PANDEMIC TRAVEL Just returned from a 3-week trip to Jordan and Israel planned by Jonny Bealby and Dan Waters. We have been using Wendy Perrin’s recommendations for many years and Jonny and Dan did not disappoint. Our initial consultation was with both of them, after which Dan handled our entire trip. We started planning the trip in 2019 and due to the pandemic did not travel until this May. Dan and his team hung in with us for almost three years until we were able to go. At last count we had over 400 emails fine tuning, changing, adjusting the trip. It was well worth the wait! We had some challenges due to the covid protocols, especially in Israel. I won’t go into detail because the covid restrictions were lifted the day after we arrived and hopefully no one will have to deal with them again. The trip exceeded our expectations. The sights were incredible, the guides knowledgable, food delicious. One of the joys of small-group travel is being able to change and adjust as needed. The guides that Dan selected were outstanding. Ready to make changes if the drives were too long or we wanted to stay longer in one place. The accommodations were excellent. The only issue we had was with the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem. We were travelling with one couple who, since we booked in 2019, has mobility issues. The comfort rooms at the American Colony are very small and the bathrooms have the old-time tubs that made it impossible for him to shower. Dan’s team was on it and we were upgraded to one of the larger and more spacious rooms. I don’t recommend the comfort rooms to anyone, mobility issues or not. One of the best experiences that Dan put together for us was a stay at the Bedu Discovery Camp in Wadi Rum. Unfortunately, Wadi Rum is getting very crowded with camps. But Discovery has only 6 tents so you really get the feel for the desert. Even better, we were the only 2 couples in the camp that night. The staff set up a fire in front of the dining tent and we were able to have our evening drinks overlooking the amazing desert landscape. Both dinner and breakfast were excellent. Dan picked the Kempinski Hotel for our night in the Dead Sea area. Beautiful hotel and setting. After going into the Dead Sea from the hotel’s private beach, you are treated to mud being spread over your entire body, after 10 minutes you go back into the water to get the mud off, then salt scrub is spread over your body followed by a rinse. Fun and relaxing. I would have stayed a second night there before the frenetic pace of Israel. We had major hassles crossing the border, nothing that Dan could have prevented. After the very positive experiences in Jordan we found Israel to overall be much less welcoming. The sights were interesting although a bit overwhelming some days. It was important for us that we had a local guide that made adjustments as needed. He was always aware of any potential marches or disturbances and we changed our visits when necessary. I think this is very important in Israel given the potential for unrest. In Israel we also liked the Scots Hotel in Tiberius. Beautiful, historic hotel overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Stayed there 2 nights and would have liked to stay another. The days in Israel are very full and there wasn’t a lot of down time by the time you got back to the hotel. The town is very appealing and would have liked more time to explore on our own. Once again, another great trip from one of Wendy’s recommendations. I would highly recommend Dan Waters for Middle East travel.
PANDEMIC TRAVEL Oman is a total gem that was a fun and different adventure!
Nov 25-Dec 7, 2021
We reached out to Dan Waters back in August 2020, and honestly, I found him a joy to work with. Very responsive, personal, suggestive – just a relatable, super nice person! Oman is not on everyone’s radar, and it isn’t easy to research all the options of what to see and do, and he put together an absolutely perfect trip for myself and husband. He made sure we had all the latest intel on Covid requirements and answered all my endless questions (bathroom situation, souvenirs to buy, respectful clothing to wear, where to get booze, etc). We LOVED Oman and cannot recommend it enough. It’s like a young Morocco in terms of not being very touristy…yet. Of course, like everyone else, our trip was touch-and-go as to whether it would happen, but nothing cancelled on us, and we tested negative, so off we went. We had 1 driver the entire trip and basically did Muscat, the desert, the ocean/island scene, the mountains and back to Muscat. Every vignette was very different from the last. People are extremely nice. It is a bit of driving, BUT compared to horrible Uganda roads, Oman roads/infrastructure are very good, and driving the desert “highway” is super cool and even the one-way dirt mountain road is interesting and fun. Our favorite parts actually were the drives. It really is a beautiful country – the wadis, the desert, the mountains, the ocean, the beach – it really does have it all. In regards to Covid, it’s our 2nd big trip during these times, so I’m not sure what really stood out. Oman has done fairly well, follows all the same protocols (sanitize, masks, etc) we felt safe. The only hiccup that is on us completely, is on day 1 our driver said he was fine if we all wanted to not wear our masks in the car. Honestly, rookie mistake that we are just all so tired of wearing masks that we jumped at the chance and told ourselves, yeah, we are in a bubble with our driver. BUT we should have not let our guard down and held firm to wear masks in the car because towards the end of our trip he started sniffling and had gotten a cold (we tested negative 3 times after for Covid, so it was just a cold) but then I got a cold (confirmed from testing) BUT the stress is not what you want to deal with when travelling. The bottom line – do not let your guard down during these Covid times. He was totally fine to wear a mask in the car once we said we wanted us all to. Another bottom line – we would not have been able to organize this trip on our own and it was a relief knowing you have someone watching your back and is there should you need them. We also LOVED the Chedi hotel in Muscat so much that we are looking for future opportunities in our travel schedule to just “pop” in!
Our trip to Jordan was planned with Daniel Waters who is on Jonny’s team. He was available immediately during the entire planning stage and was responsive to all my concerns and requests. He knew I was a bit concerned about the issues in the Middle East and right before the trip suggested we have the same guide during the entire trip. This was a perfect solution and ended up being really important when my husband got sick while we were beginning our hike at Dana.
Our guide, Tehar and driver, George were phenomenal and we consider them our friends and hope to visit them again.
They were both so knowledgeable and answered all our questions about the country, the people etc. We found Jordan and the people to be warm., welcoming and every part of the trip was spectacular.
I had used Dan Waters of Jonny’s team quite successfully for two previous trips (Jordan and Oman) so when we were planning for Israel it was a no-brainer to return. Dan did not disappoint. We again spoke on the phone, discussed our interests and what we wanted to do. He put together an itinerary which, after some minor adjustments, we committed to. The itinerary was excellent. We arrived in Tel Aviv, met our driver (Hani) who took us to our first hotel. The next morning, at the agreed upon 8:00 am departure, we met our guide (Medhat Aburemaileh). Both the driver and guide were on top of their game. Having taken 6 previous WOW trips, I know how important it is to have a good relationship with both the driver and the guide. As you spend so much of your day with them, they become almost like family. Hani was an excellent, professionally cautious driver; Medhat was knowledgeable, informative, and provided all appropriate insight when needed. The itinerary was packed full but these two gentleman made it work. When, during the trip we had to make adjustments, Dan Waters was always available – even on weekends – to make recommendations. We had some contact with Dan’s local agent, Dalia; she helped coordinate some of the adjustments we made. The accommodations recommended were all top notch and very much to our liking. The pacing was as depicted but as we are getting older, we find that we will need to build in a little more down time. We covered all the highlights of Israel: from Tel Aviv in the west to the Dead Sea and Masada in the east; from the Sea of Galilee in the north to Jerusalem in the south. All with extensive narration from Medhat which kept us apprised of history, culture and the politics of Israel. An itinerary of any level of complexity has lots of moving parts; it requires many layers of coordination, timing, expertise and an extensive knowledge of all available options. Our journey back in time was extremely well coordinated, meticulously organized, and professionally executed.
Jonny, who has to be one of the most responsive individuals I’ve ever worked with in travel, and his team were great to work with. They put together a good itinerary on fairly short notice that reflected our interests.
Our guide and driver were fabulous, and they led us to see the great scenery and experience the wonderful hospitality of Pakistan. The local partner, however, was pretty adamant about sticking to the itinerary, so making sudden changes that may have been more in line with our interests wasn’t encouraged.
Great strides have been made in the security situation and we never thought twice about safety issues.
To be sure, Pakistan is still in the early stages of developing tourist infrastructure for foreign visitors, so certain comforts and conveniences aren’t always available. But for the more adventurous traveler desiring to experience an exciting place that is still off the tourist map (it’s not going to stay this way) and who won’t get rattled when things don’t always go as planned, Jonny and his team are the right ones to take you there.
We were so delighted with our Jordan trip last year, arranged by Dan on Jonny’s team, that we solicited Dan’s assistance again with our February trip to Oman. As usual, we conversed, told Dan what we were looking for, our physical limitations and our desired level of accommodations.
He assembled a varied list of things to see and do subject to our approval. Over several detailed collaborations we solidified an itinerary that both met our financial pocketbook as well as offering a cultural diversity we needed having seen many of Oman’s highlights on a previous trip.
The itinerary was well paced, efficient and varied; it met all our expectations. The local guide, Adil, the accommodations and transportation were all just right.
Dan was always available and responsive in order to resolve any bumps in the road, offer alternative suggestions where appropriate and answer any pressing questions we had. Truly a pleasurable and enriching experience.
Jonny and his team organized and managed approximately two weeks in the middle of an around-the-world trip. This project was unconventional and complex, and we were very impressed – they were a 5 out of 5.
The first phase of working with them was to determine where to go, given our start and end dates, time of year (summer in the northern hemisphere), etc. In this respect Jonny and Nathan were thoughtful in proposing options, patient and thorough in answering our questions, and helpful, patient partners as our travels were bespoke and did not follow a normal pattern.
Once we decided on a general itinerary–in India, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand–Jonny and Nathan talked us through the pros/cons and considerations of various side trips and such. For example, one goal was to minimize packing and unpacking and use more of a hub-and-spoke approach. This was all handled with thoughtful care.
Once our travel started, the logistics were flawless. We traveled through four countries, a dozen cities, with countless connection points along the way and not one missed connection. The only glitch I can recall was arriving in Vietnam without extra passport photos. I’m sure that was buried somewhere in the documents, and the handler they organized for us solved the problem for $4 USD.
My impression of our handling was so positive and precise that I wonder if we were labeled as VIPs at every stop and if that type of execution is repeatable? It was that good!
We especially enjoyed the more unusual aspects of our trip. These included a bike tour of the Hidden Temple, a seaplane route out to Ha Long Bay, a cooking lesson in Jaipur, and a hike through the countryside outside of the Amber and another in Agra. These excursions made the trip particularly special and engaging for us.
Our guides at each location were exceptionally helpful, diligent and accommodating. Most were informative but in several cases, their English was good but not great. I did ask Jonny and Nathan about upgrading guide quality prior to departure and not sure the request could be accommodated. In each case, our guide was an excellent guide, but in some cases could have been better historicists. As you know, there is a very wide range in guide quality and it makes a big difference when a guide speaks perfect English, can pick up on the nuances in your questions, and tells detailed and interesting historical stories as opposed to just standard facts. As I mentioned, in each case, they were incredibly kind, accommodating, and helpful – just perhaps missing that wow factor.
The other unusual request we made was access to local experts or academics. Our emphasis was on history, economics, business, politics, geopolitics, etc. Jonny and his team made every effort to connect us with relevant parties.
Bottom line, based on our experience I would be very comfortable recommending Jonny and his team and would certainly utilize them again.
About nine months ago, based on our request for information for a round-the-world trip, you referred us to Jonny Bealby for the Jordan and India portions of our trip. At that time, you said you were considering adding Jonny to your WOW list. We just completed both those portions and wanted to update you on our experience.
Jonny, Nigel, and everyone else on their team were fantastic. They listened to everything we had to say and then set up an itinerary for both countries that met our likes, requirements, and budget. The guides and drivers they provided were outstanding. All were very knowledgeable, friendly, and courteous. As far as we were concerned we had the best guides and drivers that were available. Everyone made us feel very welcome. They all treated us like royalty.
The hotels were excellent. All were upscale, well maintained, and in central locations. The hotel staff everywhere were incredible. Well trained, efficient, and very friendly.
We would definitely use Jonny and his staff for future travel. In fact, they would be our first choice. We can’t thank you enough for recommending them. They deserve to be included on your next WOW list.
Our trip to Jordan was excellent. Planning began with an initial phone call. Putting everything on the table enabled us collectively to arrive at a very compatible itinerary. No itinerary goes off without a hitch. Mine had three but, in each one, Jonny’s colleague Dan was immediately available with a viable solution. Communication throughout was excellent and immediate. The pacing of the itinerary was perfect for us, enabling us to see everything we needed to see in a most comfortable fashion.
We were escorted through the arrival and departure process, visas were acquired for us on the spot upon our arrival, hotels recommended were all high quality, and the guide was always with us through check-in, the next day’s itinerary was always reviewed the night before and summarized the morning of. Water and WiFi was always available in the car. We were daily exposed to the local culture, customs, and culinary delights.
Driver and guide were free to be serendipitous, adjusting for weather issues to maximize our experience. The guide, Mohammed, was knowledgeable, engaging, informative and helpful with any request, eg., we needed a watch battery and within minutes he had the watch repaired.
This was not our first use of a Wendy Perrin recommended travel agent and thus I am able to say that, without hesitation, this experience is right up there with all the others at the top of the charts.
Dan on Jonny’s team was a joy to work with. I felt he was, along with his Jordanian partners, monitoring our every move to make sure all was going as planned.