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Undiscovered Destinations Traveller Reviews
Reviews of Undiscovered Destinations
Awesome trip over the roof of the world
The pamir Highway, it was stunning!
The pamir Highway, it was stunning!Rating for tour operator:
Very well organised without being babysat
Thank you for the review. We are delighted that you enjoyed the tour.
Madagascar June 20 - July 8, 2018 Madagascar originated as part of the Gondwana supercontinent. Its west coast formed when Africa broke off from Gondwana 165 million yr. ago, and finally broke off from India about 88 million yrs. ago. South of the equator and part of the African continent, it drifted from mainland Africa long before any big cats, elephants or apes evolved making it one of the most diverse wildlife spots in the world...
Madagascar June 20 - July 8, 2018 Madagascar originated as part of the Gondwana supercontinent. Its west coast formed when Africa broke off from Gondwana 165 million yr. ago, and finally broke off from India about 88 million yrs. ago. South of the equator and part of the African continent, it drifted from mainland Africa long before any big cats, elephants or apes evolved making it one of the most diverse wildlife spots in the world. The world's 4th largest island, twice the size of Arizona, is 260 mi. off of the southeast coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean with 22 million people. Madagascar was first reached by sea-faring people of southeast Asian (Indonesian) descent from 200 BC to 500 AD. The first European on Madagascar was Portuguese sea captain Diogo Dias on August 10, 1500 after he was blown off course on the way to India. The French invaded in Dec. 1894. In 1896 France annexed Madagascar as a colony and unified the country. In 1958, the Malagasy Republic became an autonomous state within the French Community, and on June 26, 1960 Madagascar gained independence. The island consists of rainforests, palm and forest-lined beaches, semi-arid deserts, limestone peaks, mountains, grassy plateaus, cities and villages filled with very hospitable, welcoming people. The climate is subtropical with temperatures depending on altitude and geographic position. In Antsirabe nights can go below 41°F. Antananarivo has a temperate climate. Coastal temperatures are higher about 70°F in the dry season. After more than a day on a bus, airplanes, in airports, and getting visas in the airport at 11PM…we arrived in Antananarivo, Tana for short, the capital and largest city in Madagascar. We were met by our Tour Manager, Danhy on Day 1. Its name means “the city of the thousands”, from the 1000 warriors of King Andrianjaka, who established Tana as the capital of the Merina tribe. Tana has French and Asian inspired architecture with winding cobblestone streets and stairs giving it a medieval feeling. Day 2 We visited a place where men were making aluminum pots, etc. Not a factory, per se, but a cluster of sheds where the men worked with a fire pit and hot liquid aluminum without any protective clothing or shoes. The Malagasy people grow a lot of rice. When rice is out of season they make bricks. We drove 6 hr. on paved roads past people carrying bags of charcoal on their heads, sacks of grain and other goods for sale at the side of the road, and zebus (an ox with a fatty hump on its shoulders, a flap of loose skin hanging below its jaw, lyre-shaped horns and drooping ears). Villagers use the resources available in the area to build homes. It could be bricks, sticks and /or mud, reeds. etc. In larger villages we found colorful rickshaws (pulled by a man on foot) and trishaws (pulled by men on bikes) used as taxis. Everywhere we saw babies transported on backs, while goods were transported on heads and laundry spread out on the grass or the bushes. As the land transitioned into the red soil for which it is called the “Red Island,” we arrived in Miandrivazo, on the Tsiribihina River, a fertile region for cotton, corn, manioc, beans, tobacco and rice; where we spent the night. Day 3 En route to Kirindy we stopped at a Zebu market, a cattle breed kept for meat, milk and work. As we went from red soil and rice fields to the dry west we came to the famous Baobab Alley where massive trees, up to 800 yrs old with long thick cylindrical trunks up to 9 ft. across, covered with smooth reddish-grey bark can reach a height of 98 ft., line the road hinting at the vast forest that once covered this area. Oct. to May the flat-topped crowns bear bluish-green palm like leaves, May to Aug, spectacular flowers with white petals that give way to large, velvety dry brown fruit with edible pulp. These Baobab trees (Malagasy for "mother of the forest") are a legacy of the dense tropical forests that once thrived on Madagascar. On a night walk in the Kirindy Reserve we saw the giant mouse lemur, a large spider and the elusive Fossa a cat-like carnivorous mammal native to the island closely related to the mongoose. Day 4 On an early morning walk in Kirindy Reserve we saw red-tailed sportive and red-fronted brown lemurs. During our day of travel (depending on traffic and road conditions) in 4X4s we passed an endangered Baobab forest, many small villages and saw dugout canoes plying the river. The ferry across the Tsiribihina River, the only way to get to the Tsingy by car, is 2 large canoes with a wooden platform over them holding cars and people. It’s amazing how resourceful they are! We had lunch at the Mad Zebu in the small, dusty, unpaved town of Belo-sur-Tsiribihina. While waiting for the police escort for our convoy, (many cars travel to Tsingy together now due to the terrible roads, and the problem of bandits in the past) we walked about the tiny town. Nary a one of you can even conceive in your minds the unpaved, rutted, badly maintained roads littered with large stones, natural debris, and small streams that we traveled for 4 hr. to reach Tsingy. Later we crossed the Manambolo River on another ferry arriving in Bekopaka in the PM. Day 5 There were only 4 of us plus Danhy and our various drivers. Mitzi and Beverly, delightful Brits, were great traveling companions. First a dugout canoe ride on the Manambolo River stopping twice to enter and explore 2 very low ceilinged caves while dodging stalactites on the ceiling. Back on the river we passed skulls at the burial area used by the Bazimba, or ancestors, who were the first people from Africa, women doing laundry in the river and fishing canoes. The World Heritage Site of Tsingy de Bemaraha has been a National Park since 1998, with 2 areas the Grand Tsingy and the Petit Tsingy. Its bizarre landscape of serrated limestone pinnacles called tsingy that form stone forests were created millions of years ago by the play of the ocean when Madagascar broke free of Gondwana. The Grand Tsingy is deep canyons with a climbing route through caves, narrow gorges, up ladders attached to rocks, rope bridges with plenty of hauling, squeezing and crawling up vertical jagged rock. Harnesses are used over sheer drops, and footing is never sure. The Petit Tsingy is less harrowing, but not all that easy. The Tsingy were once under the sea. The ocean submerged the rocks, then retreated, repeating this over millions of yrs. The limestone was dissolved and sculpted by the water; rain seeped into the porous stone corroding it into the knife-edge formations visible today. Guess which one I / we did! We met a woman and a little girl, that we had seen on the river, with their catch of giant catfish on our way to climb up and down, squeeze through gorges, cross bridges and climb ladders exploring the heights of Petit Tsingy for 2 hr. with our guide Julian. The first of 3 challenging days for me. We met a big green gecko (it was not selling insurance), and had our first look at an elephant foot plant. Day 6 A long, bouncy drive in the convoy to Morondava, a coastal town home to many of Madagascar’s 18 ethnic groups or tribes. Known as Malagasy they speak dialects of a language of Malayo-Polynesian origin. Their culture reflects their roots in Southeast Asia and East Africa. The influence of Arabs, Indians, British, French and Chinese settlers is evident. Official languages are Malagasy and French. English is becoming popular. Back at “Baobab Alley” we saw the moon over the trees in the east and the sun setting in the west. Day 7 We had an early flight east across the island back to Tana where we did a city tour including the Rova, (the Royal Palace) built in 1864 for Queen Ranavalona II by the Scotsman, James Cameron. We saw the national snack of Koba, a pate of rice, banana, and peanuts wrapped in a banana leaf for sale, a type of poinsettia blooming bright red, and orange and yellow flame vines. Then we drove 3 hr. to Andasibe. We had a zebu burger in a former train station where the toilets were in a train car. At our hotels we had lovely large rooms all the way with mosquito netting, of course. This evening we walked in the forest looking for nocturnal creatures and found a boophis tree frog, a leaf tail gecko and a boophis veridus frog. Day 8 On a 3hr. AM walk in the mountainous forest of Andasibe National Park we found wild coffee, strangling trees, and—after leaving the trail and slogging up and down the mountain—indri lemurs and Diadem golden sifaka lemus. Lemurs, the oldest living primates on earth, are found only on Madagascar and the nearby Comoros Islands. Adorable, fuzzy animals that abound here with no big cats or wild dogs to hunt them. There are 105 species of lemur now recognized with new species being found every year. Many are extremely rare and on the verge of extinction. From the smallest primate in the world, Madame Berte’s mouse lemur (1 oz) to the indri (21 lb.) to dancing sifakas bouncing across the ground, bamboo and brown lemurs; they are very social with long limbs, flexible toes and fingers, long noses, and like all great societies are female dominant. The indri, was named by mistake by Pierre Sonnerat, a French naturalist. His guide saw it, and shouted in Malagasy “indri”, which means “look at that”. Sonnerat assumed the guide was saying the name, and ever since the largest species of lemur has been known as the indri, even to the Malagasy. They live in the tree canopy, stand 3 ft. tall with a short tail, black and white markings and pale green eyes. While other lemurs grunt, the indri “sings" an eerie, wailing sound between the song of a whale and a police-siren, that carries up to 2 mi. across the forest. Madagascar separated from Africa before lemurs evolved. Their ancestors must have crossed on floating vegetation early in primate evolution and became isolated, then evolved into different species, many are endangered. By the time Europeans wrote the natural history of the island in the mid-1600s, 15 species of lemurs had already become extinct. In the PM we had a 22 sec. canoe ride across the water at an island Lemur Sanctuary. They will not cross the water. Black and white ruffed and common brown lemurs jumped on our shoulders, heads and backs. On an inner island while sitting in our canoe we saw eastern grey bamboos, common browns that jumped onto the canoe to check us out ,and Diadem golden sifakas dancing sideways along the ground. We then drove 3 hr. back to Antananarivo. Day 9 We drove 4 hr. to Antsirabe On the way we stopped at a reptile reserve where we saw a tenrec which looks slightly like a hedgehog and can vary from a 1/10 oz. pygmy to the 1.4 oz. Talazac’s shrew tenrec with 30 known species. Madagascar has half the world’s chameleon (self-camouflaging creatures) population from the world’s smallest (the size of a fingernail) to the world’s largest (the size of a cat). We got close to the Parsons (male) and the Parsons (female) and a number of Panther chameleons. There are over 360 reptile species, such as boa constrictors, with new ones still being found, about 300 frog species in an array of colors from the blue and green Mantella Baroni frogs to the orange Mantella frog and leaf tailed geckos. We saw a green male and a grey female Highland chameleon walking on a branch, a cocoon with a large newly sprung Comet Moth that will live for 1 wk., and a green elephant ear chameleon rocking back and forth as if it could not decide if it should go or not. Many of them seem to do that when they start to walk. On the road again, we stopped at a roadside stand selling woven raffia items, a place selling wooden musical instruments, one selling colorful handmade wooden trucks given to boys so they don’t cry when circumcised at age 5, and stands selling vegetables. Antsirabe, the second largest city founded by Norwegian missionaries in 1856, is home to Madagascar’s brewing industry, hot springs and thermal baths. Its name means “where there is salt” honoring its many hot springs and thermal baths. Many locals are of Asian heritage. Day 10 We visited some artisan shops before continuing south. This was a fascinating experience not only did we learn how zebu horns are made into spoons, but how ingenious the Malagasy people are. Everything they used was a recycled object from an old sewing machine motor to run the homemade polisher to pads cut from jeans for smoothing, etc. etc. We were amazed at every step of the process. Other handicrafts were intricate embroidery with the back as perfect as the front. We also saw many poinsettia shrubs in various colors along with other flora. It was here in the Royal Palace Hotel that King Mohamed V was exiled by the French occupiers of Morocco in 1953 with his family for 3 yr. after he refused to abdicate his throne. In a square nearby we saw the Fahaleovantena (meaning Independence) Tribes Monument featuring the head of a zebu and names of the 18 official tribes making up the Malagasy population. Madagascar is one of the top producers of gemstones in the world. At a Gem Gallery we saw displays of cut and uncut gemstones including celestite and amethyst. On the way to Ambositra, the home of the Zafimaniry tribe famous for its Malagasy wood carvings, we had to stop for zebus crossing a bridge, as well as, a vehicular traffic jam. Out of the window I saw two little kids. The girl was pouring water over her head to wash her hair. In a small village we were slowed by a funeral procession. On to Ranomafana National Park for the night. In Malagasy Rano means “water” and mafana “hot.” The town was named for the hot springs discovered 100 yr. ago. Day 11 We spent 4 hr. trudging through the rainforests of Ranomafana National Park. A cloud forest with high levels of biodiversity that came to world attention with the discovery of the golden bamboo lemur in 1986. The Park was established in the early 1990s to protect the newly discovered lemur, as well as the very rare greater bamboo lemur. Over 90% of Madagascar’s wildlife is endemic and can’t be seen wild anywhere else on earth. This was my 2nd challenging outing trekking up and down many rough hewn steps and off trail through thick foliage going from 2625 ft. to 3300 ft. But we were rewarded with beautiful flora, many species of ferns, the rushing water of the Namorona River, blue coffee plants, an unusual fern both when closed and open, and a view of the park from the highest peak. We stopped at an old moss covered family burial site (loved those short stops). We found red-bellied lemurs and actually saw very rare greater bamboo lemurs. Our Malagasy lunch was cassava leaves, pork, white beans, rice, and zebu. Romazava, the national dish, a one-pot meal of zebu, pork, chicken, onions, tomatoes, spinach and garlic in a sauce is eaten with rice which is a staple. They also enjoy chicken, root vegetables and noodles. We walked to the hotel past bags of charcoal and produce stands stopping to visit a silk weaving center, crossed a rickety bridge to a natural spa and back, and bought some Koba at a roadside stand. Remember Koba is a pate of rice, banana, and peanuts wrapped in banana leaf. It is brown and gooey and looks terrible, but tastes chewy and good. Exotic flowers graced our hotel. Malagasy flora are known for their medicinal qualities. Most famous are the aloes (over 34 species), baobabs (7 species), the periwinkle (anti-cancer), cacti, bamboos, ferns (over 100 species), palms (over 170 species), orchids (over 1000 species). That night we were to walk on the edge of the park to search for nocturnal creatures such as the tiny mouse lemur, but it was pouring rain. We all decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Day 12 Leaving the park we stopped for another look at the Namorona River that rushes through the forest of rare precious-wood trees like pink ivory and rosewoods (so called because of its smell when cut) palms, and bamboo. On our way to Isalo we stopped at the Monday Irondo Market where we saw pigs, clothes, meat, and a myriad of items for sale. Rice paddies dotted the land, while a man rode on a wooden plow behind his zebu. In Ambalavao City we watched paper making at Papier Antaimoro. The bark of the Avoha tree is boiled, cooled and dried, then pounded to pulp, spread, decorated with real flowers, and finally dried in the sun. Here we saw an orchid tree and beautiful yellow datura flowers. Next we enjoyed the ringtail lemurs at Anja Park and had a picnic lunch before arriving at Satrana Lodge in Isalo the home of the Bara Tribe. Solar and generators are the sources of power. Like many places we stayed, electricity here is only available from 6AM to 9:30AM and 5PM to10PM. Day 13 We drove (even through a small river) to Isalo National Park that covers the entire stretch of the Isalo Massif, a large mountain chain filled with huge dramatic wind eroded sandstone sculpted rock formations that form a Jurassic style landscape, plains, valleys, canyons and waterfalls. It was created in 1962 to preserve its ancestral beauty. It is sacred to the Bara people who have for centuries entombed their dead in cliff caves, blocking the entrance with stones. The body is wrapped in a large silk sheet called a “lamba mena.” Traditional Malagasy clothing is the lamba, a wrap round sheet often printed with designs. Lamba mena (red Lambas) are for special occasions and use as burial shrouds. After a few years, the family goes back to the tomb and changes the sheet to a new one – a custom known as “famadihana" (placing or turning of the dead), and the person is taken from a temporary to a permanent tomb in the cliff caves. Ancestors are believed to be the link between the living and the Supreme God. Adherents of the religion observe various taboos called Fady to avoid the disapproval of their ancestors. Fady differs from village to village even family to family. Foreigners are exempt from fady, but it is kind to avoid offending people. One fady is to point with the forefinger. One must use a bent forefinger, with the others folded into the palm. If you forget, it is polite to apologize. Malagasy combine various Christian faiths with traditional religions’ beliefs. Two groups have adopted Islam. We walked much of the day through stunning and colorful sandstone rock formations and saw elephant foot plants, turtle rock, Drosera natalensis a carnivorous insect eating plant, crocodile rock, a plant used to make lotions for the women and for babies heads, skull rock, and the colorful metal coffin of a child of a wealthy family at a cave tomb. For me this was the 3rd and final hard day on trails climbing up and up to see views that make you glad you did it. Then down on steps worn into the rocks with some flat areas on mostly shadeless land to where a waterfall flows into a deep green pool. Then hiking down, down past a 5 ft. termite mound to a wooded area for lunch with dozens of ringtail lemurs. We even spotted a white Verreaux sifaka lemur in a tree. Knowing my limits I eschewed a 1½ hr. round trip hike to the black pool in the PM and stayed with the lunch staff, one of whom later walked me back to the parking area—another ½ mi. of rocky path. My total trek for the day was 5 mi. round trip. Miloudi said I might have made it with help, but it would have taken me forever. We ended our day watching the sun set through Rock Arch. Day 14 We drove to Tulear through the land of the Mahafaly tribe. We saw people panning for gold and precious gems, a rhum distilling operation, and the fancy tombs of the Mahafaly and other tribes along way. Passing through villages with rickshaw traffic jams, we arrived at Ifaty, the coastal home of the Vezo people and an endangered coral reef. This area is very dry and dominated by a “spiny forest” of cacti and other plants that thrive in arid places. Our hotel the La Mira was on the beach on the Mozambique Channel of the Indian Ocean. Day 15 At our hotel we had a Kalanchoe plant, a baobab with velvety brown fruit, and a lovely nameless flower. Walking to the fishing village of Abolomailaky we met a woman on the road with a type of mud pack on her face to protect and soften her skin with her little girl. There were women with baskets and bundles on their heads and a bus full of locals the roof piled high with bags of charcoal. We walked through the village to the ocean where we saw a fisherman and 2 small boys pulling in their net and walked back to our hotel on a very rocky beach. In the PM we walked on the beach and frolicked in the surf before watching another colorful sunset. At 6PM we had a singing and dancing show by a group of young people from the village. The girls wore lambas and traditional hair styles. Day 16 We went back to Tulear to fly back to the Gassy Country Hotel in Antananarivo Day 17 We left Tana arriving home after 29 hr.of flying, airports, bus and car time. Madagascar is a place like no other with its great beauty and impressive diversity of people, geography, wildlife, and culture. It is one of the most unique destinations left on the planet. Scientists discover new species every year. It is now considered a gene bank of biodiversity for humanity. Time feels altered on Madagascar, as evolution and extinction seem to be coinciding.Rating for tour operator:
Undiscovered Destinations is a great company. We have gone with them twice in 2018, are set for January, 2019 to the Voodoo Festival in Ghana, Togo and Benin. We are looking at their catalog for more options in 2019.
Wow! Sounds like you had a great time. Thanks for such great feedback.
Thank you for your continued support.
Visiting 3 Most Off the Beaten Track Countries
Very few Americans have the desire or opportunity to visit Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. We really learned a lot about these places and marveled at the incredible scenery, the ancient churches and monasteries and thoroughly enjoyed the new foods!
Very few Americans have the desire or opportunity to visit Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. We really learned a lot about these places and marveled at the incredible scenery, the ancient churches and monasteries and thoroughly enjoyed the new foods!Rating for tour operator:
Love the destinations and the amount of research that went into arranging these itineraries.
Thank you for the feedback and we are delighted that you enjoyed the tour.
The Brilliant Baltic!
We had a two week trip to Estonia,Latvia & Lithuania with Undiscovered Destinations flying in to Helsinki for two days first. It was a great trip because we managed to see more of these countries than just their Capital Cities.
We had a two week trip to Estonia,Latvia & Lithuania with Undiscovered Destinations flying in to Helsinki for two days first. It was a great trip because we managed to see more of these countries than just their Capital Cities.Rating for tour operator:
This was the fourth trip we have taken with Undiscovered Destinations & each trip has been wonderful. Our guides were lovely. Very professional & helpful. We rate UD very highly.
We are delighted that you enjoyed the trip and got to see so much of these wonderful countries.
Excellent service and experience
Toured all three of the Comoros Islands. Few tourists visit there, so I was happy to find a tour agency which had been there and which had arranged for English speaking guides all along the way, since very few locals speak English. The hotels I stayed in were the best this country could provide. I left with a deeper understanding of the country and its challenges. I was able to see pretty much everything I wanted to see. I was especially intere...
Toured all three of the Comoros Islands. Few tourists visit there, so I was happy to find a tour agency which had been there and which had arranged for English speaking guides all along the way, since very few locals speak English. The hotels I stayed in were the best this country could provide. I left with a deeper understanding of the country and its challenges. I was able to see pretty much everything I wanted to see. I was especially interested in culture and nature (wildlife).Rating for tour operator:
In addition to what I said previously, they were extremely knowledgeable; the agent handling my tour(Estelle) visited the hotels and islands just before my trip ( she basically took my trip) and so was able to give me good advice and answer my questions. I even told her before she went what questions I wanted answered about the SCUBA diving operations there, and she did find the answers. This organization could not have been any more accommodating or helpful than they were.
Thank you for the feedback. We are delighted that you enjoyed the trip.
Thank you and we are delighted that you enjoyed the Comoros.
Undiscovered destinations, Myanmar
Exceptional experienceRating for tour operator:
Excellent. Extremely helpful and professional.
We travelled all over Argentina and saw some wonderful sights. Thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Holiday of a lifetime - but we hope to repeat it.
We travelled all over Argentina and saw some wonderful sights. Thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Holiday of a lifetime - but we hope to repeat it.Rating for tour operator:
Undiscovered Destinations put together the whole holiday based on what we wanted to see and got it exactly right.
Thank you for the feedback and we are glad you had a wonderful trip.
Thank you and we hope to see you travel with us again soon.
Oman from the desert to the sea
This holiday had a little bit of everything: turtles laying eggs on the beach, amazing desert experiences, majestic mountain scenery, history, architecture and culture. The itinerary was well planned and ran smoothly from start to finish. I cannot fault this trip in any way whatsoever.
This holiday had a little bit of everything: turtles laying eggs on the beach, amazing desert experiences, majestic mountain scenery, history, architecture and culture. The itinerary was well planned and ran smoothly from start to finish. I cannot fault this trip in any way whatsoever.Rating for tour operator:
Professional, friendly and personal service, with a flexible attitude. Nothing is too much trouble and they are always willing to go the 'extra mile' to ensure the trip is a success. Lots of interesting destinations to choose from, most of which are certainly out-of-the-ordinary. I would wholeheartedly recommend Undiscovered Destinations for their service alone, they really make you feel like a valued customer, not just 'another traveller'.
Thank you for the feedback and recommendation. We are delighted you enjoyed the tour of Oman.
Thank you so much.
Great to see that the desert and the nomadic way of life. And wonderful to see the pyramids of Sudan
A good mix of history/culture, geography and seeing and "talking to" people.
A good mix of history/culture, geography and seeing and "talking to" people.Rating for tour operator:
Brings together a good mix of offerings.
Comoros - still undiscovered (by us, at least)
Exploring Comoros Islands
Exploring Comoros IslandsRating for tour operator:
Undiscovered Destinations organised a private tour for us to all three of the islands that make up the little-visited country of Comoros. A number of things went wrong with the logistics, none of which were the fault of UD, nor the local agent. At all times someone from UD kept in touch with us, doing their very best to assist with an impossible situation, enabling damage limitations and reassuring us that they would deal with any additional expenses that may arise. The local agents also went well out of their way to ensure we were still able to make the most of the challenging situation. These things do happen in adventure travel, and in my mind, the way a company handles such an occurrence is the sign of their true integrity. I cannot praise UD enough for their patience and helpfulness in this instance which was not of their doing and very much outside their control.
Thank you for the kind feedback.