down time' watching the river is one. Although not part of the programme, experiencing the ferocity of a series of dramatic thunderstorms was quite something! However the stunning scenry of the Drakensberg mountains (they are so much more than the Amphitheatre) was the highlight for me.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Santjie was an excellent leader. Constantly cheerful, organised, knowledgable, thoughtful, a good sense of humour and with that special ability to get on with everybody. She worked incredibly hard to make sure that we had the best time possible. On the days when she cooked for the group she produced meals that were remarkably good on some very basic fsacilities. Perhaps the bast way of summarising how good she was is to say that if I would certainly be delighted to do another trip with her as leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is a brilliant trip but you need to be prepared for a lot of early starts (often up by 5a.m.) and some long days - especially on the major driving days. Bring your sense of humour with you - especially if you are going to be there on the day England losese to South Africa in the Rugby World Cup!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a brilliant introduction to South Africa, and one that makes you realise just what a big place it is. Everybody we met was very welcoming and friendly. The one downside was the vehicle we travelled in. Great for viewing wildlife from but very slow up hills - which extended our driving times significantly. The air conditioning was broken pretty much from the start and it leaked from several points in rain, much to the embarrasemnet and frustration of both our leader and excellent driver. But despite this I would still recommend this trip to anyone with the interest and stamina to do it.
  • Reviewed September 2019
    Sue Jarvis

    Varied trip showing off the best of the Rockies

    The Rockies are magnificent and this trip includes the famous areas around Banff and Jasper but also takes you into the mountains away from the crowds. The group was a mixture of ages but we were all quite experienced walkers. There is little flat so although the distances aren't great the ascents are strenuous but you get into the heart of the mountains. The camping was very well organised and the food was excellent.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There are many great moments but for me the highlight was the first view of the mountains reflected in Landslide Lake. Although we had poor weather at the "wilderness camp" at Landslide the group spirit, led by the guides, made it a special part of the trip.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Charles and Priscilla both worked tremendously hard all the time. They were always cheerful and supportive. Charles was an amazing chef and produced excellent meals, catering for several specialist diets. Their love for the mountains was obvious and they wanted to make sure that we all had the best experience possible.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read the trip notes - it is correctly graded so make sure you are happy on steep ascents and descents. It can be cold at night in the autumn so you will need a good sleeping bag.
  • Reviewed September 2019
    Debby & Gary Santry

    Zimbabwe Walking & Wildlife

    We are happy to endorse everything said by the May 2019 travelers. The wildlife, the walking, the history, the people and the accommodation/food, all lovely. We had the same guides Marco and Ende who were humorous, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and highly competent, they really brought the trip to life. They also demonstrated their concern for our enjoyment and safety throughout so don't hesitate, just go!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Rhino, Elephants, Hippos and Crocs.
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Shirley Bell

    TZS walking and wildlife

    Great trip saw lots of wildlife and great walking

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    When we saw a family of lions feasting on a wilderbeast and we got so close to see them. Walking out of my tent one morning and seeing a family of elephants crossing the river so close amazing. The views in the mountains.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The leaders were fabulous

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for long bus journeys. It's cold when the sun goes down Bring binoculars Bring waterproofs it does rain sometimes in Africa It's Africa be prepared for anything to happen.
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Victoria Gibbs

    A brilliant experience

    An amazing trip which I'll always remember. My personal highlights were seeing the orangutans and other wildlife in the rainforest. I highly recommend the 'optional' boat trip at the end - we saw proboscis monkeys, hornbills, and then sparkly trees full of fireflys under the twinkling stars. I also really enjoyed having a day in Kuala-Lumpur and having a nice glass of prosecco on the roof of the heli-bar to celebrate the start of the holiday.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Falling in love with the hilarious orangutans but on the way to seeing them seeing the EXTENSIVE palm plantations and our destruction of their habitat. Never have I been so motivated to only use products with sustainable palm oil and donate to rainforest conservation charities.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Wan in Malaysia was fantastic.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Yes - the hikes are much more technically challenging than suggested on the trip notes. Quite a bit of clambering, scrambling (especially on day 1 hike) and hauling yourself up with ropes. You definitely need gloves for hand protection. And a head for heights for the final summit day.
  • Reviewed August 2019
    Michael Walker

    Epic views, rainforest wildlife and tropical paradise adventure

    A truly memorable adventure, filled with activities, sights, tastes and sounds of the jungle. Starting in KL city, the food tour was a fascinating way to see the city and sample the local delicacies. Our guide Wan took us to the best haunts, showed us hidden sights and shared his knowledge of the city and culture. The section in Cameron Highlands was a bit more laid back, with one hike and plenty spare time, which we spent perusing the shops, enjoying a refreshment at the bar, or using the hotel's excellent facilities. Then on to Taman Negara, which was my favourite part of the mainland peninsula, deep in tropical equatorial rainforest, staying in wooden cabins and getting up close to the monkeys, wild pigs, lizards and insects. The hikes here were great and the river cruise absolute bliss. Then onto Borneo itself, where we found my favourite restaurant of the trip (The White House with 10 ringgit wine!) and our accommodation at Sepilok, a short walk from the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. There were plenty opportunities to see the Orangutans (and Sun Bears) and it was so beautiful to see them playing and feeding, and see the intelligence at work behind their soulful eyes. Although sad to leave Sepilok behind, the escape from the heat and humidity was a welcome relief as we arrived at Kinabalu park and prepared for the climb. Here the accommodation is more basic but still perfectly comfortable - the hike was hard and technical (particularly the second day) and it feels like much more of an achievement than any previous mountain I've hiked. The mountain's prominence over the valley and surrounding peaks below lends to some incredible views from above the clouds. The final days at the beach resort were the perfect way to recover, and we treated ourselves to a river cruise to see Proboscis monkeys and fireflies - bring the insect repellent to this one though!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    In a sad way, seeing the sheer volume of Oil Palm plantations and how these are encroaching on the last vestiges of remaining rainforest in Malaysia and Borneo. It made it all the more precious to see the Orangutans while we still can, and really brought home to me the importance of sourcing sustainable palm oil goods and cutting back on consumption in general where we can in order to do our part to save the rainforests, and the last habitats of the orangutan before it is too late.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Wan on the Malayan Peninsula, and Manuel in Borneo were both fantastic guides, happy to help and share knowledge of their country. They both went the extra mile to ensure that everyone on the trip had a great time.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be ready for the heat and humidity - regular water consumption is essential. It's not a boozy holiday by any means, and while food is extremely cheap, alcohol is not. Be ready for some technical sections on some of the walks (which means scrambling, steep inclines and limited handholds in places), and the final walk was a test of fitness for most of the group. The food available is great, but choices are limited, particularly for vegetarians. If you have any snacks you can't live without, bring them with you
  • Reviewed July 2019
    Catherine Mclaren

    Fantastic trip

    Lovely holiday in the Rockies, varied walks, great guides who cooked 3 course meals every night on a 3 ring gas burner. Bus time kept to a minimum but we covered a lot of ground. Just remember, you are in the mountains and the weather can be variable, the averages given in the trip notes can be deceiving!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Camping in the back country was fabulous, including the helicopter trip in.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Both leaders were great, Vincent had a lot on his plate on this particular trip and Maggie was a great second in command, doing the majority of the cooking - couldn’t fault either.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It will probably be colder and wetter than you might think,
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