For many people there is the idea that if you’re not doing it alone, you’re not travelling… I however don’t agree with this and think that no matter how you see the world, its what you see (and some times who you see it with) that matters – not how you do it. I know that organised group tours are not for everyone as you lose some of that control over exactly what you see and how much time you have to spend there – a trip with Travelsphere (or Just You – their single traveler counterpart also owned by the All Leisure Group) does have these drawbacks, but they do make up for it by being absolutely jam packed with things to do! Furthermore travelling as part of a group tour, you get the opportunity to socialise with people who have a similar interest, and being together with them for often a good 2 weeks or so, give you ample opportunity to get to know them pretty well.
If you are a younger reader however there is one main point to remember which is that the majority of people who do these types of tours with companies such as Travelsphere are retirees… If you want to travel with people of your own age try one of the backpacking companies, but don’t expect to travel with the same sort of level of luxury – with Travelsphere you pay that little bit extra for a reason! For us this age gap has never been a big problem because we don’t go there to socialise, we use them to see the world, and it is often the other people on the tour who may have an average age of 60+ who end up looking a bit perplexed when 2 tattooed 30 somethings (or at the time of our last Travelsphere trip 20 somethings) sit down with them at the airport.
The best example of this age gap and the way in which it can teach us all a valuable lesson (perhaps even more so for older generations), was during our first of 2 trips (so far) with Travelsphere. We had already been in Borneo for a full day and had spent the first morning travelling to Bako National Park. After we had all arrived and made our way through the shallow waters of the beach and headed barefoot across the sands towards the start of our park visit an older gentleman who had arrived on a late flight (after missing their transfer) simply looked at me in passing, and using his most Attenborough-esque manner simply said, “I don’t like tattoos”, and carried on walking. I was going to say, “and I don’t like pompous gits who get here late, but you don’t see me complaining,” however bit my tongue. A few days later whilst on a river safari along the Kinabatangan River I spotted more animals (in particular a beautiful cat snake above the river) than the guide, and the older people (including the man from the beach) were all vying to get in our boat. Low and behold by the last night or so he invited us to have lunch with him and some of the other people and couldn’t get enough of talking to me about my tattoos – in particular pinups, and our combined knowledge and / or interest in pinups from the 40s – 50s.
Travelsphere organise everything for you – what time you need to go to places, where you will go, how you will get there and most of the time what you will eat (or at leas where you will eat), and you always have a tour manager present to try and make sure that everything goes smoothly (although many of them become less than useless in the evenings once their travelers buy them some complimentary drinks at the bar). For many people this sounds like hell – but to be honest as long as you choose wisely before you travel and make sure that the tour you buy has everything you want to do (and they really do pack a lot in), it can actually be a nice chance to turn your brain off for a while. If nothing else it is a great way for people not experienced in travelling to get to grips with going abroad.
As mentioned we have been on two trips with Travelsphere – both of which came with plenty of clear instructions, itineraries and information before you went. Here’s a little more information about each (however this will be fairly brief, and you can find more in depth accounts of various activities in other places around this blog), and this should give you an idea of how much you actually get to do with them, and that if you want your brain, as well as your body to have a rest while you explore the globe, they’re really not a bad choice at all!
Borneo Longboats & Orangutans Tour – 2011
Sadly this tour is no longer operated by Travelsphere, and in fact I am not aware of any current tours to Borneo with this company, which is a huge shame. I had recommended this tour to many people but it seemed like ours was the last year they ran it. For some reason it did not seem very popular as we had originally booked a different Borneo tour with them which had been cancelled resulting in us being shifted to a tour with a different itinerary – however it was cheaper so we got a refund (as well as an extra refund for our inconvenience) and to be honest had a great itinerary anyway, so we weren’t too fussed.
The tour started in Sarawak, with the first base being the beautiful city of Kuching which was an area you did have time to explore at your own pace on 2 evenings with advice from the guide to go and see Top Spot food court – a collection of food stalls (mainly selling seafood) on the top floor of a multi-storey car park, which doesn’t sound great but is a tasty and incredible experience! It is also from here that we traveled to Batang-Ai and the Hilton longhouse hotel which can be found along the edge of the man made lake there. Our first ever encounter with a genuine tribe was here, and really cemented why Travelsphere trips really are worth going on… You get a great mix of nature and culture, all in a single day!
For the second half of this 2 week trip it was time to travel by plane to Sabah, using Sandakan as a base to firstly head over to Turtle Island for a night and then spend a couple of nights on the Kinabatangan River. Both of these were amazing wildlife experiences which opened our eyes to the sheer beauty of the natural world around the planet, and in particular the wonders which you can find in South East Asia – an area of the world which is truly unique in its natural beauty. We have seen sea turtles nesting twice so far in nature, the first one being here, and the second in Costa Rica, and I have Travelsphere to thank for both encounters!
Travelsphere opened up many firsts for us on this trip, including some of my fondest travel memories of all time including seeing Asian elephants, orangutans and proboscis monkeys in the wild for the first time. This was our second time abroad, and I must say went a lot better than our first go at long haul travel when we went to India on our own – having the insider knowledge of not only a tour manager but also a local guide and dedicated driver all of the time is a huge help while you try to find your travelling feet!
Costa Rica & Nicaragua Tour – 2013
This was our second trip with Travelsphere and certainly one of our favorite trips abroad – and it’s a tour which they still do… They used to sell just a Costa Rica tour with the Nicaragua component an add-on, and to be honest it’s a shame they don’t do that one any more because the Nicaragua tour adds a lot of extra travel, which to be honest I could have missed out on quite gladly in order to spend more time in Costa Rica – one of the most beautiful and incredibly bio diverse countries in the world!
You start this trip in Costa Rica where you get a beautiful cross section of experiences. Your initial destination is San Jose to experience the hustle and bustle of Costa Rican city life, before heading to the coastal reserve of Tortuguero National Park to get your first glimpse at the amazing variety of wildlife which this country has to offer. It is then time to head back in land for a totally different habitat around the Arenal Volcano and Penas Blancas River, where you get a look at a different type of wildlife living away from the coast, whilst getting the chance to delight in the joys which mother nature can offer – no spa can compare to the soothing feeling of a volcanic spring!
Before you leave Costa Rica, there is yet another completely different type of habitat to explore, as you climb up in to the cloud forests of Monteverde where you are treated to a prehistoric looking landscape, inhabited by yet another set of animals such as the beautiful humming birds which go about life at a hundred miles and hour, whilst the world around them feels like it has stood still for an age.
From Monteverde it is a long drive to the Nicaraguan base for that part of the trip – Granada. Don’t get me wrong it is a stunning city steeped in history, amidst a beautiful country, however for the few days which you have to spend there it is a long way to travel and if we had the choice again we would think about missing this out and concentrating on the wildlife of Costa Rica for those extra few days. There was pretty much no wildlife to be seen in the parts of Nicaragua which this tour visits, however you do get to see a plethora of historical sites, which was a nice break from animal spotting I suppose.
Back to Costa Rica
After just a few days in Nicaragua you return to Costa Rica to enjoy just a few more days on the coast (however this time in the West) where Jaco is the main base, giving opportunities to see some amazing wildlife, witness some beautiful sunsets, chill out in what is a paradise for surfers (so great for the younger travellers deciding to give Travelsphere a whirl) as well as going to the incredible Manuel Antonio National Park – which must be home to one of the most stunning beaches I have seen anywhere! A perfect way to finish a holiday and I must say further proof that Travelsphere do know what they are doing!