Absolutely Love all the birds & animals we observed

Carol Hopkins  Graeme Munro-tour-Walk-With-Jith-2017
Carol Hopkins Graeme Munro-tour-Walk-With-Jith-2017

It ws a fantastic tour, Jith. Absolutely Love all the birds & animals we observed. Comments by email when we return to Australia in 1 weeks’ time. Thank you for the gift.

Carol Hopkins

6. FEB 2017

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Hi Jith
As promised, here is my review of our 11-Day birding and wildlife tour, completed on 6 Feb 2017.

Overall Summary
This was a well organised tour, tailor-made to our requests, which provided a fabulous opportunity to see a huge variety of birds and animals with the help of a very knowledgeable and efficient guide and staying in comfortable accommodation with good service and meals.

Pre-tour planning
We were very impressed with Jith’s prompt and clear response to our emails and his flexibility in designing a program to meet our special requests. We were particularly grateful that we could finish our tour in Galle and didn’t have to return to Colombo.  However, I think it would be good to warn people how cold it gets in Nuwara Elisa and to bring warm clothing.  We weren’t quite warm enough.

Our itinerary
Jith made changes to the standard birding itinerary, leaving out Sigirya, because my husband wasn’t able to climb the steps due to knee problems.  He added in Udawalawa National Park which was a good choice as it enabled us to see lots of elephants plus a few new birds.  In hindsight, I would leave out Kandy as the traffic is unbelievably noisy and chaotic and, although the Botanic Gardens are attractive, they did not yield many birds.  The itinerary gave us the opportunity to see a wide range of habitats, record a 170 species of birds including 30 endemics, and see many wild animals.  All aspects of the tour were well organised and everything ran smoothly.

Our accommodation
We asked Jith to make some changes to his initial choice of accommodation as the reviews on Trip Adviser for a few of them weren’t favourable.  He was happy to do this and the final choice of accommodation was good, as was the service and meals in each of the hotels.  The stand-out hotel was the Grand Udawalawa Safari Resort - what luxury - with the Hibiscus Garden Hotel a close second.  I would also like to make special mention of the incredibly obliging staff at the Lake View Hotel in Nuwara Eliya.  They were real stars!  The evening meals were great, too.

Our transport
My husband and I travelled in a top-of-the range, immaculately clean, Toyota Camry with good air-conditioning.  It was a very comfortable journey.

Our guide
Our guide for the trip, Upali, was incredibly good at spotting and identifying birds and went to great lengths to ensure we saw some of the more elusive endemics.  He was also a very safe and competent driver and, in Sri Lanka’s crazy traffic, this is a real plus.  Furthermore, he was punctual and organised and everything went according to plan.

However, we had some ongoing problems with communication which, at times, caused us considerable frustration.  We would have liked more detail about the day’s program, the purpose and length of short stops, the conditions to expect at the birding sites, the target species at certain sites and the bird calls we were hearing, or that Upali was playing, but this information often had to be dragged out of him by constant questioning.  We raised this issue with him on two occasions with only marginal improvement.  I feel that guides should tell people what is happening and not just walk off and expect them to blindly follow.  There was also a problem with Upali continuing to walk on at birding sites when I had stopped to take photos (and, compared with many birders, I don’t take many photos). On two occasions he failed to pause at track junctions and so I was initially unsure which way to go.  This is not good enough and is, frankly, unsafe.

However, this is the only real negative in an otherwise excellent tour.
Regards
Carol Hopkins

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Note from Jith to Carol:

I read your email very attentively, and here are my responses. Sorry if it’s too late.

Yes, in future we will inform our guests about the need for warm clothes in highland areas, Nuwara Eliya. Thanks for pointing out this valuable information.

I have very clearly and assertively informed Upali about the day’s program in detail beforehand. This a very important thing. Clients should have a good idea about durations, conditions and expected species in sites. And yes, they should educate the client about bird calls too.

I have very strongly advised Upali to stay together and close to the guests so that they are guided proply and their safety is assured.

I have mentioned the positive things you have mentioned about Upali, to him. Thanks for your balanced view on this very well experienced guide.

In addition to all this, I will be keeping a close eye on Upali in his next tours and see that he does his job well. I am very sorry for your inconvenience caused.

I am extremely happy about all the good, positive things you have written in your comment. And thank you for your very balanced feedback.

Name of Guest: 
Carol Hopkins
Graeme Munro

Country:

Tour review date: 
6 Feb 2017

Main Tour Type/s: