Gregor Graham review 23 Oct 2018
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?
Luxor was the most interesting and beautiful. Thrilling to see the Valley of the Kings, Luxor Temple and Karnak.
2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?
It's very full on and you don't spend very much time in each place and in my opinion there's too little time at the key sites. Be ready for lots of early mornings, bus journeys and deadlines. The felucca trip is a huge disappointment.
3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Not at all. The group unexpectedly stopped for camel rides at the pyramids and the animal welfare was horrific. There was a lot of focus on shopping (which was unexpected) and included cotton, perfume, papyrus and alabaster shops.
The Nubian experience probably benefitted the village but was skin deep.
Most worryingly, during the felucca trip all our food (2 meals) was served on Styrofoam and drinks in plastic cups. We saw it all being stuffed into bin bags.
There seemed to be no concern for the environment at all.
4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?
As an introduction to Egypt which covers a lot of ground quickly I'd say this was great. However, it cannot be described as responsible travel.
Read the operator's response here:
Thanks for your review and for highlighting the issue with waste on the feluccas. We've actually been in the middle of completely revamping how we arrange our felucca trips. That includes new sheets and pillows that are washed between every trip, as well as new dining arrangements. We now arrange a BBQ dinner, with a Nubian chef there to do the cooking and a completely different setup for dinner on the banks of the river, rather than eating on board the boat. We're using Tupperware containers for salads, rice and breads, as well as proper plates and cups, and as such have made a big impact on the amount of waste created. There is still some waste, we can't avoid it completely, but there has been a big improvement. We also provide a separate facilities boat while you are on the felucca cruise. This has a toilet and shower on board, removing the need for going to the toilet on the banks of the river. Human waste and toilet paper on the banks of the Nile have been an issue for years, and that's why we built and have provided this facility boat for a long time now, so that at least we don't contribute to the problem.
I'm sorry you felt that the trip didn't benefit local people. We do support the local Nubian population in Aswan through the visit to the Nubian village and the Nubian crews who run the feluccas. We also only employ Egyptian guides and representatives, rather than sending western tour leaders to run the trips. We feel that empowers the local population to take ownership and responsibility for the services provided much more.
Shopping is always a hard balance to strike, as we know that some people really want to buy a lot of souvenirs and like to be taken to shops where they know the quality and buying experience is safe and controlled. But others prefer to either buy nothing or haggle at market stalls. Taking you to these locally run shops does benefit the local economy too. We generally get good feedback on the balance we strike, but are always open to adjusting things more or less in either direction.
Animal welfare is certainly an issue in Egypt and there are some horse carriage and donkey rides that we haven't used or offered at all for many years for this exact reason. With the camels at the pyramids and elsewhere, the guides do have their preferred camel handlers to work with who they know treat and look after their animals better than some others.
I hope these notes are helpful. We do make an effort to run things responsibly in Egypt and elsewhere and while there are always more improvements we can make, we do take this seriously. Our next project is based around the reduction of number of plastic water bottles used during the trips, and replacing these with re-usable bottles and larger water containers on the buses.