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 August 2013
    Anonymous

    SPITSBERGEN IN DEPTH

    To travel through the pack ice under the wide sunny arctic skies is magical.  To do so in comfort on a ship that the Captain can position to the foot (or possibly inch) required, together with a group of extremely knowledgeable and energetic guides all working hard to show you, at close hand, Spitzbergen and its wildlife adds up to the trip of a lifetime.  And you return with spectacular photos!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were so many!  "A few" include:- sighting several polar bears on our first day in the ice - and so close! - spending over two days with a polar bear and its kill, and his interaction with a hungry female, until he left the carcass and swam off to the north, ten minutes before the ship was due to leave- travelling through the noisy brash ice in zodiacs at the foot of a magnificent glacier which calved in front of us (at a safe distance!)- watching a young bear exploring basalt cliffs occupied by 60,000 guillemots -  spending time watching and photographing an arctic fox on a rocky outcrop

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul is hugely energetic and enthusiastic and quickly built a team spirit.  His advice and inspiration for photography is invaluable.  He sets the tone for the other experts, who are all impressive, as well as the equally cheerful competent adventure guides.  Perhaps a special mention for Noah, our ornothologist, who had the best pair of spotting eyes, and impressed on us all the beauty of the ivory gulls.  He withstood the ribbing from Paul well!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is billed as not a cruise: true, except there is a Captain's dinner.  Remember to pack something other than base layers!Take your laptop and lots of memory cards. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It is tough getting back to "the real world" after this ...
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    SPITSBERGEN IN DEPTH

    A fanatstic trip. The expedition staff were without exception, excellent. We sailed North into the pack ice and were rewarded with stunning scenery, many polar bear sightings and awesome glaciers.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Has to be spending 2 days next to a polar bear kill and watching the interaction when another bear came in.  It's not everyday you wake up to a polar bear asleep on the ice outside your window!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul has boundless energy and strives to find the wildlife that we were all wanting to see.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take lots of layers and be prepared to come back tired but exhilarated!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Just do it!!
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    SPITSBERGEN IN DEPTH

    We joined this trip because we wanted to see a Polar Bear in the wild. We weren't disappointed - multiple bears on multiple occasions. The trip offered much more than that of course, everything else being a bonus.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Our first sighting of a polar bear amongst the sea ice, shortly followed by bears 2, 3 and 4, seemingly surrounding the ship. Also, having the luxury of watching a single bear over an extended period of time (40+ hours) as it ate, slept and defended its meal from another bear.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    There were many leaders of this trip - all were outstanding in their knowledge, competence and enthusiasm. Their briefings at meal times helped to create a team spirit amongst the group, not bad for a group of 80 people, and created a great atmosphere which enhanced the trip further. To name but 3.Paul Goldstein - exceptional character, very entertaining and consistently challenging everyone to think about their photography, new angles, new shutter speeds, (old shutter speeds - caught us out on that one!), creative use of aperture etc etc. John Rodsted - outstanding leader; through his team ensured all guests enjoyed a safe cruise, particularly during the zodiac and land activities. It is to their credit that at no time did these more hazardous activities seem in any way dangerous. Captain Beluga - the man in charge of the ship and ship's crew. He got the ship to parts other ships could not reach. Did so safely, skillfully and with due regard to the bears' well being. Thanks to these plus all the other staff and crew for making the trip so successful and memorable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take lots of memory cards. I ignored the advice, taking my computer. Half way through the trip I was reaching the limit of the memory on the computer and spent too much time in front of it deleting unwanted shots.  

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you want to see polar bears this is the best trip you can take. Firstly, the ship is almost unique in the area in being able to get into the sea ice and hence much closer to the bears. I did not fully appreciate the importance of this until we were out there, watching other ships skirt around the outside of the ice. Yes, they may have seen bears, but most of their sightings would have been bears in the distance. Secondly, photographing bears is the main aim of the trip and you can be sure that if there are bears out there to be photographed then you will have the best chance of finding them. Thirdly, if you also have an interest in photography, then make sure you get on one of Paul's trips. You may not agree with all of his tastes in what makes a good image but, by the end of the trip, you'll be thinking more broadly about your photography and your images will almost certainly have improved.
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    SPITSBERGEN IN DEPTH

    My polar addiction started back in 2009 when i headed out to the Arctic with Paul, Ian Stirling and the elite of polar ships the Vavilov. We had incredible weather but lacked Bear sightings.. After exploring Georgia and Antarctica some 18 months later, i decided it was time to head back North and find myself some bears. I wasn't short changed, image of bear after bear rattled through the camera, sleep and eating just wasn't an option. This expedition is about one thing, exploring the Arctic and seeking out the golden nuggets of what makes this place magical. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

     Its hard to explain but i will try.. Wildlife photography can be over in a flash, capturing that certain moment is over before you can absorb all the detail, you hope the camera has done its job. 2 moments stick in my mind as being incredible wildlife and photographic moments..6:30am announcement that we have bears in scopes, a rush to the bow to jostle for position, image after image is sucked into the memory card but critically you have time to watch, take in the beauty that is before you. Breakfast is announced but not for me, i take every bear sighting as if its my last, i think i can wait a few hours until lunch. Those that wait are reward with frame filling images, simply stunning.. Fast forward 48+ hours, we have settled in with a bear on a kill. Ive had just 2 hours sleep and its 7am in the morning, the bow is silent with the odd shutter clicking away. You start to feel at one with these polar beauties, after spending so much time with them its impossible to sleep, you know how precious these times are..  

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Paul, well i've travelled with enough with Paul to say that everything that is said about him is true, everything in the paper and every review is true.. Critically though no expedition is the success of one man..Every single individual who worked on this Expedition, made the expedition. All the One Ocean Expedition team were faultless, the cooks and Russian staff all did their job with happy smiles and of course the Russian Captain, Captain Beluga and his team..Without Captain Beluga and his skills at the helm we would not of achieved what we did, a master of his craft and what a craft to be master of, the Vavilov is the equal partner of the success of this expedition, some would say more..

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Sleep before you go, you wont want to after you have embarked on this ship and set sail on your expedition. Take plenty of memory cards and ensure you have enough space to back up your images. Take layers, the ship is warm and if you get great weather it will be warm outside, however it can get cold so pack what makes you feel happy.Know your camera before you head out, learn how to keep subjects white, snow isn't grey and neither are kittiwakes.If your a keen photographer, take 2 cameras, one with a zoom and one with a wide angle attached.. Changing lenses wastes time and can cause camera failure in the extreme cold. Even if you take a compact for landscapes and a DSLR for wildlife you minimise the chance of getting dust, rain on your sensor or at worst electronic failure.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

     Its simple just go.. Some might say its expensive, but its not really once you understand the cost..However polar travel should have a government health warning and it may go something like this..'Travel to Polar climates may cause some if not all of the followingInsomnia.Increase in weight due to monumental meals.A windswept smile can occur followed by a tearful moment of absolute joy.A glazing of the eyes can happen, this is normal when you've had binoculars glued to your face for hours on end.  The yearning for more..Dont put this trip of, simply book and enjoy.. 
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    SPITSBERGEN IN DEPTH

    A Fantastic trip, excellent guides, support team and ship.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing Polar Bears in their environment close-up.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Hard to fault, inspirational, enthusiastic, knowledgable - a one-off!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Not cheap but worth the money.
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    SPITSBERGEN IN DEPTH

    This was an exhilarating and awe-inspiring trip where we really got to experience and feel the magic of Spitzbergen and its wildlife.  The ship, the crew and all of the inspirational expedition team made the experience more than just a sight-seeing tour and turned it into an all-engrossing adventure.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Spotting your first polar bear is a pretty emotional moment and seeing huge chunks of ice carve from the face of a vast glacier and crash into the sea is exhilarating but this trip had two highlights that stood out amongst many.  The first was spending three magical days in the sea ice to the north of Spitzbergen watching a male polar bear in his prime as he feasted on a fresh seal kill and then coveted the carcass whilst a younger female attempted to get in and feed on his prize.  The second was spending an hour or more watching a polar bear clamber around on the cliffs and shoreline at Ankerfjellet as it sought out a meal amongst the nesting birds.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I am not sure how many Paul Goldstein’s joined us and led this trip but it felt like there was more than one of him.  He was omnipresent and appeared to always be bounding around the on Vavilov or on shore during our land excursions or else be bouncing around in a zodiac during excursions on sea, and all with an energy and enthusiasm hard for any to match.  At all times Paul challenged us to be better photographers by finding a new perspective or a new angle to ensure we captured not mere photographic records of our adventures but in his words “moments" that could be cherished.  Sometimes slightly irreverent but always amusing, highlights of each day were Paul's daily reflections or "Nautical Views" which provided a great narrative for our voyage.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Sleep well before you travel and build in time to catch-up when you return if you can, you might miss out on a little sleep whilst taking in all that this trip and the arctic wilderness have to offer - I am certain you will not regret some missed sleep whilst soaking it all up.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was our polar baptism, and what a baptism…we weren’t just taken to the arctic font to have a few cursory splashes of icy water wafted in our general direction, no, not for us, this was a full on immersion in the arctic and all that Spitsbergen in summer has to offer.  Who could realistically ask for more?  The Vavilov, a ship that can get wherever it needs to be in the icy north, stay where you want it to be and then whisk you away to the next set of splendors when the time is right, a vessel matched equally by the masterful and skilled crew who reveled in their craft.  Then there was our expedition team, not just a group of unrivalled individual experts but a team whose infectious passion and knowledge helped us all to appreciate the fragile and beautiful arctic wilderness we were fortunate enough to call home for an all too brief time.  The wildlife may be as difficult to predict as the weather, particularly at a time with so little polar ice, but neither let us down on this trip.  From the smaller and feathery players to the larger and blubbery ones all of the wildlife truly played its part in this natural extravaganza, and whilst the birds, arctic fox, reindeer, whales and walrus played key roles it was the majestic polar bear that really lived up to its star billing as the stellar performer in this particular northern show .  We experienced incredible bears on the sea ice at 81 degrees north and an extraordinary bear climbing on the cliffs at Alkefjellet;  wherever and whenever we saw them they delivered “moments” that will never be forgotten.  This was not just a trip to see the arctic; it was an expedition on which you got to feel the arctic and which was delivered with sympathy and respect for the fragile environment we were gratefully immersed in.  Thank you Paul, John, Captain Beluga, expedition team, crew and Exodus…not just a holiday but a magnificent adventure!  If you get the chance to see this sublime wilderness you really should and there can be no greater way to do it than on this trip.  Try if you must to find a better way to explore the arctic…but I am sure any such efforts would be futile!
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    SPITSBERGEN IN DEPTH

    To summarise such a monumental experience is impossible. Although I had read all about it, the reality was far beyond words. The scenery, the wildlife and sheer magnificence of the Arctic was mind blowing. Our trip was not a "Cruise on a Boat" it was an Expedition.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The whole trip was inspirational. From the first sights of a glacier to arriving at the pack ice, there were so many memories. The first sighting of a bear was very emotional and for it to be close enough to photograph was exceptional. We were so fortunate to spend 3 days with a very special bear and to watch the interaction between him and a scrounging female was incredible. Lenses primed, they even managed to sleep while we popped off for a BBQ on the stern of the ship! To resume activities once we returned. Travelling through the pack ice was a real experience, the Captain so in tune with his craft. To visit Ankerfjellet to see the 60,000 birds nesting there is a sight in itself, to visit it twice in one morning and see a juvenile bear snacking on a glaucus gull, picking off a guillemot and stumbling over the rocks to the shoreline, then climbing the treacherous slope to rummage through the nests on the sheer face, was a memory I will never forget. Sorry Noah, the birds were not the main event!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    I have been lucky enough to spend some time in Kenya with Paul Goldstein. Even with a large guest list, he manages to infect you with passion, enthusiasm, wit, energy and encouragement. The "Nautical Views" were a great way to end our days, very funny and irreverent, but encapsulated what we had been privileged to experience. While we were all well looked after at Happy Hour, he was busy planning and plotting the next days adventure. If you want someone to tell you your photos are "nice" you are missing the purpose of this kind of trip. Paul will make you think that little bit harder, push you to know your camera inside out and capture more than a record shot. It is well worth the frustration of not achieving the perfect slow pan, however hard you try, to looking back and comparing the first few days efforts to the end of the trip.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Stock up on memory cards! Many travellers took laptops, a really good idea if you want to download and edit as you go along, if you can find the time. Sleep well before you go. 24 hour daylight is very deceptive, on many occasions we did not know what time or day it was. Be prepared to jump out of bed at a moments notice. Wear loose clothing - there is a chance it may be tight by the time you have sampled all the chef has to offer. Never miss a Zodiac trip, you never know what you may see.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Why would someone who gets seasick on a pontoon and hates the cold go on such a trip? Other Exodus clients stories and photos is the answer! I would not have missed this experience for anything. We were so fortunate to find the ice let alone 13 Polar Bears in one day. Every day brought something new, from flora and fauna to big and small furry things, birds in profusion and landscapes that took your breathe away. The Expedition Team were the most professional, personable and knowledgeable people, the Captain and crew exceptional and the Vlavilov an amazing bit of kit! Thank you to everyone who made this trip so special. If you want to get up close and personal with those amazing Polar bears and take some amazing photographs to treasure, there is only one way to do it and that is on this trip with Paul. Oh one last thing - there is no bingo!!
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    SPITSBERGEN IN DEPTH

    Ever since reading about Fridtjof Nansen as a youngster I've wanted to head to the Arctic. Sometimes following dreams doesn't work out but this trip was everything I could have hoped for and much more.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There can't be many more inspirational sights than the first sighting of a polar bear in the wild - especailly when it is seen both on land and swimming relatively close to our zodiac. So to see a further eleven, including a female and 2nd year cub and a female and 1st year cub was amazing. Drifting among a huge pod of whales (minke, fin and hump back) for over an hour was even more special, especially when flocks of birds and some harp seals joined the feeding. The flowers and plants which struggle so hard to survive and flourish so far North were superb. So many more things made the trip special - the Sea Spirit itself, the expedition staff, the international group of travellers, the reindeer, the foxes and the birds. But grandest of all was the context. Ice, hills, carved rocks, erratics, glaciers, ice bergs and pack ice. Just magic.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The expedition staff (all Quark staff) were univerally good. Inevitably there were variations in the range and depth of knowledge both within specialisms and across them. The flexibility to change plans when wildlife opportuniites arose was great and helped to make the trip. There was good attention paid to safety, especially to avoid any bear confrontations and to ensure safety around the zodiacs.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The zodiacs are a lot of fun but ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to see things and take photographs requires consideration. So think twice about that large pom pom on your hat - it may look good on you but not in others' photos of polar bears! Again in the zodiacs kneeling is a necessary activity to let others see - it might be worth taking knee pads/ padded knee trousers to enhance comfort. The parkas are excellent (if not fetching!) and mean that you don't need to take outer layers - but think very carefully about the versatility of the layers you plan to wear underneath. As far as waterproof trousers go, ensure they are waterproof and breathable - on occasions you'll be walking in them as well as travelling in the zodiacs. Think also about protection for your camera.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    In the words of the Nike advert, just do it.
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    SPITSBERGEN IN DEPTH

    Bears on cliffs, bears on ice, walrus, ivory gulls and so much more... The trip far exceeded all expectations (and they were set pretty high from the outset). Spitsbergen in depth certainly lived up to its name: in-depth knowledge from all our guides, outstanding lectures on birds, bears and polar exploration as well truly inspirational photographic guidance.  The Vavilov gave us a fantastic opportunity to get closer to a remarkable array of wildlife - leaving the larger ships in the region in a holding pattern, enviously skirting the edge of the sea ice.  Clichéd though it may sound, this really was a trip of a lifetime and I would do the trip again in a heartbeat.  So if you are deliberating on whether to book, the answer is simply 'do it now' or you'll miss out on an adventure of a lifetime.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were so many moments but seeing a juvenile polar bear risking her life picking her way up precariously high cliffs, in search of food.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Outstanding. Extremely knowlegeable with infectious enthusiasm and warped sense of humour - what more can you ask for?

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring a big lens and plenty of memory cards.Don't use the auto function on your camera and don't be afraid to ask for help.Don't tell Paul Goldstein you like Puffins.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Anyone who travels with Exodus should do this trip.
  • Reviewed January 2013
    Anonymous

    SPITSBERGEN IN DEPTH

    In 2009 I booked on the Arctic trip in search of Polar Bears and surprisingly found myself literally overwhelmed by the scenery.  The sea ice was thick and the Polar Bears were being shy! I returned with no expectations and almost witnessed the Arctic version of the X Factor! 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I can almost hear everyone on the trip saying "where do I begin".... it was almost ridiculous, however, 3 things did stand out that inspired me. The young bear 'fronting' up to the ship (hilarious), the beautiful sight of a bear in a snow fall (magical) and finally the bear swimming and overtaking the ship in the middle of nowhere (astonishing).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Loud, noisy and relentless (and that's just when he's eating!)... had to be said! Paul was on top form and bought so much enthusiasm, knowledge and of course humour to the trip. He worked with everyone on the ship to ensure we were in the right place at the right time BUT without intruding on the natural environment of this beautiful landscape and its inhabitants.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Yes go. Even if you can't go this year, save like mad and go as soon as you can. You will not regret it for one minute, you will only regret it if you don't go.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It's the 6th January 2013 and today I have once again looked at my pictures and finally decided on which ones I want to put in a frame. The reason for the delay, too many to choose from! This really is the gift that keeps giving, my suggestion treat yourself!
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