Holiday review by Dee Sullivan
Name: Dee Sullivan
Date of trip: 05/05/2017
Number of people: 2
There were so many! Our first glimpse of Machu Picchu was awe-inspiring and moved me to tears. Every minute of our time in Napo but in particular the quiet gliding along in the canoes, getting up close to anacondas and caimans, the eerie sounds of the howler monkeys, seeing a giant frog during our nighttime walk, watching toucans from the treetop observation tower, learning about the Kichwa traditions, and simply enjoying our amazing cabin with its stunning view over the lake. At Bellavista, feeding hummingbirds and seeing a wide variety of birds reasonably close up. The Galapagos - the boat rocking at night, swimming with penguins, seeing Diego the giant tortoise mating, being very close to a waved albatross sitting on its egg, watching the sealion pups playing and feeding, seeing all three species of boobies, laughing at the mating displays of the male frigate birds, being absolutely amazed by the different geology on the islands and seeing wildlife so unscared of human beings.
It was an amazing holiday, a real trip of a lifetime, and it surpassed our expectations. We had a totally stress-free three weeks, being met and picked up when arranged, being properly briefed about each stage, having knowledgeable guides and good food and accommodation. For anyone else packing in the equivalent of four holidays into one, we'd strongly recommend building in a day or two of total downtime, as there are a lot of early starts and location changes, which can be a bit tiring.
Guy was our main contact, though Paul answered any queries he had in Guy's absence very well. We couldn't fault Tribes - from the first contact when all we knew for certain was we wanted to visit the Galapagos, to helping us shape our plans, to booking everything for us. All the information was timely and the app was great and easy to use. We'd definitely use Tribes again if we were planning another major holiday, and would certainly recommend you.
All our guides were very good, knowledgeable and helpful. In particular, we'd single out Gustavo, our guide in Cusco and at Machu Picchu, whose enthusiasm for his subject/work was impressive (and he also seemed like a very nice man); and Delfin, our guide in Napo, whose knowledge of and sensitivity towards wildlife and the environment were incredible. Natalia at Bellavista went out of her way to be helpful. In the Galapagos, Fabian on the Beluga knew the islands and their wildlife very well and took our safety, as well as environmental welfare, very seriously.
Social & Environmental Responsibility:
Napo was excellent in this respect - staying in a lodge owned and run by the Kichwa community meant a great deal to us, and we were pleased to buy gifts there as the money was ploughed back to local people. We felt that Napo achieved a very good balance between tourism and environmental protection. At Bellavista and on the Galapagos, respect for the wildlife and the environment was stressed, and in the case of the islands, was strictly enforced by our guide. In a more general, holistic sense I think exposure to such different ecosystems and their wildlife is a great way to learn and hopefully contributes to a lifelong respect.
The places you stayed
We only spent one night here but the room was very comfortable, breakfast offered a huge range of choices and was excellent, and we enjoyed the complimentary welcome pisco sour. The fact you are in the hotel within a minute of collecting your luggage in the airport is very welcome after a long flight.
A beautiful building in a very central location in the old town. Room 123 off the courtyard was large and comfortable enough, if a bit dated in its decor, with a spacious, modern bathroom, but room 220 was massive and gloomy, with a huge wardrobe dividing the sleeping and sitting areas. Breakfast was fine. We found the shop concession in the central courtyard a bit uncomfortable - the woman in traditional Peruvian costume seemed to sit out there most of the day, sometimes with a lamb tethered.
The room was on the small side but fine given that we only spent one night there. Very clean and we liked its focus on its eco policies and practices. Nice, lively bar with good service and a little central courtyard. Meals served in sittings in the large dining room - and a few large groups of tourists filled it up - and the food was good if not exceptional. Our room opened onto the main street of the very touristy town and we'd wondered if noise would be a problem - but it wasn't, as everything seemed to quieten down at a reasonable hour (perhaps because most people get up early to see see the sun rise at Machu Picchu).
Fabulous hotel, with very comfortable rooms and great staff and service. The bar and its 'garden' area are lovely, if a little underused, and the dining room is in the main, glass-covered courtyard area. As it was always late and we were tired when we arrived there, we had dinner in the hotel - the food was delicious although the wine was pricey. We stayed in the hotel three times between trips and laundry was ready on our return from the rainforest. Would definitely recommend the hotel.
We couldn't praise this highly enough, and could have happily stayed there much longer. The journey to it is an adventure in itself and arriving at the lake and seeing the lodge for the first time was pretty breathtaking. It is owned and run by the local Kichwa community and is great ecotourism in practice. All the cabins looked fantastic and ours - number 13 - was superb, with a main balcony overlooking the lake and a small balcony at the back,
You get to see a lot of birdlife around the lodge - particularly hummingbirds - which is lovely, and the walks are well marked and rated according to ease or difficulty. Mealtimes in the restaurant, eating good food and looking out over the valley to the volcano and watching the clouds and mist rolling in, were enjoyable. However, the place has a tired feel to it and our room - Pichincha - while having a lovely view stank of damp, the bathroom was absolutely tiny and the tiles in the shower were cracked, making it very uninviting. Natalia was a lovely guide, taking us on a night walk and going through our photos to help us identify the wildlife, and the restaurant staff were very nice.
We'd deliberately booked cabin six 18 months before our cruise because it had two large picture windows and we were happy with our choice, even though the rooms with portholes were larger with more storage. However, an underbed drawer would have been very useful. Apart from that, the boat was kept clean, the food was very good and the staff were good - we had most to do with Enrico the barman/cabin boy, and he was excellent. Our guide Fabian was very knowledgeable. Having only 16 passengers were a crucial factor in our choice of ship and luckily we all got on. Being on a small boat we felt the ocean swell quite strongly at times but personally I like that.