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Trip Report Do no use Sunrise Eco Tours - Rwanda\Uganda

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To whom it may concern,

I hope that this will be enough to convince you that Clement of Sunrise Eco Tours should not be trusted.

My wife Lauren and I took part in the tour offered by Sunrise Eco Tours (for this document referred to as SET) beginning on the 4th of January 2016 and ending on the 19th of January 2016. Our intended purpose for this once in a lifetime holiday was to celebrate our Honeymoon as well as my wife’s 30th birthday (15\1\16 - Day 13 of the tour).

We were accompanied by a free-lance tour guide under the employ of SET, Eric.

First contact with SET was on Monday the 1st of December 2014 when we received a reply from Anne Marie to our initial enquiry through the website (www.sunriseecotours.com). On Tuesday the 2nd of December 2014 we were sent the itinerary for a 16 day tour again from Anne Marie. The highlights that both Lauren and I were looking forward to the most were both Gorilla tracking experiences (in both Rwanda and Uganda) and the Chimpanzee Habituation day (in Uganda) which lined up perfectly with the day of Laurens 30th Birthday (15\1\16 - Day 13 of the tour). When we started the tour we were made aware of several discrepancies between the itinerary that we had been provided and that of other travelers on the tour. In fact between the five of us partaking in the tour including Eric our guide we had four different itineraries. Lauren and I were the only ones with a 16 day mainly 4 star accommodation itinerary whilst everyone else had 15 day mainly 2/3 star accommodation itinerary. We were also able to conclude that what we had paid compared to everyone else was in fact almost $1000.00AUS more in total for the tour.

Over the course of the following 16 days we would unfortunately be at Clements mercy. Being the owner of the tour company he was responsible for making the bookings and payments for all of our accommodation and activities. On three separate occasions we had to stay an extra night in certain motels because Clement didn’t pay the accommodation. Most disappointing of all was that we missed the Gorilla’s in Uganda. Having missed this as well as several smaller activities and the Chimpanzee Habituation day really soured our experience. Below is a detailed description of what occurred and essentially what we missed.


Day 7 (9/1/2016): Didn’t leave for Kabale or stay in Birdnest at Bunyoyni due to SET (Clement) not paying for Gorilla permits which led to our passports being held against our will.

After completing the Gorilla tracking experience the day before we found out that our guide Eric had used our passports as a security deposit in order to loan $3900.00USD from a fellow tour operator in Mutembo Senyana. Eric's mistake was to trust that Clement would pay back the $3900.00USD that he borrowed from a trusted friend so that all 5 people in our group could track Gorillas in Rwanda. If Clement had of just pre-booked and paid for the permits like we were promised almost 12 months earlier when we paid the full amount for the tour this situation wouldn't have arisen. If it wasn't for Eric's quick thinking and Mutembo's trusting generosity my wife and I would have flown 21000km around the world, paid several thousand dollars and not have seen Gorillas in the wild at all. For that I will be forever grateful to both Eric and Mutembo. As a result of this mess we were stuck in Kinigi (Rwanda) an extra night because the police got involved at the request of Eric, Mutembo and our group. The police eventually returned our passports and even though we asked several times for a detailed official report they were unable to provide one being only a small village, they did suggest we could drive the 3 hours back to Kigali the capital for a report which at the time was not feasible. To this day Mutembo has not received the money back from Clement. As supporting documentation I have a written statement signed by Mutembo.


Day 8 (10/1/2016): Didn’t do Canoeing on Lake Bunyonyi $10USD x 2.

Due to leaving late on this day thanks to the passport debacle stated above on day 7 we were unable to do the morning activities as per our itinerary which included Canoeing on Lake Bunyonyi.


Day 9 (11/1/2016): Didn’t get to go Gorilla tracking in Uganda $600USD x 2 or see local Pygmies $60USD x 2.

On Saturday the 7th of March 2015 we were sent our first invoice from Clement Kanamugire for 50% of the total cost of the tour. This invoice being to the amount of $6269.00 AUD, you will note in the description on this invoice:

…“The price includes also guiding fees, 1 gorilla permits for each (Rwanda or Uganda), 2 permits for tracking chimpanzees in Uganda and Rwanda and cost of all activities as indicated on the program”. Quantity 2 - for a total of $4327.00

“Gorilla permit in Rwanda”. Quantity 2 - for a total of $1942.00.

Total inclusive of both items being $6269.00AUD as shown on the invoice.

From this invoice we were led to believe that we had paid for both Gorilla permits (in Rwanda and Uganda) because this invoice clearly states that we had paid for a set of Gorilla permits in the initial section “1 Gorilla permits for each (Rwanda or Uganda)” and then again in the second section of the invoice “Gorilla permit in Rwanda”.

The night before we were due to track Gorillas in Uganda we were informed by Clement via email that we had in fact only paid for 1 set of Gorilla permits, that of course being the experience we had already undertaken in Rwanda. This invoice was of course different to what we had originally been issued. As you can imagine we were both devastated for a number of reasons especially knowing that Clement hadn’t even paid for the Gorilla permits in Rwanda to begin with, we went to bed that night in tears.

Additionally on this day, as per our itinerary we were scheduled to “see local Pygmies” which never eventuated for no known reason, we were never given an explanation but we could only assume again due to no payment or reservation.

Day 10 (12/1/2016): Didn’t do game drive for Climbing Lions (arrived too late).

Clement failed to pay our previous 2 nights of accommodation at Gorilla Resort and as we were due to depart in the early morning the motel manager made Eric aware of the fact that payment had not been received and therefore we could not leave. After some negotiation we were allowed to leave but only to the closest town with a bank, this town being Ishasha roughly an hour north and an employee from the motel would accompany us until payment was made. We arrived at Ishasha and as a group decided to find a motel with free Wi-Fi so we could call Clement ourselves which we did to no avail. We also called any other authorities that we thought might be able to assist namely representatives from smart traveler in the UK. At this point I called Joseph Birori as he had provided guidance and advice previously with the passport dramas on day 7, unfortunately the fact that we were now in Uganda meant that Joseph was limited in what he could do. Joseph did however call a counterpart in Uganda and had them check our remaining accommodation and activities as per our itinerary, the result of this being that nothing had been booked going forward. It is worth noting that we arrived at said motel at approximately 9:30am and payment wasn’t received until almost 4pm that day meaning we wasted an entire day waiting for Clement to make a payment that should have already been taken care of. Having to leave very late in the day meant we missed the scheduled activities namely being a game drive in search for the famous climbing lions of Queen Elizabeth National Park.


Day 13 (15/1/2016): Chimpanzee habituation experience not paid for $220USD x 2.

We arrived at Kibale National Park in the early hours of the morning knowing full well we would be disappointed due to several text messages sent From Clement to Eric the night before informing him that the full day Chimpanzee habituation experience hadn’t been booked or paid for. Clement deliberately told Eric to lie to us saying that they had been paid for but I personally called the Warden and confirmed that the booking hadn’t been made nor the permits paid. Eric informed us that this activity needed to be booked at least 24 hours in advance to be feasible. Knowing this we still showed up and I spoke in depth with the Warden of the park Yoweri Musana and registered our complaint in the hope that we could take some kind of formal action against Clement. Yoweri advised me that this was in fact the fifth time Clement had failed to make a booking and or payment for guests travelling with Sunrise Eco Tours. What made matters worse was we had planned to celebrate Lauren’s 30th birthday with a once in a lifetime experience which we will most likely never have the opportunity to do again. We spent the remainder of the day in a motel again trying to salvage something from a disappointing day and missed opportunity.


Day 15 (17/1/2016): Unable to do morning game drive because accommodation at Parra Safari Lodge wasn’t booked.

The day before, seven hours into the nine hour journey from Kibale National Park to Murchison Falls National Park en route to Parra Safari Lodge we were informed via Eric that Clement hadn’t booked the accommodation in time and that Parra was full occupancy. This meant we had to travel an extra three hours to Chobe Safari Lodge which was at the other end of the National Park. The morning game drive we were scheduled to do as per our itinerary wasn’t feasible from Chobe due to the geographical distance to the desired location near Parra.


Day 16 (18/1/2016): No visit to top of the falls or Rhino Sanctuary because Clement didn’t pay accommodation at Chobe Safari Lodge upon departure $50USD x 2. A nights accommodation at Chobe $200USD and a taxi ride to Entebbe $300USD.

We were due to depart Chobe at 10am and on the way to Entebbe visit the Top of the falls lookout and then the Rhino Sanctuary, unfortunately Clement hadn’t paid the bill and therefore we were not able to leave. Lauren and I along with the other travelers spent the entire day trying to contact authorities that may be able to assist in our departure, all to no avail. In the end Lauren and I decided to stay the night at Chobe at our own expense after the duty manager offered us a discounted price to stay with full board given the circumstances (meaning breakfast, lunch and dinner) for $200USD. Also, since the accommodation wasn’t paid by Clement (it took 5 days in the end), Eric our guide and driver was unable to leave Chobe so we had to pay for a staff member from Chobe to drive us the 5 hours to Entebbe which was costly but we were left with no other alternative.

As you can see we missed so much and we will never have the opportunity to do these things again.

Sunrise Eco Tours Details:
Registered business name: SUNRISE CK LIMITED
Known as: Sunrise Eco Tours
Website: www.sunriseecotours.com
Owner: Clement Kanamugire
Tel: +44 7850 479 727
clement@sunriseecotours.com
kanaclem@googlemail.com

  • Report Abuse

    I am sorry for your bad experience and loss. Thank you for the details.

    “Most disappointing of all was that we missed the Gorilla’s in Uganda. Having missed this as well as several smaller activities and the Chimpanzee Habituation day really soured our experience.”

    Epic Fail, Unacceptable. You were defrauded of your primate tracking permits, clear and simple, along with numerous other activities.

    Passport shady dealings as security deposit for a private loan = perhaps even worse, considering the potential of what could have happened to you.

    I see the problems continued even after the gorillas into Murchison Falls. I cannot imagine how disheartened you were.

    I am glad Joseph Biori was able to come to the rescue and offer a bit of help. I have used his services with Primate Safaris and had excellent results.

    It is clear disparate itineraries were mashed together in a way that could not work. Had your activities been delivered and had you been able to stay at your higher quality lodging, then the extra $1000AUS may been warranted.

    Your account is one of the most repeatedly dishonest and depraved that I have read.

    How to avoid situations like this? (Regardless of the suggestions below, the actions described above by Sunrise Eco Tours are egregiously wrong and restitution should be made. In no way can the victim be blamed for such deceitful behavior throughout the trip.)

    -Pay with credit card, if that is possible. It is not always possible and I don’t always do this.

    -Take out travel insurance, which may or may not cover this particular situation.

    -Get first hand advice on the company before booking. Easier said than done. TA had some positive comments on this company that seemed real and unfabricated. I did not see anything about them on Fodors. Another online source that I rely on and participate in is safaritalk. I do know and have traveled in person with some of the participants on that forum so I trust their advice. Anyone checking online info about Sunrise Eco Tours in the future will likely see this red flag.

    -View the travel provider’s website skeptically. I saw no testimonials and the page about our team was blank for Sunrise Eco Tours.

    What a sh|++/& experience for a special occasion. At least you saw the gorillas (I hope it was magical) and no one got hurt and you were reunited with your passports. Thank you for explaining specifically ALL that went wrong. You will likely prevent someone else from having a similar bad experience and steer future travelers away from this shady company. There are so many good companies to choose from, it is a shame a bad one takes advantage of its clients.

    It would be interesting to have Sunrise Eco Tours respond here, to give their side, and state with how they are handling this situation to make things right for their clients.

  • Report Abuse

    I was on the same tour as TomE82 and his wife; everything he describes is absolutely true. One additional thing that I will add is that Clement/Sunrise Eco Tours did not provide myself and travel companion with our flight details home until 15 hours before the departure time. Never in my life have I contacted my Embassy before while on holiday, I did on this trip due to fear of no return flight. We were on the road for 12 hours with no wifi access the day before returning home so couldn’t search for alternative flights - should we have needed them – the Irish Embassy did this for us and sent us links that we could access once we had internet service. Thankfully we didn’t need them, but it was extremely stressful waiting to see if Clement would come through. I couldn’t in all consciousness recommend this company to anyone; the most stressful trip of my life.

  • Report Abuse

    Sorry for the bad experience you got. Its true that some of the tour operators are not professional in their works. A true professional tour operator must be:
    Trust worthy
    Honest
    Accountable
    Knowledgeable and many others iam happy that those case are few or not their in Uganda as most of the Uganda tour operators are professionals.

    Thanks for taking time your time to awaken us who may want to travel tomorrow to Rwanda and Uganda for such activities like Gorilla Trekking, canoeing and many others.

  • Report Abuse

    its so regretable that you missed the amazing and fascinating gorillas in uganda! on top of that how could they make you miss the chimpanzee habituation???? SET is so ruthless.

    as a tour operator in Uganda i know what missing such activities means to the clients' side both memory wise and financially.

    I feel so disappointed

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