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
    Leo Murphy

    Borneo wildlife adventure

    This is a truly amazing holiday. If you have an interest in wildlife, then this is the trip for you, because the diversity of wildlife is bewildering. I went in early October, and on every walk we did we saw something. We saw Orang Utans almost every time we went out. Be prepared for rain. When it starts, it can come down in biblical proportions, though it doesn’t usually last for very long.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Almost too many to mention. As a keen photographer, I had to make myself put the camera down so I could take in what I was experiencing. Seeing Orang Utans, Broboscis Monkeys, Pygmy Elephants, Mouse Deer, Pit Vipers, Bearded Pigs, Hornbills, and various lizards and insects in the wild, is not something you should just view through a camera lens. The Bat Exodus from Deer cave in Mulu NP is a wonder of nature. The sanctuaries we visited offer a closer contact with some animals, which some people will probably prefer to the hit-and-miss nature of the jungle, but the necessary glass divide between you and the Orang Utans in Sepilok is undoubtedly a distraction. By contrast, in Labuk Bay where there is no divide, the Proboscis Monkeys charge around the decking area showing the visitors who’s boss. But for me, the sightings in the wild were the really special moments. Holding a huge male Rhinocerous beetle in your hand, with its fish-hook legs gripping on, is not something you experience every day. During a visit to Gomantong Caves which teemed with cockroaches, a Skink dropped onto my shoulder and hitched a ride with me out of the caves.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Nostalia (Talia), is without question, one of the best guides I have ever had. Extremely knowledgeable and articulate, she did not shy away from thornier topics such as Palm Oil cultivation and deforestation. Always smiling and cheerful, she bound the group together with assured ease. Our “Exodus Group” quickly became our “Exodus Tribe” much to Talias amusement and delight. She consistently went the extra mile, in my case sitting with me on two occasions to go through my photographs so I could make accurate notes for a book I have planned. She brought us to out of the way places to eat that we most likely would not have considered on our own. One such meal at a non-descript looking outdoor Chinese in Kuching, for me, was probably the best meal of the entire trip, and cost next to nothing. A special mention must also go to our three guides in Danum Valley. Along with Talia, Aldrin, Syafiq and Helen were exceptional. We did several walks over two days and nights, and were amazed at what they spotted for us. They were all equally enthusiastic, and genuinely loved spotting wildlife and sharing stories with us.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a poncho, or buy a cheap one when you get there. It gives you much more freedom than a rain jacket. Always carry a spare, medium sized dry bag. You’ll be surprised how much you use it. Bring a day-bag with a waterproof covering. You will need it. Drink as much water as you can, and top up at every opportunity. Free top-ups are available almost everywhere you stay. A reservoir for your day-bag is very useful. Bring a hat with a brim. The sun can be unrelenting. For photographers, only bring a tripod if you really need it. This is quite an active holiday, and you will be constantly on the move. Stopping to set up a tripod is not just impractical, it is unfair on your fellow group members and guides. (I brought a Gorilla tripod, and it never came out of my bag.) Again for photographers, bring spare batteries for the camera and a charger. This may seem obvious, but remember you will be shooting a lot of wildlife and will probably be using multi shot mode, and that chews up your battery. The humidity also seems to drain the batteries more quickly. Mosquitos were not as big an issue as I thought they would be. Normally I get eaten alive, but not in Borneo. But bring plenty of repellent. Likewise, leeches were rare. Two people from the group did get bitten, but otherwise the leeches were hard to find. I had leech socks with me which certainly helped, but long tight socks will work just as well. If travelling solo (With a single supplement), be prepared to have to share a room for maybe a couple of nights. Travel light and do laundry when you can. Try the Durian. Don’t let the smell put you off.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Something that is not mentioned are the suspension bridges. While the canopy walks are optional, some bridge crossings are not. If you have a problem with heights, you may want to take this into account. On the other hand, unless it is a serious problem for you, I wouldn’t let it put you off going. Do everything on offer. You’ll regret it if you don’t.
  • Reviewed October 2018
    Daphne Dawson

    A lot more than utang-utans

    I'd been to this part of the world before, but not to see the rain forests. This trip let me see all the incredible wildlife of the region - from insects to elephants. We had amazing guides who saw and named everything long before most of us had noticed a thing. It was a continuous revelation! It was also interesting to meet local people and see their way of life - even experiencing longhouse accommodation briefly. An exciting and thoroughly enjoyable trip.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Visiting the Sepilok Urang-utan Rehabilitation Centre (I'd expected to enjoy this), but also seeing elephants in the wild.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader, Rony, was so consistently helpful. He really knew his wildlife and I learnt a great deal during the trip in consequence. But he was also fun to be with, and saw that we experienced local food and saw a number of things tourists might not notice normally. Great company and an excellent leader.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I'd got pretty worried about leeches and high humidity before going. Don't let these things put you off. Although we saw the leeches, they weren't such an issue. I invested in leech socks which were a good buy for the occasion: I left them for other travelers in the end, as I don't expect to use them again. Showers were good, so it was relatively easy to deal with the humidity too. Just pace yourself.
  • Reviewed September 2018
    ROBIN JONES

    borneo

    Very enjoyable well organised trip to a fabulous country.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Orang-utans and proboscis monkeys.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Ronnie was super.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to experience high humidity - book extra days before and after if you can.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The only small problem was that certain travelers we very selfish in take the best coach/boat seats repeatedly without considering treating others fairly. Stay at Myan 'Resort' was disappointing (poor food and no room servicing).
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Patricia Ratcliffe

    Borneo wildlife discovery

    The trip started a little slowly but after a few days was just wonderful.nthe exodus guide, Maniel, was superb. We saw all of the wildlife anticipated - and more!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The wonderful local guides who were incredible at spotting wildlife including the nocturnal tarsier.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Maniel cannot be praised highly enough for his organisation, knowledge and patience.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Just follow the advice of the group leader and go at your own pace. Take plenty of insect repellent and travel everyday with a small towel because of the extreme humidity. Carry a cheap, light plastic poncho to cover up quickly when the rain begins. Take a good camera and binoculars.
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Susan Mann

    Excellent wildlife

    A fantastic trip to a beautiful country. My main purpose was to see orang utans in the wild, although I was prepared to be disappointed. However expectations were exceeded and we saw several in the Danum Valley and at Kinatabangan. Also many monkeys, birds, amazing insects and reptiles. Seeing the pygmy elephants was the icing on the cake, although it was a it disturbing to see how close all the boats got to the elephant that was in the river - I think they stopped her going where she wanted to go.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Hard to pick one as always, but watching a couple of orang utans making their nests for the night and the next day watching a mother orang help her baby by holding onto tree branches so you could get from one tree to the next are both special memories

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Beverley was very good, extensive knowledge of Borneo culture and history that she shared with us. She went out of her way to organise extra activities for us to increase our wildlife spotting. She took us to some excellent and very cheap restaurants that the locals frequent, which is actually what we want as tourists.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    July is the dry season so our trip was not affected by the few torrential downpours that we had, most of which happened during the evening/night. Maybe that's a good time to go. Even so, a poncho is a must. When it rains, it rains! I was glad I took my walking boots, though I had thought long and hard about it. Prepare to be hot and very sweaty a lot of the time! I'm not a mad-keen photographer myself, I think you can spend so much time and effort trying to get a photo that you don't actually watch. However, if you are a photographer, remember the light is low in the forest and also a lot of the wildlife is high up so a good zoom is needed for good photos!

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Make the most of it and join in with everything on offer! This is a very enjoyable trip
  • Reviewed August 2018
    Maureen Pinder

    Great trip to Borneo

    I've been on plenty of Exodus hiking holidays, but this was my first wildlife trip. I was a bit nervous in case my fellow travellers were a bit serious about both wildlife and cameras, but they weren't at all. I bought a new bridge camera for the trip, but found some people just had compacts and I needn't have worried. We were lucky and had great weather throughout apart from one of two quick downpours. We saw loads of orang-utans, proboscis monkeys, various langurs and macaques, pygmy elephants, squirrels - flying and otherwise, a crocodile, 4 types of snake, monitor lizards, and loads of birds, bats and insects. All the destinations were great - Bako, Mulu, Sepilok, Danum Valley, Kinanbatangan River. We did definitely see the highlights. We spent more time in Sabah than in Sarawak, but I guess that's the most dramatic bit. All the accommodation was excellent - Danum Valley reminded me of a game lodge in Kenya. Got to admit I skived watching the second orang-utan feeding session at Sepilok and spent a couple of hours by the pool instead. The food was very good throughout, and I probably put on half a stone.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Rushing through a villager's house to catch sight of pygmy elephants in the back garden. Or, seeing a flying squirrel glide from one tree to another (at Sepilok).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our leader Beverley Chin was great. She knows the country inside out, is unflappable, and a great organiser. She's travelled a lot herself, and thoroughly understands what westerners need.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    I took football socks to act as leech socks, but we were lucky and didn't really see leeches because it had been dry. The shop at Danum Valley does sell leech socks. Ponchos seemed to be the thing for keeping the rain off. You definitely need a sun hat for the river cruises at least. I'd agonised about taking trainers or hiking boots, but was glad I decided on hiking boots. Take your swimming costume - I swam 4 times in various places. The Deet was disgusting, so most of us gave up trying to use it after a few days. We only got a few bites, again maybe because it was dry weather.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I stayed on for an extra week after the holiday ended and climbed Mount Kinabalu with a local agency (Amazing Borneo). It was very good, but very steep - wish I'd trained more beforehand!
  • Reviewed April 2018
    Joyce Cheyne

    Awesome adventure

    If you want to see the best of Borneo this trip's for you. Beautiful country, great food, lovely friendly people and oh boy did we see wildlife! So many highlights. The incredible proboscis monkeys were hilarious and so much fun to watch, silver leaf langurs including a mum and baby, red leaf langurs, long tailed and pig tailed macaques, pit vipers, monitor lizards, orang utans (of course) in Sepilok and also in the wild (very special moments), Bornean sun bears at their rescue centre (definitely worth a visit), mouse deer, Northern Bornean gibbon family in the wild (utterly brilliant to watch), Bornean colugo (flying lemur - which isn't a lemur), red giant flying squirrel which we watched flying with a beautiful sunset backdrop - really special, slow loris, leopard cat - what a find! - sambar deer, loads of frogs, lizards, the most amazing insects ever, a huge 3m long salt water crocodile, baby salt water crocodile, flying lizard, bats galore in the most amazing caves at Mulu and Gomantong which also has the swiftlet nests and of course the bat exodus from Deer cave at sundown, had the most amazing experience watching Borneo pygmy elephants swimming in convoy across a river, young ones too with trunks up, heard them trumpeting and watched two mums with young ones feeding right at the water's edge - so special. Then there's the birds! Hornbills galore, eagles, hawks, Buffy fish owls, sunbirds, kingfishers, broadbills, storks, egrets, flycatchers, bee eaters, flowerpeckers, bulbuls, kites, sandpipers, herons, doves, mynas and more. The bird watchers were very happy. Night walks and the night drive were a revelation, so much comes out at night from scorpions to stick insects. Not scary at all just fascinating. Boat trips were excellent, saw so many birds and monkeys in the trees. Loved staying in the longhouse, an experience not to be missed. The Borneo Rainforest Lodge in the Danum Valley was exquisite, 5* in every way; the rooms, the food, the attentive staff, the massage, the local guides, the drivers who also spotted wildlife and the red leaf monkeys in the forest having their breakfast at the same time as us.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching the wild gibbon family and orang utans in the Danum Valley was pretty special. It was a hike to get there but the guides pace the walks so well pointing out all the wildlife, birds and important trees/foliage used in cooking and medicine so always interesting, worth every step. Watching the pygmy elephants swimming across the river in convoy, trunks up, babies in tow and feeding at the water's edge while others were trumpeting was an extraordinary experience. Bat exodus from the Deer Cave in Mulu was pretty special, waves of bats that went on for ages. Watching the flying squirrel. An experience I'll probably not repeat.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Superb trip and we were very fortunate to be in the hands of a truly exceptional trip leader in Rony. He went the extra mile every hour of every day to make sure we had the trip of a lifetime and he succeeded. We all trusted Rony completely, he earned that trust daily.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do everything! Even if you don't particularly like insects or bats by a few days in you'll love them, they're so incredible. Drink loads of water! Makes all the difference in the heat and humidity. I was a bit worried about that before I went but it's fine, doesn't stop you walking up hill just take your time, everyone did. There's plenty of air-con or fans to give you a break from it. Trip notes advise cash to take. I adopted an orang utan at Sepilok, had a fantastic massage in the Danum Valley, went snorkelling, bought a few souvenirs and still came home with £120. Rony found us great food and beer at local prices so it's very cheap to eat. He also told us the best snorkelling trip for value for money. Take videos on your phone and camera. They are so good to watch when home and convey behaviour that a photo doesn't. Get your laundry done it's so cheap. Got all mine done before I came home for £4 and that was with a tip! (Not at the Sheraton!)

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Go! So many species endemic to Borneo, you won't find them anywhere else so you need to go. You'll be glad you did.
  • Reviewed January 2018
    Pat Rumpus

    Wildlife and More

    We knew December was the wettest month, but hearts sank when our first wildlife trip had to be abandoned as the river was too high for safety to take us there. However, our guides had a good backup plan and took us to the Sarawak Cultural Village where we were able to see some traditional longhouses and experience a display of spectacular tribal dances - including one of the group having a go with a blow pipe. We were lucky enough to see the bat exodus from Deer Cave at Mulu before the rain started again and forgot to stop. We were evacuated from our comfortable lodges while it was still daylight, wading through above-the-knee water to the restaurant. As it got darker, and the water deeper we expected to spend the night elsewhere than our comfortable beds. However, the rain did stop and the river stabilised so we were eventually boated back. The poor villagers further up the river didn't come off so easily in the worst floods for 14 years. All praise to the Garden Park staff and our guides for their excellent control of the situation, and their help to their neighbours as well as us. Don't forget your PONCHO! Preferably a discreet colour. A wading nature walk next day turned up a scorpion, various lizards and skinks as well as a Paradise Flycatcher and the sunshine brought back the butterflies. From the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary on, the mammals were amazing. The monkeys are real characters with such expressive faces and it was good to see so many mums and babies. Great photo opportunities. Sepilok was a mixed experience. The youngsters are kept the other side of a glass wall and they didn't care for the pouring rain much either - rolling around trying to don sacks and holding leaves over their heads in attempts to keep dry. Although it was disappointing to only see one adult orangutan, it demonstrated how successful the rehab programme has been as far fewer babies and adults are coming in for care. However, moving on to Danum Valley, our outing turned up a mother and youngster orangutan yards from the centre. And they didn't stop coming. Five in a couple of hours. Even the guides were amazed. In all we saw ten or eleven over the whole of the trip, just doing their own thing in the trees. We were lucky enough to see a herd of pygmy elephants on our Kinabatangan river cruises. Again, loads of babies. There were a lot of boats vying for the best position so unfortunately the disturbance to the animals from noise and diesel was to be regretted. The birds were spectacular here too, hornbills, hawks, eagles and little flowerpeckers in the garden as well as more butterflies. Take binoculars and a camera with a good zoom if you want to get any animal shots. You don't need huge lenses - I got some great shots with a compact. And discreet colour clothing. Pack light. It really is 'deal with your own luggage' on this one and there aren't big retail opportunities so small is beautiful.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Watching the interactions of the proboscis monkeys Seeing the orangutans wild in the trees Fabulous birds - amazing hornbills and bulbuls Pygmy elephants - adults barely taller than the tall grasses they were eating

    What did you think of your group leader?

    He organised things well and was a good birder which suited myself and my friend. He seemed to lack confidence in dealing with a group and found it difficult to address us all in one go. He really wanted us to see everything we came for but when things went against us weather wise, he found it hard to deal with. Unfortunately he did lose it with one of the group after a long day when it looked as though a river trip wouldn't be on because of continuing rain and went on a rant 'why don't you like me', 'I'm trying to do my best' and such like which was well out of order and had nothing to do at all with the group member.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Poncho! Umbrella. Waterproof shoes/boots (jungle walks need more than walking sandals). I dubbined a pair of cheap, microfibre lightweight, non waterproof boots and that really did do the business as I didn't want to take heavy leather boots. So can recommend that as a solution. Plenty of good mossie repellent as it gets washed off in the rain. Incognito is a good natural (non Deet) one. Discreet colour clothing Long walking socks and spray them with anti mossie to deter the leeches. I took gaiters and some managed to creep under so wouldn't recommend. Something simple to change into for dinner. Nowhere's 'dressie'.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Can thoroughly recommend this trip but possibly not in December. It is so different and truly exciting. All the variety of creatures and plants are wonderful. I thought ginger was just 'ginger' but not in Borneo - there are tomes on the different varieties. And so it goes on - 4 or more huge volumes on orchids - and that's only the ones that have been discovered. It was such a pleasure to see orchids and other colourful, unusual to us, plants growing in the gardens. I loved it all, despite the rain!
  • Reviewed November 2017
    Cathy Lawlor

    WOH

    Great taster for the delights of Borneo.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The jungle sounds when we arrived in Mulu; plus those enormous, beautiful butterflies! That's when I knew I was really going to enjoy my holiday.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Manuel is my favourite guide! To say he went above and beyond the call of duty is to put it mildly. Always knowledgeable, approachable, friendly and funny. He was an integral part of my enjoyment of the trip.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Bring long trekking trousers, 3/4 lengths and shorts. Accept that you're going to be hot and sweaty most of the time. Don't bring Deet in an aerosol or you will inhale and choke. And remember: 'go when you can, not when you need to'...

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    We expected a lot of rain but saw little, except for our rained out beach day. So you have to roll with the punches!
  • Reviewed March 2017
    Barry Cooper

    Borneo Wildlife Discover

    This is an excellent trip to discover the wildlife and to explore the jungles of Borneo. The trip is well planned from the modern bustling cities of Kuching, Kota Kanabalu and Sandakan to the jungle resorts of Muli and Borneo. The opportunities to see wildlife are many and often you see it in the least expected way for example, a python curled up on the back of a truck in the Hotel Yard!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I can never answer this question because these trips are a continual mixture of high points but possibly just sitting alone in the Borneo Forest Lodge looking at the birdlife with Orangutans in the nearby forest, a moment of quiet reflection in the middle of a busy trip.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Manuel was excellent His knowledge of the wildlife was superb and when asked for a particular birdsong, he could identify it immediately as well as the vast number of insects which we saw. On a personal note, I arrived separately from the Group as I had been travelling in Australia and on the day before the main group arrived, I fell heavily on a wet marble pavement in Kuching bruising ligaments in my leg. I realised that I was unable to participate in some of the more strenuous activities on this trip and Manuel arranged for me to visit a Doctor and throughout the trip, he could not have been more supportive. Manual reported the problem to Exodus and their support and help was gratefully appreciated. I felt that travelling with Exodus you were not another client but an individual and you were to receive personal attention.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    This is a busy tour but with two nights in most locations you do have time to relax. Costs are low so you can eat well and cheaply. If you are interested in wildlife, this is an excellent well planned and managed trip.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    As a result of climatic changes, I was planning to be in Borneo in the dry season but this was not the case and we had very heavy rain. We did not see the mass exodus of bats from the cave at Muli because of the torrential rain and one day of the trip was lost because of twenty hours of continuous tropical rain. Ensure that you have waterproof raingear with you.
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