Africa & the Middle East Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Namibia Photos June 2007 - Sorry no trip report yet

Jump to last reply

I’ve been back from Namibia and Botswana for a month now and haven’t even managed to download all my photos yet, let alone write a trip report. Everyone on this board was so helpful in planning my trip, that I promise I will post an informative report (eventually) that will be helpful to others planning similar trips. My itinerary consisted of one week in Namibia and two weeks in Botswana, from the end of June to the middle of July of this year. In Namibia I took the Wilderness Safaris Best of Namibia Wing Safari, and stayed at Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp, Damaraland Camp, and Ongava Tented Camp. In Botswana I stayed at Duba Plains, Duma Tau, Tubu Tree, and Chitabe Trails. If anyone has questions about the camps or game viewing in these areas, please let me know and I’ll be happy to respond.

I have loaded my Namibia photos to smugmug. Because I downloaded from my camera into folders based on location, and smugmug allows you drop and drag an entire folder at a time, the photos are in individual galleries based on location. I also loaded photos from the scenic flight from Sossusvlei to Damaraland into a separate gallery. Sorry, but I haven’t had time to add captions. With the exception of moving photos of the accommodations to the beginning of each gallery, most photos are in the order in which I took them.

The photos can be found by clicking on the links below. The first links are to the photos, the second to the slideshows. I will try to get my Botswana photos loaded within the next week or two.

Thanks again to everyone for all of your help. This was a fantastic trip and I could not have planned it without the expert assistance this forum provided.

Sossusvlei
http://DanaM.smugmug.com/gallery/3296408/1/183086725
http://DanaM.smugmug.com/photos/sspopup.mg?AlbumID=3296408

Flight from Sossusvlei to Damaraland
http://DanaM.smugmug.com/gallery/3297137/1/183134684
http://DanaM.smugmug.com/photos/sspopup.mg?AlbumID=3297137

Damaraland
http://DanaM.smugmug.com/gallery/3297598/1/183163880
http://DanaM.smugmug.com/photos/sspopup.mg?AlbumID=3297598

Ongava/Etosha
http://DanaM.smugmug.com/gallery/3298103/1/183213910
http://DanaM.smugmug.com/photos/sspopup.mg?AlbumID=3298103

I

  • Report Abuse

    Sniktawk - yes I was lucky with the dessert ellies. They were everywhere.

    Cherbear - sorry I haven't posted a trip report yet. I just got my Namibia photos downloaded over the weekend. I'm now downloading Botswana. Then I'll do the trip report. Unfortunately I have been traveling alot for business, and after being gone for three weeks I'm still not caught up.

    I'll be happy to answer any specific questions you have. Are you thinking of Namibia or Botswana? Bert was great. Everything, with one exception (which was not his fault) went off without a hitch. The only problem I had was in Namibia, when I was in a group with a horrible family. I will not book a group trip again (and would not recommend one to others) for that reason. It was probably just a fluke, and I told Bert that when he called to ask if I had a good time. When I told him what happened, he got all of the details and contacted Wilderness about it, even though I did not ask him to. Botswana was absolutely magnificent. I loved Duba Plains and Duma Tau. Duba is small and intimate, and I saw the most incredible buffalo-lion interaction as well as alot of other game and birds. Duma Tau is larger, but was not full when I was there. I probably saw more game here than anywhere, and the accomodations are awesome. I also really liked Chitabe Trails. It added the perfect all land activity camp to the mix. At all three of the camps the guides and staff were excellent. I also enjoyed Tubu Tree, although it was my least favorite of the 4. However, it is a very lovely camp, and I think the reason I was not as impressed as I was with the other is because I didn't particularly care for the temporary managers who were there. They were also short on guides and had to borrow one from Jao. I did like the fact that it was primarily water based activities. The mix of Bots camps that Bert recommended was perfect. The game viewing was varied, the areas very different from one another. I would definitely use Bert again. He is very attentive, has great recommendations, and based on what he recommended for me I know he was listening to my preferences.

  • Report Abuse

    "The only problem I had was in Namibia, when I was in a group with a horrible family. I will not book a group trip again (and would not recommend one to others) for that reason. It was probably just a fluke, and I told Bert that when he called to ask if I had a good time."
    I wish there were some way to deal with this but it does seem to remain a matter of luck. I was very, very fortunate to have 3 others in a group with me on a recent Botswana mobile safari who were wonderful. We had similar interests and we were all companionable. I know how the reverse can be just awful. I don't have the financial means to do my upcoming Namibia trip on my own, unfortunately.

  • Report Abuse

    I will post the details in a trip report when I have a little more time. The family was two adults, and two boys ages 12 and 14. They went to Botswana before Namibia, which is probably the wrong order, and the boys were bored the entire time. The problem is that not only were they disruptive, whining that there weren't any animals, that they wanted to go home, etc., but they engaged in dangerous behavior. For example, they physically fought in the jeep and the younger boy almost fell out. He did lose his baseball cap over the side. When quad biking the older boy would not stay on course, following in line like instructed, trying to cut other people off. The father actually injured his wrist. Both boys threw rocks down a canyon when people were in the canyon below. They constantly made noises at the wildlife. These are only a few examples. I thought the guides, camp managers, or pilot/guide that accompanied the trip should have told them that if they did not behave they could not join activities. But, neither the staff nor the parents did anything. In fact, the parents readily admitted they could not control their children and ignored them. This was an extreme example, and unlikely it would ever happen again. However, I am not willing to take that chance. It is one thing to be with such a group at a single camp. It is another to be stuck with them for a week. I have been with many other children on safari, and yes they might get bored but they do not behave to this level.

  • Report Abuse

    P.S. I want to make sure my post did not sound like I was saying children should not go on safari, or that I do not enjoy their company. When children are having a good time, it is alot of fun to see the excitement in their eyes and talk with them over meals about their sightings. When they are not having a good time or are bored, they should at least be well behaved, or at the very least not endanger others.

  • Report Abuse

    Understood that children per se were not the issue. You certainly got a bad break. (I know I read somewhere that operators have the right to bounce anyone who creates an unsafe condition, etc. They should have done something about this.)I was thinking more of being stuck with people who were simply obnoxious or annoying.

  • Report Abuse

    The photos are beautiful. The unruly kids did not interfere with your photography. The settings for the desert eles and their activities make for some really different elephant pics. I saw part of your report on Botswana and will look for it again.

    I am so sorry about your unfortunate situation. So what can you do if you are stuck with truly horrible vehiclemates like you had? In retropsect do you think demanding to talk to the Wilderness office would have helped (assuming contact could be made)? Would keeping a running tally of the refund you deserve have helped? Was the guide sympathetic to your situation?

    Fighting in the vehicle, throwing rocks at people, and frightening the animals with noise is just unacceptable. How very disappointing. Maybe age 16 needs to be the minimum. Of course you can have problem adults on a trip too, but a higher minimum age could solve some problems.

    That's good you were so pleased with Fish Eagle Safaris.

  • Report Abuse

    Dana, I think you are being exceptionally patient and generous regarding that family. I would have asked to speak to the main guide alone and insisted they contact someone who had the authority to do something. Maybe the parents would figure out how to control their children if they knew they were about to be kicked off their safari for dangerous behavior. I wouldn't have put up with this for two days, let alone a week, a precious week in Africa. We happened to have a very rude, obnoxious group that included many children at a small camp in Namibia, and the staff did their best to help protect the other couples who were there for the tranquility. But if we hadn't of communicated with the management, it might have been worse.

    Just curious, were they Americans?

  • Report Abuse

    Lynn,
    Glad you like the photos. Yes, this family was the family from *&*!@(^*%$#. Believe it or not, I did ask to talk directly to WS, a couple of times, and I was told the complaint had been communicated. My cell phone did not work, so I was at the mercy of the pilot/guide who accompanied the trip to communicate my dissatisfaction properly. I voiced my concerns to everyone who would listen, including the pilot/guide, the vehicle guides and the camp managers at each camp, and in one case much to my embarassment a little too loudly so everyone at the dinner table could hear. Apparently the managers agreed with me, but still did nothing. I did not have to keep track of how much I am owed in a refund, because frankly, they should refund the entire Namibia portion of my trip and more. Somebody should have prevented these people from joining activities. Everyone knew what was going on, and they all turned a blind eye. In fact, when I left Namibia I vowed never to go on another WS trip again, but then Bots. I had a great time there so I am not as negative as I thought I would be. I have the feeling that Namibia and Botswana WS are very different operations. Bert is looking into the situation, so hopefully by the time I get to the Namibia portion of my trip report I will have something positive to report. That is why I only only posted pictures and am working on the Bots trip report first.

  • Report Abuse

    Clematis,
    Yes, they were Americans, but so am I. I was embarassed to be an American in their presence.

    See my note to Lynn above. I was not all patient. I complained to everyone who would listen, but nobody would do anything. In fact, at Damarland Camp I walked into the office and screamed right in front of everyone "they are ruining my vacation" and at the lunch table I said, again in front of everyone, "I refuse to go anywhere with anyone in that family" and I retired to my tent where I stayed the rest of the day. I told the pilot/guide that I would absolutely not board the plane to Ongava unless she guaranteed me I would not have to share a vehicle with those people. I was prepared to be stranded at D camp without a flight out if need be.

    I tried to explain it to the kids, I told the parents, I complained to the guides, I told the pilot/guide on numerous occassions, and I explained the situation to each of the camp managers in very explicit terms. They were all sympathetic, but more importantly, in agreement. I even asked to leave. I tried to get a flight out and they quoted me an astronomical price. I was willing to pay something reasonable (with no refund of the trip itself) just to be gone. Nothing was done.

    I am generally an easy going person, and I tend to see the best in everyone. But, in this case, there was no "best" to be seen.

    I had dinner with the pilot/guide after my return to Windhoek and she said she was writing in her report that children should not be allowed in a group at all. She obviously understood the problems with the whole trip, but she was apparently unable to do anything about it. That was the problem. Everybody listened, nobody did anything.

    I usually keep negative comments to a minimum and share positive experiences as much as possible, but boy do I hope somebody from WS is lurking on this site :)

  • Report Abuse

    Seems to me you did every reasonable thing you could do about the bad situation. But you were OUTNUMBERED. You were only one person, easier to deal with only you than the family. As I mentioned before (trip report) that on my May safari in South Africa I was very annoyed by two honeymoon couples and their inane banter. (But it was very minor compared to your experience). When I mentioned this after my trip to my darling and usual companion Carolyn she said she would have backed me up about saying something. Now when next week I'm with Carolyn and my sister on safari and if we should happen to have such bad luck there will be three of us that will have a say. One other thing, and I hate to suggest this, but being a female you might have less "weight" in such arguments with management. (Certainly in some countries you would not be listened to at all). And then being a lone female even less. One of the disadvantages I suppose of traveling solo.

    To explore this a bit more. You were in a group, right? How many persons total in the group? Was it just you and the problem family? Obviously I'm thinking if you and three, four, or five other persons joined together and raised holy heck that might have worked.

    Sorry to keep this alive with you, I'm sure you'd rather forget it. As you may remember last June I started a thread here about camps having game drives for experienced guests. So this type of subject continues to interest me. IMHO, Wilderness should refund to you half of your cost for that portion of your trip. A refund, not just a voucher. But for companies to be this fair with customers is a rarity. Anyway, very happy that Botswana was great.

    regards - tom

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Tom,
    You are correct. I was OUTNUMBERED. In fact, I used that exact term on the thread you posted about trying to group like-minded individuals together. I do remember your experience with the honeymoon couples. What are we to do? Perhaps we speak up, act like compelte jerks, tell the people to their faces what we think and see what happens? Good idea, but I also did that in Namibia and it did not work. The parents did not care. And please, don't open that "women are treated different than men" can of worms. I don't think that had anything to do with it. I am in a predominantly male business, and I hold my own quite well. I honestly believe it was the numbers. Let's see...piss of one person or piss of four...how much money is at stake? Sad, but true.

    Yes, I was in a group. I will never do it again. It was a group max of 8, but ended up just me and this family. The real problem is that they "said" they had a private safari. The "said" that my group was cancelled and they were asked a few days before the trip if they minded that I come along. This information was not passed along to me or my TA. I think they were lying. But, I felt it was up to the pilot-guide to confirm or deny this statement because with it the family felt they had the right to do whatever they wanted. And I very specifically asked the pilot-guide if that were the case, and she confirmed what the family had said. I think she was wrong, but she gave them the ammunition they need to behave like complete jerks. Actually worse than jerks, but what I truly think of them is not fit for this board.

    For WS to refund 1/2 of the cost of my Namibia trip is almost insulting. I haven't actually asked for anything, but my TA is looking into the situation. Compensation would be great, but, one week off work to me costs so much more than the Namibia portion of the trip itself, that the situation is unforgiveable. Not to mention airfare. Good thing I was also going to Botswana or I would definitely have hired an attorney by now (although honestly I am not the litigious type). I do think they need to make amends somehow, although I am not quite sure how. But, yes, Botswana turned it all around. I had such a fantastic time in Botswana that I honestly cannot believe that portion of my trip was with the same company. Check out my trip report on Bots. It was absolutely fantastic.

    Please do not apologize for keeping this alive. I need it to be alive. I am a person too apt to "forgive and forget" but others need to know about this situation.

    On that note, my suggestions to others is to make sure you have a cell phone that works (even if you have to rent it) so you can call your travel agent!

  • Report Abuse

    If you were not on a "group" tour but part of a private family tour then Wilderness misrepresented the type of tour to you. They should compensate you. Keep after your TA, this will be a test to see if they deserve more business from you. Good luck.

    Good idea about having a cell/mobile phone. Assuming it would work where you are. In my case so far I'm always associated with a camp so phones are common.

    regards - tom

  • Report Abuse

    Tom,
    I think the problem is that I was on a group tour and the other four members happened to be a family. I think the pilot-guide got it wrong. She, the camp managers, guides, etc. were responsible for telling these people to behave. Even if they were on a private safari they should not have been able to behave this way. But I do not believe they were on a privae safari, and I am sure they knew it. They were just trying to get away with something and the camps let them.

    Yes, I will keep after my TA and see what he comes up with. I am just as interested, however, in figuring out what to do if this ever happens again. Not that I will ever book another group trip. But what about even for a few days at a particular camp? I fear that the camps think most people are only there once, and therefore there are no repercussions.

  • Report Abuse

    Well, as solo travelers we are probably on the bottom of the pile :-( The last one that a camp/tour/group will care about. However the/your TA is not "solo" but represents many clients so they should have the most leverage. Of course it may come too late to help much.

    One option that comes to mind is to insist and have it in writing the the tour group is all adult. No one under 18 yrs. This I would think lower the probability of the problem you ran into, excepting of course the adult(s) who is juvenile. At least I'm going to do this. If I ever get involved with a tour group to know that is is all adult.

    Problems can still happen at camps, as we hear about occasionally. With my above (minor) problem I requested to change vehicles and did. Also most of the camps I go to (thus far) are personally acquainted with my TA and I feel this might have some weight should I have problems. But who knows. Sometimes we get stuck with a sh?t sandwich and just have to take bite.

    Do you recall any other threads about this subject and how it was handled successfully? I know people say "Well, I'd do this. . ." or "They wouldn't get away with that with me . . .". But saying it and getting results are not the same. I can't think of anything else you could have done except making a phone call. And the way it was going that probably would not have helped. Ask your TA, ask that if you had called them at the time if they (TA) could have helped any. Or how they (TA) would have handled the problem if it were happening to them.

    regards - tom
    ps - our discussion about this is getting buried here under your original topic. Would you mind if I break it out with some of our exchanged replies into a new thread with this topic. Or better yet, would you like to do it?

  • Report Abuse

    Dana, I am so glad you gave more details. Tom, I don't see a new thread yet, so I'm posting here for now.

    Dana, I'm quite proud of you to hear how you spoke up for yourself. We must do that, even if the result (at the time) isn't what we hope. It will help you get compensation later, for one thing, and it also gives you some peace of mind that you did all that you could. Yes, sadly, nothing can make up for your lost time, the time taken off work to have the dream trip.

    The fact that WS did a good job in Botswana should not have any impact on this disaster that the Namibia portion was for you. This was horrendous and now to hear that you let them know how bad it was, how you wanted to fly out, and yet nothing was done for you at the time to help save your vacation. They didn't provide another guide, or option for you is very sad.

    I'm also American, lest anyone think I was targeting American children, I wasn't. On our travels in Africa, our encounters with American children have been fine.

    We also had a bad experience involving children in Namibia, but nowhere near yours. Ours was at a small lodge. I do agree with Tom that making certain no one under 18 is allowed is a help. Unfortunately, surprisingly, many camps and lodges do not have an age restriction, or if they do, it breaks younger, like 12. Read the descriptions carefully (I'm advising to anyone reading) because some camps will use language that makes it sound as if it caters to adults but in fact they may have no age restriction. We were surprised to see children at Phinda Vlei, for example, when they have larger camps like Forest.

    Dana, I understand wanting to stay positive, but travelers appreciate hearing all sides. Your experience posted here may help some other person traveling in the future and save them from being stuck with the family from @Q$(Q@.

    Please keep us posted with how the company will make this up to you.

  • Report Abuse

    Dana,

    Great photos from Namibia....loved them!!!

    Co-travellers like the ones you mention, i fear....any one of us could have been at the camps that they went to! it's a pity that you had to put up with them IN THE SAME VEHICLE!!! I think camps should allow kids, but, must require that the family book a private vehicle....

    Most parents are responsible for their kids, and the attitude and stand-offish behavior of both kids and parents speak volumes!!! Shame on them!!!

    Hari

  • Report Abuse

    Another thought about avoiding the family/kid situation. Stay aware from those periods during the year when families are likely to be on vacation/holiday. I imagine, not sure, that July and August would be the months most likely to have families. At least American families :-) Followed by the major holiday times. As a minor example, when we were at Kruger last September 2006 in camp Mopani it was very quiet, not busy. I asked at the desk if this was typical and they said yes since it was not a weekend nor school holiday. During school holidays they are booked 100%.

    regards - tom

  • Report Abuse

    Dana: thanks again for sharing great photos as well as valuable information. I'm so sorry that this happened to you! Without a doubt when encountering a camp/guest issue typically the move to make is to request to be moved into a different vehicle from the offending party and that will usually work but because you were on the group trip with group pricing I imagine they refused that solution but something to remember as you go camp to camp in the future. It appears you did everything possible to alleviate your issue so its all WS at fault from improper booking/communication to the parties in the groups, to the guide/pilot in charge to 3 camp managers.

    Based on my very limited experience of filing a complaint with WS I think it would well behoove you to suggest a remedy to them via Bert. I agree at a minimum you should be refunded the enitre Namibia portion but as you say that does not come near covering your air or your lost wages. I doubt they will give you more cash back than you paid out but its easier for them to give free lodging. Perhaps you should request 10 nights of complimentary lodges and transfers between camps as a satisfactory equivalent (assuming you want to travel again). Hopefully since it appears that Bert is a high volume producer for WS you will get some satisfaction. Unfortunately my complaint in 2003 came from an agent that was not hugely tied to WS and all I got back was a somewhat insulting letter as opposed to any remedy. In the future I will know to ask for a certain solution if I hope to obtain one or else you will most likely be offered less than you want if anything at all. I hope they make amends to you!

    Is Lena (Mother Africa) still managing Damaraland Camp?

    As for age limits on kids I imagine these brats at 24 will still be people you don't want on your safari while I'm positive my 12 year old knows more about wildlife and how to behave on such activities as at least 85% of adults. I agree with Hari that kids/family groups should be kept in their own vehicles. That way the wishes of an ill behaved family that is spending $20k doesn't trump one person you has put up a 1/4 of the cost.

  • Report Abuse

    Clem,

    I don't think....an age restriction of 18 is going to help. As PB says, even as adults a lot of people can be difficult. Infact, it helps to expose kids to wildlife/nature at a young age......i know my nephews learnt a lot from their recent safari in June to Botswana and they are very well behaved in public. They enjoyed being up at the crack of dawn and were very thrilled at doing an all day game drive! something, unfortunately some grown ups are not interested in......

  • Report Abuse

    Dana, let me apologize to you on behalf of parents everywhere - except those idiots, I guess.

    And, I want to speak up in favor of letting kids on safari. As you may have guessed from my posts we will be travelling with 4 kids, two 12 year olds and 2 16 year olds, and let me assure you that if they give us any trouble at all, there will be serious consequences. But, my kids have been raised like that so they behave pretty well. I guess the difference is that I (and my husband and my sister) do care about the kids, and the safari. If those folks don't care about the kids, I would say that they don't much care about anything, and are beyond hope. I also don't think that an age restriction would do anything since there are nice and reasonable adults, and not so nice, just like kids.

    I would think that Bert has some clout with Wilderness, so he would be the person to take care of your problems.

  • Report Abuse

    Please don't worry. There are plenty of camps that allow children. And many of us who prefer not to travel with them do believe that educating children to respect wildlife, is valuable. But there also should be camps and lodges that have an age restriction as well, as it is. Doesn't that seem fair?

    I agree with PB, there are absolutely many children who are better behaved than some adults. We met a delightful American family of well-behaved kids at one of our camps and they were getting a wonderful education. But children, especially young ones, have different needs. It is not unusual for a two year-old child or an infant to break out wailing out loud during dinner, for example. When's the last time you saw that with an adult? :)

    Children will be children. And so some camps do have an age restriction, thank goodness. There's a good portion of safari-goers who are older, have saved all their lives for this intimate experience of a small camp, perhaps a second or first honeymoon. With six to ten tents or cottages, let them have their peace.

    Those of you with kids, don't worry, most camps do not make a restriction because they do not want to cut out the revenue. More than half of my time in Namibia was ruined by a party of very entitled spoiled adults and their brood, mostly under five years old, who turned an otherwise peaceful oasis in the middle of the desert into a McDonalds. Because of that, I will not book an intimate camp that does not have some age restriction now. It's one thing if you can find some peace at a larger camp but when you're stuck in small quarters with more than half the camp families with unruly toddlers (and some equally unruly blast-the- soccer-game-on-the-telly-parents), it's not what I came to Africa for.

    So if you care about this, double check the policy of the lodge/camp when booking.

  • Report Abuse

    Much as I am all for traveling with kids, I absolutely could not imagine taking a toddler! For no other reason than it is really expensive to do a trip like that when the kid probaby wouldn't remember it. 12 seems like a good restriction to me - they are then old enough to be reasonable, quiet when necessary, and they understand why.
    But, I would totally support having kid free times at the lodges as well. I get sick of my own, and I can understand that not everyone wants kids around.

  • Report Abuse

    Dana,

    Thanks for the additional information. It makes your situation even more disturbing and disgusting. You must have felt so helpless because you did everything possible. You definitely deserve money back.



  • Report Abuse

    I have not looked at this post since my comments on your ellie photos. I am very sorry to hear of your other experiences, unfortunately this type of behaviour is becoming all to common and not just from children (I do hope that does not sound snobbish ).
    The only guaranteed way to avoid this is a private vehicle, this is expensive enough for two let alone one. You could also try to be more selective in camp choice.
    Do not let this put you off.

  • Report Abuse

    I am with sniktawk on this one!

    Clem, i agree about no toddlers....however, in one camp in 2005 i did see an infant (no more than a couple months old) and in camp the baby was almost always in the tent. They had a private vehicle and they only ocassionally took him out on short drives. I think each member of the couple took longer drives alone! They were an extremely friendly couple from the netherlends and didn't want to miss out on their yearly safari. We hardly noticed their presence in camp and they were very delightful to be around.....

    Rgds,
    Hari

  • Report Abuse

    Hi All,
    Sorry I've been AWOL for a while. Glad to see this thread sparked such an interest, even if it was originally intended for the Namibia photos.

    Tom,
    I'm not sure I agree that overall an age limit should be set, although in my case it would have solved my particular issue (only because these people would have been excluded). And, it sounds like others have opinions on the issue. But, really the issue is the camp management and staff setting some rules and requiring guests to follow them. It really should be that simple. No matter how much you pay or how old you are you cannot endanger other people. And, no matter how many are in your party, you are all treated the same and all follow the same rules. No surprises, no exceptions. Sounds too simple, doesn't it?

    Regardless of what these people paid, on a per person basis I paid much more than they did. Plus, I had 12 nights (including single supplement) in Botswana, all at WS camps. So, somebody should have cared, at least a little bit, about what I thought. Three weeks in all, obviously the trip was not inexpensive.

    Lastly,I made it clear that this was not my first safari and would not be my last. But that too fell on deaf ears.

    Solution? You got me.

    I have not seen a thread with an answer. I have seen many suggestions, as you note, but nobody knows what will happen until you are actually in the situation.

    I haven't seen you start another thread, but I have no objection to cutting and pasting comments into a new one, or paraphrasing for that matter. However, I also have no objection to this one getting off track. I can always repost my Namibia photos when I write the trip report. I suppose whatever everyone thinks will get more people to read this and comment.

    TO All - I am going to jump on PBs safari theory. Go with the independents. I know this was initially recommended to try new camps and take more reasonably priced trips. But my theory is to go with those who need your business, and who probably care about it more than the big operators. I mean, really, what does one have to lose? After this Namibia experience, maybe not much! I did have a fantastic time with WS in Botswana, but whether I ever travel with them again will definitely depend on the resolution to this Namibia situation.

    I'd hate to start a huge fight over my Namibia trip because it will take more out of me than out of WS. My time is scarce, I'm not an argumentative person, and I try to choose my battles wisely. WS will just hand it over to an attorney and not give it another though. But, if push comes to shove I might file a lawsuit to keep them honest. I am usually more of a crusader for the causes of others, but I could easily turn this into a "cause."

    What do other Fodorites think about this? Will it do more harm than good? Is it worth it?

    Clematis1,
    Thanks for your kind remarks. What happened to you in Namibia? Was it at WS camps?

    I do always speak up for myself, I just don't often air dirty laundry. At the time I spoke up I was not thinking at all about compensation, but truly thought somebody would do something. It was beyond my comprehension that nobody did. When I realized it was pointless, I just shut myself away for some peace and quiet, waiting for it all to end.

    I haven't heard anything back yet from Bert, but I will definitely post here when there is some sort of resolution (or not).




  • Report Abuse

    Hari,
    Glad you liked the photos.

    You're right, that this could have happened to anyone. That's the point. Even if I were not on a group trip I could have ended up in the vehicle with these people and their obnoxious children.

    I agree that most parents act responsibly when it comes to their children. But honestly, most children behave pretty well while on vacation. There was a boy at Chitabe Trails who was exactly the same age as one of these boys. He was a delight to be around. I have never thought children were, per se, the problem. It is that these children did not behave and when the parents did not control them nobody else did. As you said, Shame on them!

  • Report Abuse

    PB,
    Thanks for the advice, particularly about going back with a "solution" instead of waiting for them to offer one. I am just not sure what that solution should be. I was planning my next trip to Africa to be to Uganda and Rwanda. Am I to go back to Botswana instead, just to use comp nights? While I would love to return to Duba Plains and to Duma Tau, will WS pay the airfare to get there, and more importantly the cost to take time off work so I can still go to Uganda and Rwanda as well?

    I prefer to go to places I have not been before, but should I trust a WS camp I haven't been to yet? This is what makes me want to wait and see what they say. You know, let them show their cards first. But I have no experience with WS so I really appreciate your input.

    I'd be interested in hearing more about your complaint in 2003. Rather than start a new thread about my particular issue, maybe we should start one on filing complaints and negotiating with TAs and safari operators. Together we could potentially have a pretty strong voice. I mean, Bert got my business because of recommendations on this board. And, Bert did a great job. Perhaps if I had called him he could have done something. But, my phone did not work in Botswana, and the pilot/guide said she communicated to WS my complaints. But I also read great things about WS camps on this board. I really do want to find out if this was a fluke or if others have had similar problems.

    Even if they come back with something totally inappropriate and non-compensatory, that does not prevent me from asking for something different. So for now I'm going to give Bert a little room to see what he finds out. In the interim, I'm going to think about what you said, and what I should ask for. I'm not really sure what I think is fair, but that is a good place for me to start.

  • Report Abuse

    Momliz,
    Thanks for the apologies on behalf of parents everywhere, which of course, is not up to you. I don't think children should be prohibited from going on a safari or on any vacation for that matter. What I do think is that they should not be exempt from rules of proper behavior just because they are children. If the parents can't control the kids, the parents can pay the prices. Simple.

    I agree with you that if the parents don't care about their children they probably don't care about much else. This was definitely a very selfish family. I did not intend for this to turn into an issue/question about children on safari. It's a simple question of camps enforcing rules for everyone.

    I hope you and your children have a fantastic safari.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Sniktawk,
    I agree with you. And no, your response does not sound snobbish. But, do you realize that by the time I add the single supplement and a private vehicle it would be less expensive to pay for 2 two people without the private vehicle? Maybe next time I should just pay 100% for somebody to go with me and we could gang up on them. Or, I could pay for 2 people, not take anybody with me, but instead take a blow-up doll and say that it is a proxy, and it could cast a vote.

    This should not have to be the solution. Why should I have to pay double (or more) because some people are complete jerks and they are not held accountable? I thought I was being somewhat selective. I mean, really, WS is not inexpensive and has (had) a good reputation.

    I don't disagree with you that this might be the only way to assure you get what you pay for. I just don't think it should have to be that way.

    This hasn't put me off on future safaris, but depending on what WS does, it could easily put me off from booking with them again.

  • Report Abuse

    Dana,

    With Africa holidays getting more and more popular, unfortunately we all are going to encounter fellow co-travellers like the ones you came across! (loud, complaining, abnoxious and just plain idiotic!!!)..... i would just think of it that way and move on.....

    About WS, although i only have had one trip with them ..... it would be hard to overlook some of their properties, which are in some of the finest game viewing destinations! so, i would say keep the faith!

    Hari

  • Report Abuse

    One more thing... what could the guides or camp staff do, when the parents of these kids don't do or say anything?

    Not that i am trying to say that you are over reacting...don't get me wrong, i would be disappointed if i were in your shoes ......

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Hari,
    I agree WS has some of the best game viewing destinations. That is how I ended up on this specific trip in the first place. And I've been much more vocal about Botswana than about Namibia, because they did such a great job in Bots. I think I'm being more than fair on the issue. But, they do have some responsiblity for the operation of their camps in Namibia. I didn't say I would never go back to WS camps, I just need to hear what they have to say, that's all. I've never had anything remotely similar happen and I'd like to know it would not happen again.

    Obviously I haven't shared all of the details of the mishap because that is not why this post was started. But, here is a good example, ...

    I was met at the airport by the pilot and the Family. The Wife told me that since my trip was cancelled and this was their family safari they were doing me a favor by allowing me to join them. She then told me that her husband was tall so he was sitting in the jump seat of the plane. Next she said that because her son (who was actually shorter than me) was "long legged" he would sit behind the pilot. She and the younger son would sit in the back seat. The pilot not only heard all of this, but apparently agreed with it, and loaded us in the plane on the basis of where The Wife decided we should sit. I ended up behind the husband, with my knees in my face and my luggage in my lap. It went downhill from there when the pilot/guide confirmed that The Family had booked a private safari. I think she was wrong, but I do not know for sure. The real issue is, if she was right, then WS booked me on the wrong trip. If she was wrong, then she, as an agent of WS, made an eggregious error that enabled this horrendous behavior.

    It was not just the kids, it was the parents as well. They were all out of line the entire trip, but the kids were the only ones who actually caused dangerous situations. I could easily have been the one thrown from the quad bike instead of the father. In fact, at one point the Wife stopped dead in her tracks (with me behind her) because she "was afraid" following behind the father who had just been cut off by the son. I was the person in the seat in the jeep in front of the kids (because the parents stayed as far away as possible) when the younger boy almost went over the side. I was the one in the plane next to the older boy who kept turning around to fight with his brother, and as he did so, managed to smack me in the face more than once. I could go on, but it is not necessary. Just imagine this behvior for an entire week.

    What can be done? Well, I'm sure if I were in a safari vehicle with you and tried to throw you off the side, that a guide would say something wouldn't he? If you were in a tent listening to two teenage boys in the tent next door fighting all day and night long, and heard the father laugh and say the next morning at breakfast "how many fights did you have, and who won?" that you'd be more than a little annoyed wouldn't you? When a camp manager offers to give a family the family tent and the parent say "no, we do not want that...put them somewhere else" isnt' that a clue?

    If these people were on a commercial flight, it would have been turned around and The Family escorted off. If they behaved like this in a public park, throwing rocks at people, they would likely have been escorted to jail. It would take an entire trip report to describe all of their bad behavior, but just know that they were out of line the entire time and everybody knew it.

    If I can't book a vacation without some expectation of civil behavior, welll, that is just not right.







  • Report Abuse

    Hi Dana

    I am a single female who sometimes does trips alone and sometimes takes nieces with me, and when I started, the youngest was 8. How the girls behave is my responsibility and they have always been a delight to take. But I have also had countless encounter with adults and their children, some good and some absolutely horrible. One of my worst, was grandparents with 2 kids, a 10 year old girl and a 15 year old boy. I should have got a pretty good idea, when we all got off the small plane, the boy landed in a heap saying how ill he was and had one of the fellows carry him to his room! Of course, I was in the same vehicle for the next 4 nights! They asked for me to join them for meals as I was alone, needless to say I declined after watching the grandparents let this kid be carried to his room! I myself would have kicked him there!

    The grandmother and boy fought continuously, really quite nasty, sometimes resulting in pushing and shoving! It was highly embarrassing and no doubt took quite a shine off that portion of my journey! I was kept waiting for nearly every gamedrive for up to half an hour, and this being after we agreed on a departure time. The ranger never said one word to the grandparents about taking into account they had a fifth person in their vehicle who should not be part of their family business. I also, will not bore you with all the details, suffice to say, I am not going to suffer again as with that trip. I would speak up immediately, to change vehicle, not possible for you it seems. In camp at the same time, there was a couple in another vehicle, but I had assumed they paid for a private vehicle otherwise why would I be put with a family of four? At the end of my four nights, I found out that it was not a private vehicle, and when I stated my problem, the manager told me I should have said something straight away and I would have been moved to another vehicle and that is certainly what I will do again.

    Each trip I learn something for future trips, even if it is only questions to ask regarding fellow guests or what would happen if fellow guests turned out to be guests from hell and what would they expect you to do?

    Age limits is not the answer as I have also had as fellow guests, 2 parents with boys aged 19 and 21, and a niece and I were asked to sit in the middle row because the boys would fight otherwise, not that us in the middle stopped them, although I certainly never got hit by accident!

    On one unhappy trip, due mainly to a room problem and a ranger problem, I was offered a private vehicle for my next stay of 10 nights and being by myself, I agreed to that offer which I thought was a generous one, especially when I was by myself. To me that was good business, otherwise I would not have proceeded with that trip - I did not give them a solution, when I told them I didn't think I would go back, they came up with the solution that was agreeable to us both. I myself, would not consider action against them, I just would not use them again and when asked why, state my reasons.

    I have never dealt with WS, so have no idea what they are like to deal with, but it makes good business sense to deal with your problem, not only quickly but with something that both parties are happy with. They cannot be held responsible for the type of people on the trips, but they are for not dealing with your problem in a more timely fashion and doing something at the beginning of your trip. Do you know that the pilot/agent of WS did actually speak to them? Or were they just saying that to shut you up? It is also odd that if the family paid for a private group, why would they say that you could join them?

    This is a good reason for never doing group trips for any period of time, which I haven't. Also a reason why I dislike camps that are too small - you can't escape some people and small camps hate you being by yourself, no matter how much you insist you like being by yourself!

    Good luck Dana, and I would give Bert a time limit, otherwise this will drive you nuts!

    Kind regards

    Kaye

  • Report Abuse

    I think your idea of trying the independents is a great one, but only if Wilderness somehow is informed.

    Ultimately it was up to the camps, guides, rangers et al to deal with the family and it looks like they didn't.

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Dana,

    Very odd the whole situation! They booked a private safari and they put you along with their horrible group? I think Bert is the right person to get you the explanation and although i don't even know Bert......i have heard nothing but good things about him. So, i'm sure he will revert with a solution and explanation.

    Rgds,
    Hari

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Dana

    So sorry you had this family from hell spoiling your trip to Namibia. This is my 'get away from it all place' so I shudder when I hear stories like this!

    Fortunately I haven't had such a bad experience I've felt I had to make a complaint (my worst was a guy who snored in a close-by tent, which hardly compares!). It made me wonder what to do in the event however - which is no bad thing...

    Personally I think I would like to be present when the camp manager reports the complaint (and I don't think this is an unreasonable request if you put a formal complaint to them). Sure, it means missing a game drive/siesta to be there when they radio through, but worth it to a/ know it was properly reported b/ indicate you are royally peed off! I don't know if you requested this and were refused - that would make me very unhappy indeed!

    If they have fax facilities (probably not, but who knows...) you could request use of those to fax to your TA, or write a complaint and mail when you pass civilisation again. The mail will probably arrive after you get home, but I'm guessing a faxed/mailed compliant dated while you on safari may carry more punch then a complaint after the event when you get home (dunno, worth a shot).

    I've been to several WS camps, and any minor issues I've raised were dealt with promptly - I can't comment on the handling of any thing major, but it seems like a very poor show on their part! Hope you get it resolved to your satisfaction...

    Ysa

  • Report Abuse

    Dana: I completely understand what you are saying about where you want to go next so you should probably go for as big a cash refund as possible to put toward Rwanda/Uganda, I am speculating that free nights will probably net you a bigger compensation package but of course its not better if that's not in your plans. Perhaps if you receive an offer of free nights you can have them be transferrable, the way rates are going up you could probably make a profit! The more facts you post the worse it gets, I cannot believe you were physically hit by another guest and still were ignored. At that point they should have given you a private trip the rest of the way! I certainly think you withstood enough that you have a real case to fight over.

    This will be a little long but since Dana asked and it is her thread... My experience in 2003 pales compared to yours although there was a safety issue directly attributable to the staff and it was the camp atmosphere that caused the unpleasantness for us. I did not know about this board at the time so I have never posted this publicly and I will preface it by saying that I have stayed at a number of WS camps and loved my experience at every other one (Duba Plains, Duma Tau, Little Ongava, Damaraland Camp, and Sossusvlei Wilderness Camp). I have not held a grudge against WS for how they handled my issue because it was in 2003, I was a first timer who probably didn't voice loud enough, and my problem camp (Mombo) was apparently addressed later and returned to the quality that it was supposed to be and thus I have continued to recommend WS camps due to the great experiences that I have had and turned a blind eye on the problem that I had with their central management. However, if your horrendous situation does not receive some serious compensation I will have to assume that 4 1/2 years later there is a major problem with their management and reconsider my opinions.

    January 2003 was my first ever safari and I selected Mombo as all my research indicated that it was the place to see wild dogs. I booked just 3 months prior to going and WS was strongly promoting Mombo as the dog camp. It cost twice as much to stay at Mombo as it did to stay at Duma Tau and Duba Plains but I stretched to do it for the best opportunity to see dogs.

    List of complaints went something like this:

    1) Wild dogs hadn't been seen in 2 years despite the heavy marketing slant

    2) My guide would just go off walking (my nose discovered he was sneaking cigarettes) for 15 to 20 minutes while we were out of the vehicle having tea or sundowners leaving my wife and I on our first safari alone in the bush or on a couple drives we had one additional guest (who complained to management but nothing changed) and a handicapped trainee. Fortunately I had a professional background that left me somewhat prepared for that but the guide didn't know that and it was my first time in Africa.

    3) On our first few drives we had a trainee who was a former guide coming back to work following a car accident. Unfortunately he was terrible (and I subsequently learned that he ruined the stay of another Fodorite) and basically he and our guide just talked the entire time in Tswana and barely looked for animals or interpreted anything. Twice I spotted lions and they had to stop and back up and then drive over to them. These would be our only 2 predator sightings at Mombo.

    4) At my second lion spotting our vehicle broke down within 15 feet of about 14 lions, mostly sleeping. Breakdowns happen, no big deal but then the repair vehicle pulled in and basically ran straight at the lions to push them into the bushes -- quite overzealously in my opinion. Then they parked next to us and worked on the repair. The trainee guide exited the vehicle and standing right between the two vehicles right next to my wife began to urinate! If he had to go no worries since the lions limit options but at least give a heads up when your going to pee two feet away from someone, especially of the opposite sex. We complained to the camp manager about the poor guiding and the other party just decided not to go on anymore drives, his wife had stopped before we arrived at camp.

    5) The camp managers were a Ken and Barbie couple that I assume were responsible for the atmosphere. Greeted with canned singing from the ladies on the staff who then seemed afraid to talk to you for the rest of the stay. It was a serve but don't consort type of deal, only camp I have ever found that.

    6) On one drive where the guide was chattering away with the trainee he did not see a bull ele on the other side of a bush right next to the road, as I was in the last row I had to duck under his tusks to avoid contact. Of course I considered this exciting and did not include it in a complaint, the ele was hard to see I guess, especially for a guide who can't spot lions.

    7) Perhaps worst of all was the racial tension that was fully heaped on us. The guide and trainee talked frequently about how incompentent the managers were and that they knew nothing about the bush, especially compared to the two of them -- considering I had to spot my own game the managers must have known absolutely nothing to be below these fellows, quite possible as our hostess dressed more for the runway than the bush. We were told a number ot times the only reason the managers were employed was because they were white. Then after our last drive my guide said someone else would be taking us to the airstrip as he was going on leave or something. I told him I had his tip that I was planning to give him on the way out. He then begged me not to give it to the managers saying they would steal it and that they took from the staff tip box all the time. I promised to give it to another guide for him instead.

    I detailed most of this in an email to my travel agent who sent it verbatim to WS. Believe it or not my biggest issue was really what I believed to be false advertising on the wild dogs. I explained that I look for rare species for a profession and understand better than anyone that there can be no guarantees on wildlife but that I planned carefully and invested for the opportunity to see a species only to learn that I had almost no opportunity in reality. I could have instead spent twice the nights at Chitabe where the opportunity was good. In return I received a condencending letter that basically explained how wildlife moves around, changes seasonally and sometimes different species dominate. No apology for heavily marketing a species no longer in the area and no comments on any of the rest of my issues let alone any kind of compensation. In retrospect it was a first timers mistake, I should have hammered away on the safety issues and asked for a specific remedy. I was on a high from Duba Plains and Duma Tau and trying to figure out how to return to Africa rather than dwell on the disappointment that was Mombo for us. Other guests we met also felt they had been shafted and within about 6 months I think the camp got new managers, shuffled some guides away and became the holy grail again (no longer advertising wild dogs). Thus disclaimer: Mombo continues to be a highly rated camp and this tale should not be considered when evaluating it other than this shows that even the camps with the best reputations can have a down spiral, especially as camp managers and guides shuffle around.

    I do hope that WS will act decisively and remedy Dana's situation soon (I think its too late to say quickly).

  • Report Abuse

    PB,

    Doesn't the travel agent have the duty to ask a traveller as to what their interests are? if someone did mention wild dogs .... then depending on their knowledge level/experience from personal visits could recommend the correct itinerary? ofcourse, it could still be hit or miss, knowing that the dogs traverse HUGE section of spaces....

    But, yeah sorry that you had other not so good experiences at the same camp! I visited Mombo in 2004 (actually, Little Mombo) and i had a fantastic visit, so i suppose things were sorted out by then! Infact, our guide Brooks is one of the top 5 guides(amongst the ones i hv had) i have had the privilege of being around! My sightings included plenty of lions, Burnt ebony male leopard, female leopard and cub (don't know which one), female cheetah and plenty of plains game ......

    Cheers,
    H

  • Report Abuse

    I have never understood why camps dont hand out a sheet detailing some tips on safety and acceptable behaviour while getting guests to sign away their lives (indemnity forms).

    I suppose its reasonable to have a not too detailed list of do's and dont's on the lines of -

    - This is a high risk environment and guests untertake to stick to camp rules.
    - Potentially dangerous behaviour will not be condoned and camp staff and management reserve the right to refuse participation for any guests that put themselves or other guests lives in danger.
    - Obnoxious behaviour and complaints made by other guests will be taken serious and could result in exclusion from camp activities.

    I am pretty sure most well meaning guests would not hesitate to agree to abide by these rules. It also gives camp management the ammunition they might need to deal with troublemakers in an effective manner.

  • Report Abuse

    Kaye,
    Sorry to hear about your troubles with the nasty grandmother and grandson. It sounds like improper behavior among guests is more prevalent than I realized.

    I too travel with children on occassion. In fact, I am taking my nieces to Costa Rica next summer, but like you I will make sure they are well behaved. They are good kids anyway, but if they get out of line I will be the one to exclude them from activities. The lodging management will not have to intervene. You're right that each time we travel we learn something for future trips. That's part of the reason for my responding negatively to questions in this post. So others can learn from my experience. And of course that is one of the reasons this board is so helpful.

    Momliz,
    If I do choose not to stay at WS camps in the future as a result of this situation, I will let them know loud and clear why. I am reserving my final opinion, though, on their explanation of how and why this happened.

    Hari,
    Very odd indeed. And like I said at the beginning of this post, maybe just a total fluke. People may behave badly, but if they just outright lied, well, that's a first for me.

    Ysandre,
    I didn't insist on listening to the problems being communicated directly to WS home office, but that is not a bad idea. Because a pilot/guide accompanied the trip, she was the one to whom I first (and regularly) communicated the problem. It really was her responsibility to do something. But, when she appeared powerless to help I then went to the camp managers.

    Like you, I have been to other WS camps. At those camps I had absolutely no problems, but think if I had they would have resolved timely and in an acceptable manner.

    PB,
    Thanks for the detail on your problems at Mombo. I hated to open a new can of worms, but the details of your problems astound me. A guide urinating right next to your wife; walking off and leaving you by the vehicle during breaks; guides badmouthing managers; racial tension; -- all unforgiveable. But, as you said, most unforgiveable is marketing a species that hasn't been seen in two years. Totally unacceptable. But, I am glad Mombo got its act together and that others have had great experiences there after yours in 2003. Funny that you were on a high from Duba Plains and Duma Tau and therefore didn't complain as strenuously as you would have otherwise. I am in the same position. I had such a fantastic time in Bots, especially at Duba and Duma that my overall impression of WS camps is still a positive one.

  • Report Abuse

    Amolkarnik,
    While I haven't seen camps hand out a list of what you can/cannot do, and I personally don't read the disclaimer form, it might actually contain such language. Interesting thought. But even if it doesn't, they always give a briefing in the vehicle at the start of each game drive, and in Namibia this was no exception. The guides here did tell this family what the rules were. The family just did not care.

    You are correct that most well meaning guests do abide by (or at least try to) those rules. The key here is that the people I was with were not well meaning guests.

  • Report Abuse

    Dana,

    You are right! Guides do give a briefing of the rules prior to the first drive .... i think camps should be strict to ship people back home if they continue their nasty behavior after being warned! that could be the only solution ..... banning teenagers, having a more sanitized experience etc etc., is not the solution....

    I think at this point in time, you deserve an explanation. Whether you do or do not travel with WS is immaterial. They have great locations, but, so do many other operators across Africa...... so, you maybe able to pick a great itinerary in either case!

    Cheers,
    Hari

  • Report Abuse

    Dana - I suppose what I was trying to get across is that, by getting every guest to sign a form accepting that they could be refused participation and exclusion from camp activities, lodges then have a fall back in case guests get nasty and decide to sue the lodge operators for their actions.

    Every game drive/walk begins with a briefing but verbal warnings are just that - impossible to prove in a court.

    Enforcing this discipline/exclusion on a mobile trip might be more difficult.

  • Report Abuse

    I apologize if this post is long and if this thread is beating a dead horse, but others should know how WS has responded to my issue. In a totally unacceptable manner in my opinion, but in order to put bias aside I’m going to quote actual email correspondence rather than add my feeling/interpretations by putting it into my own words.

    I received this email earlier this week. Bert is still investigating what WS is willing to do about it. They’ve now totally admitted that months after they confirmed my departure, after I had paid in full, that they put me on somebody else’s private safari and didn’t even bother to tell either Bert or me about it, let alone ask me if I wanted to change/cancel, etc.

    This is a direct quote from the WS person who oversees all of the US Market. I’ve removed my last name from this correspondence but have not made any other changes.

    "Thank you so much for the feedback received from Dana XX. I humbly apologise for the delay in getting back to you on the points raised by her in the feedback.

    Again, it's always very good to hear that guests enjoyed their trip and that Dana XXX had so much fun on the Botswana portion of her trip. I am sorry to hear that the guest did not enjoy the Namibia Portion of her itinerary.

    Originally when Miss XXX was confirmed on this trip on 02 March 2007, there were other guests confirmed on the scheduled Bonwings departure trip with her. And of course the WS rules for the Bonwings clearly specifies that the trip can only be confirmed for a minimum of 2 guests or more. Subsequent to the confirmation of Ms XXX's the other guests, who were also confirmed on the trip with her, cancelled their trip. This left Ms XXX as the only person confirmed on the scheduled Bonwings departure. In order to still accommodate Ms XXX on a Bonwings trip, without incurring additional costs, we joined her up with a private Bonwings Safari. At the time WS thought that they were acting in the best interest of the single guest but in hindsight it seems that this was not the best solution. Again I have to HUMBLY APOLOGISE for not advising you of the change as this happened days before the guests arrival. This one unfortunately slipped through the cracks and I cannot tell you how sorry I am about it. This is completely my fault and I take full responsibility for not informing you prior to the guests start of the trip. I will in future ensure that all pertinent information regarding changes to guests itineraries are disseminated to you immediately in future

    I am however shocked to hear about the behaviour of the group Ms XXX travelled with and have already sent her comments to the Namibia Office for their immediate attention, especially with regards to the behaviour of the children. This is completely unacceptable. The Namibia camps involved have also been advised to take greater care of single travellers in future.

    Again my sincere apologies for this.

    Kind regards
    Michelle Puddu

    US1 Market Unit Administrator"

    My response to Bert was as listed below, verbatim, with the exception of removing people’s names.

    “ Obviously I find WS's response regarding Namibia totally unacceptable. I apparently gave them too much credit. I had just assumed that XXX (the mother) must have been lying and the pilot/guide (XXX) was wrong about the situation. Now I understand (although I still do not agree) why nobody would/could do anything. It was their private trip and I was the interloper. Basically, I paid for something that I did not receive. Had WS contacted either one of us (you or me) we could have decided what to do. I actually would have cancelled that portion of my trip. Remember I wanted to go to Skeleton Coast but the only reason I could not is because I was on the Bonwing trip. Well, turns out I wasn't on a Bonwing trip at all: I was on the XXX Family Private Safari. Personally I think WS owes me a complete refund (Namibia portion only obviously) now that I know what actually happened. I am appalled that this was their response, although I do appreciate their honesty. Also, I am going to look at my confirmation to see what a traveler's rights are if the operator confirms such a trip and others (unrelated to the traveler) cancel. I would have thought that once WS confirmed with me that they would have been obligated to run the trip for me as planned regardless of cancellation of a party unrelated to me. However, as noted above I would have likely been satisfied had I even been notified and allowed to make a decision. The fact that this "fell through the cracks" is not acceptable. I apologize for being so abrupt. I know this has absolutely nothing to do with you. They didn't tell you either, as they should have. I do, however, think that serious remuneration is owed. And, at this moment I honestly think they should refund my entire Namibia cost. Keep in mind that I took a week off work to do this part of my trip. For me that cost is even greater than what I paid for BonWing. But, I am not asking to be made whole, just for them to refund what I contracted for that they did not deliver.”

    I sent a follow up e-mail later that day after I looked at the terms and conditions of booking. Here is the email to my TA:

    “Obviously I don't have all of my thoughts together since I just heard the WS response re: Namibia, so I may send you a few separate emails as I think of things. But here is another reason they should refund my money.

    Obviously if three people cancelled only a few days prior to departure, then WS had the right to retain 100% of the cost for those three individuals. If they got paid for 4 people, 3 that they didn't even have to incur camp expense for, food, guides, etc., then they should definitely refund my money. They should have sent a private plane for me and given me a private vehicle because those items had already been paid for by others who cancelled at the last minute. They still would have come out ahead. I know my travel conditions provided that if I cancelled at the last minute I would receive no refund at all, and I imagine that is the way it was for the others who cancelled. So, it sounds to me like WS made out like a bandit. Shame on them! Totally unacceptable.

    Lastly, Michelle is the one who was in charge of my trip. She is the one who was to be called if there were problems. If that is in fact who Lisa Woodbury called when she said she communicated to WS, then Michelle obviously did not fix the problem because she was the cause of it in the first place. How did it continue to fall through the cracks if she was notified?”

    Bert replied he is continuing to look into the situation and into what WS is willing to do about it. But, I have not received a final response yet. However, it is clear that I really was on somebody else’s private safari. That does not excuse the behavior of the family from *&*^*, but it does explain why nothing was done about it.

  • Report Abuse

    Dana,

    Sorry about your situation. Thanks for keeping us updated.

    I get the feeling, that the WS rep still doesn't get the whole situation ..... mentions the kids behavior, but, what about the parents? IMO they are the ones to blame.

    Hari

  • Report Abuse

    Dana,

    Do you have any idea of how WS reacted to their presence at their Botswana camps? in terms of vehicle sharing or their own jeep?

    Hopefully, they got their own truck.

    Hari

  • Report Abuse

    Hi Hari,
    Apparently WS is still looking into the details. I don't know why they don't "get it." I think they are just trying to minimize the situation, or somebody over there has had a lobotomy :)

    You are correct, that the parents are responsible for the children's behavior, but I have at least now found out I was truly on their private safari, so the parents apparently thought they could do whatever they wanted to do. Also remember the parents were not the best to be with either, especially after I complained. I can understand, however, if they were supposed to have a plane and vehicle to themselves to go where they wanted, when they wanted, and d what they wanted, that my presence put a wrench in their plans also.

    If they were on a private safari in Bots also, then maybe they had their own vehicle. But, the father did tell me that he was happy that in Namibia the guides were so much more lenient than in Bots. In Bots apparently the guides told him to control his kids and he was happy in Namibia nobody told him to do that. So, I still really don't know. Obnoxious people. Happens all the time. But usually there is a way to get out of the situation short of holing up in a tent for days.

    It actually shocks and surprises me that WS admitted what they did, putting me on someone else's private safari. In fact, I give them credit for being so honest, and do not take that credit lightly. People can make mistakes. It also surprises me that this family who I've been calling so selfish all along "allowed" me to join them (even though I would have preferred not to). I wonder if they got a discount for letting me join "their" safari!

    The more I hear the more ironic this all sounds. I was on someone else's family trip and nobody cared if I got what I paid for or not. I guess I'm just going to have to get into all of the specific, day by day details with WS now that I have more information.

  • Report Abuse

    Dana, I'm sorry, I've been very busy and just got back to check on your progress (or lack therein). Can you email me at chrisc987@yahoo.com and I'll try to answer some questions so perhaps I can help.

    Everything PB says is true. I went there shortly after he did (not sure how soon after) and sadly, the same guide was there and working. So in spite of all of PB's complaints (and it sounds like others complained as well), they didn't do anything and we (and the people who were at the camp with us) also had to suffer with this horrible guy, paying top prices, and not seeing any cats other than some sleeping lions at a camp that has a reputation for big cats. I won't go into details but we felt our lives were in danger more than once with no one to protect us but this one man who wasn't all there and also unable to walk quickly, let alone run. No gun in the car either.

    I wondered why the manager never enquired when he'd see a car full of disappointed faces after a game drive. None of us wanted to complain in front of the guy and he was always there, the manager avoided all of us unless the guide was there. Now I realize that he knew full well what was going on. We were like ignorant children on a ride at Disneyland, unaware that the operators knew the ride was broken.

    We were also subjected to the shock of discovering, once we were in camp, that no wild dogs had been spotted all year. Why didn't they take it down from their website when they had plenty of complaints of disappointed travelers before us? If that was too much work, why not at least be gentlemanly about it and inform the travel agents? I understand why, they needed the income so they kept up the ruse. And I want all these camps to succeed, so I understand. But surely they could have brought in a better guide, that part I don't understand. I think, as PB suggests, it all goes back to the poor management. Still, you want to have some system in place so even if you have a bad camp manager, upper management can remedy it once they start getting complaints.

    Anyway, I am curious just how much your agent, Burt, is pressing in your behalf. He should be pushing them for you. Everything you said makes sense. Anyway, send me an email.

  • Report Abuse

    Clem,

    The wild dogs thing ....... what if they didn't mention in camp that they hadn't seen them in a year? if they had just said,"oh! the dogs haven't been around this week!" ...... they travel HUGE distances and can be anywhere in any given day. To give a well reputed company like WS, the benefit of the doubt ...... maybe they just didn't update/make changes to their website due to whatever reason? we don't know if they were mis-leading clients or not! yes- perhaps, unprofessional, but, maynot be deliberate.

    I still think the agents need to be well travelled and in touch with the camps to know what is happening and to recommend suitably. After all, WS do not accept direct bookings ......

    But, i do agree .... a bad guide such as the one you experienced isn't acceptable. But, you do need to voice your opinion with the management. Did you mention to them, that you wanted a private word alone? to mention that you wanted another guide?

    Hari

  • Report Abuse

    The wild dog information was not volunteered to us. We sat in the main area and said to the manager, as you often do when you arrive at camp, how we were excited to see wild dog. It would have been truly stupid for them to lie and pretend they hadn't been there for a week. You don't need to defend WS, they have some of the best camps in parts of Africa, no question. So it made our experience (and PBs) all the more unexpected and disconcerting. It wasn't like we were in some low-budget camp that no one had heard of. They are a good company and I do expect them to make amends to Dana. I only made the one post now about this to support Predator Biologist, to help Dana and let my experience end with this post - I'd like this to get back to Dana and her current problem with WS.

    I stand by my report of my experience and do think that after complaints by earlier guests that they should have amended their website sooner. Yes, it would have been nice if my TA had known but I still think that the burden is on the camp to keep their website current for something this important. It was not your usual text mention of possible animals to see but a splashy photographic display bragging about how this was one of the few places where you will see them, etc. People interested in animal behavior will choose a camp based on this kind of advertising. This was a time when their camps were not full, due to fewer travelers because of the political climate, so revenue was crucial to them. That is why I do believe it was a conscious choice not to update the website to say that the wild dogs had left the area and had not been sighted for the year. I would appreciate getting the benefit of the doubt, as you put it. Yes, it is possible for a large company with a good reputation to make mistakes, which is what this tread is about.

    This was our first safari and we didn't even know if the manager had an office (the layout was confusing to us, unlike other camps). Finally, the third and last night, he walked us to our hut and that's when we were able to talk to him alone, not that it did any good. I do think that at these extremely high rates, the camp should have this together (as I have experienced at other top camps), and it should not be up to the guests to have to fix it for them. I hope you were the only one who obviously didn't get from reading PB's report and my report (I don't know PB personally btw) that the management clearly knew what was wrong before we arrived. This guide had severe problems and guests had been complaining. They didn't need us to complain as well, we were just one more party that had some truly terrible experiences there. So the burden was not on us to notify management. Management already knew and yet they were doing nothing about it.

    Now, back to Dana.

  • Report Abuse

    sorry, i hadn't read PB's trip report from that particular trip. Only his mention in this thread and perhaps in another thread sometime ago.

    I think we can only conclude that they got their act together!

    Hari

    PS: Hope you didn't find my post offensive in any way ..... and, in light of these forums i don't have any connection to the travel trade.

  • Report Abuse

    Dana: so sorry you have no remedy at this point. It's big that the WS rep has admitted fault. Hopefully the next step is they realize saying 'sorry, my fault' to someone who spends thousands of dollars isn't enough of a fix.

    One thing to note is the family gave up the private safari the second they agreed to add another paying customer -- at that point it became all of your group trip. From my point of view as someone who leads group trips you still paid the same for a group departure and would have been entitled to all of the service and rights of your original group trip. Your leader and other group members should have been crystal clear on that. Conversely, they no longer had a private trip, they were simply 4 members on a group trip, no different than the 3 who cancelled on your original group. If they wanted or needed a dictatorship than they should not have consented to making it a non-private trip. If WS told them it was still their own private trip and that they had 100% decision making authority (seems to be the guides interpretation) than they certainly did not honor their contract for your trip and should reimburse you.

    Clematis/Hari: I can't say for sure if it was a big picture central office decision (probably) or a camp managers responsibility but I also have no doubt that following the upgrade that made Mombo 6 Paws they had to market it strong to attract occupancy. At that time we booked less than 3 months out and got every camps no worries, Mombo was about 1/2 full, Duma Tau about 3/4 full, and Duba Plains just us for part of the time (heaven!) and one other couple the rest.

    As we stood on the Mombo deck with after dinner drinks the smarmy camp manager chuckled with a relief manager up from Little Mombo that they had seen a Pel's fishing owl for the first time last week and that he was going to check and see if they could claim it in the catalog to pump up interest. In light of the out of date claims they were already pimping I thought about letting my dogs off the porch but then I thought in Africa I'm lover not a fighter. Any rate it was clear to me that they were under pressure to claim special sightings for marketing efforts.

  • Report Abuse

    Well, I finally have a resolution to my issue. Wilderness Safaris is going to do the right thing!

    Bert asked for some time to work things out with WS. I agreed to give him some time (and some breathing room), to get to a resolution. Luckily I did not have to get into the day-by-day problems after all. This was a relief for me because I did not want to relive each day of that trip by having to write it all down. Bert told me today that WS has agreed to refund the entire cost of the Namibia trip. I think this was the honorable thing for them to do, but have a feeling that the reason they are doing this is because Bert does so much business with them. He did not say this, but I know he was out their fighting for me. In the end, WS is going to do the right thing, as any reputable company should do.

    Clem,
    I'm sorry I did not email you, but I haven't been reading the board for a few weeks. I've been traveling alot and frankly wanted to forget about this for a little while. Thanks for your offer to help, though.

    PB,
    Thank you too for all of your advice. In the end I did as you suggested and proposed a solution, a refund of the entire Namibia trip. This is exactly what they have agreed to do. This is good advice for anyone else who ends up in a similar situation.

    TO ALL: In the end I think this shows that Wilderness Safaris is concerned about customer service and their reputation. For a while there I was wondering, but in my mind they have redeemed themselves. I also think this shows that having a good TA is important if you have problems. I do not think I would have received such a resolution if I tried to get this resolved on my own.

  • Report Abuse

    Dana: so glad to hear that you received the appropriate reparation and now have a satisfying ending to Nambia to pair with your aweseome Botswana safari!

    I'm glad WS responded with the full refund and based on the amount of time it took I'm sure that having a high volume agent was a key to the successful refund.

  • Report Abuse

    I managed to miss this entire thread up until today (don't know how as I love looking at Namibia photos) so I've just read through the ENTIRE thing.

    I'm horrified at your experiences and pleased that WS did, in the end, refund the entire costs of the Namibia segment.

  • Report Abuse

    Dana, that is terrific news. I'm very happy to hear WS redeemed themselves and acted honorably. That is a good benefit of working with a company that cares about upholding their reputation as well as having a high-volume, respected TA.

  • Report Abuse

    Good for you for pursuing this. Good for Wilderness for doing the right thing. This is the second instance I have read where they have come through when things (even loosely under their control) go wrong for the client. That's huge for their reputation. And good for Bert for standing up for his client. That's huge for his reputation too.

    Perhaps your refund has something to do with the relationship between Bert and Wilderness. One more reason to use an established and reliable operator.

    Thanks for sharing the happy ending. That means you have some spare change for gorillas!

65 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

View all Africa & the Middle East activity »
  1. 1 Trip Report Jordan tour operator !!
  2. 2 A tale of Adventure!!
  3. 3 Pilanesberg or Kruger? Please comment on my itinerary!
  4. 4 What is the must do bucketlist on everyone for Kenya in 2015?How safe?
  5. 5 Morocco floods - areas affected
  6. 6 Good reads
  7. 7 Need suggestions for solo trip (2-3 weeks, next May)
  8. 8 Where to spend extra night; Merzouga or Skoura?
  9. 9 South Africa in February?
  10. 10 Morocco Advice
  11. 11 Dubai and where else for one week?
  12. 12 Trip Report Kenya Multi-Day Safari Trip Report
  13. 13 Gate1 discovery tours to Israel
  14. 14 tanzania serengeti northern circuit self drive
  15. 15 Trip Report 3-week tour at Egypt
  16. 16 Trip Report Advice For Morocco Desert Tours and camel trekking For 4 Night
  17. 17 Trip Report Beirut
  18. 18 Travel Agent in DC: Seeking Reviews
  19. 19 Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) seen in Samburu Kenya
  20. 20 Need advice on which camera lenses for safari
  21. 21 What company for gorilla trekking?
  22. 22 Trip Report Mashatu, Kgalagadi to Caprivi and a Moremi mobile with Masson Safaris
  23. 23 5/6 day trip in Morocco. Tips for itinerary and mode of travel
  24. 24 Good travel company to book an 8 day trip to Egypt
  25. 25 Guide for Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Jan 2015
View next 25 » Back to the top