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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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78 Reviews

  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous .

    SPITSBERGEN EXPLORER

    The weather was fantastic, the wildlife followed the script, the staff were great. Downside running out of tonic early in trip so no G&Ts

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Mother polar bear and two babies, catching and killing a seal, and then the babies playing in the water..rivetting

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul is Paul, a one off

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you have plenty of memory cards

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We saw everything, but do be aware 24 hour daylight is hard on the body clock
  • Reviewed July 2011
    Anonymous .

    SPITSBERGEN EXPLORER

    A truly amazing trip due to the fantastic scenery and wildlife coupled with the knowledge, professional and enthusiasm of Paul and the whole Exodus team.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It has to be watching polar bears at close quarters and in particular, observing a mother polar bear with her twin cubs when she made a kill. It doesn't get better than that!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul Goldstein and the whole Exodus team were full of enthusiasm and very professional at all times plus the amount of knowledge that was available to us, to tap into as we wished, was just mind blowing. 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take plenty of layers and be flexible as day and night become one where wildlife is concerned!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    You see wildlife programmes on the TV but experiencing it first hand just cannot be bettered.
  • Reviewed June 2011
    Anonymous

    SPITZBERGEN EXPLORER ON THE VAVILOV

    Extraordinary, eventful, emotional, entertaining, exciting, exhausting (at times) & yet energising- this is trip for me was truly uplifting with the most amazing Polar Bear sightings guided by Paul, Woody, Ian & the rest of an enthusiastic, fun & knowledgeable crew. It was so good I have put my name down within 12 hours of getting back for next years trip to Spitzbergen. Bring it on! 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing different examples of Polar bear behaviour at first hand & having that explained by the wonderful Ian Stirling & having those memories put into photographs guided by Paul that will stay with me forever.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Inspitational, passionate, caring & always entertaining. Nothing is ever guranteed but by god you know that Paul & Woody & the team were doing their damndest to do it.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Book next year now! Don't hesitate- this trip will stay with you forever.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Next year I would love to see a massage therapist on board- it would be a great addition to the trip in soothing the aching muscles after being bent over a camera for hours on end!
  • Reviewed July 2010
    Anonymous

    SPITZBERGEN EXPLORER

    What a fantastic place.  We were very fortunate to have near perfect weather and loads of polar bear sightings of a very high quality allowing us to appreciate many aspects of polar bear life and behaviour, including some intimate and very gentle scenes between mother and cub that brought some close to tears.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Where do I start - perhaps the polar bear that came to look at the ship, standing up to get a better view and then embarrassing himself by slipping on the ice - or the polar bear mum suckling her poor wee infant - or the polar bears feeding from the whale carcass and spin shaking themselves dry - or maybe that fantastic day at the Monaco Glacier with the sea calmer than a village pond and perfect reflections of the stunning scenery.  Each day just seemed to be perfect.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Woody was great mixing knowledge and humour perfectly.  Paul used his endless energy to ensure we got the best photographic oportunities and was always willing to give advice. The combination of the two was a sure recipe for success - and some great banter!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't think twice.  If your enjoy nature and wild scenery and accept that your are on more of an expedition than a holiday then book it now.  Be prepared for the cold with warm gloves and particularly warm socks for the wellies.  Photographers should ensure they have a polarising filter for their wide angle lenses.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The Vavilov is a very well stabilised ship and the cabins are very comfortable.  The food is great - don't expect to lose weight! The staff and crew are all very helpful and friendly.  If you have the good fortune that we enjoyed with weather and wildlife sightings then you cannot fail to have the trip of a lifetime. 
  • Reviewed July 2010
    Anonymous

    SPITZBERGEN EXPLORER

    Way beyond my expectations. Dreams are made of this. I went thinking we may see polar bears but it was fab. We had 31 sightings (not 31 different bears) One day we had six or seven bears in sight. Mother with two cubs who walked across the ice towards the zodiacs and came very close. You could not repeat this trip or ever describe it to give it justice. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The trip to Monaco glazier was my highlight (apart from the bears). Surrounded by icebergs of varying shades of blue and weaving through them. Then sitting there in a zodiac in complete silence. The only other place I have managed silence is Lake Louise in Canada. I thought of home. In the evening when Woody was talking about our day I became very tearful. I hadn't realised just how wonderful this place was and what lasting effect it would have on me.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Woody is fabulous, funny, calm, smiley, knowledgeable and just great. Felt very easy in his company and obviously is great to work with as this reflected through the rest of the team. We shared the trip with Paul Goldstein who is unique in his own way. The relationship between Paul and Woody was good with lots of banter.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We took small foam gardening kneelers with us. They were excellent for using in the zodiacs as they have metal bottoms and this can get your knees cold and can become very uncormfortable. Also good for landings and kneeling to take photos. The other thing we took were hand and feet warmer that you slip inside your gloves and socks. Cheap to buy, disposable and did the job. Don't miss an opportunity to go out on a zodiac. We took two trips that people did not join in the evening and saw mother with cub one night and then the two cubs the next time.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would not do this trip again because I don't feel I could ever beat it and it would ruin the memories that I have. However I recommend it to everybody. The ship was comfortable and the food was good with lots of choice. Be prepared to get tired and view it as a trip and not a restful holiday. 24 hour sunshine takes alot of getting used to and you find you are taking photos in the early hours. If I could have 'bottled' Kathy's wake up call for breakfast I would have. "good morning, breakfast will be ready in 30 minutes and today we have banana pancakes" sure beats the beep beep beep of my alarm clock.......................................
  • Reviewed August 2009
    Anonymous

    SPITZBERGEN EXPLORER ON THE SHOKALSKIY

    Fantastic holiday. Very well organised, and a feast for lovers of the environment. Wonderful landscapes, amazing skies, clarity of light, an abundance of birds, snow, rocks and ice, jewel-like flowers, and silence. Nature on the edge - tough but beautiful. A photographic heaven.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The polar bear on ice, first seen as a blob in the distance, and then slowly, gingerly, the captian edged our boat ever closer, forcing our way through the ice, until we saw her clearly, feeling her way carefully along the thinning ice, then lying in wait for a seal to appear. Then after a while she rolled on her side, stretched and yawned and waved her massive paws in the air as if performing for our benefit, then turned round and watched us watching her. Eventually she seemed to get bored and fell asleep, until some low flying birds disturbed her, and she heaved herself up, and slowly made her way towards the water's edge and swam away....(But perhaps he was a he.) And on the last day, when we came upon the arctic fox carefully sucking out the birds' eggs he had stolen, then trotting nonchallantly about, without a care in the world. And finally, the auk colony, clustered together on the cliff edge, seemingly egging each other on to jump off and fly, before the others all followed on in swoops and dives, only to return and start again. Magic.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Woody and his team worked incredibly hard to make this an enjoyable and successful holiday. All were very friendly, helpful, interesting, hugely knowledgeable, with large reserves of humour. It was hard to say goodbye, and I was left with a sense of wanting to do the trip all over again, with all the same people on board...

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't expect to see polar bears close up with cubs. (I did.) These sightings are very rare.Don't worry about travelling on your own. This was a very sociable holiday, where everyone mixed and socialised together.Usual advice - bring lots of thermal layers. Ski clothes are great, gloves, hats, sunglasses, and lots of warm socks are a must. But bring some T shirts and light-weight clothes too, for when you are indoors. The boat is very warm.Leave your books behind - you won't have time to read them!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Exodus has done it again - a brilliant holiday! And thanks for the brilliant DVD, so even if your own photos don't work out, you'll have these to remember it by. I had no idea that there would be so many experts on board as part of the crew, giving lectures on the history, geology, polar bears, birds, plants, and the different kinds of ice. And we were also especially lucky to have Angie and Jonathan Scott and Chris Packham on board, all superb wildlife photographers, spoiling us with entertaining presentations and stunning slideshows of their own work, as well us giving us helpful advice and commentaries on our own photography.
  • Reviewed August 2009
    Anonymous

    SPITZBERGEN EXPLORER ON THE VAVILOV JUNE 2009

    First off, our trip was on the Vavilov boarding on 24 June.  Great ship and crew and outstanding expedition staff.  The standard of safety care was excellent on the whole, and we were blessed with good weather on the whole, and saw a fair amount of wildlife.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The polar bears, especially the one swimming off Edgeoya, but mostly the extreme beauty and grandeur of Spitzbergen, and the sense of how lucky we were to be there, especially to reach 80 degrees North.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Woody was/is constantly on the go, and brings vast enthusiasm to the trip, which gives you the energy to keep going whilst tired, after hours standing out on deck.My only niggle was him leading his group of chargers up and across the scree face of the Alkhornet, in wellies, when a lot of people, younger and older, had the sense to back off - a 45 degree slope with scree and no proper equipment was asking for trouble - even one of the expedition staff was worried about it.  When you are in an isolated region of the world with very little medical backup, it was foolhardy.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go! but be prepared for long days searching for the elusive bear.  Talking to people back in Longyearbyen who had gone north just up the coast for 4 days, they had seen 16 bears, including mother and cubs.  We covered much more ground, and saw only 4, but that's the luck of the draw.  We saw much bird life, and our ornithologist Tony was fantastic.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    My one disappointment, having chosen this particular trip because of Jonathan and Angie Scott, was how little group presentations he did. One group one and one bar talk was meagre.  Thank goodness for Chris Packham who was not just an added bonus, but did at least 3 group talks, and really earned his crust.We were so lucky having Ian Stirling as our polar bear guide - fantastically knowledgeable and such a lovely guy.
  • Reviewed July 2009
    Anonymous

    SPITZBERGEN EXPLORER

    The trip to the Arctic is on of my favourate holidays. The scenery was breathtaking, the Polar bears were fantastic, the ship was great, all the crew and experts were extremely helpful and we had a great group to travel with. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We had 1 day when there was a sense of anticipation in the air as soon as we got up. We sailed in the Smeerenburg fjord in the morning. The wheather was really good, making the scenery feel even more special. At luchtime we saw a Polar Bear on an island. We went out in the Zodiacs and were able to observe it for a long time.In the evening we had a BBQ on deck. Therer were little flurries of snow now and again. Just after we finisehed eating we saw another Polar Bear. On  the ice this time. We managed to get very close with the boat and again could observe it for a long time.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Woody and his team were all very good. They were all very knowledgable and really wanted to help everyone.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Wrap up warm and enjoy it.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I ahve learned a lot about the Arctic and its flora and fauna.
  • Reviewed July 2009
    Anonymous

    SPITZBERGEN EXPLORER

    What can I say?!!  Stunning scenery, fabulous wildlife sightings, made all the more rewarding as we watched and waited with growing anticipation, top class expedition staff, and, dare I mention it, wonderful food in abundance!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Undoubtedly when the fattest polar bear in the Arctic came right down to the edge of the ice and dozed for a while before plunging into the water for a dip and then rolling contentedly on the ice.Other trip hightlights were the sheer unspoilt pristine beauty of the landscape and the feeling of privilege that we were able to drift about in it and absorb its majesty.It was also an honour to be in the company of many naturalist experts on board the ship, particularly Ian Stirling, and being able to chat to them and learn from their great fonts of knowledge and wisdom.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul's boundless enthusiasm was wonderfully infectious and he did everything within his means to ensure that we all got as much out of the trip as humanly possible. 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go with a very open mind and no preconceptions.  Nothing is pre-ordained and patience is the order of the day - we were lucky and ours paid off with many polar bear sightings, not to mention whales, walrus, seals, arctic foxes, reindeer and a huge variety of sea birds, but this is not guaranteed.  The more you put in, in terms of watching and searching, the more you will get out of the trip.  Make sure you bring plenty of warm clothes, and train yourself to sleep as few hours as possible at night - the hardest part of each day is dragging yourself down to the cabin to sleep!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you do not visit the Arctic, you haven't lived!
  • Reviewed July 2009
    Anonymous

    SPITZBERGEN EXPLORER

    The vessel and all the staff were superb as we expected having been on it down in Antarctica. Spitzbergen in June still has a lot of ice on and around it so a complete circumnavigation of the island was impossible. However, the combination of sun and ice with pointy mountains made for some spectacular landscapes with reflections.  The wildlife, compared with South Georgia, was hardly visible.  Guillimots were seen often, with puffins twice, and little auks on several occasions. Kittywakes were plentiful.  Arctic fox was only seen by the energetic walkers on their hard treks on shore so not something that I was able to enjoy. Walrus were found once and fortunately decided to stay put whilst we were taken ashore in groups to get a closer look.   And for the main quarry, polar bear, we had sightings through binoculars on three days, culminating on the third day with the bear coming across the ice in the direction of the vessel.  Heart stopping moment.  I actually have photos, albeit grainy because of digital zoom, that look like a polar bear! 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being surrounded by the most staggeringly beautiful scenery in complete and utter peace was magical.  When the large male polar bear that we had been watching for hours suddenly decided to make his way across the large expanse of fast ice in the direction of the ship my heart started pounding.  At some point lunch was called over the tannoy.  No way!!!  I was glued to the bow watching his every move as he came nearer and nearer.  

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Woody is the most amazing expedition leader:  a gentle man in every sense of the word. His many skills clearly include the ability to manage the expectations not only of the passengers but also the Russian captain and crew, his own expedition staff and experts, and the tour operator, in this case Exodus.  It is a very happy ship.Paul Goldstein is an exceptionally talented one-off kind of guy.  This is the second photographic trip of his that I have been on and I cannot wait to book others.  

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The icy polar regions are just something else.  Do not go through your life without experiencing being there. It is cold outside, so read the 'what to pack' advice carefully but the vessel is warm, welcoming, comfortable and easy going.  Do it!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    All in all, a great trip.  Glad I did it but would not do it again because we saw it in the best weather and we may not be so lucky next time.   Whereas the abundance of wildlife in  South Georgia and Antarctica will draw me back again and again.