Firstly I have to say that this was a fantastic tour and one I would have no hesitation in recommending. Any criticisms are levelled against First Choice and not the sub contracted operator.
Having looked for information here before I left and found very little I hope this is of help to anyone who has booked or is thinking of booking.
If anyone wants more details on the tour itself then if you e mail me I will forward my diary, but I think some of the fun was in experiencing as we did without pre-expectations so I’m not going to post too much here about the trip itself.
First Choice really need to get their act together and brief their guests more fully before departure. Their pre-information is very poor.
The itinerary varied from that advertised, but was an improvement on the whole. (I note that the new brochure's info is diiferent from the brochure I originally booked from.)
The flight was earlier on the Monday and we had a visit to the hydro-electric dam at Porto Ordaz on the first day. Some of the shopping tours were missed out – no loss unless you wanted to shop for jewellery and the flight over Angel Falls was a day sooner than advertised. It was very full and certainly not the usual ‘light weight tour’ where there is plenty of ‘afternoon at leisure’.
Hotel Tore at Porto Ordaz – not 3 * by any means. We had a room with hot water, but were in the minority. But clean and quite adequate.
Kaimoran Lodge – very basic and had little to commend it BUT was probably the best available en route south. No hot water but a clean room.
Grand Sabanah Hotel – advertised as 4*, clean, hot water and fine. Good sized room.
Arekuna Lodge – no hot water, limited electricity but the views and the setting forgave all short comings on that score completely! We could have stayed longer - even without the hot water and electricity!
Very limited choice in most places. It was sandwiches and fruit for most of the lunches. But filling. Evening meal tended to be a set meal with no soup/starter or pudding - but no-one starved!
At the first briefing the guides exchanged money into Bolivar and estimated $100 per person as being adequate. Although water and coke were provided we needed to buy more and this varied in price from 2-5 Bolivar for a coke / bottle of water. We had to pay the airport tax on the outward flight from Porlamar which was $18 each and entry into Canaima National Park $6. Apart from that it was just alcohol and souvenirs. (The Waterfall trip was extra but this could be paid for in Dollars, Sterling or Bolivars).
The first lunch was not included and we had to pay 40 Bolivars each for the meal arranged by the guides. It also cost us 40 Bolivar for the first dinner at the Great Western Hotel. If you think you will want souveniers take extra money and buy when you see them. Things tended not to be repeated and the items here were not available on Margaritta itself.
Tips were not expected in the hotels or on any of the excursions. We all got together and tipped the guides and coach driver what amounted to £10 each.
Gustavo and Aquillas with Richard as driver. Gustavo was very knowledgeable and made sure everthing ran smoothly.
What to take:
• Walking shoes /boots/sandals and a change of footwear. We wore walking sandals throughout BUT in wetter weather these would not have been adequate. If wet a change of foot wear would definitely be needed
• Long sleeved shirts and trousers. Some people opted to wear shorts and T shirts but got bitten by mosquitoes. We suffered very few bites but were covered at all times
. Fleece or jumper. It was cool in the Gran Sabanah at night and first thing in the morning
• 100% DEET for the jungle walks and at least 50% at other times
• A hat
• Sunscreen (not necessary if you wear long sleeves and trousers) and after sun
• Lightweight towel and swimwear as there were several opportunities to ‘get wet’
• Poncho - better than waterproof cagoule as it protected your camera etc when it rained
• Lightweight day sack
• Wash kit and changes of clothes
• Lightweight case or bag
• Sweets/biscuits/nibbles if so inclined
• Head torch was useful in Arekuna camp if you wanted to move about after ‘lights out’
• Toilet roll! None of the toilets en route had any provided!
• Antibacterial handwash (or baby wipes) for obvious reasons as above!
• Antihistamine cream or Lanacane for bites if you got them!
• Malaria tablets – we didn’t bother as we took precautions against bites and didn’t get bitten BUT your choice! We opted to bring some in case rather than use them as a prophylactic.
• Batteries and camera cards – not always possible to recharge overnight
• American style plug adaptors
• Water bottle – we took light weight aluminium bottles which were handy on walks, but a plastic bottle would have been adequate
• several plastic bags for dirty washing and keeping things dry if it rains. Good protective plastic bag for camera/phone electricals etc
• Go to the toilet whenever offered the opportunity! Toilet stops at times were few and far between!
• Although you don’t need to be mega fit it would be worth taking a few brisk walks in the weeks before going just to tone up the muscles! Although the walks were gentle strolls there were one or two ‘uphill sections’!
• Isostar drink – we drank about a litre a day and found that it restored energy. One of the others felt ill, but picked up very quickly after drinking some.
• If you are likely to do similar again a visit to a camping store for lightweight equipment is expensive but worthwhile as it reduces the weight carried around.
Hope this is helpful. If anyone wants more details on the trip itself please feel free to e mail me.