- FIRST PROBLEM : This Questionnaire urgently requires a SAVING mechanism.
I am now writing it for a third time, after spending more than 30 mins on my last input, now lost. Will all users have my patience and determination to help you ?
GOOD POINTS :
Marvin Chang's organisation, attention to detail and informative tales of the country he was so obviously proud of, was wonderful - and his own story of how the recent troubles have affected his own life was very moving
Better than most we've experienced on 7 other Explore holidays.
Is Explore intentionally raising accommodation standards ?
3. Mayan sites and Semena Santa at Antigua more than met expectations.
BAD POINTS :
Over ambitious in the time available - either the route should have been shortened or days added.
With roads windy and slow, and distances long, the result was too many tiring days stuck in the bus and hoped-for highlights missed.
We didn’t mind early starts, but strongly disliked arriving at hotels after dark - too late to see three particular places highlighted in the Trip Notes we had looked forward to seeing :
At Livingstone we arrived too late to enjoy its promised laid-back Caribbean vibe.
At Flores we arrived too late to enjoy its colourful narrow streets.
At Coban, the centre of gourmet coffee growing (Guatemala’s top crop), we missed visiting a coffee plantation.
BUT I’d also read that Nebaj was an interesting, unspoiled Guatemalan town in the highlands, noted for its weaving and hiking.
This proved not to be true.
Unspoiled it might be, but the eating options were poor, the hiking unremarkable and we saw plenty of weaving elsewhere.
Altogether Nebaj was NOT worth the long drive there and back.
The two days wasted for Nebaj would have been better used at Livingstone and Flores - both using the fine hotels selected.
Hours were also wasted at the unimpressive Candelaria Caves. These could have been better spent the same day at a Coban coffee plantation, of which we learnt there are many.
And a much earlier start on Day 8, getting us to the Quetzal Reserve as promised at dawn, would have made the walk in the cloud forest worthwhile - as it was, arriving late morning, we never saw a single bird, let alone a Quetzal ! - so 15 minutes here for a quick coffee would have been quite adequate.
2. Guatelaman Coffee
As the Guide already knew, the option quoted in the Explore Notes to visit a Coffee Museum in Antigua is impossible, because it is closed.
But, when we stayed on in Antigua after the tour, we discovered that tours of local coffee plantations are possible and worthwhile.
3. Bad advice from Explore office
I explicitly mailed the Explore office about whether to take Walking Poles - but was advised not to.
In the end my wife took them but I didn't - however they were required on three occasions :
The hike at Nejab was steep and very slippery on loose gravel.
The Candelaria Caves were full of hazardous footings
The walk at the Quetzal Reserve was muddy and steep.
To underline the importance of Sticks, the Leader brought his own for everyone, though I can't believe you expected this or had this in your mind when you advised us not to bring our own.
This tour was rated "Busy", and possibly only not "Full-On" because two nights were spent at some hotels ? But this didn't alter the fact that when travelling most days started at 7am and very few finished before 6.30pm, long after dark.
Frustratingly you make it impossible to search the Explore website by 'Tour Pace', but very few are 'Relaxed', and those that are are mostly cruising.
I suggest that a large selection of Explore tours with a "Busy" or "Full-On" pace is offered AT LEAST ONCE every year at a slower pace - by adding extra days on the same itinerary.
Not everyone is on a tight time or cost budget.
Properly promoted, I feel sure you would sell extended tours easily to customers like ourselves who have the money and time to enjoy your tours in more depth.
Too many tour companies - including Explore - believe packing as much as possible into the standard 14 day time slot (and bragging about how much they've squeezed in) is the way to please everyone. But there are others, oddly overlooked, who like the Explore style, but hate places half-seen.
Published on: 21 April 2016