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More bad experiences with 2Afrika. Do not use!

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Do not use 2Afrika for your travels. Ken Heiber’s utter lack of professionalism as well as professional ethics and integrity is unacceptable. There are other, reputable travel companies and agents out there.

I had been trying to plan my dream trip to Africa for about 4 years. Finally, in 2011, looking at my personal and professional plans for the next few years, I realized that it was now or never. And since my primary goal was to go cage diving with the great whites in Cape Town, my window was specific and narrow.

I have traveled extensively and have lived in 2 other countries and usually do my own planning. But Africa is no Europe or Asia (or even Central America), or so I thought, and I wanted to be able to rely on someone with experience in Africa travel (As it turned out, Africa is not nearly as intimidating to do on one’s own). I contacted Ken at 2Afrika about 4 months before I wanted to travel. He responded right away and was incredibly nice and helpful and encouraging. My trip was a bit complicated because I was planning on going in the beginning of August and traveling by myself and then my boyfriend was going to come and meet me mid-August and then we would complete the trip together. I made very clear from the beginning what my goals were and what my total budget was. Then—nothing. I couldn’t get a hold of him for months. Finally, I was able to catch him on the phone and we talked more about details about the trip. I reminded him of my budget, and hung up feeling very confident about the trip.

But then time kept ticking away and I was getting worried because nothing was booked yet. I was encouraged by other reviews about how Ken just does things at the last minute—that that’s his way—but things work out in the end. But I couldn’t even get any travel information from him—what to pack, how to pack, any weight limits, details about the trip. Nothing. A couple weeks out he reluctantly sent me some canned information about Africa, most of which dealt with TSA requirements for flying and nothing what I was looking for. After more in-depth digging, I later learned that this kind of information about what to expect and what to pack is commonly posted on travel websites.

When we were about a month from when I was supposed to leave, I started trying to contact Ken again. Again, it was difficult to get in touch with him. Then, about a week before I was supposed to leave, Ken emailed me to let me know that the company he had used in Botswana went belly up and that that part of the trip wasn’t going to happen. So we re-coordinated and everything seemed good to go. I kept asking for details, confirmations, cost estimates, etc. but couldn’t pull any information from him—just the standard “I’ll take care of everything, don’t worry”. The day before I was supposed to leave (THE DAY BEFORE I WAS SUPPOSED TO LEAVE) Ken emailed me to say that the first part of the trip was finalized—basically the first quarter or leg of a month-long trip—and to give me the cost for just that part of the trip. The cost for just that part of the trip was more than $2000 more than my budget set for the entire trip—a budget that was thoroughly and continually explained to him. Not only that, I was expected to simply leave for Africa and coordinate the rest of my trip while I was on the road! It’s not really my idea of a nice vacation to have to worry about coordinating the next phase of the trip with someone on the East coast of the U.S.!

So the day before I was supposed to leave I discovered that I may not be able to go. Best case scenario was that I would go, but not for a few more days and then everything would be re-coordinated. And because everything in Africa was already closed, I couldn’t do anything but wait until the next day. So in the mean time I of course started contacting other companies (which, yes, I realize I should have done a long time ago). I spoke with the owner of another company and the first thing she told me was that my budget was unrealistic for what I wanted. Why would Ken not have told me that 4 months prior? I could have completely rethought and reprioritized. Of course, Ken put it back on me and said that I should have been monitoring the website to see what each of the portions cost individually (BTW, each individual portion only added up to what I had budgeted). Three other companies I spoke with were shocked that things weren’t booked well in advance since flights and other things might be difficult to book. They all also mentioned that it would be a very bad idea to get to Africa without a complete itinerary and flight confirmations for onward travel for the simple reason of border controls and visas. I’m not sure on what planet it might be appropriate to wait until the day before I am supposed to leave to 1. give a cost estimate and 2. book flights, but that’s exactly what Ken did, and in doing so made me scramble to find another alternative and made me cancel nonrefundable stuff that I had already booked in Cape Town.

So I insisted that Ken re-coordinate everything and create a realistic trip for my budget and that I have everything booked and confirmed before I left. A day after my originally scheduled departure, sitting at home feeling like I had been duped big time and waiting by the phone for Ken to never call (he eventually called late in the day), I realized that I was just going to have to start calling around and book a scaled back trip by myself. So not only was I disappointed because my dream trip was now not what I had imagined, but my boyfriend is disappointed because the only part of the trip that he was looking forward to was impossible to do now. Of course, we both realized that just going to Africa at all would be amazing, but it was difficult to keep that focus not knowing if we would be able to go at all and if so, it would be a completely different trip than we had prepared for.

While I was looking for back-up plans, Ken continued to try to fix things to get me out imminently. I wasted more than a full week of precious vacation days that I had been saving for four years waiting for Ken to fix it. And then he STILL suggested that I leave before everything was finalized! I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such unprofessional and unacceptable service.

After losing eight vacation days (as well as sleep and sanity), I was finally able to find another travel agent to help me. Of course, Ken has refused to acknowledge my request for reimbursement of those eight vacation days. I have reported him to the Better Business Bureau (http://www.bbb.org/new-jersey/business-reviews/travel-agencies-and-bureaus/2afrika-in-jersey-city-nj-90121675).

My best guess is that Ken overwhelms himself with clients and then can’t devote sufficient and appropriate time for each and/or he is simply limited in his resources in Africa so when something gets screwed up he has no immediate back-up plan. I don’t know. But I do know that my dream vacation was a nightmare to plan and execute. I can’t in good conscience recommend using 2Afrika.

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