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 September 2016
    Dan Heap

    Whales, Bears and WOW

    A brilliant trip, with chance to see huge amounts of the stunning British Columbia Landscapes and lots of wildlife. We were very lucky with the weather, a great group, a top tour leader and wildlife that wanted to show off all of the time.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    So many to choose from. A humpback whale breaching on the way back from seeing 18 bears racing through the emerald green waters of the Orford river catching salmon, to a grey whale who came within 5 metres of the zodiac (too close for some :-) or the Black Bears turning over rocks on the shoreline and a cub up the tree, or the first pod of Orcas, or the Deer swimming between Islands in fairly rough seas, or the fish and chips at Dicks fish and chips in Campbell river, or the Sea Otters, or the Salmon BBQ on the beach, with whales just off the coast, or the laughs with the group, or the rapids and whirlpools in the Bute Inlet.... or many many more

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Top Class. Mac was chilled out, good fun and found the right balance on food for the group.. Granted, it’s a limited number I’ve experienced, but he’s presently the best Salmon Barbeque Chef in Canada. He was also on the ball in organising extra trips and experiences, and ensuring you could fit as much in as you wanted to do.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    There is lots packed in at times, BUT there’s also a fair amount of free time. I was there for the wildlife, so managed to get out on 2 extra whale watching trips in Tofino, 1 long trip in Campbell River and even 1 in Victoria (although this was much more commercial and touristy than Tofino or Campbell River). Be decisive though, especially in Tofino. The weather changes it’s mind more often than you could imagine, if there’s a nice gap in the weather get out and do something - anything, you will have plenty of options, be it Whale Watching, Surfing, Kayaking, Sea Plane Flight, Hot Springs or anything else. In Campbell river the extra Whale Watching Tour is worth doing - it was the first time we saw Orcas, and we got to see lots of the different currents and inlets. Victoria is a lovely place, the nicest city - well worth getting up early to maximise time there. I went to take photographs, and a few tips in that space 1) The bears at Orford River can be a good way away. If you’re taking photos, you’re likely to need for some shots at least 600mm reach (I took 300mm with 2* extender). Although, we also had plenty of opportunities to photograph with a 70-200mm. When we went, the light was very bright, so ensure you take lens hoods and any filters you want. For those not photographing, good binoculars are a must. For those taking camera gear a good dry bag (at least 30 litres) is very useful for out on the zodiacs, as are a couple of towels. We had a group of 8, which was a very nice number for the bus. It allowed space for bags and to spread out a bit. With more people in, it could have got a bit tight. Hotels in Vancouver, Nanaimo, and Tofino are functional, but all had dark rooms, good beds and powerful showers - so suited my needs perfectly. Painters Lodge / April Point are more luxurious and very nice.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Book the trip, it’s amazing. So much to see, so much wildlife, so much first nations history and influence - just another great exodus trip.
  • Reviewed September 2016
    Barry Tylee

    Whales & Bears of British Colombia

    What an absolutely fantastic wildlife experience. Can you imagine how wonderful it is to witness, Gray Whales, Humpback Whales, diving and blowing and Orca (Killer) Whales. To watch a pod of Orcas breaching, a acrobatic performance which would win a Gold medal in any ones games.To stand and watch wild bears feasting on huge Salmon, oblivious to us viewing. (Well, most of the time!!). This is a wildlife and photographic trip not to be missed. You can add, sightings of Bald Eagles, the list is almost endless.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    For me, watching the pod of Orcas performing, Tail slapping the water, followed by a giant leaps out of the water. Closely followed by the majestic performance of the Humpback Whales, Blowing, Diving, followed by the famous Tail lift as it submerges, only to rise again. Tremendous photo opportunities. These are things that you don't forget.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader "Mac". Mac was also our driver. Felt very safe during the sometimes long drives. A good organiser and full of information. Nothing was too much trouble for him. A great cook, we had several Bar-B. Q's and he delivered good cuisine in great settings.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    September is at the end of summer, so it can be quite cold, wet and foggy. So be prepared for the elements. "Dress" in layers, with a waterproof handy.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If taking pictures with a "phone" is your thing, fine. But you have an opportunity to get great pictures, a good camera with a tele- zoom will deliver fantastic memories. Also, be patient, the wildlife are there, Yes you have to be lucky, it is not guaranteed, but you won't be disappointed.
  • Reviewed November 2015
    Jackie Moys

    Amazing British Columbia

    This was my first holiday with Exodus and also my first small group holiday. I need not have worried on either account. From beginning to end the organisation was first class thanks to our amazing Group leader Heather and a more diverse and relaxed group of fellow travellers would have been hard to find. My concerns about my age, (there were several older than my 65 years) and the amount of walking involved were quickly dispelled and I was able to opt out of híkes to sketch and paint instead.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The wildlife was truly amazing. We saw Grizzlies and Black bears catching salmon, Orca whales hunting seal and a sea otter family playing on the jetty near our hotel. No oportunity was missed.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Heather was exceptional in every respect. She was a first class driver, knew how to pace out the day, and joined in with us for dinners and excursions with genuine pleasure. When any kind of incident occured she dealt with it swiftly and efficiently.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Wildlife is not guaranteed on this trip. We were very lucky with the abundance of wildlife that we saw and also with the weather.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We travelled in a new van which was very comfortable and an importante part of the trip.
  • Reviewed October 2013
    Anonymous

    WHALES & BEARS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

    A wonderful holiday that really delivered on the wildlife sightings.  We saw whales (grey, humpback and orca) and bears - close up - but also sea otters, seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, bald eagles, and even a river otter.  The scenery was beautiful too, and we were lucky enough to find ourselves among a lovely group of people who we were really pleased to have met.       

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Quite a few inspirational moments to choose from on this magical trip, but my favourite moment was when we came alongside a pod of orcas during the Campbell River grizzly bear boat trip - our guide, Jack, cut the motor, and as the orcas swam around us we could hear them breathing in the silence. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jo was terrific, and her practical skills, knowledge, friendliness and flexibility made the difference between a good holiday and a great one.  The lunch-time picnics she organized were wonderful (and always in beautiful locations), she made dinner reservations for us in great restaurants each evening, and most importantly she was tremendous fun, but at the same time very restful to be with.  Full marks!      

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't be put off if you're not sure whether a group tour is for you - we really enjoyed the company, and were amazed at how much could be packed into a 10-day trip.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The minibus could do with replacing - it was hot and airless at the back, even in the relatively cool weather we had, and quite difficult to climb in and out of.The trip notes need updating -  for example, breakfast is now provided on several days, and the grizzly bear trip was by covered boat, not by zodiac.We found all the hotels to be more than adequate, and were impressed by the exceptionally comfortable beds. We would suggest that an optional whale-spotting trip from Ucluelet be added to the itinerary - our group organized this ourselves, instead of one of Jo's walks (which were excellent by the way), and we would not have seen any grey or humpback whales otherwise.  During our free time in Vancouver on the last day, we went to the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park, which had beautiful birds flying around in it - great for photographers. 
  • Reviewed October 2013
    Anonymous

    WHALES & BEARS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

    Keep this trip. It's new but it's a corker. Great wildlife in a really beautiful part of the world. Whales - tick! Bears - tick! Does what it says so more than happy.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Not so much as a moment as a whole day. Rose in the earlyish morning and cruised through inlets reflecting like mirrors the surrounding misty mountains and forests to our Grizzly Bear excursion. Never did I imagine we'd be able to get so close but there were the Grizzlies, only some shallow water and about 10m between them and us. Such beautiful animals- we saw a mum and two cubs, a lighter coloured mother and elder cub and then spent ages watching a lone male swim and fish and eat. Magical. After a nice lunch still full of excitement at the bear encounters we then cruised back to Campbell river and en route passed a colony of sealions, a pod of dolphins then best of all 6 Orca who we stayed and watched for a while. Amazing day.  The Humpback breaching three times showing off to us was also pretty special.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jo was great. Informative, fun and flexible enough to allow us to go do our own thing and forget the trip notes when we wanted to try again to see whales and when rain stopped the chance of sea kayaking. She also organized lovely picnics in pretty spots. She also surprised me with a yummy birthday cake!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Advice to Exodus: put the initial whale watch and bear watch on the same day so there is time to do the whales again in the unlikely event of no  sightings, or just to allow a second expedition in a different area with different scenery and whale possibilities.  Advice to other travellers? Be prepared and be patient and realise wildlife is wild and nothing is guaranteed. The weather that time of year can be wet so something that protects valuable electrical equipment is worth investing in. The bus isn't the most comfortable ride so be prepared to swap places if fellow travellers are suffering. Don't worry about being a single on this group - go for the picnic option and then Jo sorts out all meals so you don't need to cope or eat alone except maybe the first day in Vancouver. Listen to the bear etiquette guide and behave appropriately around these magnificent animals. I also recommend the cave tour. It's not hard, there's some really interesting stuff to see, it's great fun and you have to go a long long way (the bottom of the ocean or a blackhole as I learnt on this mini adventure) to experience true 100% darkness, or you can see what it's like in this cave!Try a Nanaimo bar - they are yummy!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Despite what the trip notes say, some breakfasts (4?) are included. Tipping and tax means there are a fair few 'hidden costs'. A second whale watch from a different place is highly recommended I went to Banff for 3 days after the end of the trip. There's endless possibilities and loads more to see and do before or after if you can afford the extra time away.
  • Reviewed October 2013
    Anonymous

    Did what it said on the tin!

    We asked for whales and bears and we definitely got them!  Whales = grey, humpback, orca.  Bears = black and grizzly.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We had a fantastic whale watching trip with a humpback breaching and lobtailing.  Plus a grey whale and a colony of sea lions in the crashing waves on the same outing. The time with the grizzlies was also amazing.  I hadn't appreciated how close they would be with the group of us just standing beside the river where they were feeding.  They put on a great show and we saw about 10 grizzlies in the 2 hours we spent there.  The outing was then topped off by a group of orcas on the way back.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jo was a good leader and clearly enjoys leading this tour.  She educated us about the area, the culture, the trees and the wildlife and her local knowledge gave us some good stops on long drives, good picnics and good evening meals.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bear in mind that the weather in this part of the world is similar to the UK.  September is the best time to see the grizzlies, but it can also be wet.  There is flexibility in the itinerary and some things can be moved to different days to cope with this, but some of the activities on the itinerary just cannot run if the weather is really bad.  On our trip, the sea kayaking on the last day had to be cancelled because of heavy rain and wind.   On our scheduled whale-watching trip from Tofino we saw no whales (but plenty of seals, sea lions and sea otters).  Apparently this is really unusual, but wildlife is unpredictable!  As a group we chose to depart from the itinerary and book ourselves onto another whale watching trip from Ucluelet the next morning.  It was the right decision (see best moment above) but we had to depart from the official itinerary to give us a second chance to see the whales.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We were really lucky and saw pretty much all the wildife that we had hoped for.  Not only that but really good sightings.  A great wildlife trip.  Take a good camera and binoculars.
  • Reviewed September 2013
    Anonymous

    WHALES & BEARS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

    Fresh air  and the great outdoors  - highlights of course are the bears and whales but with plenty more besides

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Probably the best day out was visiting the Grizzlys on Bute Inlet - being remarkably close to a huge salmon crunching male - superb viewing conditions also of females and cubs on the same stretch of river , then when you think it can't get any better a pod of Orca's on the way home - bliss Our group had a great day in Torfino but were unlucky and didn't see any whales on the first trip - we mustered as a group the next day and independantly booked through the tour operator at Ucluelet ( part of the Gray Whale shop opposite the hotel ) a really superb day with sightings of both gray and humpback - this time in a different part of the Vancouver Island inlets  , well worth the $100 each - will never forget Captain Bob taking us up close ( very close ) to the Sea Lion colony - felt like we were truly in the midst of an HD BBC nature programme , exhilarating and magnificant 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent - good leadership , great humoured - obliging and passionate - knowledgable and reliable 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Travel sickness tablets ! the tour bus got hot in the back seats and despite the distances being relaitavley short ( max 4 hrs ) the windin roads and the bad AC system meant a few green faces - plus the pacific can be a little choppy - no problems after being to the drug store !!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A great trip , glad max of 12 - keeps it to a team adventure ...  if you get the chance add a few days in Vancouver at the end - we did ( booking an appartment via airbbnb ) the good weather meant this lovely city was explored by foot on the first day and by bike the second - the orientation half day with Jo on the tour helped us identify the best locatiions for our add on . Very easy to explore and only $4 each to get the train from Vancouver Central back to the airport . Food is  relitavely expensive throughout the tour so be prepared for a heavy spend there . Loved Vancouver and throughout the Canadians were really friendly and welcoming . Happy to suggest areas of town to stay in if you want to make contact ...
  • Reviewed October 2012
    Anonymous

    WHALES & BEARS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

    Canada truly is 'The Great Outdoors!' - fir tree covered mountains and windswept, rocky beaches provided the backdrop to some exciting wildlife encounters. As well as the natural beauty of Vancouver Island, I was really impressed by the city of Vancouver and the virtually endless blue skies that we were lucky enough to experience.   

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching a huge group of dolphins jump in and out of the waves as they travelled alongside our boat. The calming sound of Grey whales breathing through their blow holes in an otherwise very choppy sea.A Grizzly bear fishing for salmon with her cub. The cub was picking salmon out of the river and playing with it.Seeing a pod of 11 Orca whales drift past our boat was pretty magical!Staying in a great hotel in Ucluelet after lots of time spent outdoors.  

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jo was great and she worked tirelessly to ensure that the trip ran smoothly and that we were all happy - I've never met anyone with more energy! I loved her idea to organise picnic lunches each day and she found some lovely beauty spots for us to enjoy. She was great at managing supplies and topping them up every few days to ensure there was always something new available. Along with the great restaurants that we visited in the evenings, there was definitely no shortage of food! Jo also led several really interesting walks throughout the trip and had plenty of knowledge about the areas that we walked through.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I would suggest taking binoculars and a good zoom for your camera if you want to maximise your experiences of the wildlife encounters. Also plenty of layers - the weather in September was generally warm but we spent a lot of time on boats where it was easy to get cold due to the wind. One of the boat journeys to see whales was very choppy and so sea-sickness tablets might be useful. Although wildlife encounters aren't guaranteed, we saw almost everything we hoped too. The landscape is also spectacular, which made boat journeys and ferry crossings really interesting too.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I had a great time and I came back feeling very healthy from all of the time spent outdoors. Would love to experience more of Canada!
  • Reviewed September 2012
    Anonymous

    WHALES & BEARS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

    A fantastic experience from begining to end, a wonderful group of people - locations were excellent with lots of wildlife and culture.  A couple of niggles: some initial accomodation was below standard (eg: roadside motel), a seemingly perenial problem - lack of choice vegetarian option on dinner menus.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Sea kayaking; paddling in the ocean whilst watching Osprey circle and dive around me

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Above and beyond fantastic!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be aware the food portions are huge!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thank you, again, Exodus!
  • Reviewed September 2012
    Anonymous

    WHALES & BEARS OF BRITISH COLUMBIA

    A fantastic holiday which gives you numerous opportunities to enjoy the local wildlife while also allowing time to visit Vancouver, Victoria and some of the other towns. This was my first wildlife focussed holiday which meant there were lot's of things i had never seen before including black bears, grizzly bears, orca whales, otters, seals etc. I do think you need to be aware however that you are trying to spot wild animals so you need to accept that anything you see is a bonus, there is the possibility that you might not see certain things depending on the weather, conditions and just how lucky you are. Having said that the people involved in the trips know what they are doing and will always swap things around and will do their best to get you the best possible experience. We were not disappointed and saw so much throughout the holiday.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    For me i think seeing a grizzly bear and her cub playing in the river was a real highlight, it was an absolutely stunning area and to see the bears in their natural environment interacting with each other was amazing. The journey back on that day was fantastic too we managed to see a large group of Orca's together which was breathtaking and at one point the boat was being followed by around 20 dolphins playing in the sea.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our team leader was fantastic, she was extremely organised and enthusiastic throughout the trip. She made the trip easy for us by suggesting places for dinner and organising picnic lunches for most days. She knew so much about Canadian history which she bought into the holiday and was fun to be with throughout the break.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is a fantastic trip to do and i would definately recommend this to anyone, Vancouver Island is a stunning place. Just be aware that seeing wildlife is not guaranteed and just make the most of what you do see. I would suggest taking a small waterproof bag to hold your camera and binoculars for the bear and whale watching on the zodiacs as you can't take a big bag and you don't want to get your camera wet.If you do the kayaking then take a set of dry clothes to change into as you will get wet and i would also advise a hat as my head got a bit burnt and being out for 3 hours you need to be careful.I would also suggest participating in as many of the optional activities as you can as these for me really added to the trip for me, the snorkelling with seals was great fun and the seals were so relaxed on the island occassionally taking a dip in the sea. The kayaking as also great fun, although this is not with whales but round the little islands, it is lovely to see the starfish, fish etc. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This is a fantastic trip, for me it was a great introduction to Canada and to a wildlife holiday with lot's of activities to try out and get involved in along the way. The hotels were a mix although this was a new trip so this may change, all hotels were comfortable and clean which for me is all you need. The hotel in Uculet was by far the best and was a real bonus for the holiday, very comfortable with lovely views etc. The one in naimomo was a motel and very basic but it was only for one night and was clean and comfortable.You should be aware that we did have to lift our luggage onto the roof of the van which again may change as this is a new trip, this was not a problem for us as we had a couple of helpful guys in our group who were happy to do most of the lifting but i would advise to pack a bit lighter because of this. Overall for me this was the trip of a lifetime, we had a fantastic group and saw so much throughout the week, i would recommend doing this trip to anyone.
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