Turtle, Ecuador

Your words, not ours

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

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  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous
     An enjoyable and physically challenging trip which provided an interesting insight into a country with a very interesting recent history and impressive natural scenery including torquoise lakes,mysterious forests and jagged mountains.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Descending by mountain bike from the Zavisan mountain hut on a cool clear Summer morning,torn between staying safely on the bike and absorbing the views of the surrounding Velebit mountains,was a memorable moment. A different but equally unforgetable experience was watching the sun sink gently into the darkening blue Adriatic from the terrace of our small hotel in the coastal town of Novigrad.  

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our Croatian leader on this trip was a strong and confident individual who took his leadership responsibilities very seriously and sometimes ,because of this, came across as being somewhat autocratic. He was also  a very competent mountain-biker who ensured that we all completed the trip without mishap.   The assistant leader/vehicle driver was a gregarious character whose English was excellent and his knowledge of  cycling and bikes extensive.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    My advice for potential travellers to Croatia is - Develop your knowledge and awareness of Croatia's recent history and learn a few useful words of Croatian.Ensure that your mountain-biking skills and fitness are of a relatively high standard !

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The local Croatian beer was very nice and the food,generally,was good or very good but take your own favourite nosh when you go to the mountain hut. I would also suggest ear-plugs for this overnight! Apart from that and "dodgy" toilets a visit to the mountain hut should not be missed.Finally,as a road cyclist and sometimes off-roader I would take issue with the statement in the  Trip Notes "off road experience advisable but not essential" and suggest that it should simply state - "off road experience advisable"   
  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous
    The GR20 is undoubtedly a strenuous and demanding trek.  The Exodus version aims to alleviate some of the rigour and hardship by avoiding the need to back-pack or stay in some of the highest mountain refuges where accommodation is likely to be in large dormitories, or tented areas, with limited washing and toilet facilities.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Probably the sense of achievement felt in completing an undoubtedly arduous trip (particularly for a wrinkly).  But also the great deal of spectactular scenery.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very well organised and efficient.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The Exodus aims for the trip are largely, but not completely, realized.  Prospective GR20'ers need to be aware that the Exodus version bypasses some significant sections of the main route.  You do get a real experience of the GR20 including such highlights as the Cirque de Solitude.  A further compensation is a trip down the Tavignano valley that leads to a very pleasant rest day in Corte.  However, it remains very much a matter of personal ethics whether you get to wear the tea-shirt at the end of the trip.There is inevitably some variation in the standard of the accommodation used.  The food served at Capanelle, where we stayed for two nights, was poor.  The bread that formed virtually the only component of breakfast had much the same age and consistency as the local rock.  The accommodation at Bassetta was pretty unpleasant.  However, all other places were acceptable, or much better.  The attitude taken by the custodians can make a big difference.  In two places (the Sega refuge and Col de Verde) the very friendly and welcoming reception from the custodians enhanced the visits considerably.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    When Exodus state that the last day of walking is the longest and hardest, you'd better believe them.  Be prepared for a 12 hour outing with two long, knee-crunching descents.  The very considerable compensations are a magnificent view from Monte Incudine coupled with an exciting close-up encounter with the Aiguilles de Bavella.
  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous
    Hiking the Inca Trail at the end of June was a very special experience. We had glorious sunny weather, no rain at all and the nights were not too cold. Our group was a great bunch of people. As one of a group of slow walkers I got great support from the group leader and assistant guide. It was a great privilige to hike this trail with an experienced company and an extremely competent group leader. Everything was well-planned and organised without spoiling anybody's fun.  (Finally, I hope the porters are paid really well because they work very hard.)

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Of course Machu Picchu was the star of the show, but there were many wonderful surprises around every bend in the road. I got up a couple of times in the early morning hours and saw the moon and a skyful of  stars - all enveloped in a peaceful silence.  I enjoyed the diversity of beautiful flowering plants and saw a perennial lupine for the first time. I was also impressed by all the other sites we saw on the way and intrigued by the speculation that they are connected. As an agricultural journalist, the farming and experimental sites were another source of interest.  

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Disnarda Aragon is a real gem. She's knowledgeable, calm and a good manager with a great sense of humour. She's also very proud of her country, its people and produce. As someone who comes from a developing country, I appreciated the fact that she encouraged us to support the local economy by buying hand-made local items.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't forget to bring: a headlight, a sunhat (they sell nice broad-rimmed ones in Cusco), sunscreen, insect repellant, coffee or black tea and powdered milk, if you absolutely need your caffeine fix. If you are not a very strong walker, bring a walking stick. I've never walked with a stick, and I bought one for 10 Sol at the beginning of the walk and came to rely on it right through the hike. Bring a couple of hundred Sol to buy water during the early parts of the hike and for tips for the cook, his assistant and the porters. You don't need to bring any food: the cook and his assistant feed hikers really well. Also, prepare for a lot of nice surprises at mealtime. (If you have any food preferences or intolerances let them know when you Do ask your group leader to arrange a specialist tour after the hike. Believe me, they can. I requested Disnarda to arrange a visit to the peasant farmers between Cusco and Urubamba and she, a driver, a friend and I ended up spending a wonderful morning with people who still live off the land and enjoy the satisfaction of growing their own food. I even tried my hand at cutting Lima beans with a sickle. It's hard work, though. (I can also think of other tours I would have loved to do, e.g. a visit to craftspeople or small local markets. We did visit the municipal market in Urubamba, but it would've been interesting to visit on a Sunday when all the farmers take their produce to their small local markets.)
  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous
    Two weeks ago, we spent the best safari week ever at Kicheche Mara Camp! We have been to Kicheche several times before and we just love it there.  The camp staff are all very welcoming and friendly, the food is excellent, the tents are big with en-suite facilities, and the camp itself (in its new location) is positioned in a real beauty spot. The safari vehicles are Toyota Landcruisers which are spacious and give us great all-round visibility. All the guides are true masters of the off-road tracks and have an amazing ability to spot animals, no matter how far away.  Their knowledge and responsible attitude towards the Mara and its wildlife have given us a truly wonderful experience, one that we’ll never forget!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Wow, where to start! We have been truly blessed with all the events we witnessed. Here are our highlights: We have spent a day with a cheetah mum with her 6 almost grown up cubs, we have seen thousands upon thousands of wildebeest cross the Talek river, we have encountered 3 leopards of the same family at the same time, we have witnessed lionesses carrying their tiny cubs to a new den, we have followed 4 male lions patrolling their territory and whilst doing so crossing a river, we have seen an elephant family slide down a steep river bank to cross to the other side, we've seen amazing sunsets, and if all that wasn't enough we have seen a cheetah mum carrying her tiny 2-3 day old cubs.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    This is our 5th trip with Paul to the Masai Mara. He may not be everyone's cup of tea but we like him. He is a great teacher and not shy to tell you when you are 'mincing', he can tell you a filthy joke or two, and 9 times out of 10 his decisions have been the right ones. This man never stops! He has such an enormous amount of energy, and his huge enthusiasm and love for the Masai Mara and its inhabitants are extremely contagious.  

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just go with the flow and you'll love it!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Yes, a huge Thank You to everyone at Kicheche. They are a truly amazing bunch of people. Nowhere else and no-one else makes our hearts fill with such sadness and sorrow each time the day of departure looms, wishing we could turn back time, wishing we could stay at Kicheche longer. But we will be back, we will return.
  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous
    If you are, or want to be, a keen photographer and are willing to put in long hours and laugh at yourself you will be rewarded with one of the best, if not THE best holiday, of your life.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Hard to pick as these were in abundance on our trip ... Lion carrying her cubs, crossing a river at the same time as four male lions and the early start of migration to name a few.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I've never paid so much to be insulted so frequently! But, if you can take the rough with the smooth you will be amply rewarded with photographic opportunies that would be difficult to surpass. Paul's teaching methods are tactless, brutal and uncompromising but highly effective. His method helps you get the most out of the opportunities that arise during the week. You will learn quickly and are unlikely to make repeated mistakes, which is a bonus when you see once in a lifetime events that you will want to capture on film. Paul is a consummate story- and joke- (mostly of the explicit and un-pc variety) teller. We haven't laughed so much and no offence is intended.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    As others have said, there are some long days so go prepared with plenty of layers (including a fleece or two) for cold mornings and something to cover up in the midday sun. The laundry facilities are very efficient so you can pack light. I took a sarong, which was great as an extra layer & for sun protection but it came into its own as an instant dark room to help view the LCD screen on the back of the camera and to wrap round the lens when driving in dusty conditions. Take some sweets for the long days out on safari, preferably without wrappers e.g. wine gums, as the wildlife quite rightly takes priority over having breakfast or lunch at set times out in the bush. Kitcheche Mara camp was fantastic. The food was delicious and plentiful. Service was excellent and the tent was luxurious with great views. It goes without saying the guides were great and very knowledgable.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I started the trip as a novice dSLR user with a borrowed camera body and a couple of lenses. By the end of the trip I had learnt so much that I have come home with some amazing photos and a desire to learn more and invest in better equipment for my next holiday! This isn't a beginner's course in photography. If you get to know your camera before you come, knowing the key settings and how to change them on autopilot, you will make the most of the trip. For money - we didn't need much. Our advice is get a small amount of Kenyan schillings at the airport. Two coffees and a bottle of water was less than 500KS. For the final meal in Nairobi, we had the option of paying in KS or US$. We found the exchange rate was not favourable to pay in US$ so take a credit card if you prefer. Our meal for two came to the equivalent of £26 on the credit card (~$41) but we were asked for $50 had we paid in $.
  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous
    The chance to see the scenery was what inspired us, and we weren't disappointed. It was stunning.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    On our first walk, out of a cloudy Switzerland onto the Col de Balme, when the cloud lifted and we had our first views of the Mont Blanc Massif and the Chamonix Valley. Thereafter, apart from one cloudy day, the chance to see the mountains, glaciers and valleys on all the walks was inspirational. The flower meadows were pretty spectacular as well.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Oliver was an excellent guide and companion. He is very knowledgable and a fund of absolutely awful, but very funny, puns and jokes.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    As Exodus warn, be prepared for all weathers in the hills. We had everything from 5 degrees in sleet to 28 degrees in bright sunshine, and used all our various layers on several occasions. If you are used to hotel accommodation, the chalet rooms are a little smaller - clean and comfortable, but smaller. We had previously done the walks on Classic Dolomites and White Villages of the Sierra Nevada, and this provided a similar degree of challenge, perhaps a little more challenging on the one day when the  temperature was 28 degrees - enough for us.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We thoroughly enjoyed the trip to Annecy on our rest day and would recommend it.
  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous
    Wow! With the expertise of the Expedition team and the flexability of the Captain and the abiltiy of the ship we were able to spot 16 polar bears in 10 days - way above expectation! We also saw all the mammals we might expect to see! Zodiac driving was outstanding and safe, ship excellent, company (all round) superb.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    10 Polar bears in one day! Reaching and celebrating 90 degrees NorthFeeling totally safe with the Expedition Team in a potentially very dangerous environment Zodiacs! (whatever the conditions)The talks by the the team, their knowledge, skill and enthusiasm The bar - from cocktails to talks and games! Its position on the ship is great and the views fantastic.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Woody was exceptional, he cared about the environment, enthused with us and was very approachable at all times. His knowledge was amazing and he wanted to share it with all of us. He took the issues of the environment very seriously and made it very clear about polar bears being the top of the food chain, managing a very silly, out of order "joke" comment extremely well at our briefing. He also made us aware of the whole environment and it's fragility (sadly not heeded by all).His management of the trip was outstanding, in partiular when he needed to make last minute changes because of conditions, sightings etc. His management of the team was superb and it was clear that it was a team that had "jelled" and they work as a team all the time. He also had the utmost respect of all the ship's crew, from Captain downwards.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you don't like flexability and change don't go (it is not a cruise)! This is an expedition and the team and crew do all they can to maximise opportunities which means sudden changes because of wildlife sightings, weather, ice etc. Read the trip notes so you are prepared.Read all you can before you go, learn to understand the type of environment you are travelling to, it's harshness, moods and fragility, but also it's beauty, uniqueness and wonder.  Take the right clothing- test the waterproofness of your overtrousers properly because if you get wet, you get cold (this happened to several people on our trip). The parkas supplied are excellent with detachable fleeces - but you still need lots of layers! Be prepared to sit in a zodiac for long periods watching - it is fantastic to see how polar bears react and to read their body language.Go to enjoy what YOU want out of such a great experience but don't be afraid of having little knowledge - the team teach and support throughout.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It is a privilege to travel to the extremes of the world, everyone should go (but please don't!) to understand what is happening there (both North and South). My non-wildlife loving husband is hooked on wildlife after going to both ends. Sadly the cost of the trip is high, but worth every penny. Don't bother about cruise ships in these extreme environments, get stuck into expeditions and all that offers - we had a polar bear expert on board with 44 years experience (beat that). Each expert was just that, we have had the same ornothologist both in the Antarctic and the Arctic - what knowledge and enthusiasm! Advice given from a zodiac driver about camera shutter speed when taking birds followed by a puzzled look from me - all was explained and the results - wonderful. The ship DVD with contributions from many passengers is a joy but it also contains lots of information about where we went, what we saw etc.Access to parts of the ship that most people only dream about is great, whether or not you understand things nautical (but you learn quickly). The crew were always happy to show us charts, adjust the electronic plotter for photos to show where we had been, explain things etc. Mini moan - please - where was the map promised by Quark? 
  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous
    Amazing scenery with stunning views of the Alps, beautiful meadows of alpine flowers, fabulous Mel (our guide and flower identifier)

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    An amazing opportunity to walk in the Alps and enjoy the views.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Mel was a fabulous guide. She was very knowledgable about the route (having done the route over the last 4 years), managed the group dynamics very well, supporting us on the 'tough' days and with her extensive knowledge of botany and geology was always able to show us something new regularly and answer our questions. She carried a small plastic digger (and some Snicker bars) to explain glaciation - far better than any geography lesson i have ever had before).

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It can be wet in early Spring but worth it for the flowers.The two rough camps are just that! Not really very nice. The other 'comfortable' camps were all great.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would recommend this trip to anyone who likes the mountains, great views and meadows of flowers. Sections on the walk were on large tracks and roads which was a pity but there were no alternatives in these areas so necessary to get from camp site to camp site.
  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous
    i loved the trekking but am used to being on my own or with one other and found the need to be behind the guide to be most frustrating. we all have differing paces after all!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    the high mountain passes, the peace, lack of cars....etc

    What did you think of your group leader?

    knowledgeable & socialable

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    make sure you are ok in a group situation!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    this was my second ever group experience so rather hard to conform to request to always stay behind guide when some of group were yearning to stretch their legs.breakfasts could be nutritionally lacking...cornflakes& packaged white bread being nowayto start the day whilst trekking...or any other time!
  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous
    as this was my first ever group holiday experience, mixed feelings were engendered. although far less painful than i had at frst anticipated, there were many moments i wished for the accustomed solitary experience.Having said that, I thought the trip very well run & saw amazing sights that will stay with me for a ong time

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    the serenity of the high mountains...the awe inspiring archiitecture of thr tigers' nest....the fun & of the festival....but most of all the high mountain passes..

    What did you think of your group leader?

    he dd a great job, was knowledgeable on many subjects pertinent to the trek... although i did not feel we "got on" as such.....partly ue to my first time group experience am sure!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    make sure you can deal with group dynamics!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    yes! please improve breakfast choices....cornflakes are of very little nutritional value & no way to srart the day for high altitude trekking.the porridge was also usually very milky which upset some syomachs....a water only version would be appreciated....also there were a few days where my vegetarian need were not nutritionally catered for. just not having the meat dishes whilst not having pulses available was quite a surprise in a buddhist country!the packaged white bread used for toast etc was also a dissapointment being bereft of nutritional value when needed most.....nothing wrong in eating the local food at all times....
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