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 2018
    Celia Akers

    Coastal secrets of Costa Rica

    I had booked this trip to celebrate "big birthdays" for both me and my daughter, so my expectations were high and this fantastic holiday exceeded my expectations. Walking in the rainforest and cloudforest and sailing in the mangrove swamps was magical and thanks to the sharp eyes of our guide we saw at very close range howler and capuchin monkeys, two and three fingered sloths, poison dart frogs, blue jean frogs, transparent frogs, crocodiles, caiman, lizards, basilisks, snakes (the yellow eyelash viper was stunningly beautiful seen through our guide's telescope), green turtles, humpback whales, dolphins, hummingbirds, anteater, racoons, coatis, scarlet macaws, parakeets, heron, egrets and lots more. It was a safari! We experienced the diversity of the ecology and cultures of Costa Rica while avoiding the touristy areas. The eco-lodges varied from good to excellent and all had air conditioning to ensure a good night's sleep. The food was excellent and special diets were well catered for. We were warmly welcomed wherever we went. There was quite a lot of travelling in our air conditioned minibus but the journey was made more interesting by the guide's stories about the local area and frequent stops to sample local fruit at the side of the road , eating in family run restaurants where you could watch the birdlife at the same time, or stopping to see archaeological remains such as the stonospheres. If you want to experience the great outdoors in the tropics and fall exhausted but happy into a comfy bed at the end of every day, this is the holiday for you.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There was something inspirational every day so it's impossible to name just one. Sailing alongside a family of humpback whales was awe-inspiring. Hearing the calls of howler monkeys in the early hours of the morning. Seeing and hearing scarlet macaws while walking to get breakfast. Watching monkeys watching us. Sitting in the hotel garden in the cloudforest and being dive-bombed by hummingbirds. The exhilarating sail to Drake Bay across the waves where the mangrove swamps meet the pacific. Snorkelling off Cano island and seeing so many colourful fish, turtles and a white-tipped shark.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    If Johnny Villalobos had not already won the Exodus guide of the year, I would be nominating him! His knowledge of nature, wildlife, history and his country was exemplary and he imparted his knowledge in an interesting and entertaining way. He clearly loves his job. Johnny was sensitive to the group's needs, was very flexible in accommodating people's requests, and never lost an opportunity to give us an impromptu experience of real Costa Rica. He was highly respectful of wildlife and ecological issues. Johnny went the extra mile for us and regularly put on extra walks or experiences on his own initiative that were not listed in the trip notes. He was also quietly observant of individual's needs : when I was dehydrated and a bit seasick he arrived at my door with a jug of coconut water after finding the fresh coconuts in the lodge garden himself. A thoroughly decent and modest man. Thank you Johnny for a fantastic holiday that was fun and mind-broadening.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    A waterproof poncho is probably more comfortable in the (hot) rain than the waterproof breathable jacket I wear in the UK. Dry bags to line your day rucksack and for cameras are useful. Drink LOADS more water than you think you need as its very easy to get dehydrated. Take earplugs if you don't want to be woken by howler monkeys in the early hours of the morning (or just enjoy the experience). Expect to have wildlife in the lodges and remember we're in their habitat not vice-versa. Don't keep food in your room unless you want a close encounter with ants! There's no need to take food supplies for a vegan or wheat free diet as the lodges always have options. Don't buy chocolate souveniers to bring home at the start of the holiday as it will be heat damaged after 2 weeks! The best mozzie protection is to cover up and just spray the exposed bits with Deet 50%; even then, be prepared to get a few bites sometimes. Be wary of traffic in San Hose...it does not stop for pedestrians! Take the opportunity to see the National Museum, the Jade Museum and the market.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We had the same driver (Didier) all the time. He was a good, calm, safe driver at all times even when stuck in the madness of San Hose rush hour madness or when driving close to a precipice in the cloudforest. I am a poor passenger and I felt safe at all times.
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Joanna Wilson

    A tropical paradise.

    Overall we had such an amazing trip. Our tour guide was fantastic and one of a kind. He really knew his stuff and went the extra mile above and beyond for the group. We always maintained respect for Nature and conservation, further more learning the importance of why Costa’s Rica is so special. Costa Rica was teaming with wildlife, we spotted 9 sloths including a close up chance encounter of a wild two toed sloth, A surge of 30 Coati and their young on the edge of the rainforest coastal walk at Coravado. Swimming with green turtles and white tipped reef sharks, seeing a young humpback whale calf up close with mum....an experience to see the well renowned Quetzal...Macaws, Anteaters, Howler Monkey families at the door step of our lodge facing the Pacific Ocean not to mention the many countless bird species, insects and reptiles we encountered along the way. If your looking for paradise, Costa Rica has it all and more.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being surrounded by Hummingbirds close up at our stay lodge in the middle of the cloud forest was pretty sensational. Quite difficult to narrow it down to one, the snorkelling experience was also a high experience as we had never done anything like that before. It opens your eyes up to a completely different world.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Johnny (Villalobos) was amazing. He really leaps out at you as a extremely proficient and interesting tour leader, not your run of the mill tour guides. I wasn’t surprised to learn he had won an award for his work. There’s something very honest about Johnny and you can see how extremely passionate he is about conservation, wildlife and his country. Also dedicated twitcher! I think if I were to re-visit Costa Rica again, I’d like Johnny to be there on the tour front.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Go in with an open mind. The hotels are well placed for the locations and more than comfortable. The Drakes bay lodge, Cloud forest hotel are mind blowingly beautiful. Be prepared you may not see all the wildlife viewing that’s on your hit list but the wildlife you do see is amazing , we saw so much amazing wildlife more than any other wildlife trip I’ve been on, no we didn’t see a Jaguar or any cat family member but we pretty much saw everything else including the odd rare species. The beauty of the rugged coastal rainforests is amazing, be prepared with full rain water proof clothing, and make sure it is water proof. Water shoes are a god send, the advice another previous visitor highlighted to wear came in super handy when we boarded the speed boat. Also if you have a nice fancy camera, make sure you have rainproof protection for it. I brought a water proof camera with me for snorkelling and the local tour guides were extremely kind enough to dive down and take photos of underwater wildlife , which we are aiming to share with the rest of the group. The cloud forest is quite a change from the warmer climates of Costa Rica, make sure you are prepared with a good reliable warm hoodie. Our tour guide even had gloves and a hat on for the 5am Quetzal walk. Also make sure you have good waterproof walking boots as you do walk a fair way on special set occasions.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I’d love to go back on this particular trip, hopefully with the same tour guide! This is my first experience with Exodus and from meeting well travelled faithful Exodus travellers on this trip, I’ve found that Exodus is pretty much the company to go with, it’s not touristy and is respectful to areas they visit. I’ll definately be travelling with Exodus further in the future.
  • Reviewed March 2018
    CLIVE PENWARDEN

    I really wanted to see a Tapir!

    Our third visit to Costa Rica was everything we expected and more (sadly we didn't see a tapir - but that was the only disappointment!). The trip is full on - if you participate in all that is offered, you don't get much time to read your book! Early starts were the order of the day (not too difficult, due to the time difference between there and UK.) Some days there were longer journeys, but these were always broken up with stops for food or to see things of interest. The Costa Ricans are friendly and very keen on their eco-tourism. The lodges and hotels were of a good standard, with the meals (whether from the accommodation or from restaurants), were very acceptable. A holiday that starts and finishes with stays in lodges that can only be reached by a lengthy boat trip has to be very special.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    One of the highlights of the holiday was our visit to a small locally run restaurant in Sitio de Mana. A large wooden terrace/balcony in a little village, sited on a mountainside, with spectacular views (which gradually appeared as the mist lifted), was almost surreal. The food was fantastic (including a chocolate cake that they had baked) was all prepared by the local village ladies, on very primitive looking cast iron stoves. While eating we were able to watch humming birds and toucans at very close quarters. Another highlight was snorkelling at Cano island - a profusion of multi coloured fish flashed by, as a turtle slowly made its way to the surface within six feet of me, before disappearing into the depths again.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader Jonny Villalobos was excellent - so good that while with us he heard that he had won Tour leader of the year (2017) - voted by Exodus customers. His depth of knowledge is huge, whether it be re birds, flora, history or general knowledge on Central America. He found some very good restaurants for us and dealt well with the minor medical problems that arose.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do go on this trip - it complements the Exodus costa Rica Discovery tour. Do take plenty of sun protection - it is very easy to get burnt on the boat trips. Don't forget your camera, and if you have a waterproof one take that as well. Ensure that you have waterproof bags to line your day bag and protect your cameras etc.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    There is such a profusion of wild life - we saw all four species of monkeys that are present, some saw a big cat (there are several species.) The seven kilometre walk, alongside the pacific and the jungle was not strenuous and we saw loads of wildlife on it. Sloths were everywhere - we were educated in the sloth sanctuary, but saw more outside of it! On the faster side of life - the trip out to and from Drakes bay on a boat with twin 150 outboards was like participating in a power boat race - great fun.
  • Reviewed March 2018
    Jo Mullin

    A wonderful trip

    Thoroughly enjoyed this holiday. We saw so much wildlife from sloths and monkeys and even an anteater to scarlet macaws and toucans, as well as the elusive quetzal, dolphins and lots of beautifully coloured birds, fish and reptiles. The group we travelled with was very friendly and good fun. We saw many different landscapes and the whole trip was extremely well organised.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    It is impossible to pick one - seeing so much wildlife for the first time was wonderful. And the scenery was ever changing and beautiful.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Guillermo was a brilliant guide - he spotted so much wildlife, had a vast knowledge of nature and was kind and very well organised.. You will be very lucky if you have him as your guide.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you have deet and sunscreen and good walking boots or shoes for when it is muddly and to keep things from biting your ankles. A rain poncho will keep out the rain and keep your rucksack dry. Have a good camera. Relax and enjoy it

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Thoroughly recommended.
  • Reviewed March 2018
    Helen Webster

    Wonderful holiday!

    I would recommend this well organised holiday to anyone who wants to explore the diverse landscapes of Costa Rica, as well as see a wide range of wildlife - sloths, monkeys, spiders, frogs, snakes, dolphins, butterflies - as well, of course, birds ( we saw over 100 different types!) The accommodation ranged from good to excellent, and the food was varied and plentiful - not just rice and beans! We were also very fortunate to be with the nicest group of fellow travellers.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    A difficult question to answer, as there were so many wonderful experiences, but the three days at Drake Bay were very special.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Guillermo was the best of guides. He was patient and kind, he happily shared his love and deep knowledge of Costa Rica with us, as well as ensuring we all took all the photos we wanted. He also added several additional activities, which were appreciated.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Make sure you pack Deet, strong suntan cream and a good poncho. Water shoes for any river crossing or the sea, would be useful at Drake Bay.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you are interested in the history of Costa Rica, and have some time to spare in San Jose, I would recommend a visit to The National Museum of Costa Rica (Museo Nacional). Otherwise just relax and enjoy spending time in this beautiful, sane country.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Anna Kennedy

    Costa Rica - Coastal Secrets Jan 2018

    We had a great time on this trip. We saw lots of birds and other wildlife. Costa Rica has very diverse ecosystems and we experienced quite a variety. We really liked the limit of 16 travelers. We enjoyed the group and were made very welcome everywhere we went.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being on the waterways around Tortuguero and Drake Bay was very special. If we hadn't had the benefit of great guides, we wouldn't have seen so much wildlife. Snorkeling at Cano Island was really amazing too - fantastic to see the colourful fish in the coral reef and also a large black sea turtle.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader was so knowledgeable and a really nice guy. Very thoughtful in terms of knowing what people were keen about and interested in.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    We didn't factor in having to tip so many people (boat drivers, resort staff). Also, we were surprised that traffic all around Costa Rica goes much slower than you expect so time to get to some places is longer than anticipated.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Overall is was a great trip and would recommend it highly to others. The mini-bus was a little on the tight side for taller people - hard on the knees.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Felicity Walker

    All I expected and more

    What a fabulous trip. I'd visited Costa Rica before, but this trip truly concentrated on the wildlife and the country has so much to offer. We saw so much and some of it very different - frogs, snakes, spiders, beautiful butterflies, stunning birds, dolphins, humpback whales, I could go on and on. I also thought I'd see a sloth, but we saw so many, it was wonderful. I had read mixed reviews about some of the accommodation, but I thought it ranged from good to excellent. Where the hotels were merely good, the relative lack of tourists more than made up for it. The food included in the hotels/lodges was also of a very high standard...it would have been difficult to go hungry!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Walking around the grounds of the various properties we stayed in, just spotting the animals on the ground and in the trees. Some of the best sights were within close proximity of our accommodation - including a walk along the coast at Cahuita where the sloths were everywhere. Watching humpback whales from the shore - at a time of year when they shouldn't have been there! So many glorious scarlet macaws on the Pacific coast. So many wonderful photo opportunities

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Eduardo was very knowledgeable and passionate about the wildlife and was obviously a very experienced guide. I liked the fact that he added in quite a few extra optional walks, which were much appreciated after some long days travelling.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Only the obvious, expect rain, even in the dry season...but the sun comes along eventually

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Not a single member of the group used the group flight via USA. I hope that Exodus take this on board, as it is obvious from previous reviews that this is a common theme. An extra day needs to be added to the trip so that the BA direct flights can be used. It may add a little onto the cost of the trip, but would be well worth it. I travelled back on the day the trip ended and came back via Madrid - where they lost my luggage, a common occurrence according to BA. How I wish I'd done the direct flight on the following day along with most of the rest of the group! p.s. My luggage did reappear the next day
  • Reviewed February 2018
    Alison Loades

    Coastal Secrets Costa Rica

    I totally recommend this trip to experience the beautiful diversity of Costa Rica. We had a trip of a lifetime. Great trips, accommodation, food and a tour of a beautiful country full of wonderful wildlife and birds and friendly people. I would love to return on day.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Way too many to mention.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader Pedro was extremely knowledgable and enthusiastic about his country and the wildlife, birds, people and history.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Expect to get wet for some of your trip. And i mean wet! Expect very strong sun for some of your trip! Plenty of sun tan lotion required. Expect extremes! But that's what makes it a fantastic experience.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Enjoy your trip in paradise!
  • Reviewed February 2018
    John Aldous

    Costa Rica Coastal Secrets

    This is a fabulous tour which I highly recommend to anyone. It takes you across Costa Rica from the Caribbean to Pacific Coasts, experiencing a wide variety of scenery and habitats, from humid rain forests and lowlands to cool cloud forests. Our tour was well organised with an excellent tour leader and driver. Everything went exactly to plan! You stay for two or three nights in most places, so there is time to appreciate things and not feel too rushed. Travel in the small bus was comfortable, apart from a few short sections of bumpy roads, which is all part of the experience! Walks are easy and taken at a comfortable pace.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Highlights for me included seeing dolphins following our small boat in Drake 's Bay, the calls of howler monkeys in the rainforest and seeing racoons, sloths, toucans, macaws and capuchin monkeys.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader, Gio, enthused us all with his love of his country, people and the natural world. He took us on a number of nature walks and showed great skill and knowledge in finding and identifying the huge variety of wildlife on show. He was calm, well organised and attentive to the needs of all members of the group.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I recommend spending a little on a night time nature walk at Drake's Bay (this can be organised through the lodge). This gives another perspective on the rain forest, giving you a chance to see frogs, spiders and snakes.
  • Reviewed February 2018
    James Palmer

    Costa Rica's Coastal Secrets January 2018

    This was a memorable holiday, for all the right reasons. We were interested to find out about Costa Rica's wildlife and landscapes, and we were delighted with what we found. It was an active holiday, with quite a lot of early-morning rises, but this was more than compensated by the richness of the wildlife encounters. Our guide, Pedro, was outstanding: his knowledge, organisation, and enthusiasm were inspirational. The group, which ranged in age from 33 to 83, got on really well together, united by his passion and good humour. Accommodation was good to very good, and the food (most of which is included in the price) was also good to very good. We experienced the full gamut of weather conditions, from tropical rain to warm temperatures and blue sunny skies. As for organisation, the trip passed without a hitch despite certain roads being blocked by landslides and fallen trees, and we always felt safe. There is quite a bit of travelling from one location to another.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Coming into close contact with so many wild animals in their natural surroundings is not an experience we are used to in Europe, and we have been lucky to return with some stunning photographs.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Pedro, our group leader, was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, efficient, helpful, and passionate about his country. He led the group with great humour and was always willing to go the extra mile.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    For anyone interested in this tour, take sun cream, insect repellent, a poncho, walking boots and a good pair of trainers. It is not really a trekking holiday, but conditions can be wet and muddy. A good camera is a must. We chose to fly direct from the UK to San José rather than face the inevitable immigration queues if you fly via North America.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If there was one thing we would change about the activities on offer, we would advise against the Sloth Sanctuary at Puerto Viejo. It was rather self-promotional and we saw little evidence of the rehabilitation which they claimed. We had already encountered plenty of sloths in the wild, and the visit to the sanctuary added nothing to our appreciation of these animals. A visit to the crocodile and birdlife sanctuary on the River Tárcoles on the way back to San José on the last day is a much better option. But choose the right company- some are more ethical than others.
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