Turtle, Ecuador

Your words, not ours

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

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

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  • Reviewed May 2013
    Anonymous

    WALKING IN PUGLIA AND BASILICATA

    May is a good time of the year to go to this area as its not too hot. There is plenty of interest particularly in Matera. Walks were right length and Puglia and Basilicata were very different regions.  

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The first view of Matera old town from the Sassi Hotel - this town is a hidden jewel.The wildflowers of the area which has not been subject to herbicides.Finding out the making pasta by hand is really quite difficult!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Angelo was knowledgeable and friendly but perhaps needed to anticipate the questions of the group. This he will learn as he deals with further groups. Good at getting consensus in the group and arranging meals together etc. 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Not really - the trip fulfils the description in the brochure. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Having Susie as the observer from Exodus was an added bonus! It is comforting to know that this is company policy to send an observer on the first trip and she helped the group leader improve the quality of the experience.
  • Reviewed May 2013
    Anonymous

    TREASURES OF SICILY

    The visual impressions and photographic opportunituies were, for me, the highlights of the trip. The local guides were without doubt very knowledgeable but there was too much to take in. I would have preferred a balance of guide information and the opportunity to view the visual specatcles in our own time. It was very much an action packed holidy.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    This would have to be the superb visual impact of the town of Modica below us and on the hillside as we approached it in the minibus on the main road over the ravine. Sadly for me there was no opportunity to take a photograph but the image is firmly implanted in my mindseye. Otherwise the stunning scenery and architecture.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent in all respects. He was very sociable, had a warm sense of humour and he did everything to make our holiday informative and thoroughly enjoyable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is a must for anyone wanting to take in most of what Sicily has to offer, which is substantial, but be aware we were "on the go" for most of the time to complete a substantial itinerary.
  • Reviewed May 2013
    Anonymous

    GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

    A trip of a lifetime to this wonderful unspoilt place. If its on your list do it! Initially I wondered what it would be like on a boat for a week but the crew, food and company on board added to the adventure and I loved it!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    For me there was a highlight every day and I remember welling up with tears on more than one occasion.. The first time I was truly moved was when we had a wet landing on a beach covered in sealions and they didn't mind at all. Such a priveledge! I swam with a sealion at Espanola beach and the wave made us bang in to each other and he had a little sniff of me. On Floreana I spotted a bird with something in its mouth and our guide realised it was a baby turtle. We then saw a batch of baby turtles emerging from their nest ( in the daylight!) rushing towards the sea with great urgency. Unfortunately many didn't made it as the birds overhead swooped down and took them. Seeing nature so close and not interfering was a memory I will never forget. Our guide Juan had only seen this four times in seven years so we were very lucky

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Juan Tupin was great. He was so knowledgeable and good fun. He organised the group very well. I particularly enjoyed our daily recaps after dinner on what we had seen that day and drawing in the big map where we were going the next day. It did become a bit like a game show. Also on our last night when we crossed the Equator he brought out his guitar and we had a sing along and some games which was great fun

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I travelled on my own and my roommate was fab. Remember you already have the fact you chose the trip in common so don't let that put you off going alone. My girlie tips are you can take a hair drier and there are loads of electrical sockets for recharging your camera etc. also I took too many clothes. It's really casual on board and you go bare feet inboard so you only need walking boots / shoes and sandals. Some of the beaches are wonderful to walk barefoot on. At night for dinner again its casual. You will have showered before dinner as its hot so I found a couple of nice long sleeved top nice to wear as a change from t shirts perfect but there was no need for the fleece I packed Take a t shirt to swim in to save getting burned. Take shorts. It can be windy on the small pangas which take you to shore so if you have longer hair pack pony tail bands. The cabin is small but the but I found it appeared bigger as the week went on as we found places for our things and you can store a lot in the bathroom. I took a small roller case and it did fit under the bottom bunk. Hotel in Quito is lovely. Get a taxi downtown to the old part on your first day but don't take valuables with you as robbing is common.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The crew are so helpful and work hard. it was the easiest tip i have ever given .I loved Richard the waiter/ barman/ housekeeper and his laugh. I don't eat fish and the chef was brilliant at making me something different for the meals the others had fish. The food in general was fabulous . I wasn't keen on snorkelling as I am scared of sharks ....and they are in the water, yet won't eat you but I had a go once but you can swim off the boat or just go out and watch the others if you don't fancy it or stay aboard yacht and lounge. Take a note book to record your trip. Take big memory cards as I took over 1000 photos and videos ( they use up a lit more memory) video captures the experience more. Take binoculars for the birds but the other animals are so close. Another great thing was there was no phone signal or wifi on board so that was a real holiday. I never thought about work or home at all as I was so engrossed in my adventure. It's an awesome trip and if Galápagos is on your list DO IT!
  • Reviewed May 2013
    Anonymous

    WALKING THE AMALFI COAST

    overall from booking to arriving back home was a wonderfull experience 10 out 10 to Exodus.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    From the first day to the last the whole experience was great I normally organise my own trips but thought that on this occasion I would use Exodus and I was not disappointed. For me the highlight of the trip was at the Hotel where the host's, a wonderful couple ( Brother's ) put on a show in the kitchen of how to make Pizza's, well, we were in rapture's the dough was flying and they captured the hearts of us all they were trully wonderful people and made us so welcome I can honestly say that you could not better the hospitality anywhere.  

    What did you think of your group leader?

    absolutly brilliant

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just go with the flow

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    can you top perfectiom!
  • Reviewed May 2013
    Anonymous

    A WEEK IN ANDALUCIA

    The Cortijo Rosario is an excellent base from which to explore and be introduced to Andalucia in a group trip. The cortijo is situated half way up a hill overlooking the valley and the village of Algamitas. The accomodation is simple, adequate and spotlessly clean and caters for everything that you may need. The staff from the village are very friendly, approachable and will do everything possible to help. The food is really excellent whilst the bar provides a good range of wines and other drinks for most tastes. If you are trying to diet, forget it!!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Whilst the organised day trips are excellent, we find that a 20 minute stroll into the village to wander through the street market and then pop into Remy's bar for a drink is so special. The welcome is something we rarely encounter at home these days and everyone is so courteous and polite. The views from the cortijo of the valley and the hills beyond are great, but a short walk up the track and through the olive groves reveales many more fantastic images of colours, patterns and shades that continually change throughout the day.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The local Alax James is a new leader to Exodus and shows great promise for the future.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just be prepared to have a fantastic trip with plenty to do and see but also with lots of time to relax and be stress free.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Algamitas is not a tourist area and on the face of it, there is nothing there. However, once you start looking and thinking about the cortijo, the village and the surrounding area, you realise how much there is to do, see, hear and enjoy during your week.
  • Reviewed May 2013
    Anonymous

    SICILIAN VOLCANOES

    A fun way to spend a week.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Undoubtedly, watching the lava eruptions at the top of Stromboli. I would happily have spent much more time up there than we were permitted.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader (GL) did many things well but, I feel, fell short in some areas. It was his first trip of the year so maybe he was just out of practice at thinking for a group. He didn’t seem to realise that it is best to be VERY clear when giving out where-we-should-be-when-type instructions. Usually he was OK (and got better as the week went on) but, to begin with, I (and some others) struggled to get clear, precise information. Also, he should have kept a closer eye on where everyone in the group was and should not always have been at the front. And, on a couple of occasions, he tried to simply laugh off issues/complaints people raised. As a strategy, this is actually more irritating than effective.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    As others have stated in their reviews, you do need to pack for a wide variety of weather conditions and temperatures. The tops of the volcanoes (Vulcano, Stromboli, etc.) really can be VERY cold and windy so I’d advise wearing several layers. A thin, windproof jacket is worth taking and a pair of gloves and a warm hat really wouldn’t go amiss (you could probably get away with thin gloves most of the time). Gaitors are useful for some of the dustier downhill sections but you can get by without. Hiking boots (rather than shoes) are essential, I would say, both to reduce the amount of dust and other debris that gets in and for the ankle support (twist an ankle on day one and you won’t be seeing the tops of any more volcanoes).I’m not sure, at 65 euros (£55), the trip up Etna is really worth it. Despite (I’d say) the somewhat misleading impression you get from the Exodus trip notes, you don’t go anywhere near the summit (apparently, according to our Etna guide, no-one has been to the summit for the 20+ years since the last big eruption) and, instead, get to go as far as (what they euphemistically call) "the summit zone". It may seem a bit churlish to say "65 euros seems like a lot to walk down one of the most famous volcanoes in the world" but I honestly think it is. Maybe it is because I feel very short-changed by the guide we had on Etna. It felt very rushed and he suffered from, what I’ll call, "Guide Fatigue" (where a guide has obviously done the same route so many times s/he is just going through the motions – forgetting that, for his/her customers, this is the first (and probably only) time they will see the sight). On top of that, I really don’t want to do anything to encourage the idea that it is OK to charge people to walk on certain mountains. It sets a dangerous precedent. I realise that the argument will be "That’s to pay for the guide to keep you safe on what is, actually, a live volcano!" but even if that is the case, there were 13 people in my party so 845 euros seems excessive.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Well, it was bound to happen: if I kept doing trips with Exodus, eventually, I’d go on one that didn't reach the usual high standards. This was my sixth trip with Exodus and, to be honest, I’d have to say that my overall experience was somewhat disappointing. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy a lot of things about the trip or regret going but it wasn’t as successful and satisfying a trip as Exodus’s trips usually are and, I believe, this one could have been. The group didn’t gel very well at all and I think the attitude of our GL made things worse rather than better. In my experience, Exodus GL’s are usually very good at spotting conflict and clashes early and do their best to smooth things over but, as that didn’t happen on this trip, what started out as low level resentment festered into significant hostility towards the end. Also, I felt rushed a lot of the time during the treks. I appreciate that there is always going to be bone of contention between the people who want to walk fast and the people who want to take their time to take in the scenery, take a lot of photos (or take their time over composing their photos) but, ultimately, it is up to the GL to strike a balance between the extremes. I didn’t feel this happened on this trip (our GL siding far more with the people who wanted to walk faster and get the walks/treks over more quickly – often, only to spend and hour or more extra in a bar or, otherwise, hanging around). I’m sorry, but I can go to a bar anywhere, anytime but it is very unlikely I will hike on Etna ever again during my time on this planet!I feel the Trip Notes - both the text and some of the photos used - are somewhat misleading. I don’t know where that photo at the top of page 3 of the trip notes was taken but we certainly didn’t get any views that resembled it and we didn’t go anywhere that got us anything like that close to any lava. In the current Trip Notes it states "The highlight for many comes as we return to the mainland and trek on Mount Etna … with the option to climb to the summit.". This statement is blatantly untrue as, as I describe above, no-one gets to go anywhere near the summit of Mount Etna. You can go to (what is cunningly named) the "summit zone" at 2900 metres but you won’t be allowed to hike to anything like the actual summit (3300 metres). Later in the Trip Notes what you will actually get to see and do on Etna is much more accurately described but the above sentence, in the opening section of the Trip Notes, is misleading. This same paragraph of text makes reference to “areas of bubbling sea due to underwater fumaroles; rocks with a network of clefts from which boiling water gushes and hot springs.” Nope, didn’t see any of those.Reading back over the above before finally submitting this review to Exodus I am concerned that I sound like a whinger who’s looking to find fault and I am worried that it gives too negative an impression. As I say, overall, I enjoyed the trip and certainly don’t regret doing it. I just feel it could have been a lot better..
  • Reviewed May 2013
    Anonymous

    UZBEKISTAN UNCOVERED

    A well-organised holiday in a little-known and fascinating country. An intriguing mix of Muslim and Soviet.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I don’t think a single member of our group of sixteen (enormously gifted and intrepid) travellers managed to master the Uzbek language much beyond the welcome greeting ‘assalom aleikum’ (‘may peace be unto you’), so here is my very own Uzbek Alphabet to give a flavour of our Exodus trip (Uzbekistan Uncovered). A. A is for Alexei, our calm and competent Russian-speaking driver who drove us 1500 kms in a rather cramped minivan. He negotiated urban traffic, dirt roads, uneven surfaces and potholes with aplomb. He was even gracious when, having gratefully accepted his ‘thank you’ envelope he was unceremoniously asked to return it so some of our group who’d missed the collection could add their contribution B. Breakfast was definitely the best meal of the day: peanuts, sesame bites, juicy raisins, yoghurt, dried apricots, cherry juice, pancakes and the distinctive flat bread, the latter subtly different in each location. Several of us succumbed to the decorative wooden bread stamps with metal pin roundel patterns as souvenirs C. The distinctive blue and white China, with a hint of gold, was the standard design greeting us at mealtimes and many of our friends will receive teapots or cups in this pattern as a gift D. D, of course can only stand for Dilshod, our omniscient, indefatigable and irrepressible guide. With a near-perfect command of English (interspersed with the odd, endearingly quaint ‘Dilshodism’) he negotiated, arranged, facilitated, guided and interpreted with impeccable professionalism and unbounded enthusiasm E. One of the first sites we visited was the strikingly designed Earthquake Memorial in Tashkent, a moving tribute to those who lost their lives at precisely 5.22am on 26th April 1966 F. F is for the funky Fashion Show we attended in Bukhara. To the accompaniment of local instruments, lean models twirled and twisted, showing off traditional Uzbek fabrics (silks, ikat, cottons) in garments designed with a contemporary twist (doppes, chapans, scarves) G. G is for the Gold teeth revealed by the wide and welcoming smiles of local people in the streets and shops. They’re apparently a sign of wealth and certainly more portable than wodges of the local currency (see below) H. H is for the three remarkable Hill Fortresses we visited outside Khiva. Their location amid flat, wild desert was stunning and we had the sites to ourselves. The mud structures, though repeatedly restored, had an eerie timeless quality. We clambered (carefully) over the mud walls, thankful there hadn’t been recent rainfall. We peered through arrow slits and admired the sturdy yet alarmingly vulnerable ramparts I. After a hard day’s sightseeing with snow threatening, sitting down to listen to a shopkeeper playing traditional Uzbek Instruments provided a welcome interlude. We marvelled at the mandolins and the plaintive desert flute J. One of our favourite visits was on the very last morning to Tashkent’s Museum of Applied Arts. In this building, originally the intended residence of a Tsarist diplomat, we ogled a variety of wooden objects, ceramics, fabrics and Jewellery. Many of the jewellery pieces were substantial, yet by no means ostentatious - delicate filigree, orange-pink stones, designs reminiscent of Art Nouveau. J is also for Jill, my new(ish) friend and travelling companion whom I first met last year on an Exodus trip to Burma and with whom on this holiday, too I shared many a tipple, comment, confidence and chuckle K. Kebab or shashlik is a staple – and not only after a night out on the beer. Uzbeks are partial to meat which is of a tastiness rarely encountered in Britain. The downside is that it is occasionally a tad chewy L. Luggage featured prominently on the holiday. It grew weightier, of course, as our trip progressed, laden with gifts and souvenirs. One of our group spent a couple of hours in mild panic when her case failed to arrive at the hotel, but it miraculously materialised with another tour group on the same circuit as us. Another of our group was unceremoniously hauled back through internal airport check-in with a suspect object in her suitcase, only to discover her bag had been wrongly labelled with the name of another member of our group whose innocent mobile phone had caused the alert. Dilshod leaped valiantly to the rescue on both occasions M. We marvelled at the Medley of Mosques, Minarets, Madrassahs, Mausolea, Museums, Markets, Monuments and ornate Metro stations. As well as the above, we also saw a tandoori oven being filled with samosas, ancient petroglyphs etched on shaley rocky outcrops, a bloodstained Koran – the oldest in the world, a harem (finally shit down in the 20th century), the astronomer king Ulug Beg’s sextant, caravanserais, rich carpets, buzzing bazaars… My brain befuddled by the above I tried to distinguish and recall the names and facts about all we’d witnessed on my return home. Taking a plethora of photos and notes helped N. And talking of notes, Notes of the financial variety – the ‘sum’ - are my letter N. Depending on which ‘bank’ you patronise (formal or informal), the rate of exchange fluctuates wildly. To sum up – you get one hell of a lot of ‘sum’ for your money, so group restaurant bills necessitated payment with brick-sized wads of notes and resulted in great photo opportunities to reflect this silliness O. O is for the romantic sounding river Oxus or Amu Darya. We stopped for a thankfully brief bird’s eye view of it from an exposed wild and windy hilltop P. Plov has to feature for the letter P. The most delicious plov we sampled was in what appeared to be an unobtrusive private house, where we were offered this traditional dish of meat, rice, raisins and quails’ eggs with a roasted garlic bulb atop. And another, unexpected P that evening – it was Paula’s birthday and we stoically helped her demolish her surprise cake Q. As Dilshod’s repeated refrain reminded us, “If you have any Questions, you’re very welcome” R. For my taste, over-restored, the Registan in Samarkand still impressed by its size, grandeur and decorative detail S. S is for the exotic Silk Road. The women in our group finally managed to entice the men into purchasing floaty, subtly-coloured silk scarves and brightly-coloured ‘suzane’ embroidery with vibrant pomegranate motifs, many coloured with natural dyes made from pomegranate skins, beetroot, nuts, onion skins, turquoise stone, grass, mushrooms and mulberries. Fabrics to die for T. T is for the Tiles decorating the mosques and minarets – in gorgeous turquoises, rich kingfisher blues and earthy ochres U. U is for urban Urgench, which the authoritative Macleod and Mayhew guidebook engagingly describes as ‘a flat, grey Soviet city with all of Tashkent’s faults and few of its saving graces’. This was where our internal flight was destined (we were then to drive onward to Khiva), but were diverted to Bukhara. One of our group, in a daze, calmly got off the plane, assuming we had arrived at Urgench, only to reboard after a short interval, all blushes and giggles. We teased her mercilessly V. V is for Vodka – a handy remedy for warming up the innards when facing a night on a mattress in a chilly yurt – a discreet purchase by several of our number W. W is for Water – a precious commodity here. We heard the sad and shocking story of the Aral Sea, irretrievably shrinking due to the over-irrigation of cotton fields in years gone by X. The highlight for most of us was the EXotic camel ride over the desert dunes, swathed with carpets and drifts of scarlet poppies amid grey saxaul bushes, to Aidarkul Lake where the brave amongst us had a very chilly dip followed by the reward of a picnic of fried lake fish. EXcellent Y. The night in the Yurt was for me our most exciting accommodation. Albeit a touch touristy, it was a novel experience to sleep under a felt roof, a multi-coloured fabric ‘chandelier’ suspended above and the acrid smell of felt (or was it camel pee?) in one’s nostrils Z. I had always assumed that Zoroastrianism was some cranky belief, but by the end of the trip began to understand it more fully and get my eye in for the symbols. And then… home to some well-earned Zzzzzz.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Dilshod was a delight!
  • Reviewed May 2013
    Anonymous

    CAMINO DE SANTIAGO TREK

    An inspiring walk through rolling countryside with a great group and an excellent leader.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The achievement of reaching Satiago de Compostela and receiving my certificate in Latin!!  Also, we attended high mass and saw the Botafumeiro being swung in the Cathedral trancept.  Quite something.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jose Garcia was an excellent tour leader.  Always smiling, always helpful, he took all our group photos for us, ordered all our food and drink and sometimes served it in the many restaurants and cafes along the way.  Dealt efficiently and promptly with an injury one of our number received and spoke very good English.  I have had some good leaders on previous Exodus tours, but nobody better than Jose.  In many ways he made the holiday.  Ten out of ten.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The weather can be changeable so bring a range of clothing.  Energy bars and snacks can be difficult to come by so make sure you take some with you and bring at least one pair of well worn in walking boots.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Make the most of the time in Santiago de Compostela.  It is a beautiful olld city with loads of street artists and performers.  Look out for Tuna de Derecho in the Cathedral square most nights.
  • Reviewed May 2013
    Anonymous

    DUBROVNIK & THE DALMATIAN COAST

    A great trip with stunning scenery, genuinely helpful and friendly locals & an excellent tour leader (Krsto).

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    My favourite part of this holiday was the boat trip to the beautiful island of Mljet and the island of Mljet with it's stunning lakes.Trogir, Split old town, Ston & Dubrovnik are also amazing.The whole trip was just great.  

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our tour leader was the best, so far, for me. He gave us enough information without overloading, has a brilliant sense of humour and is genuine with his care of the group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Although the trip notes say that trainers are fine for the walks you might want to take sturdier walking boots. I was fine in my trainers, however, the walk around Korcula island has a lot of loose stones and others of the group felt that they would have prefered to have better footwear.
  • Reviewed May 2013
    Anonymous

    HIGHLIGHTS OF EGYPT

    Great trip set at the right pace so you get to see alot of amazing places

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The felucca on the nile was great amazing views and awesome weather

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Had a really good guide. Friendly, knowledgeable about history, gave us the freedom to pick and choose where we wanted to go.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Enjoy
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