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 2010
    Anonymous

    GORILLAS & MASAI MARA

    This trip is packed with experiences.  Fantastic wildlife that will leave you speechless, friendly local people who will make you feel welcome in their home and teach you about their history and culture, and stunning scenery.  If you're in ay doubt about going on this trip, my advice is BOOK THIS TRIP!!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I can't narrow it down to one single thing.  There were lots of inspirational moments.  We went at the time of the migration, so the Masai Mara was teaming with wildlife.  A million wildebeest is quite a sight - as are the crocs and other predators waiting for them to stumble!  The lions were especially spectacular.  We saw hunting behaviour and kills, lions teaching their cubs to hunt, defending their kills from hyena, etc - and all at very close range.  We also saw cheetah, black and white rhino, and so much more.  The balloon ride over the Masai Mara is also an incredible experience.  The trip to Chimp Island is fantastic too.  To see the work people are doing to rescue and protect chimps is admirable.  We also learned a huge amount about this species and conservation efforts.  It's fantastic that Exodus are supporting this project.  The visit to the orphanage in Uganda is humbling, heart-breaking and joyous.  Again, well done Exodus for supporting this cause.  These kids need you.  Jinja (Uganda) is a great place.  The genocide museum in Kigali (Rwanda) is a sombre experience, but gives you a real unerstanding of modern-day Rwanda.  Finally,  the gorillas.  So much more than I expected.  The trek is interesting and well worth it.  Gentle, comic and incredibly human-like - I dare anyone to look in the eyes of a gorilla and leave unchanged.  A peak experience.  In fact the whole holiday is a peak experience!  When are we going back??!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader (JJ) was fantastic.  Knowlegeable, organised and a great sense of humour.  Is there anything this man cannot do?!  He worked alongside our cook (Bernard) and driver (Q).  As a team, they were simply Brilliant!  They definitely contributed to making this holiday an experience of a lifetime.  I miss them all.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Prepare yourself for quite long journeys in the overland truck on the road.  These are longer than mentioned in the Trip Notes.  However they are interesting and a really enjoyable part of the holiday.  Don't take too many clothes - there are opportunities to do laundry en route - and there isn't a huge amount of room in the lockers on the truck.  The truck (our lovely Isabella!) has recharging facilities, so take your phone, iPod, camera battery rechargers.  Speaking of cameras, go armed to the teeth with memory cards!  We got through memory cards at a phenomenal rate due to the amount of things we saw.  The weather can change in a nanosecond, so go prepared to be roasting hot, soaked to the skin, cold...!  And speaking of being wet and cold, not all the camp showers are hot ones!  Take plenty of wet wipes if you can't brave a cold shower.  There's lots of interesting nick-nacks to buy on the way, so take your dollars!  I'd also recommend taking a nail-brush.  I couldn't get my hands clean after several days of camping!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This really is a holiday of a lifetime.  Kenya's Masai Mara is magical.  A wildlife lover's paradise.  Uganda probably has the friendliest people on earth (and The Source cafe in Jinja probably sells the best iced lattes in the world!), and Rwanda is stunningly beautiful.  Go with an open-mind, an open-heart, ready to learn, and a decent camera!  And prepare to fall in love with the people and the wildlife of East Africa.  I will definitely be returning....!
  • Reviewed September 2010
    Anonymous

    VIA FERRATA TOUR

    Dolomites are stunning, very different from the Alps elsewhere.  Via Ferrata is an amazing way to get amongst the best but be prepared to have heart in your mouth on a few occasions.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Dramatic views along ridge trails from Monte Cristallo.Excitement at scaling the Col Dei Bos - there are higher grades of Ferrata, but 3rd out of 5 certainly suited limits of our party. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Disappointing as uncommunicative and pieces of info about each day had to be dragged out with effort, but both guides professional in keeping party safe on tough sections.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Gloves with good rubberised grip essential,otherwise no purchase on chains when damp

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    One of best weeks you can do - if like me you've done no proper climbing it will be daunting on times but really worth it.
  • Reviewed September 2010
    Anonymous

    Bosnia mountain biking

    A very "new" holiday destination that will surely develop over the years, ie go now before it does. Some serious climbs and descents ~6km up and ~8km down over the week, virtually all on vehicle width tracks. Fascinating recent history and scenery.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    No one specific moment stands out, it was all good. One very good thing is it's so close but you get very few british tourists. Plenty of italians in Mostar which is a bit of a tourist trap. But the tracks are very quiet, we virtually had them to ourselves. Watch out for the logging lorries though, they just about go faster than you uphill and you pick your moment carefully downhill for overtaking :-)

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very good and interesting stories about the recent conflict and current state of the country. They will try to get you onto the local hooch called Rakia and are a very good laugh. Well organised as you'd expect.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    You'll need to be fit. There's quite a bit of climbing, unlike many biking holidays you rarely get vehicle support up to the top of the hill. The climbing is mostly on fire tracks but they're all reasonably good so it's more fitness than technical ability. On the downhill very little of it is really technical and they can be walked. On our trip, many of us had done the atlas descent and thought it was comparable. It's graded "Challenging" for a reason.  Have a look at the average daily distance travelled as a guide and compare it with something like the Picos holiday. If you're fit enough you'll love it.   Try not to overtake the guide at the front.......

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Try the Rakia, it's not that scary but don't have too much of it, it's potent.
  • Reviewed August 2010
    Anonymous

    GORILLAS & MASAI MARA

    What an amazing experience! I cannot praise this holiday enough! If you are wondering about whether to book this holiday or not, stop wondering and hurry up and book it!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were some incredible moments from the trip, here's my top experiences...1) The gorilla trek - I was unsure what to expect but we completed a 'medium length trek' (our group had the choice of either medium or short length walk). It was approximately a 2 and half hour trek on a hot day. I'm not particularly fit but managed okay, although there were occasional out of breath moments during the steep sections! The group stopped regularly for water breaks and a chance to catch your breath though so don't worry! Eventually we told to crawl on our hands and knees through some bamboo and suddenly the gorillas were right in front of us - incredible! It truly was a once in a lifetime experience to have the honour of spending an hour in the company of these fantastic animals. Brilliant!2) White water rafting at Jinga - I was unsure before the trip whether I was going to do the rafting, but couldn't resist when we got there. It was so much fun! The raipds are really quite daunting but they kept repeating to us that the river is one of the safest to complete the rafting in as there are very few rocks and the water is really deep. Our group went in two different boats, the other boat didn't flip over at all and our boat flipped over once (I actually fell out twice but that's a whole other story!) If you're a fairly okay swimmer I would definitely reccommend completing this!3) Balloon ride over the Masai Mara - this was excellent! The ride was so smooth and the take-off / landing weren't as scary as I imagined. The photos we took from the balloon were magical, and we completed a brilliant game drive straight after the balloon ride where we saw a cheetah up close.4) School / Orphanage - this wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but I really enjoyed visiting the children. We were all greeted by lots of smiles, songs, dances and general good fun. We all took some bits and pieces for the children such as sweets, bubbles, balloons, pencils etc.5) The Masai Mara - it is incredible! I bored all of my group to death by comparing it to the Lion King the whole time (it really is just like it!). I'm not particularly a wildlife mega-fan, but I really enjoyed seeing all the animals and learning little facts about them.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julius was our group leader and he was fantastic! After the first day we all got used to his own interesting way to describe the various optional extra excursions we could choose! He was a great leader as you always felt that he was very much in control and looking out for all of us.Francis was our driver and he was fabulous! He was nicknamed Jazzy Jeff (from Fresh Prince of Bel Air) and was always there with a smile and a joke for us.Leo was our chef - wow! I was a little bit nervous about the type of food we would be eating, but it was amazing! I still have no idea how he managed to cook such great food! I honestly ate better in Africa then I usually do at home! No-one on our trip got ill at any point which we think was down to Leo's impeccable cleanliness.We had a bit of a nightmare on the way out there as our flight was cancelled so we had to travel a day later than expected. The boys managed to re-organise everything for us so that we didn't actually miss out on any aspect of the holiday! Thank you all so much!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Here's my top ten tips from the trip....1) Zip off trousers - I lived in these! The mornings needed trousers but by 11ish we were ready for shorts, so just zip off the bottom bit and you're good to go.2) Uno cards - I became slightly obsessed with Uno (also known as You Know! by our Aussie group member - sorry Em!). It was great fun to play on truck. Other card games I can reccommend are cheat, chase the lady and poker!3) Hand sanitiser - takes lots of little bottles and carry it everywhere with you!4) Head torch is essential!5) I bought some new Andrex toilet roll stuff called 'on the go' which was basically loo roll without the cardboard in the middle! Makes it much smaller to carry around with you.6) 100% Deet Mozzie repellent worked well for me... around 5ish cover any exposed areas in the stuff and you'll be fine! (Although remember to take off watches etc as it can seriously damage them!)7) I took 4 gyms bags (like kids might use for going swimming) which were really useful for carrying stuff from the truck to the tents.8) Don't worry about getting visas beforehand (if you're British).... it was very straight forward at all of the borders and our group leader organised everything for us.9) Don't forget a travel alarm clock and I used a travel towel which takes up a lot less room.10) I took one thin-ish fleece and one thick fleece which I used alot.I wasn't sure what to expect from the accommodation, but it was a lot better than I expected! There was only a few nights in actual tents, the rest of the nights were in walk-in style tents which was basically like a normal room but with canvas walls. Final top tip - for the gorilla trek you will be given a wooden carved walking stick to use. At the end of the trek you can buy these sticks (for $10) which were really nicely carved. The sticks are made by the local villagers and are a great memory item to bring home. The other groups weren't told that they could buy the sticks and were gutted that they didn't have one to bring home as a keepsake. So make sure you ask your guide about whether you can buy them.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Stop reading these reviews and book the trip immediately! You won't regret it!
  • Reviewed August 2010
    Anonymous

    VIA FERRATA IN THE NORTHERN DOLOMITES

    A fantastic trip involving a great range of exciting via ferrata routes in spectacular scenery.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There wasn't one moment, but the whole trip included a great variety of routes; tunnels, vertical climbs, ladders, narrow traverses and many with massive exposure and very vertiginous drops. Great fun! Spectaular scenery. Started with a short, simple first day to get used to the lanyards etc but also covered a grade 5c (our guide book said the hardest route in the Dolomites) later in the week.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I felt very priviledged to have such an experienced guide as Stephan Andres. A very humble guy, it only emerged gradually during the week the extent of his previous experience. I thought he coped very well in trying to meet the different expectations and levels of experience of the group to ensure we had a very varied week.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We stayed an extra week and did some other via ferrata routes ourselves. Very easy to do. Cicerone guide is worth getting if you want to do this.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This area used to be Austrian so still has a very Austrian, rather than Italian culture, both in the food (unfortunately!) as well as the architecture and language (most people speak German as their first language).
  • Reviewed August 2010
    Anonymous

    EGYPTIAN DISCOVERER

    Our guide was excellent, Ossma's knowledge and enthusiasm for his county was great.  It seemed a lot that he should be our egyptologit as well as do all the organisation, but he was great at it all.  The trip covered the full range of places in Egypt and had good hotels with good facililties. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many to mention!  When firs say Philae Temple, Abe Simbel, I could go on!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was very good, knowledge and love of his country apparent.  Well organised and helped us where ever needed.  Was able to read people well and knew good timings and what were good timings and ideas.  He shared his love of his subject well and explained things clearly and with good aids and books to show us what the temples would have looked like.  He went above and beyond to keep us comfotable and realexed through out.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Get out and walk around the markets in Aswan - they are excellent and fun.  Don't miss Philae - was a great temple.The spending on food guide is way out - maybe take double - especially if you want a drink. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would recommend the style of trip and our tour leader.
  • Reviewed August 2010
    Anonymous

    VIA FERRATA IN THE NORTHERN DOLOMITES

    Fantastic holiday. The via ferratas exceeded expectations. Good accommodation in nice little town.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The highlight was climbing Punta Anna, a grade 5c climb and according to the guide book, the hardest via ferrata in the dolomites.The views everywhere were spectacular.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was a mountaineer who has climbed five of the worlds 8000m mountains without oxygen! What more could you want? Also a really nice guy who looked after us all on the climbs. 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't go on this holiday if you're afraid of heights. There is extreme exposure, sometimes a 1000m drop below you!Do go on this holiday if you love being in the mountains and want to experience the thrill of rock climbing without the danger.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We assumed people would speak Italian, what with the Dolomites being in Italy. Wrong! It used to be part of Austria so most people speak German. That Italian phrase book wasn't much use.
  • Reviewed August 2010
    Anonymous

    CYCLING IN THE LOIRE VALLEY - FRANCE FAMILY HOLIDAY

    Overall rating for the Holiday 6 out of 10, because of poor route notes and two below par hotels.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We are a family of Dad, Mum and two teenage boys of 15 and 13. We had previously been on easy family cycling holidays in Mallorca and England. We enjoyed these so much that we thought we would try something a little more strenuous and throw in some culture.In order to cut down on expense we took our own bikes rather than hire. We took the Eurotunnel and drove from Calais down to Amboise. This proved an easy drive with the assistance of SatNav and took us 6 hours including stops for fuel and lunch. Our first hotel was the Le Blason in Amboise. A two star affair that was adequate for a one night stay. The room we adults had was tiny for our first night and unbelievably hot so we did not have a comfy night. We were moved to a nicer larger room on our return at the end of the trip. Good parking and good bicycle storage here and helpful owners. A good size continental breakfast in the morning, to set up for the day ahead, was available. The Le Blason is a 5 minute walk from the main town square and all the restaurant and cafes. Dinner was taken at a restaurant called L’Epicerie. This was somewhat pretentious and trying to be a notch above its natural place. The first course was not great but things did improve thereafter. We did not go back on our last night and found a much nicer place (Chez Bruno) just down the square.Day 2 was taken up with visiting Le Clos Luce – Leonardo da Vinci’s last home and was quite excellent. Our two boys thoroughly enjoyed the interactive element and the grounds. It made a good start to the holiday and enthused them for the chateaux to come. Then on to the Chateau de Chenonceau. Because this was across the river and had a good story to tell we all enjoyed it and the architecture. We stayed at the hotel La Croix Blanche. This was a rather odd place that was only open in the height of the season and is like an annexe to the Hotel Bellevue. The rooms were basic but functional. The bicycle storage was in a shuttered area off the high street and not very convenient. We ate our evening meal at the Hotel Bellevue, which gave us very good food and surprised us as from the outside it looked a bit tired and unpromising.Day 3 was the ride to Bracieux visiting the chateau at Cheverny on the way. This was a quite long but easy ride and we stopped and had lunch at the beautiful Auberge du Centre at Chitenay. Great food, a lovely garden in the sun and then just a short ride to Cheverny. Cheverny was excellent and the grounds worth a good explore. We took the trailer and electric boat rides to see all of the grounds and this was worth the extra. We then went to the TinTin exhibition, which was very good and enjoyed by all. From Cheverny it was a short ride to Bracieux and the Hotel du Cygne. This hotel was essentially a series of small cottage type buildings converted to rooms along the lines of a motel – but far more atmospheric. They were a good size, very comfortable; the ensuite bathrooms were good, they were quiet and cool. The swimming pool was excellent, nicely heated with its own showers and changing area. Breakfast was available outside in front of one’s room if wanted and bicycle storage was available in a large barn. This was, without doubt, the best hotel of the stay. No Dinner here but plenty of choice in the town. Well worth a visit is the Rendezvous des Gourmets just a short walk down the road. We had our best meal of the holiday here. It was not cheap -€124.00 for four people including wine and drinks, but worth every penny and better value than other nights when we had to pay.Day 4 was spent on a trip to the amazing Chateau at Chambord. This is so large it is a day trip in itself. You can hire an electric boat to go out on the river/ moat and spend hours studying the architecture and rooms. It is well worth getting the audio guide to learn as much as you can. The history of the chateau is as vast as the buildings. The ride to and from the chateau through the forest is excellent BUT (and it is a big but) the route notes were not at all clear and we, and many others, went wrong, cycling much further than required. We are not novice navigators, but there were crucial land marks and route deviations that were not mentioned in the notes. This was the sole topic of conversation that afternoon at the café we were at in Chambord.Day 5.  A longish ride to Chaumont through some pretty countryside, but again the route notes had errors in them, bringing us in to the village of Les Montils in a different place to where the notes said. Again we found other people trying to puzzle out the problem. Only good map reading saved us. The chateau at Chaumont is good and also has a very good garden exhibition. If you are tired of Chateau by now you can pay to just visit the garden Expo. Any gardeners will enjoy this. Our Hotel was the L’Hostellerie du Chateau. An excellent hotel, with good rooms, a lovely swimming pool (colder than the other one) and a good restaurant. It ran a very close second to the Hotel du Cygne as the best of the trip. It was more formal than the first and so not quite so relaxing. We never felt that we could chill out on the terrace in biking kit and bee in hand – something smarter was required and a glass of wine. Food and wine here were also excellent but not cheap.Day 6. We were feeling tired by now and our youngest son struggled on the ride in to Blois. He perked up when we went to the museum of magic in the main square in front of the chateau. This was an excellent interactive place with a very good half hour magic show that was worth the entrance fee in itself. We were ‘chateauxed out’ by now so did not go to the Chateau itself. A good lunch in the square and we took the train back to Onzain for the 1km ride back over the river to Chaumont.Day 7.  An easy ride back along the Loire to Amboise. Good scenery and easy going but again the route notes were not detailed enough to make it clear where we should be going. The cycle signs changed or disappeared at times so being told to follow them was not good enough. Only map reading saved us, and as the map is to a huge scale this was not easy!On the whole this was a very enjoyable trip and the level of interest and variety of chateau was pitched just right for our family. It amused our two teenage sons, so it must have been OK! My one very big criticism was that the cycling notes were not detailed enough. We struggled with which way to go every day. The route notes need less on the chateaux and more detail about where one should be cycling. To have gaps of 13km between directions is poor. The French have a habit of putting the signpost showing the way to go around the corner you want, so that you can only see it once you have taken the correct road! In these circumstances it is vital to have more detailed notes, with landmarks and small distances between turnings noted. It is no good having a rote note that says “follow the cycling route up the vineyards towards Le Grand Village” when there are no sign posts directing you to this place until you get there and it is not marked on the map! If this is the standard of route note on all the trips I would not use Exodus again. We have used other operators with a much, much better standard.  
  • Reviewed August 2010
    Anonymous

    THE TURQUOISE COAST

    The location and group were fantastic. The guide left a lot to be desired. For a walking holiday there was very little walking. The longest walk was 2 hours. The hotel was quite a long way out of town and the shuttle taxi we were promised was so unreliable we opted to get the local bus in the evenings by day 3.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Beautiful beaches and friendly laid back people everywhere we went.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Not much. He was lazy and ineffective. He was persistently at least 15 minutes  late. All walks were substantially reduced from the trip notes and he failed to tell us anything about the sites we visited. I feel that I have learnt nothing about Turkish culture or history from our guide. He didn't seem to have any interest in telling us about his country at all. This is a great shame as we visited some potentially fascinating sites.  We had to ask him for information about the next day's activities on most evenings. Compared to group leader on Atlas Mountains last year he was shockingly poor. Luckily this did not spoil the holiday as the group gelled so well and we just got on with it.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Still a lovely holiday and hopefully you won't get the same guide we had!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I am very disappointed that we were landed with such a poor guide. The total walking time all week was barely more than 5 hours. The excuse was 'its too hot'. However on several occasions we made it clear we were happy to walk for longer and would be happy to set off much earlier than the usual 9.30am to avoid the heat. We had a to ask for a long walk on the last day and that felt like we were inconveniencing the guide by expecting a day of activity. The driver and vehicle we were given left a lot to be desired especially whenever we saw the other groups from Exodus as they had much better transport which always arrived early rather than 10 mins late like ours. One day the driver had two very near misses due to his lack of observation. One of these was only avoided because the mopeds he pulled out in front of when turning onto a large A road did an emergency stop and honked thier horns at him. The car was small and cramped with very little legroom and inefffective aircon. Again it was galling to see other Exodus parties in much more spacious buses which had more modern aircon etc. That evening he did not show up to collect us from town as arranged. We had to call the guide on his mobile to arrange transport. We were left waiting in Kas for 40 mins. The next day we were simply told that the driver went home to bed as if this was acceptable service. No apology from the guide or driver. After this we took the local bus in and out of Kas as it was infinitely more reliable even if it meant we had to pay for this. The instructions and directions from the guide were non existent. He had to be reminded to tell us basic information such as meet up times in the morning and what we should bring with us.Sorry to be so negative. I had such a good experience on the Atlas Mountains trek last year and the guide was amazing. This year has been a total let down. I would probably still consider another Exodus holiday on the strength of last year's trip however other members of the group said they would be very unlikely to book another holiday with Exodus because of the guide.
  • Reviewed August 2010
    Anonymous

    THE SHADOW OF THE MATTERHORN

    Any enjoyable week's walking around Zermatt that could be improved with slightly better logistics. Quite a bit more costly than the brochure price.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching the sunrise on Mont Rosa from the Rothorn hut.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Group leader was very knowledgable about the area. Also, it's nice to be allowed to walk at your own pace and "regroup" every 45 mins or so. I much prefer that than being made to walk at the pace of the slowest group member.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Zermatt is not a cheap place to stay! Remember you have to buy four evening meals, drinks and all your picnic lunches. I probably spent an extra £300 although I did drink a lot of weisbeer. Also, if you climb the Breithorn on the final day, that adds on another £170 or so if you don't have your own equipment.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Carrying picnic lunches every day, hmmm. On most days we ate our lunches 5 or 10 mins away from a perfectly good mountain hut. I would have much prefered to carry just an emergency meal and eat in the refuges. Would have saved a fair bit of weight on the 3-day walk and meant a hot meal in bad weather.
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