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 October 2017
    Jamie Higgs

    Sicily Was Grand But Tour Needs Tweaking

    Sicily was beautiful and this tour provides an excellent taste of this lovely island, but, tour groups for this trip should be limited to a maximum of 12 people, as 17 is too many for this trip and resulted in numerous logistical problems. The bus was too big to fit down the narrow roads, meaning that we were frequently dropped a long way from our destination and had to walk the remaining distance, including carrying heavy luggage. A smaller group would have enabled a smaller vehicle to be used that could get closer to hotels and sites. Most of the destinations are small towns and do not have large hotels, meaning that a large group has to be widely dispersed across various accommodation, which takes lots of time and logistical effort to organise. When you're tired after a long day's sight seeing you just want to get to your accommodation and not have to lug your stuff for miles and then wait for ages whilst all of the logistics of who stays where are sorted out. Some of the accommodation also appeared to have been changed at the last minute to accommodate our group size and we were disappointed by the quality of some of the accommodation, which did not meet our expectations. The hotel in Palermo was dirty, and the hotel in Taormina had poor standards and served us stale croissants for breakfast, along with random leftovers from the previous evening. Some of the beds were terrible, with the bed in the hotel at Syracuse being like a slab of concrete. Restaurants in Sicily are also not geared up to cater for large parties and we encountered numerous issues with the group meals, including, in one case, waiting over an hour just for drinks. Two and a half hours later some people in the group still did not have food and many of the orders came out wrong. This was the worst experience, but it wasn't unique. Sicily also has towns with many steps and slopes, and a lot of the guest houses do not have lifts, meaning that you have to carry your own suitcases up flights of stairs. This is something that needs to be considered if you are a person of limited mobility. However, many of the towns are truly beautiful and we did enjoy the trip despite the above problems.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    We loved Ragusa and wished we could have stayed an extra day. The Roman mosaics near Piazza Armerina were truly spectacular and a highlight of the trip

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Milena worked incredibly hard and did a very good job, but we felt that she was hampered by the size of the group and the issues that resulted from that.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Check the group size before you go. Bring your own pillow if you want a good night's sleep If you like chocolate make sure that you buy some of the delicious chocolate from Modica!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Exodus need to review this trip and make modifications to ensure that travellers have a good experience. We did enjoy the trip but it could have been much better with a smaller group size, smaller bus, better standard of accommodation in some places, and more research from Exodus to identify events such as the Erice car race (an annual event, so not a surprise) which prevented us from getting to Erice for many hours and caused major logistical problems. The group size needs to fit the country, and the group size on this trip did not.
  • Reviewed October 2017
    Wendy Pillar

    Not the best Exodus tour I have done

    I enjoyed this trip rather less than the other Italian cycle tours that I have done. The roads were very busy, there was little of it that was on truly peaceful backroads or cycle paths. The leader wasn't local and so we didn't really learn about the places we were visiting. In our group there were some fast and competitive cyclists who were out partying until the early hours each night. The first couple of days' scenery was not very inspiring, until we reached the mountains, which were beautiful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The shepherd's refuge at the top of the mountain on the optional day was beautiful. Lucca was also very lovely.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jon steered us through the busy city sections well. He wasn't local though, and didn't have any information about the places we visited, which I would have liked. His organization skills also weren't the finest - wrongly telling me that I was going to have to share a room when I had paid for a single was a low point. The second leader was brand new on the job and again, a little more organization would have been useful.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you can ride up hills! The distances are not so great, with frequent breaks, but there are some substantial climbs on three of the days. They are perfectly do-able, but you do need a bit of fitness. Do the optional ride, even if you ride up the mountain in the van, as it's the best day. If you want to see Florence, book extra time because we didn't even whiz through the city on our way to dinner or on the first ride, despite staying right by the gate.
  • Reviewed October 2017
    David Rushton

    Authentic Andalucia

    I'd always wanted to visit these iconic Spanish cities and wasn't disappointed. Seville and Granada were both great and we also managed to fit in both Cordoba (see below) and Ronda. If it's possible to do both of these options make the effort, they are both really worthwhile.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    La Mezquita in Cordoba, it genuinely took my breath away. This was an optional visit on the itinerary but most people in our party went and everyone said how glad they were they made the decision.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Alexis is great. He was very thorough, organised and patient. He went out of his way to broaden the experience for us by organising evening strolls to 'The Mushroom' in Seville and the Mirador overlooking The Alhambra in Granada both of which were very rewarding. His pre-visit briefings were excellent and he was always around to offer help and advice when needed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    From our experience, visiting late September was a good choice, hot but not too hot! If at all possible try to fit in Cordoba, La Mezquita is jaw dropping, particularly if you can get there relatively early and dodge the big tour parties who always seem to mess up your photos. Selfie sticks should be made illegal!!!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    IMHO the trip should incorporate the Granada and Ronda trips into the itinerary. This means getting a relatively late flight back from Malaga but it's worth it. If you are in danger of getting Palace/Cathedral/Fort fatigue, this isn't really the trip for you so you might as well max out on the grandeur of Andalucia while you can. Also, The Alhambra gets really busy with big tour groups. If there is any way of modifying the itinerary to avoid the worst of these it would improve the overall experience.
  • Reviewed October 2017
    Patricia Carr

    Best wildlife experience ever

    The whole trip was fantastic with all the wildlife sightings. The big 5 in the Masai Mara plus the birdlife was unforgettable. Every country visited had something special, but of course the highlight were the gorillas. All that being said the trip was made even better by Jacob our guide, nothing was too much trouble, Stone Cold (Boniface), fantastic driver, Godfrey, great cook, Ester the lovely assistant. The 4 of them were so friendly it felt like it was one big family. They are the A-Team.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing the gorillas was the best thing ever and it still feels like I dreamt it because it is so unbelievable.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jacob was the best, always smiling, making sure everybody was ok.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go with an open mind about the camping side of the trip, just go and enjoy the whole package. You just have to go with the flow, it's an experience of a lifetime.
  • Reviewed October 2017
    Valerie Simmonds

    Sardinia is special

    Was on the 16th Sept. departure for Walking in Sardinia - proved to be a good time of year 25*C and plenty of sun but also some shade and gentle breeze. Lovely time to arrive as it was the weekend of the annual Dorgali festival, with small groups of singers and musicians touring the streets, street stalls, wine tastings etc. etc. Nice atmosphere and the town felt safe to wander any time of day. Local people were polite & helpful. Walks were on the strenuous side for me - but I enjoyed the challenge and on the few occasions I needed advice or assistance it was available immediately from our leader and/or other members of the group.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The scenery - absolutely stunning. Esp. Gorroppu Gorge and views on walks across mountain ranges and down to the coast.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Eric was very experienced and competent. On Day 1 briefed us with a few basic rules to ensure safety and goodwill of the group, e.g. turning up on time! Thereafter created a happy and relaxed atmosphere. Always happy to answer questions and provide information as he knew the area well. Gave us a full programme of activities, never a dull moment.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    For me, I'd avoid the hottest months of the year as I am not a super strong walker. Do carry plenty of water and wear good boots. Maybe hold back a bit on the beer and ice cream. The food is wholesome and plentiful and it's easy to gain weight despite all the exercise.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Aside from the walking programme, you get to see Gorroppu Gorge, Nuraghic villages, Tiscali, Su Cologone, Ispinigoli caves and have an excellent tutored wine tasting at local cantina.
  • Reviewed October 2017
    Heather Beaumont

    Great trip for wildlife

    Thoroughly enjoyed this trip. We had a great guide, Gustavo, and fab driver, Juan, who helped make the trip a success. We saw plenty of wildlife, including sloths, greenback turtles, monkeys, iguanas, frogs (including the iconic red eyed tree frog) and birds too numerous to list. Costa Rica is a lovely country with rich biodiversity and unspoilt countryside. The people were friendly and largely English speaking and very helpful in all the places we stayed. Our accomodation was of a good standard and the first and last lodges were particularly good. In spite of travelling in the rainy season the weather was kind to us - an added bonus.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There are a few moments that will stick in my memory. We were lucky enough to visit during green turtle nesting season. We were privileged enough to watch a turtle laying it's eggs then head back into the ocean which was pretty special. During this excursion a second turtle made it's way up the beach to where we were standing and nearly ran over my feet (the guide told us not to move) as it headed towards a nesting spot. A second highlight was seeing a red-eyed tree frog in the wild. In fact we saw two on one of our night walks. I even managed to get a couple of excellent photos, a great addition to my framed holiday highlight collection. Costa Rica is full of some colourful birds and we saw many. However the ones I will always remember are the humming birds. We saw many, many of humming birds and it was fascinating to watch them, and attempt to capture them on camera, at the special feeders around some of our lodges and in the wild.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader Gustavo was very knowledgeable about his country, the wildlife we saw and importantly the best places to look for sloth, frogs etc. His English was good and I found himhelpful and worked hard to make our trip a success. He even organised birthday cake for those on our trip who were celebrating. It is also worth mentioning our driver, Juan. Although he didn't speak much English, he also worked hard and was humorous, helping to keep us entertained. He also kept the tour bus very clean, both inside and out.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Pack light, the luggage all went on the roof of the tour bus so needed to be hauled up there (by the driver, guide and hotel staff). Be prepared to get wet - they don't call them rain forest and cloud forest for nothing! An umbrella is very useful, it also helps keep the camera dry when taking photos in the rain. Otherwise the trip notes were pretty accurate.
  • Reviewed October 2017
    Claire Mills

    So glad I did this

    I'd been looking at this trip for a couple of years but never thought I was fit enough to do it. This year was now or never. I would highly recommend putting the training in beforehand as doing a 50-60 mile club ride once a week isn't going to cut it for 6 days doing between 100 - 140km and around 2500m of climbing each day. Climbs are epic (you will find yourself in the pain cave on occasion) and the downhills are sweet as anything and will leave you grinning from ear to ear. Do it!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Getting to the top of the Col D'Aubisque, realising that even though I'd spent time in the pain cave I was alive and the descent off the top was one of the best ones ever! I was still smiling half an hour later. This was the most physical and mentally demanding things I've done and seeing the Med at the other end was wonderful

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Claud was superb - up there with the best of the Exodus guides. I was a little surprised initially that he wasn't out riding with us, but it worked really well with him being our support for the trip. Always happy and couldn't do enough for us. If I did this trip again, I'd be asking for Claud

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Put the training in beforehand - it'll make the whole experience more enjoyable. Do not forget your sudocrem, chamois cream and various other lotions as it's a long time in the saddle each day. Take clothes for all weathers. Our first day it rained, then for the rest of the time it was pretty fresh first thing and then warmed up so layers were essential. Breakfasts in the main tended to be croissants, yoghurts, bread (repeat). I'm glad I took my own cereal. There's a plentiful supply of bananas, peanut M&M's (a week later I'm still weaning myself off them, thanks Claud), fruit, nuts and other snacks. Oh and Strava kept adding 600m onto all my rides so Garmins were a lot more accurate. We didn't have a lot of downtime of an evening so this is not a relaxing holiday :-) You don't need the routes in advance.
  • Reviewed October 2017
    Dennis Jenkins

    Highlights of Albania

    This was an excellent tour with a lot covered in the 10 days enabling us to understand the difficult times Albania has gone through as well as opening up the many things it has to offer as a destination. It was a busy trip but did not feel rushed at any of the places we visited as it has not yet fully embraced mass tourism (although some places like Butrint no doubt get very busy in the summer months).

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There were many but the mountain scenery is stunning and there is plenty of it! Also the food was very good especially the excellent, wholesome lunch we had at the village house.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Edjon was really excellent. Obviously very passionate about his country, he made every effort to make sure we saw as much of Albania as he could and gave us a thorough understanding of how the country existed under a very repressive regime and how it is now trying to move forward.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go now before it changes too much. Also, very little time is spent in Tirana if you take the group flight via Vienna. If you take the direct flight from Gatwick a day earlier, by staying an extra night in Tirana, it gives you nearly a full day to explore the city yourself and also more time in Kruja at the end as it doesn't depart until around 9pm.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Although the lunch at the local house was excellent in every way and the family very welcoming, it did not really represent a typical local village home. Also, to cover as much as we did later in the autumn could prove difficult with the shorter day lengths. Maybe extending the tour by a couple of days would help. Certainly, 2 nights in Berat would be well worthwhile.
  • Reviewed October 2017
    diane Mcdermott

    Full on fun!

    This was an excellent trip which delivered exactly what it said it would. The main downside is the long days in the bus between stops and the fact that as it stands there is a very limited amount of time to spend in Cusco. However, the scenery over the Andes is spectacular, as is the view of Peruvian life the bus affords.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Definitely Machu Picchu for me. I was just glad to get there! Spectacularly atmospheric.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Bruce was a thoroughly professional tour leader who engaged and considered everyone in the group. He was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about his subjects and made the tour come to life with his information about Peru, the Incas and the local wildlife. He was extremely kind and caring when I was ill and took active steps to support me. He organised the group well and gave options, but I felt he was hampered by the need to get everyone to the right place at the right time throughout the trip which at times made things feel rushed. Individual down time is limited.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Unfortunately before I left I had to forego the Inca trail owing to a mobility problem. It was definitely the right decision. If you are in anyway unsure of your ability to cope, do the Moonstone Trek which though higher, allows for some support with horses if you are struggling. With the Inca trail, there is much more limited potential for support. Also you MUST have good insurance! I took out Exodus insurance just to be sure that I would be covered for everything I might need. Since I ended up in hospital for 4 days with altitude sickness, this was money well spent. ( Altitude sickness is real, but most people manage to acclimatise. Unfortunately, I didn't, but that is the exception rather than the rule.) The support team at Cusco were superb and I was so grateful for all their assistance since the rest of the group and the group leader were on the trail.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The biggest problem with this trip is that there are long spells of travelling then limited down time. We always seemed to need to be somewhere else which at times made it feel as if we were being herded at a pace slightly faster than we might have wanted. Bruce did his best to mitigate this by giving options and explaining his thinking so that everybody was in the know, but by the end of the trip, people were beginning to need a bit more leeway. This was entirely due to the fact that in Cusco in particular there was not enough time to see what the town had to offer or to explore local sites.
  • Reviewed October 2017
    Justine Mole

    Brilliant holiday of a lifetime

    I've just come back from Peru and for someone who has never done a package holiday before, this one was absolutely fantastic.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Arriving at the Sun Gate after four days of trekking was incredibly emotional, it was hard at times and the altitude does affect you but with the encouragement of our guide/tour leader and the other trekkers we all made it. Getting to know other people on trip and our guide, we formed a close little group and hopefully will remain friends for years.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was wonderful, we couldn't have chosen anyone better for our group, he was very knowledgeable, and interesting, he was kind and had a sense of humour, he knew when to push us and when to hold back and let us go at our own pace, he usually stayed back with those who were struggling.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don't ignore advice about altitude, we were all relatively fit but it still affected us in different ways, take it easy on the walk and don't push yourself. You won't lose weight as you can't go fast enough for aerobic exercise and you get fed too well, you get given plenty of snacks so don't really need your own.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The hotels were all really good but sometimes other guests are noisy, take ear plugs or be prepared to tell them off, you go to bed pretty early on this trip as there are a lot of early starts and long bus journeys. The views are incredible which makes the bus trips bearable and there was plenty of room on the bus to stretch out and sleep. Also if you want to do the plane ride over the Nasca Lines take an anti sickness tablet. I rented a sleeping bag and poles rather than taking my own and they were cheap and worked perfectly well, warm and clean bag and they even provided a cotton liner.
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