Jennifer M Ashton review 4 Nov 2017
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Eventually getting a bus that did not take almost twice the estimated time to travel to our destination.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
Be prepared for long boring journeys, not much to see. Take soap, toilet rolls, and a huge amount of patience.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
We had very little contact with local people. They were employed by the hotels and as guides but that was all.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
Very disappointing. Long boring journeys for little reward. Because our transport was so poor we did not have time to do many of the things on the itinerary. I would not recommend this holiday to anyone.
Read the operator's response here:
Thanks for your review and also for taking the time to send us your detailed feedback separately - this is always appreciated as it helps us to gain a picture of what happened during the trip and how we can make improvements.
From your account and those of other travellers it is apparent that the vehicle wasnít of the standard that we would have liked, and that this led to journeys being longer than they needed to be. I fully appreciate that spending too long on the bus is not ideal for any trip. Iím disappointed that this wasnít addressed during the trip - it seems that you all pointed this out to the guide and having spoken to our local team, this information was not relayed back to them. Theyíre also disappointed, as there were several points during the trip where this could have been replaced, which would have led to a smoother trip. You let me know about this when you were at Isalo - unfortunately as the following day you were flying back to Antananarivo and leaving this bus behind, there wasnít much we could do by that point.
Iím very sorry for this - we should have been able to replace this at an earlier stage and I appreciate that this cast a shadow over the trip. For the final week of the trip I note that the bus was of a better standard, and that you were much happier with this.
It also sounds like the guide was not as effective as he could have been. From your comments and those of others it seems that he was at times over protective of your group, and of course I understand that as experienced travellers you want to have a little more freedom to explore on your own. It also seems as if he was rather over cautious in assessing peopleís capabilities for physical activity, and although the group seems to have been of mixed ability, we intend that the guides facilitate different options, for example both the easier and the longer walk in the Tsingy. Iím sorry that this was not the case.
It also seems as if John was not particularly effective at times in giving information, for example with regards to changing money, and the timings of journeys.
I should say that we have also received very different feedback about the guide on this trip, with some people saying he was Ďgreatí and others mentioning that he did a very good job in trying to manage the diverse interests and expectations of different group members. However, we will not be using John again for our tours as on occasion his performance during this trip was not what we would expect.
In your feedback to us you mentioned a number of times when you met local people, including having lunch in a local home, children from the local village visiting your river camp, visiting a local school, and several occasions of stopping at or walking through villages, so I was disappointed to read in your review that you felt you had had little contact with local people. Itís clear from your comments that you would have preferred to have more opportunities to speak with local people in depth and find out more about their lives. Our guide should have been able to facilitate more contact with Malagasy people, and Iím sorry
that you feel this part of the trip did not live up to your expectations.
Weíve run this trip now perhaps seven or eight times since introducing it in 2014, and have always received very positive feedback, so Iím both sorry and disappointed that you didnít enjoy the trip as much as others have. It sounds like the guide had a part to play in this, in that perhaps he did not bring certain aspects of the trip Ďaliveí as much as he could have done, and organisational skills were at times lacking, among other shortfalls. In the past for example, people have really enjoyed the boat journey but itís clear that you did not and a lot here depends on the guide and the information that they give during the journey to our travellers.
I also take on board your point about the long days of travelling. There are three or four days where the actual driving time is quite long, but of course with stops and activities the days are quite full. This hasnít really proved to be a problem for our travellers in the past as they were keen to fit in as much as possible, but I think we can perhaps find a couple of opportunities to make this more leisurely and I have already started talking to our local partner about this. Obviously on this occasion the problems with the bus impacted upon this and I know that this skewed the balance of travelling vs excursions unfavourably on
a number of occasions.
You mentioned that you were not sure whether you had actually visited Akaniníny Nofy Ė this is the Malagasy name for the area where the Palmarium Reserve is situated, which you visited.
Youíve made a number of comments about the itinerary which weíll be taking into account when reviewing the trip. We also need to take into account comments from other travellers Ė some of which were quite different and paint a far more positive picture of the trip Ė and can hopefully achieve a better balance and prepare future travellers a little more for some of the things that travel in Madagascar entails.
Weíll also be looking in detail at the pre-departure information that we provide to make sure that this accurately reflects the trip, and Iím sorry that at times you felt this was lacking.
Thanks again for taking the time to send your feedback Ė we will be using this to see where we can make improvements for future travellers. Iíd like to apologise again for the problems that you experienced on this trip, and for the fact that this did not meet your expectations. Clearly we have some lessons to learn here and we will be paying close attention to this for future trips and travellers.