Hey Kerala Connections (and Gary Tree if he is still there)
We booked a wonderful private one month vacation to Kerala with you in 2011. The best trip ever!! We realize one of the reasons you are so good at what you do is that you focused your talents on Kerala. Having said that..... we are thinking or traveling to Sri Lanka in Spring 2020 and wondered if you had any information on great agencies like your that offer travel to Sri Lanka?
Grant and Marilyn Seifred
We recommended Tikalanka to Mr and Mrs Seifred as we do to all our customers that ask as they are a Sri Lanka specialist that operate very much as we do – tailor-made specialist. Lovely to hear that our customers are still saying that a holiday taken with us 8 years ago was their best ever.
Wonderful holiday. We all enjoyed it all. Bennett provides a wonderful service, is an excellent driver and is full of knowledge about the areas. Secret Garden was very comfortable – as always. We very much enjoyed seeing the temples at Hassan. Amaryllis is fabulous. The food and hospitality as Sea Shell, Kannur was absolutely amazing – they couldn’t do enough for us – wonderful people.
We had a fabulous time, unearthing precious family history which Gary gave full attention to, researching much for us and giving us the appropriate contacts. We are very grateful to him for the research and time beyond the call of duty which he gave us. I would like to think that I (we) would use your company again for such a trip. The agents, guides and drivers were all excellent; we felt very well looked after and safe the whole trip, and I fell in love with India!
Best regards to you and Gary,
I just wanted to say we had the most wonderful of times on our trip. All hotels were good and La Maison in Kotagiri was outstanding for us. Having previously travelled to North India with you, where you use a different and satisfactory local agent, I can say that Companion are truly brilliant and I have total confidence in them! If anything goes amiss or changes, I know they will sort it. Shibu was the best driver we have ever had. Overall we had an amazing trip and regularly recommend you to other people.
Well done for matching, and this time totally exceeding, our expectations.
Linda and Ivan Boyd
This was Mr and Mrs Boyd’s 4th holiday with us. See the short video of the wild elephants they saw on You Tube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-LYgp2kLrc
We are back and what a wonderful time it’s been. When we came back from Kerala in 2017 we didn’t think we would ever find a holiday to match it, but Tamil Nadu certainly did. The arrangements went without a hitch and the support from Jerry and his team was excellent; but the holiday really came alive for us because of our driver, Sanil, who was superb. His knowledge and effort allowed us to discover aspects of Tamil Nadu we would otherwise never have seen or experienced, all with a delightful sense of humour. Some of the highlights Sanil found for us were:
The accommodation was very good, and special mention must go to the Rajakkad Estate, which was divine; such a wondrous location and a truly delightful staff.
The local guided tours were excellent and gave us a far better understanding of the temples at Chidambaram and Mamallapuram than any guide book ever could and the tour of Chennai was certainly an eye-opener. The StoryTrail guides in Madurai and Puducherry were really good too and we would recommend them to anyone who’s interested in getting under the skin of these places; the Madurai Food Tour was particularly good, giving us the chance to sample over 10 different street foods and drinks; a great introduction to local Indian life and cuisine.
So it was a really wonderful holiday which we will remember fondly for a long time, and we are already thinking of where to go next.
Please pass on our thanks to Jerry and all the local team.
Stephen & Helen Nickson
Our holiday to India was fantastic. We stayed in eight places over 21 days, and had excellent variety. We enjoyed sightseeing in cities for part of the holiday as well as being in the countryside and at two national parks, being on the backwaters, and taking the toy train in the Nilgiri hills.
Kerala Connections did an excellent job at putting together such a varied itinerary. All the transfers worked out perfectly. We enjoyed talking to the three different drivers that we had, and also the train journeys.
The accommodation was great, again a good variety of luxury and mid-range places. Staying at Aakriti homestay was a highlight for the brilliant hospitality we received from Ravi and Renu; we became good friends over the three days we spent with them and were sad to leave. Another highlight was Evolve Back -Kabini, fantastic location in lovely scenery; we enjoyed the safaris. There were lots of other highlights that we haven’t got space to mention.
We thoroughly enjoyed the holiday and would like to thank Kerala Connections for organising it so professionally.
Julian and Beth Welbank
All the accommodation earnt high scores – Xandari Pearl at Marari got top scores for all aspects. Mr and Mrs Welbank booked through Responsible Travel so further feedback can be found on that website.
I really have nothing but praise for everyone who was involved with my holiday. People were courteous, punctual, efficient and very friendly everywhere. The places I stayed in Kerala were delightful and I could not have been better cared for!
The food at Tranquil was tremendous, it was a perfect ‘hideaway’ for me for a few days, with plenty of time to relax, gentle but diverting walks.
Neeleshwar Hermitage was different but equally friendly and efficient and it was pure luxury to be by the pool or to walk for miles along the deserted beach in the late afternoon.
The 'organised independent' stay was quite a unique experience for me. Normally I travel independently but try to arrange everything by myself. This time, I could summon neither the will nor the energy to do this - but I wanted a holiday along with the work I was doing in India, which was why I put myself in your hands. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, having never placed myself in such a position of dependency before. And I did have one or two (quite unfounded) anxious moments when I realised the level of this dependency — what on earth would do, for example, if there was nobody there to meet me when I stepped off the plane? But there always was - and it’s surprising how quickly you get used to things working smoothly — even in India!
So no regrets, no complaints and a big thank you for facilitating a really enjoyable break.
Faultless service and excellent organisation. Our favourite hotels were Ranvas and Dev Shree – very personal service, great rooms and food. Leopard viewing is very exciting. A truly wonderful holiday.
Mr and Mrs Slack
Mr and Mrs Slack gave top scores to all aspects of the organisation of their holiday (ie us their tour operator and Silent Leopard our local agent in Delhi). All eight of the hotels used on their tour scored at least three top scores and four hotels scored 5s for all four aspects (hospitality, comfort, cleanliness and food).
We had a most fantastic time. The organisation could not have been more perfect. The Marari coast is beautiful. I think the cost of the holiday was very reasonable considering what you provide.
This is just to say how very much we enjoyed our holiday and all the arrangements you and Kerala Connections made for us. It was a great trip, full of so much to see and do and we met many lovely people in the process. The Grande Bay, Palais de Mahe and Visalam all provided first-class accommodation and kind, helpful service. We loved the food and the beds were very comfortable. Meeting and transfers all went smoothly.
So thank you to Kerala Connections for a very interesting and well organised holiday - unreservedly recommended !
Pam Scott-Clark and Sue Hawke
Our driver Shibu was wonderful - nothing was too much trouble for him. He was polite, always on time and spoke excellent English. He was very good with my husband who has limited mobility and helped him up steps etc. We were surprised how conscious Tamil Nadu were about the environment. For example all single use plastic is banned. One of the places we stayed Rajakkad Estate was very environmental friendly. Their staff were employed from the local village. Also they used all their own grown produce for meals. Cardamom House was also the same and a lot of the staff there had been there for years. We rate Kerala Connections as very good. They put together a very good itinerary for us. The places we stayed were all very different and we liked the fact that most of them were small and away from towns.
Mr and Mrs Callaway - booked through Responsible Travel and their full report may be found on that site.
We had a fabulous time and the trip far exceeded our expectations. We really enjoyed the experience of designing the trip with Gary. Once we got to India we could not believe how coordinated and professionally run all the services (especially the drivers) were. We felt that we got the best room at each property which we liked! The communication with Companion Holidays was excellent. They were quick to respond to questions and to provide all necessary information - we were never left wondering what was happening.
Our stay with Renu and Ravi at Aakriti Homestay was a real highlight - they are the most welcoming and hospitable hosts you could imagine. Rajat was also a great guide and host.
We really enjoyed staying at Efkay's Homestay in Mysore - it is a very elegant experience with wonderful staff. The host Jyotsna was so charming and we really enjoyed meeting her.
Secret Garden I think might have been our favourite accommodation.
Gary was right: he couldn't understand why we would spend a night in Bangalore... now I know why! Gary advised us to do two nights on a houseboat - excellent advice. The second day gave us the opportunity to get out in a canoe into smaller canals and to stop and see some of the sights.
We have so many excellent memories of this trip and cannot thank you enough for creating such a great experience for us. Bottom line is that we really, really enjoyed it and thought you and Companion Holidays did an amazing job.
Kaye Melliship & Ian Wilson – from Canada
Both Hoysala Village and Amaryllis upgraded our rooms to the best rooms which was unexpected and we felt very privileged. The Discovery boat was fabulous as was the hospitality at the majority of our stays. We couldn't believe at Rainforest how close the Samba deer came to the hotel.
As per always the service from yourselves and Companion absolutely first class and we are counting the days until we can go back again - the trip wasn't long enough it seemed to fly by.
Adele & Albert Alcock
This was Adele and Albert’s eighth holiday with us and they are still having new experiences and discovering new places.
Everything was well organised and coordinated, with a huge variety of experiences and places to visit. Visiting Hampi was probably the highlight, but all of our destinations were memorable. The train journeys were wonderful, and the local people that we met couldn't have been more welcoming and open. We do not eat any meat so the local food was always fantastic, whether it was from a stall on the street, a local restaurant or hotel.
Mr and Mrs Bulloch Mr and Mrs Bulloch booked through Responsible Travel and this feedback was sent to them with five stars. To see their full feedback go to that site.
We had an amazing time in Kerala, everything was perfect and wish to return next year taking in Mumbai and other areas of India.
Julie and Paul Swanborough
I would like to express my thanks for a wonderful holiday. It was managed effectively and we felt looked after from door to door. We enjoyed every day and have ticked off many items from my tick-list. We were totally satisfied with our holiday. The itinerary was varied and held our interest including activities we might not have considered normally. Our driver in Rajasthan (Lalan ) was excellent and we always felt safe with him.
Delhi - Hauz Khas Haveli. The location was excellent and the activities were as expected. The guide (Saurhab) tried to make each stop fun.
Agra - Coral Tree homestay. We enjoyed this very much, we were made welcome and it really felt as if we were immersed in Indian life.
Jaipur - Dera Mandawa Haveli A charming heritage hotel. We met the delightful owner here, Thakur Durga Singh who introduced us to his family history which helped us to understand the City Tour.
Devgarh - Devgarh Mahal A real Rajasthani Palace. We met the owner, the Rajah of Devgarh who bought us a drink. The décor is a bit dated but still had olde world charm but this was a rural haven where we recharged our batteries.
Udaipur - Jagat Niwas Palace hotel Our (upgraded) room was magnificent and included two double beds, a massive window seat and its own fountain. Despite the luxury, there were a few issues here. The waiting staff struggled with English and we didn’t feel that they were trained to cope with British tourists and the pool was under repair.
India is such a diverse country and has different standards from our Western culture. Patience, tolerance, courtesy are needed as well as a good sense of humour. Each scarf or trinket or tip will be enabling someone to educate their children or provide a dowry or just buy his wife a new saree for Diwali. We estimated that our train trip from Bharatpur gave employment to about 24 people including ticket inspectors, porters at both ends, drivers, reps, guides, chai-wallah, sweeper, and I feel humbled that they provide all of this with a smile. In the UK we would complain if our waiters brought our toast followed by fruit, followed by egg and then cereal but we just chalked it up to being in India and enjoyed everything in its own context. It was wonderful. Even the traffic chaos had some sort of logic to it and our drivers are to be applauded for their skills in keeping us safe.
Peter and Elaine Dove
Mr and Mrs Dove booked through Sunways Travel Agent and did a tour of Rajasthan followed by a Mumbai extension.
My true appreciation for a magnificently organized trip with the finest collaboration of Companion Holidays you and they gave me a seamless and positive experience in Kerala, and I certainly would consider returning there in the not-too-distant future.
Drivers – all attentive, caring, informative and pleasant.
Malabar House. Delightful personnel and very good location. Food was good and well presented. Room was spacious and nicely decorated.
Cardamom County. Beautiful location. Impeccable grounds. Excellent staff in all departments. Very good food and restaurant service. Room very well appointed and decorated.
Coconut Lagoon. Another beautiful location, but rather a large complex that caters for a number of groups. My cottage was comfortable and located in a nice, quiet spot. Again all staff were delightfully helpful. Wonderful and attentive service + superb food without over-the-top prices. Highly recommendable!
Houseboat. Bliss and royal treatment, but too much food! The crew was incredibly kind and caring. Nothing was too much trouble.
Xandari Pearl. A nice location and magnificently manicured grounds. Delightful staff. Once more nothing was too much trouble in any department.
The entire program was prepared at a leisurely pace and enabled me to accomplish the majority of things I set out to do. By the way, the Folklore museum in Kochi is a real gem and is well worthwhile. Thank you for everything you did to make such a wonderful experience come to fruition for me.
Kudos to everyone!
Susan contacted us through Responsible Travel. She also supplied a video – see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKxSTAasl8Q
We have just returned from a wonderful holiday in Kerala. We thoroughly enjoyed all of our accommodation and Bennet (our driver) was friendly and helpful. Thank you for organising the tour and I think the only part that was a bit of a chore was going over to Madurai for one night. This wasn’t your fault but because I wanted to see the temples. It was a long way to travel and the roads on the Kerala side were in poor condition. However, the Temple and Palace were stunning. Our overwhelming memory of the holiday will be of happy smiling people, ladies dressed in colourful saris, spice smells, good food and lovely weather. Oh and motorbikes !!!
This photograph made me smile!
Hi Gary. Now that we have been back home for a week we wanted to drop you a line to say thanks for a fantastic first holiday in Kerala. We have had the best holiday of our lives - such an eye opener. Thank you for excellent guidance through the planning, for the seamless support from the drivers and others and for your advice on hotels. We were carried along and experienced so many wonderful things - thanks for recommending Mr Sheril's cookery lesson in Thekkady and Kalaripayattu and so much else. Joshy was a great companion for the trip. We felt sorry for him bouncing along through the construction works up to Munnar and then up the steep roads to Neelakurunji!
But our highlights were Christmas at Dewalokam and the Yoga sessions there - we'd go back just for that! Fragrant Nature, Cardamom County and Teak House were all lovely too. The kind people at Cardamom couldn't do enough for us, then we had a superb Gala Dinner at Fragrant Nature in Kochi, and Teak House was perfect for chilling before the flight.
We are happy to fill in a feedback form if you need that but I am sure your other clients will agree that your service, that of Companion Holidays and of all your reps in Kerala is outstanding.
Richard Talbot and Carran Waterfield
We had a wonderful holiday and would like to thank you for your ideas, planning and coordination.
Francis Residence in Fort Kochi - location is very good for exploring the city and Francis gave us a very tasty and varied breakfast every morning.
Nelpura Homestay - hosts charming, friendly and welcoming and the food fantastic. The bikes they provide free of charge were a great opportunity to explore the surrounding areas - would definitely recommend.
Houseboat - so calm and relaxing!! You have no chance to do anything other than chill!! I don't know if we were just exceptionally lucky but the food was out of this world.
Olive Brook - lovely rooms and great views of the tea plantations - the staff were very friendly.
Hornbill - again charming, friendly staff and a very peaceful stay. The kayak tour on the river provided free of charge was a highlight.
Dewalokam - this was by a long stretch the best. The family could not have been friendlier or more attentive, the whole place is beautiful, the rooms fantastic, the tours - all free of charge - of the organic farm, through the forest, to the nearby village, the cooking demonstration, early morning yoga session were a great way to have a daily activity. The communal meals were wonderful, both the food and the opportunity to meet other travellers (some of whom were there for the sixth time!) This place is great! We would have loved to stay longer.
Our drivers Anil and Jess took very good care of us and we felt very safe in their hands.
I hope this is of value and many thanks again for all the work you put into our holiday.
Lindsey booked through Responsible Travel - her feedback to them gave us 5 stars - thanks Lindsey.