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Turtle, Ecuador

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

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132 Reviews

  • Reviewed October 2019
    Karen Guest

    Ramblings in Romania (with bears!)

    Magura was a lovely base from which to explore this beautiful part of Romania, and a good variety of walks and activities were offered during the week. The walking was mostly fairly easy going.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Magura itself! Such a beautiful setting, particulary with the Autumn foliage lighting up the surrounding hills. The bear sanctuary was very thought-provoking and it was inspirational to see the passion felt by Katerina and the others involved in the project. Having lunch in the local 'pub' in Pestera with a few bewildered, smiling locals who watched in amazement as 16 very wet and bedraggled hikers walked in!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was excellent: very knowledgeable and good humoured. He was also very patient when dealing with the differing levels of walking abilities within the group. His organisation was excellent and he changed the itinerary around when needed to ensure we could enjoy most of the activities during the better weather days. Special mention too to Theo who ably assisted Thomas during the week, and was very friendly and helpful. Sebastian, who guided us on the first couple of days, was also an excellent leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for changeable weather! We had everything from cold (with light snow on the mountains) and wet to sunny and warm. Sandwiches are made up from the breakfast buffet, but bring any other snacks with you if needed as these are not provided at the hotel. ATM machines are available at the airport (although a charge is incurred) and we were given the opportunity to use them before we left the terminal. Excluding the bear hide, which we paid in Euros, we spent about £100 in local currency for 2 of us over the week, which included the meal out, a few souvenirs, tips and drinks at the hotel (although the latter can also be paid in Euros). Hairdryers are available in the rooms, despite checking with Exodus and being advised that I needed to take my own! Tap water was perfectly potable (no ill effects felt by anyone in our party as far as I know!), so bring refillable bottles as advised by Exodus. Be prepared to spend quite a lot of time travelling in the vans and be prepared for crowds at Bran Castle!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We found Villa Hermani very comfortable, with friendly and helpful staff. The food at the hotel was enjoyable and varied, although not always piping hot (particularly the soup). The bread was a bit stodgy and was not to everyone's liking, particularly for making sandwiches. We were also a bit disappointed there was a charge for teas and coffees (apart from breakfast time). We think it might be useful if the hotel sold some juice drinks or similar for the walks as a change from plain water. The seating arrangements in the bear hide were not ideal for such a big group. The front row of seats only had space for 5-6 people and these were the people who obviously had the best view and were able to take good photos. People in the second and third rows of seats had restricted views and this was very disappointing for many. On a positive note, we did see a lot of bears! In my opinion, the walk on Postavarul Mountain was not worthwhile. It was quite a long drive to get there and the walk itself was not particularly inspiring. I would have much preferred another local walk around the Magura or the nearby National Park which are far more attractive areas.
  • Reviewed October 2019
    Jeremy Sackett

    An outstanding holiday

    This holiday is a great mix of mountains walks, wildlife encounters ( Bear hide and Sanctuary, Bird lakes ) , historic towns (Brasov) and visits ( Bran Castle, Byzantine monastery, churches and cathedral )

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Walking up to high mountain meadows and then through virgin Transylvanian forest with the trees dusted with snow and sparkling in the sunlight.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas is an outstanding Leader for local knowledge and insights, great organisation and leadership and empathy for the group. First class English Up there with the best Exodus Leaders

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This holiday is a real mix of activities so wouldn't suit "hard core" walkers. Most walks were fairly easy but a degree of fitness needed to get up to high levels and enjoy outstanding views

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This holiday gives a great insight into the real heart of Transylvania and Romanian history and visits a really beautiful unspoilt area. Get there soon in case it changes
  • Reviewed October 2019
    Natasha Challoner

    A vegan in Romania

    A great trip that was as described in the trip notes, I felt the most relaxed I have felt on holiday. September is a good time to go as there is still some sun during the day & the leaves are starting to change. A great trip with a variety of walks and activities. The long hike through Coja & Pestara is particularly nice. The beech and pine forests were beautiful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing wild bears from the bear hide. It is great that the forests are being kept wild and are protected. Every thing else was also great. The visit to the bear sanctuary was very emotional.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas had a great love for the area and he was able to share this with us. He was well organised.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    There is no need to take any local currency as the hotel keeps a drinks list. There is no shops nearby. You then change money in Brasov you don't need much, less than £100. May be useful to take Euros and to borrow a small amount if you want to buy some souvenirs in Bran. Take some snack bars etc for the walks. You make up a good lunch from the breakfast table. A walking pole is useful for some steep down hills.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We are vegans and were a bit worried about the food. The hotel catered well, with a different meal every night. The portions were good and very flavoursome. There was a good variety of non dairy milks. You make the lunch from the breakfast table which had 3 different spreads eg homemade Houmas & Beetroot pate. We took our own snack bars & nuts as well. The Romanian restaurant didn't have much choice, we just had chips, salad & sautéed veg, which was cheap & we were glad of a lighter meal so was ok. Brasov has a vegan café with raw cheesecakes. Our hotel room had a balcony with an amazing view of the mountains.
  • Reviewed September 2019
    Nicola Ball

    Great holiday

    Really good mix of culture, wildlife and walking. Clean and comfortable hotel and all the meals were excellent.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The highlight for me was definitely watching the bears in the wild, it is worth every penny, we were fortunate enough to see 8 adult bears and 2 cubs, I could have watched them all night.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Could not fault our group leader Sebi he was excellent - attentive, knowledgeable and extremely professional. He saw to it that everything ran very smoothly and he looked after everyone in the group equally very well (we had a full group of 16 people) he was quietly passionate about Romania and it’s wildlife and had a lovely sense of humour. On several days he was assisted by Radetch a guide in training who was equally delightful.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The trip to the bear Hyde is a must, take some binoculars.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We were very happy to have travelled with a group of really lovely people. Everyone got along very well, we had lots of laughs, many happy memories made.
  • Reviewed September 2019
    Suzanne Rosser

    Whales & Bears

    This trip combines the highlights of the Canada’s landscape in particular Vancouver Island with wild life both on land and in the sea. All in all I had a lovely experience with a really nice group of people.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The wildlife was the highlight for me. Two encounters specifically: Firstly a large male Grizzly wandered along the shoreline, weaving between the trees and the river’s edge. Slowly, it approached us as we stood as a group shoulder to shoulder (forming one large object). It continued aware of us, until it was 20m away, and then passed by and headed further up the road. Also, on returning from the bear trip we meet a pod of Orcas - maybe five or six. The large male had a dorsal fin approximately six foot tall! We watched them for maybe 25 minutes keeping the required distance of at least 200m. Then they disappeared. Suddenly, they appeared just off the bow of the boat like dolphins do surfing in the bow wave (maybe 10ft away). Quickly, we turned the engine off and watched in awe as they disappeared again off into the distance

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Eric our group leader was in my opinion not as knowledge, friendly and enthusiastic as previous leaders. He did however manage to organise additional trips for our groups as and when requested and taxied the group about making sure we were at the correct destination at the correct time.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This, as far as I know, is this first time this trip has run as early as it did. We left on the 19th August. Although the salmon ran early last year that was not the case this year. If possible I would recommend to travel a little later maybe mid September - in order to maximise the chances of seeing the grizzlies fishing in the river. We did nevertheless still manage to see all the wildlife.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Although this trip is called ‘Whales and Bears’ there were only two full days in the itinerary viewing theses amazing creatures. A half day with the Grey Whales; a half day seeing the black bears and a full day on the grizzly bear trip which included the boat trip with likely sightings of Humpback Whales and possibly Orcas. Having travelled all that way I booked additional trips, in Tofina $125 Canadian for an extra whale and $125 Canadian for black bears. Also Campbell River $400 Canadian with ‘Go Wild’ for and extra grizzly trip. Finally on the final day in Vancouver I visited Grouse Mountain which I felt filled the day well- without being too tiring. This cost $60 and included: lumber jack show, cable car, ski lift, wild bear flights, owl talk, eco walk, two hand raised grizzly bears and much more.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Jane Von Ruhland

    An extra special wildlife based holiday

    From sitting in a hide observing a glittering night time scene , to searching for Chamois from a hillside viewpoint , this trip encapsulates the world of the Brown Bear explained by the expert Julian Perry . He leads the group across an outstandingly scenic mountain terrain and presents the techniques to track and record the presence of Brown Bears in a non-intrusive way . We were very adequately accommodated in a centre-based family run hotel from where we walked or were driven to local forestry trails and areas used by Bears. With a tremendous knowledge of the ecology of the region , the leader identified and enabled us to observe and photograph flora and fauna including many wildflowers , birds , reptiles , mammals , amphibians and insects.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The trip to the Hide at night , lit by moonlight lighting effects , and seeing what was identified by our Leader as a Wildcat at the end of that first evening . Seeing Brown Bear prints and learning of the age and gender . Seeing other signs of Brown Bear presence , like hair , scratch marks in trees . Seeing signs of other mammals such as wolf , pine martin and hedgehog. Identifying wildflowers and butterflies with the leader and other group members.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    A leader who can speak fluently the language of the host country , and with an outstanding experience and knowledge of the wildlife , specifically the Brown Bear based on qualified research , who can present this to and lead a range of walkers and interested wildlife enthusiasts is fantastic . He is very informative and respectful of the history of the region and its people. He is always helpful and made the trip the most special week .

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read and look up information on Mountain animals and wildlife . Go on some wildlife survey work voluntarily with your local group beforehand if you can . It was the first time I had used binoculars but that was not a problem for me because I had some previous experience of wildlife surveys. Enjoy the leaders knowledge . Enjoy the groups knowledge . We were lucky to also have a Badger expert in our group .Enjoy the scenery , natural world and the food and company!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I saw a lot of natural life I had not seen before and would like to go on this trip again. If I did I would like to try to go on a Land Only reservation and travel over ground by train , boat and train to Sophia to meet the group . This way it would be even more environmentally sound, and less damaging as no flight would be involved.
  • Reviewed May 2019
    Jonathan Proud

    A superb week of walking in beautiful scenery

    Our base in a small, traditional village in the mountains was perfect for walks into the surrounding area. The biodiversity of the Rodopi mountains is amazing and our exceptionally knowledgeable leader helped us identify mammal scats and tracks, birds, reptiles, insects and plants, many of which were new to me. The walks were at a gentle pace, allowing plenty of time for photography.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I'd chosen the trip hoping to see a bear, but there was so much more to it than that. The number and variety of reptiles and butterflies amazed me. The variety of mammal scats and tracks along the forest paths was remarkable, and Julian was able to identify them for us and tell us about the different species. I loved the evening trips to the bear hide and although we didn't see a bear, we did watch wild boar which I'd never seen before.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the local fauna and flora. He was well organised, spoke clearly and, being fluent in Bulgarian, communicated easily with the local people too, ensuring that the trip ran smoothly. During breaks on our walks, he gave short talks covering aspects of bear biology and his research work, as well as the traditional farming practices which have maintained diversity in the meadows and forests.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The walks are at a sensible pace, but the terrain is steep in places, so a reasonable level of fitness will make the trip more enjoyable. At the end of April temperatures varied widely during the day, so be prepared with layers of clothing to add or remove as required.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hotel was of a high standard, being warm and comfortable, with good sized rooms and modern plumbing. The food was delicious, most of it locally produced, and the staff were friendly and helpful. I enjoyed learning about the leader's research work as he checked camera traps and recorded tracks, scats and other signs of bear activity during our walks. We were observers on this trip and there was no pretence that we were 'volunteering'. Having been on unsatisfactory 'voluntourism' trips before, I found this refreshingly honest.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Daniela Amabile

    Beauty, as to be found nowhere else.

    Waking up every morning to the glorious Autumn colours of the Carpathians is something I will remember for the rest of my life. The beauty of the forests, the splendour of the mountains and the simplicity of the life there is something I never imagined. Granted, I was initially inspired by my interest in the Dracula legend to go but after experiencing the wilderness there, I can honestly say that I fell in love with “the land beyond the forest”.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    When I managed to make it to the top of the mountain on the long hike without collapsing :-). Seeing Bran castle. Sitting up at the monastery, looking at the mountains with the sun behind them. The views of the scenery during our lunch breaks in various locations. Being on top of the mountains and looking down at the clouds.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Thomas was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the natural environment of Romania and its history. He also has a great sense of humour that kept us entertained. With his experience as a leader and training in the army, I definitely felt safe and in capable hands. And he was unexpectedly charming.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Try to remain as healthy as possible the week before this trip. I came down with a 24 hour stomach virus 2 days before the trip and it made the first few days difficult as I was still weakened. Also, walking poles are your friends. Definitely learn how to use a pair before you begin.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    No.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    T J

    A Fascinating Adventure!

    This was a truly wonderful trip that combines hiking, wildlife and scientific research, in a unique blend of 'eco-research-tourism'. Exodus - please offer more tours like this!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The whole trip was inspirational, though the most inspirational part is learning about the bears and other wildlife that live in these mountains, then slowly starting to understand how it all fits together. In addition, the Rodopi mountains are beautiful, particularly in Autumn - there are some great hikes in this trip, with fabulous views. The hotel and food were also great, with local milk, cheese and honey straight from the village. It was also good to be based in a single hotel for the week, with lots of walks starting and finishing right on our doorstep.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Julian was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about all aspects of biology, particularly bears. He is clearly well-known and connected in the local area, and did a great job of making everything run smoothly. One of the highlights of the trip were daily 'lectures' from Julian, usually during our scenic picnic lunches, about the various aspects of bear ecology.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    If you have a reasonable level of fitness and have some hiking experience, you should be fine on this trip. A typical day would comprises leaving the hotel with a packed lunch at 08:30 and returning at around 16:00, hiking slowly in the mountains in-between. We totaled 75 km and 3500 m height gain over our 6 days of walking, with hikes ranging from 8 - 14 km. So, the pace is pretty slow, as we were constantly stopping to look for wildlife / change camera traps etc. Julian will adjust the pace and route depending on the groups fitness level and interests anyway. That said, the terrain is fairly steep and rocky, though the trails are good. So, if you have new gear or are relatively inexperienced at hiking, it would be a good idea to put in a bit of practice beforehand so that you get the most out of your trip.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Don't come expecting to see a bear. This is not a 'bear-watching' trip, but a chance to explore and learn about the Eurasian Brown Bear and the habitat in which is resides, plus contribute to a long-term research program. We didn't see a bear during our week, though there was plenty of evidence throughout all of our walks. We did, however, see a group of 11 wild boar during one of the evenings at the hide, who seemed to be acting very defensively and on high alert, occasionally charging off into the undergrowth to chase something away. Sure enough, there is a photo of a bear on one of the nearby camera traps at the exact time we were there in the hide, so there is little doubt a bear was within a few yards of us.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Suzy Franklin

    Wildlife and hiking

    A well paced hiking tour with free time to relax in the remote alpine accommodation, in the mountains of Transylvania. This is certainly the place time forgot with small farming communities farming sheep and cattle, and small orchards aplenty. Dogs are tied up or in the fields protecting the livestock from the bears and other predators. The accommodation is basic but comfortable. We went when the weather was getting cooler and at times it was a little cold in the room. We had to remind the owners to put the heating on, which they did! There were 3 course set meals in the evening that were hearty and consisted of local produce but possibly limited if you are vegetarian/vegan. Don't expect there to be snacks like crisps and chocolate to be available, expect local fruits instead! The guide kept us updated on the itinerary during the week and gave a very informative tour of Brasov and Bran. All in all - a place to get away from it all and enjoy a slower pace of life! It was a very noncommercial region to visit and very refreshing in that sense!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The hard work of the people in the bear sanctuary, who had rescued bears that had suffered cruelty and now been given the best chance of life - all funded by donations with no government money! One bear had been blinded and had its claws cut so it would tolerate people having their picture taken alongside it. Quite emotional to hear the sad back history of some of the bears. The good news is that owning a bare is now banned in Romania.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He was friendly, quiet, amenable and informative.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take your thermals, scarf and gloves if going in the autumn as it get's cold in the mornings.