Any "bad" tour operators out there???

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Feb 10th, 2004, 05:03 AM
  #1
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Any "bad" tour operators out there???

Thought I'd pose a recent question in a different way. Rather than asking all of you Africa experts about good tours, how about any body out there that has had really bad experiences with certain tour operators.

It might be easier to do it this way.

Understanding that most tours probably do a good job, I am sure that there are tour operators out there that I should run from.

Any input is appreciated.
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Feb 10th, 2004, 05:10 AM
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Winnipeg,

The person who is travelling (you and I, for example) are truly either the "good" or "bad" operators.

I will not allow a tour operator to even finish the sentence coming out of his/her mouth when they start trying to steer me away from where I want to stay to wherever it is that they are getting the high commisions.

A person is best off designing their own package and then basically sending it out for quotes between the different operators. Instruct them clearly what you expect on your tours (airport transfers, transfers between lodges, etc.) and let a few agents compete for your business.

I have seen so many pre-packaged tours that are such ripoffs. I mean I could copy the same itinerary, send it out for quotes and save 30% in most cases.
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Feb 10th, 2004, 06:04 AM
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Hey Roccco,

I really understand what you are saying. As a veteran of Europe I have never been on one of those pre-packaged tours. In fact, I have said excatly what you say. The pre-packaged tours are usuually more expensive, not flexible, and typically not as much fun as if I was on my own.

But, going solo to Africa is way out of my comfort zone. I am really thinking that I need to be on one of those pre-packaged tours, unless of course I can find a good deal kind of like the one I usually get when I travel to the Caribbean. I'd like to settle into a resort and do the sightseeing from a central location.

If you can offer some input, that would be great. I am very flexible and easily pleased. Virtually every thing would be fine with me. I just don't want to get hooked up a fly by night tour operator that will make my first, and probably only experience in Africa an nightmare.

thanks again

mark
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Feb 10th, 2004, 06:23 AM
  #4
norrisely
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Try Fish Eagles Safaris in Houston, TX, contact Bert duPlessis, who puts together trips for people, and is reliable and honest, plus very knowledgeable. Tel. 800-513-5222.
 
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Feb 10th, 2004, 12:01 PM
  #5
sandi
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Winnepeg -

As to your original post, you mentioned your interest in travel to Botswana and though I recommended you familiarize yourself by reading many posts here on fodor.com and checking out some guidebooks - a trip to Botswana, (or most any other place in Africa), will not be like a trip to Europe.

In Botswana the three main camp providers in the Delta area specifically are
1) Wilderness Safaris, who have the most camps, but works thru tour operators and not direct with clients
2) Arbercrombie & Kent, who have a few camps, but are rather expesive.
3) Orient Express, who have, I believe, two or three camps.
4) Individual campsites that I have no idea who owns or manages.

An itinerary would likely fly you in via Johannesburg (JNB) with a connecting flight to Maun in Botswana, where you would board a small plane that flies you to your camp. You could spend two or three days at this camp then fly onto another camp (for a few days), then onto a third camp - these are all in the Delta area. You can then be flown to the Chobe area with a land transfer to your lodge for a two days and then, maybe onto Victoria falls by land transfer. After a day or two there, fly back to JNB, then return home.

The Wilderness Safari rates are pretty much fixed, except for a shoulder season (November to mid-Dec) and the Green Season (Feb - Apr) when there is greater possibility of showers.

And these seasons pretty much hold true regardless who owns the camps/lodges. Botswana, because of the few camps and government control of how many can be built, does limit the number of beds in these areas - therefore, relatively higher prices - Botswana being one of the more expensive countries to visit.

You can expect to pay about $400-$500/nt person including the flight to/fr the camp, your three meals daily, game drives - and then there is the single supplement as you appear to be planning this trip on your own.

Regardless where you travel, you're likely to get hit with the single supplement.

If you would consider a small group to travel with you might consider contacting Overseas Adventure Travel (check for their website and look up their Southern Africa itinerary). Their groups are a max of 16 people, ages from mid-40s to late 60s and their prices are extremely good. And they have some arrangement with single supplements if you're willing to "share" a room - more often than not they don't get anyone to share and you still won't have to pay the supplement.

But for your information the term "tour" (especially as regards travel to Africa) can be interpreted as "with a group" or "a set itinerary that you've created" and no one else other than yourself or a travel partner.

Most of the tour operators that people have used on this board are reputable and do provide the services you request - but your destination, time of year, and budget is what you have to consider. Some of the tour operators can offer itineraries as low as $1700 and $1900 staying at basic campsites, to more extensive and longer itineraries with better camps/lodges with flight and or flight/road transfers in the ranges of $2200, $3300, 4500, up to $8300/person plus the supplement.

That's why you have to check the various websites listed on this board, compare their offerings and decide what type of trip you would enjoy.
 
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Feb 10th, 2004, 12:18 PM
  #6
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Hey Sandi,

You nailed it!!

That is the exactly some of the info that i needed to begin figuring out what I plan to do.

I have always thought about an African Safari. I mention Botswana because of the Today show. In your opinion, is Botswana the place you'd prefer to go for a Safari. What countries have you experienced for an African safari?

Money wouldn't be a major concern. I'm thinking that $10,000 is what it'll cost me to go on this adventure. I don't know very many friends that would consider spending $10,000 to go to Africa, so I guess I'll be going solo. Guess I should get some new friends, huh? I'll have to save and cut some corners, and hope that the stock market gives me back some of what I lost.

What is the best time to travel to Africa? Is their a time when it is best to consider going.
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Feb 10th, 2004, 12:54 PM
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sandi
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Winnepeg -

Well, now everyone will get on board to spend your money in a New York minute. I'm from New York LOL, but everyone is likely to get in on this one with every imagineable idea and suggestion as to which is the best place, best animal sightings, best deals in which country - you name it!

So I go back to my first response - this has to be your vacation, not mine, or anyone else here. That's the reason I mentioned that you should do your homework.

Generally, the best time for southern Africa areas is in their Winter (June-July-Aug) as the grasses are lower and easier for animal sightings. And still there is no guarantee. As an example, last year there was drought in many places in Africa, and animal sightings weren't as good as expected. Also remember that since it's winter, it does get cold when out on the morning and evening game drives - real cold especially in open vehicles, and your accommodations can also be cold - we're talking mostly canvas or thin walled rooms.

You can certainly do more than Botswana if you wish, by including other southern African countries (SA, Zambia, Zimbabwe) - or better, consider travel in late Aug/September and include Botswana with Kenya and experience the Migration on the Masai Mara plains - that is a once in a lifetime experience.

And safari in Kenya is completely different than Southern Africa. Accommodations can be as luxurious (even the tented camps) but drives are in flip-top vehicles so you don't have the elements in your face and the weather is warmer in Kenya at that time of the year. And there are regular flights between JNB and NBO, so it's easy enough to combine these two countries.

Do some homework by reading as much as possible and checking various tour operator websites to see what is available and what can be combined. For $10K you can get yourself an outstanding African experience.

Check some of these sites:

www.classicafrica.com (Connecticut based, African owners)
www.onsafari.com (Connecticut based, African owned)
www.essafari.co.ke (Kenyan based)
www.ccafrica.com (use mostly their own properties)
www.karibu.co.za (SA based)
www.premiertours.com (Phila based, also great consolidator air department)
www.africansafari.co.za (SA based)
www.africasafaris.com (NY based, African owner)
www.go2africa.com (SA based)
www.ultimatesafaris.com

On our four trips to Africa,we've traveled either mid-October or mid-November - our choice, as we preferred that there be less tourists. And we saw more than our share of animals on each trip. While Egypt wasn't for safari it was still Africa. But we've been to Kenya; Kenya, Tanzania & The Seychelles Islands; Southern Africa (Botswana [Chobe], Victoria Falls, South Africa [Capetown, Kruger Park - two different areas here]).

I'd also like to get to the Delta area of Botswana, but also to Namibia and Zambia and more of Zimbabwe; also a return to both Kenya (northern areas) and Tanzania (southern areas). So there are lots of excellent choices.

I'm not trying to avoid a specific answer, rather would prefer that you come back with more specific questions after you've first seen the info from the above sites. Happy research and lots of reading!
 
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Feb 10th, 2004, 02:28 PM
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Let's not forget about Kwando in Botswana and Victoria Falls. Although it only has four camps, it looks great and was started by former rangers/guides from Phinda and, I believe, Mala Mala, who are also filmmakers.

Right now I am definitely leaning towards Kwando, especially if I can also stay at Duba Plains nearby. I really want to do a comparison on the deified Wilderness Safaris and the still largely unknown Kwando. Just as I shunned Robin Pope Safaris last year to try a lesser known quantity in Kafunta (South Luangwa), I will possibly stay the majority of my time at Kwando and just give WS a little test drive.

I am convinced that the Singita's, Mombo's and Phinda's are not the say all, end all, to safaris, but rather the product of slick marketing, glitter and a little smoke and mirrors. I met someone very reputable that swears that these top game lodges have GPS tracking devices on some of the game in order to make tracking easier and providing a better safari experience. I don't necessarily believe it, but it could happen.
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Feb 10th, 2004, 04:17 PM
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My suggestion is that unless you have $10,000 per year to spend on a trip, don't spend it all this year because you'll want to go back next year! (I speak from experience)

My second trip in 2 years was to South Africa and southern Botswana in August. I also was solo because friends/family weren't willing/able to take that much time off work or spend the money. I had a wonderful trip. I did hire a guide to pick me up at the airport and accompany me to the different camps and for transportation in between. I would be entirely comfortable using one of the operators being described to you here on my next trip.

Picking your own places to go and getting quotes from different operators versus just picking a pre-packaged tour can give you more time game viewing. One package I saw recently was for 9 days. I read the itinerary closely and there were only 7 game drives. The rest of the time was spent getting from one camp to another or doing stuff I did not fly 9000 miles to Africa to do.

Wherever you end up going, I hope your trip is all you dream it to be!
Cindy
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