This was my first Exodus trip since lockdown and was highly anticipated. Unfortunately I came home feeling that the holiday just hadn’t lived up to my expectations. The hotels were situated well outside of towns and almost every evening the group meals were in the hotel restaurant. Because we were a full group of 18 (the largest group I have travelled with in my 20+ group tours) the hotels served buffet meals. I have not come across this on previous trips and I was disappointed that we did not get many opportunities to visit local restaurants. In some hotels there was the option to order from the a la carte menu but this usually meant a wait of over an hour before food was served.
The itinerary was changed for day 10 a few days before the trip started – this meant a 6am start for hiking on Horton Plains. This was followed by a train ride from Ella to Badulla rather than from Bandarawela to Ella and this meant that we missed the scenic train journey to Ella and, by the time we were picked up at Badulla for the drive to Katharagama via Ella, we did not get any views at Ella Gap because it was evening and too dark to see. We did not reach the hotel that evening until after 8pm so the itinerary for that day needs a rethink.
On day 13 almost everyone in the group went whale watching. A private boat was arranged by the guide and trip notes suggested that the larger commercial boats do not always respect the welfare of the animals. As a group we were concerned and disappointed to find that all the whale watching boats, including our boat, chased after the whales and dolphins if any were spotted. I appreciate that this is a difficult situation as we have all paid to go whale watching and obviously want to see something but the noise and pollution from 20 boats chasing around trying to get a good view cannot be environmentally sound practice and is perhaps an optional activity that Exodus should reconsider.