Turtle, Ecuador

Your words, not ours

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

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  • Reviewed November 2018
    T C

    Wildlife Adventure of a Lifetime

    I have been dreaming of seeing lemurs in the wild since I was young and this trip did not disappoint. I had never done a group tour before and was admittedly very hesitant to sign-up for one, but the itinerary allowed me to see most of what I wanted to, so I thought I'd give it a try. In the two weeks, we were able to see thirteen species of lemurs, which was thrilling and more than I had expected. The itinerary is thoughtfully laid out and even the long days travelling were made better by the many stops and stories from our group leader. I can't describe the feeling of first arriving to our cabins in Andasibe to the sounds of Indri calls in the forest. It was really out of this world. The diversity of landscapes and parks that we visited was excellent and I couldn't have planned it better myself. Having a local guide and engaging (mostly) with local tour operators and businesses was an important aspect of the trip for me as well. Overall, excellent adventure that I wish I could go back in time and do again.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Definitely the first night we arrived in Andasibe to the call of Indris in the distance. That will be a memory that stays with me forever. The dry forests and desert landscapes were so incredible to see as well. The beach in Anakao at the end, spectacular! Getting to know our group leader as well and spending time with her on the trip was also very special, as well as the lovely people in our group. Perhaps not inspirational, more sobering, was getting to see first-hand the devastating effects of slash-and-burn agriculture. It was disheartening to witness this and other environmental destruction. The biodiversity in Madagascar is particularly precious and I fear it will be gone within the next couple decades. I'm more committed than ever in continuing to support local organizations to protect what still remains. Please do not purchase any souvenir animal products, wood products, gemstones or other trinkets that can't be sourced ethically. Foreigners continue to have a role in driving some (if not much) of the ruin you will witness.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    She was excellent. I can't say enough good things about her. She is intelligent, kind and had a great sense of humour. She took her job very seriously and had so much integrity, I didn't question for a moment that we were in great hands the whole trip. We had quite a large group, 16 people (which I was not aware of before arriving in Madagascar) and initially worried about how one person was going to be able to manage so many people, but she did so with great expertise and care. It was a tough job for her, but I always felt she had all of our best interests at heart and was flexible with the schedule, depending on how people were feeling and what their needs were. I was quite sad at the end to say goodbye!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take it as it comes, be flexible and don't arrive with too many expectations. I've done a lot of traveling and don't take this privilege for granted, but this was one of the top adventures I've ever had. The opportunity to see the most endangered mammals on the planet and the exquisite biodiversity this island has to offer, really can't be matched. Try and stay in the moment and really appreciate every minute of this adventure. If you're not comfortable being in an intensive group situation or going without creature comforts, this may not however be the trip for you. Expect and plan for digestive illness, it comes with the territory. I suffered quite a bad case of food poisoning, but the group leader managed it well and allowed for me to convalesce for a couple days before rejoining the tour. Educate yourselves before coming, about the island, peoples and appropriate conduct when visiting delicate ecosystems. Do not feed the animals, ever, we had some people who did this and it was incredibly upsetting.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I would love to do this trip all over again :)
  • Reviewed November 2018
    Deborah Terry

    An Extraordinary Trip

    Madagascar is an extraordinary country facing numerous challenges. Its national parks are excellent and much of the scenery is spectacular. It is, however, very poor and facing many environmental challenges. This makes it all the more creditable that the hotels and food on this trip were both so good.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Too many, but obviously the lemurs - we saw at least 15 different varieties, plus all the other wildlife, and the baobabs, plus the Highlands scenery. And the wonderful jacarandas in flower in Tana.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Vula was one of the best leaders I've ever had on an Exodus trip. She has huge warmth and charm and was never off duty. One couple had to be airlifted to Jo'burg and many of the rest of us were ill, and she was brilliant at checking we were OK. She's passionate about showing her country to visitors and was determined that we'd get the best from the trip. She went the extra mile all day every day and can't be praised too much.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This trip takes stamina but amply rewards it. It packs a huge amount in in a short time and the contrasts of experiences etc is excellent. Pack light (the Isola hotel does washing), be prepared for a 24-hour bug, and take plenty of Jungle Formula. Wifi was generally available, but mostly in reception rather than in the rooms. Contrary to some of the advice given we had no difficulty in finding ATMs in most of the towns we went through, so taking all cash seems a bit unnecessary. And anyway you won't spend much. I had 36 hours on my own in Tana at the start of the trip and while I was careful, I enjoyed going out, exploring and finding good lunch spots. As a 60-something female I felt perfectly safe.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Deforestation is happening apace, so go soon. A unique destination.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Nik Kowal

    One of the best trips ever!

    Madagascar is amazing with so much unique wildlife, plants and trees. A well organised trip, with good accommodation. Comfortable bus with lots of breaks on the long journeys. A mixture of leisurely time on the bus and in the towns, with some very strenuous treks in the reserves. Be prepared for heavy rain and blistering heat as you pass through the varied landscapes.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The ancient baobabs in the spiny forest.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Very organised and efficient, but some of her commentary got lost in translation.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    As above. Pack everything especially a head torch and walking poles.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Laura Davey

    Life changing and unforgettable experience

    This was a truly life-changing trip. By that I mean, it was an experience of many extreme highs, such as seeing the unique and beautiful wildlife, coupled with being witness to some very difficult scenes, such as the slash and burn practice and huge areas of deforestation. The trip has left me wanting to learn more about this incredible country, its people and its wildlife. Would very much like to visit again and investigate further into the issues this country is clearly facing. This is a very special country and any visitor will be rewarded in many ways.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The wildlife was what I booked the trip for and it did not disappoint. I had no idea we would see so many species of lemurs, reptiles, birds, plants and trees insects and frogs and at such close range, we really were so very lucky. I cannot underestimate just how special it felt to witness these incredible endemic species in their (rapidly disappearing) habitat. The call of the indri is a sound that I will never, ever forget. I feel inspired to learn more and find out if there is any way in which I can help contribute to the future of this country, as the people and the native plants and animals are facing some very severe challenges, such as a hugely increasing population, rapid loss of habitat moved over to farming, shaky political leadership, the introduction of non-native species of animals, trees and plants that cannot support native wildlife, and the slash and burn agricultural practice.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader, Vola was really lovely. She kept us safe, listened to feedback, was flexible with timings and programmes and informed us on any queries and questions we had as best she could. At times, she went above and beyond for her clients, giving massages to one guest who was suffering from back and shoulder pain, and taking another client to the dentist for emergency treatment. She was also fun to be around and made us laugh every day.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go with an open mind, and be prepared to see the mass destruction of the environment which you will definitely witness. Bear in mind, this is a very poor country and life here is hard. Saying that, the people were all very warm and welcoming to the small number of tourists that we saw. We never ever felt threatened or anything other than welcome. This is what makes the environment/humanity inbalance so very difficult to bear witness to, as the people are just as amazing as the flora and fauna that most visitors come to see. We found the physical rating of 1 to be misleading, I would say there are some moderate to strenuous hikes on this tour. Bring camera, binoculars, insect repellent and some detergent to wash clothes. Accommodation and food were excellent, much better than we expected.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Go now, before it's too late! and do anything you can to help this amazing place. It has so much to offer from gorgeous deserted beaches, lovely people, wildlife, birds and trees you won't find anywhere else in the world - not even in zoos! It's got rainforest, culture, spiny forest, desert, incredible rock formations and valleys, natural swimming areas, mountains - everything you could ever want to see, all in one very unique country.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Charlotte Grant

    Madagascar is great, unique & marvelous but one needs to be very fit to enjoy this amazing adventure

    The trip is rated as leisurely & I would rate it challenging. We had extremely long travel days in the vehicles on winding bumpy roads (5 hr, 6 hr, 11 hr, etc.) The trip notes advise some long days, but we weren’t expecting such challenges just traveling in the van; our muscles were all tensed up by the end of each drive. The hiking to get to the Lemurs requires a person to be very fit in order to scramble up steep banks, cross streams, climbing steps up & down, & bushwhacking for 4 hrs at a time. It would be helpful to put this information in the ‘Is this trip for you’ section

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspirational moment was getting so close to the lemurs, we could practically touch them. We had the joy of watching a number of different groups for long periods times. I have tracked the mountain gorillas & traveled all over the world, but have never been in such a unique country. Ever day was filled with adventure & excitement & new destinations. It took a lot of effort & challenge to do this trip, but at the end of the day it was totally worth it. Go now before it gets to filled with Tourists.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader was Vola & she was excellent.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Read the trip notes carefully & be in very good physical condition so you can enjoy every moment of this amazing country.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Tipping can cause consternation as we all view tipping differently. I agree that we should tip for great service & we want to put money into the Madagascar economy plus we want to get money to the Madagascar working people. However I do not agree with the suggested leader tip.The suggested tipping for our leader was $5 U.S. per day; $5.00/day x 14 days = $70/person tip x 14 people is $980. $980 is a fortune in Madagascar. If our leader is paid well (as it says in the trip notes), I don’t believe the leader should receive an additional $980. I believe we should tip according to the country we are in. The leader should get a fair tip, but $980 is far too much. The trip kitty of $50 is fair, however the group should be told what amount of tip is being given as the tip is given; we should not have to wait until the trip ends to know the numbers. On all other trips we were told what tip was given as it was given to the person. Our leader did not share the tips given until the trip end. I am not confident the tip kitty went to the appropriate people.
  • Reviewed September 2018
    Karen Butler

    Great trip to see Lemurs

    Loved the trip, great country, great people, great guide and great wildlife

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Lemur island, loved the fact that the country was supporting the re-introduction of "pet" lemurs back into the wild, great experience

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Mel was fantastic, I couldnt find fault if I tried !!!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Many early starts and long road trips but well worth it.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I was saddened to see the extent of plastic on the beaches, and the use of plastic straws everywhere
  • Reviewed October 2017
    Steve Gilbert

    Wow, Wonderful Place and Excellent Holiday

    I travelled there with some expectations regarding wildlife especially. These were exceeded. I was amused, impressed and very pleased at the number of wildlife sightings and especially the great opportunities I had for some brilliant wildlife photography.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There was no single moment I can identify. It was each occasion we went for a walk and encountered the Lemurs and Reptiles. Through the choice alone of the Lemus and Chameleons we got very close on more than one occasion. I will emphasise this was the animals choice not mine. Brown & Ring Tailed Lemurs can approach up to an arms length away. I didn't get bitten but I was wary. But it was exciting!

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rija was one of the most enthusiastic and happy tour leaders I have had the pleasure of travelling with. Not only was she informative and organised she was also an expert wildlife spotter. She had an ability to spot something, when all we could see was undergrowth. I distinctly remember the rare 4 inch chameleon in the dark that she spotted from 10 paces when actually it was under a large leaf? I've never travelled with a leader equipped with xray infrared vision before, but I have now.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The tour company was good and supplied bottled water every day. Don't throw away the bottles. They are a desired commodity to the people in the hills and they are very happy when you hand over the empties for them to put their local produce in, honey, oil or similar. You may like to hand over other stuff too but the children can get a bit boisterous so choose your moment carefully if its something for them. Dont forget the adults, they are poor too. In a couple of areas during September it got chilly in the evening, please remember a light fleece or jumper.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I was surprised so many people used their mobile phone or tablet to take pictures. Be patient with them, as I noticed it took them much longer, and they stood so much closer to the subject than us with the SLR cameras.
  • Reviewed June 2017
    Eve Doyle

    A Great Experience

    This was an excellent trip. Very well organised. Madagascar is a huge island and there are some long travel days to get across the country. Very varied environments and we saw lots of different wildlife.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being close to , seeing and hearing the Indri Lemurs was a very special experience. My favourite day was the walk in Isalo National Park.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Rija was one of the best guides I have ever had. Her local knowledge was amazing. She had done this trip many times and she knew how to make it run smoothly, sometimes in difficult circumstances. Despite her experience she was still really enthusiastic about everything and made the trip really enjoyable.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take walking poles if you usually walk with them. It was torrential rain in the Rainforest and I could have done with my full set of waterproof clothing and back pack cover. I should have taken a warmer jumper as well as my fleece. The hotel at Isalo offered washing very cheaply and we got all our wet and muddy Rainforest clothing washed and dried there. Change all your money at the airport on arrival and when you go back through later. The ATMs [we had two opportunities] may only allow you to change around £50. Those who did try and change money at the bank had to queue around 2 hours to be served!! No where took cards. Be prepared for the unexpected...no electricity, no running water, hold ups, bumpy roads, changes of time, unexpected encounters with local people etc

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    You need to have an Adventurous spirit. These sort of trips are more of an experience than a holiday!
  • Reviewed November 2016
    Sean Williams

    Highlights of Madagascar

    This was a really enjoyable trip. Although the group was the maximum (16 people) and the bus could be a bit cramped at times, it worked really well. The trip used a local driver and guide both of whom were excellent (Ritza and Andree) and in particular Ritza was able to inform us about the wildlife and different aspects of the culture of Madagascar. The other guides used in the national parks and at the accommodation were also very good. Madagascar is an amazing place and the range of landscapes and wildlife is extremely varied. I also found the local people to be very friendly.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were many highlights including the following: 1. Hearing the early morning cries of the Indri lemurs in Andasibe. 2. Seeing mouse lemurs and the rainforest in Ramofana. 3. Seeing ring tailed lemurs very close. 4. The amazing landscapes and the "black pool" at Isalo. 5. Travelling to and from Nosy Ve by a traditional dhow. 3. The welcome given to us by the villagers when our bus broke down and we had a 90 minute delay while Andree fixed the bus.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ritza was excellent. She was very friendly, enthusiastic and approachable throughout the trip and gave some very good talks on the bus on Madagascan life. The dealt with the bus breaking down crisis brilliantly and got the ladies on our trip dancing with the villagers.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for some long drives on some poor roads (although most of the roads outside the Tana to Fianarantsoa section were fairly decent) but that is realistically the only way to see the number of attractions which are covered by this trip. The accommodation was very good throughout but I would try and although the food was generally fine I would try and eat outside the hotels whenever possible. The town close to Isalo has an amazing pizza restaurant about 200 yards from the hotel.
  • Reviewed October 2015
    Geoffrey Vaughan

    Highlights of Madagascar

    The trip gives a good insight into the exotic fauna and flora of Madgascar and into several of the "cottage" industries that have been set up, mainly to provide items for the tourist trade. The trip involves many hours of travelling on roads that are in many cases badly surfaced, even when classifies as a "Route National" - this is not a trip for those that don't like long coach journeys! The arrangements were very good and the hotels, in the main, excellent though facilities were quite varied.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Obviously the wildlife was the main highlight: lemurs, chameleons and geckos were all fabulous. The range of species, colours, habits etc were constantly fascinating. If I had to pick one moment, however, it would be the chameleon catching an insect - so fast, so accurate, a great sight.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Elodoie was a great tour leader - full of enthusiasm and always wanting to tell us more about the island, its people, language and way of life - as well as the animals and flora.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for long coach journeys: make sure you have insect repellent and malaria prophylaxis: good walking boots/shoes are essential. I found poles very useful.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Learn to use your camera. Some of the party I was with didn't know how to switch off the red-eye protection so I have several photos bathed in red - very annoying!
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