Can you recommend a small group tour?

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Jul 16th, 2005, 09:06 AM
  #1
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Can you recommend a small group tour?

I am planning a trip to Tanzania - northern circuit - in June or July 2006 with my 14-yr-old son. We prefer the company and safety of traveling with a small goup (max 10) especially if other families were included. I'm considering Thomson and Africa-Adventure Co. so far, but would like recommendations for others as well. Ideally, we're looking for 12-14 nights to include Tarangire, Ngorongoro, and Serengeti. We'd also like to include opportunites to interact with local Masaai people, visit a school, etc. Does anyone have any recommendations? Thanks for the help, this is our first trip to Africa and we're overwhelmed with all the options to consider.
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Jul 16th, 2005, 10:12 AM
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Ninja -

Surprisingly, for the same or less money you can arrange a private safari for you and our son and schedule your time as you see fit. If you want interface with local Masai or other tribal groups, visit a school, or whatever, you'll be able to do it without interrupting the schedule of other travelers.

You'll also find, that with groups, it's rare to find children traveling. That's not to say there might not be, but once your scheduled with a group you won't know till you're in-country whether there are other teens.

Traveling privately you'll be as safe as if traveling with a group, which I'm sure is a concern. Your guide are most attentive to their clients and their needs. And many of the accommodations pay special attention to the needs of children - from very young thru teens. Besides, when you're on your own, you can pretty much set your own schedule, i.e., if you don't want to go out very very early in the morning (at 6:30am) rather at 8am, you can... with a group, you're out of luck. If you want to stay out for a full day - you can. It's something to consider.

There are a number of in-country tour operators you may want to consider. By doing a search on this board in the box on the top of this board - enter "Tanzania tour operators" and threads containing names will appear in the left column.

One, that I can recommend is Roy Safaris who gets positive reviews here. You can contact them thru their website:

www.roysafaris.com

email with your specific requirements, including visits to schools (if in session), local people, etc., your budget, number of days and any other pertinent info - they should be able to put something together for you.

Hope this gets you started and welcome to Africa.
 
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Jul 16th, 2005, 10:20 AM
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Good luck asking for lots of recommendations for group tours on this forum, you will get told at least 20 times how much better, cheaper, etc. it is to book it yourself,even though you specified you want a group tour.

However, I am a tour group participant who is a frequent reader/very occasional poster for this forum who reads here for all the good tips that can be garnered on this site, tips I put to good use during the free time included in the tours I take. And I do have a recommendation, although the group may not be as small as you would like - probably about 20 members as opposed to 10.

My recommendation is for Tauck Bridges which has a tour to Northern Tanzania. Their website is www.tauckbridges.com.
This is a division of Tauck World Discovery that offers trips geared to families of all ages. So more than likely there would be a person near your son's age in the group.

I have taken 10 Tauck World Discovery tours, and I am signed up for a week in Scotland in September, and Kenya/Tanzania in June, 2006. Tauck is a class act, and while they aren't for everyone as they are higher-end, though by far not the most expensive tours, you get what you pay for and more with them. And while you could do a trip more cheaply than with them, you couldn't do the trip that they do more cheaply. I know, I've tried. I use them whenever I travel solo (my husband is a workaholic and I am a travelaholic), as I don't like to be alone all the time on vacation, and have always (so far) found my traveling companions to be most pleasant.

Check them out and see if they might be right for you.

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Jul 16th, 2005, 12:05 PM
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You might check with Deeper Africa (look at its website). They have family safaris ("Tanzania with kids") and stress the educational value of the trip and include contact with local schools. I noticed that they include some children who went on trips as references so you could get both the parent and child perspective on it.

I am not quite sure whether they put you with a group or it works only as a private safari--but it seems worth checking out.
[My friends used them for a private safari and raved about them.]
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Jul 16th, 2005, 01:11 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions. I'll check out Tauck Bridges and Deeper Africa.

My son and I have traveled quite a bit and we've enjoyed both independent and group travel. I had initially contacted a few in-country and US-based tour operators and asked for initial quotes on a rough itinerary. Several offered very helpful suggestions and we received quite a few quotes. The more we talked about it, though, the more we decided we'd prefer traveling with a group on this particular trip. I recontacted a few of the operators about small group itineraries, but I'm not getting much response other than the ones I mentioned initially (Thomson and AAC).

I appreciate the advice here and will check into the companies suggested so far.

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Jul 16th, 2005, 11:56 PM
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Just curious: what is it about the group travel that you find appealing for this trip?

There have been some other posts about vehicles used by tour operators, and that is something you may want to think about. I don't think any operators in this area (other than overlanders) will be operating a single vehicle that carries a group as large as ten. And of course, you'll have to make sure that the ones you choose permit children and are oriented toward them. Many have minimum age limits...and not all other travellers like travelling with kids. It's something to consider when selecting your operator...even if they allow 14 year olds, the other travellers on the trip may not welcome a 14 year old. So a group operator that orients its trip toward kids would be a safer more congenial bet.

One thing to keep in mind about group travel in Africa: you are with your group every waking moment. No chance (as you might have on a European tour) to slip off an do what you want for an afternoon away from the group, or to take more time at one sight and catch up with the group later. That is why people often prefer to arrange their own private trips in Africa. It is an expensive trip, and private allows them far more flexibility during the days activities, as well as flexibility to arrange a custom itinerary.
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Jul 17th, 2005, 08:27 AM
  #7
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We decided on looking for a small group to join for several reasons. Mainly, because our family is concerned about safety and that's the only way they'd feel comfortable with us traveling to Africa. While flexibility of traveling privately is appealing, we also enjoy traveling with others and sharing experiences along the way. We've met wonderful people along the way on some of our other trips and they've added to the overall enjoyment. Lastly, from my earlier research I've learned that traveling with just 2 people on a private tour can get quite pricey. We're looking to join a small group of 8 - 10 people (in 2 separate vehicles). Since our dates are pretty flexible, we can easily accommodate a pre-scheduled departure date.

I've checked out Deeper Africa and I really like what I've seen on their website. I'll be contacting the directly for more information. OAT seemed to cater to an older audience and Tauck Bridges doesn't appear to offer any Africa itineraries. My son will actually be 15 by the time we travel and I have to admit he's a very seasoned traveler. He can read a map much better than most folks I know! He's also very mature and well behaved so I don't forsee any problems there. I just know he'd probably enjoy having an opportunity to hang out with others similar in age and not just good 'ole mom all the time.
Any other suggestions for tour operators to consider?
I'm not overly concerned about traveling with a teen, he's v
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Jul 17th, 2005, 08:53 AM
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Ninja,
Since you mentioned the pricing issue, the prices you see from Thomson and Deeper Africa are actually higher than what you would pay to organize a private safari for 2 using an in-country safari operator. I can understand some of your other reasons for wanting to join a group, though I wouldn't be concerned about safety. I can also understand if you feel more comfortable booking with a US based agent, but I just wanted to point out that price shouldn't be a deciding factor against a private tour.
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Jul 17th, 2005, 09:15 AM
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Tauck Bridges is adding the Tanzania itinerary new for 2006, and apparently it isn't on the website yet. Sorry about that. I read about it in my brochure for Tauck World Discovery Africa. You can get info. about the tour by calling them at 866-636-6500.
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Jul 17th, 2005, 09:24 AM
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Patty,
Yes, Thomson is certainly more expensive and that's why I'm looking for other alternatives. AAC has been quite helpful and has suggested itineraries that seem to offer more "off the beaten path" areas and cultural experiences as well as a broad variety of accommodations - lodges, permanent and mobiled tented camps, etc. Although they aren't specifically designed for families, I was told they often include families in their group departures.

Amazing Tanzania is another tour operator that will be putting together a group itinerary for June/July 2006 and they're willing to allow us some input into timing, etc. Does anyone have any experience with them?
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Jul 17th, 2005, 12:42 PM
  #11
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Ninja,

I've made good experiences with group travel - and some bad, too: sometimes people don't jell. Most tour operators offer a private vehicle option for a plus of 15-25%. You're still travelling in a group, but are more independent when it comes to game drives and departure times (you can even invite fellow travellers you like most to join your car).

Mitch
 
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Jul 17th, 2005, 01:08 PM
  #12
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Thanks Mitch for the great suggestion. We'll definitely check into that option. The added flexibility would be nice while still appeasing the safety concerns of folks back home!
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Jul 18th, 2005, 05:26 AM
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Hi,
Have you looked at any of the following?

www.exploreworldwide.com? They do some amazing small group trips (usually 12-16) and even have a small selection of "family" adventures.

or www.guerba.com
or www.imaginative-traveller.com

Happy researching!
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Jul 18th, 2005, 08:55 AM
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Some operators seem to restrict kids if they're under 8 or under 12, but I think most would have no problem with a 14-year-old.

Several people here have recommended 2afrika.com's small group trips, and their air-inclusive itineraries seem very well priced. If I had wanted to go with a group I probably would have gone with them based on the excellent feedback they get. I don't know if any of their itineraries include visits to a school or Maasai boma although many operators do seem to include these kinds of cultural interactions in their itineraries.

I ended up booking with goodearthtours.com and I know they are happy to build local stops into their itineraries -- I believe they have some small group itineraries (6-8 people) you can take a look at on their website. I have found Narry very responsive.
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Jul 19th, 2005, 02:42 PM
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Your information is incorrect. Tauck Tours does have a Tanzania intinerary. My husband and I will be leaving on the Oct. 8 trip. I have tried to duplicate their itinerary on my own for the same price without success. In December we took a private tour to Thailand and did not really enjoy the experience as much as we thought we would have. I felt as though I was always having to communicate with the guide and prefer to sometimes be left alone with my own thoughts. When traveling with a group, you give up a bit of flexibility; however, you can retain your anonymity when you want to. I am so look forward to the Tauck trip.
DD
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Jul 19th, 2005, 06:59 PM
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DD, I think we are all aware that Tauck does Tanzania!

The owner of this thread was looking for small-group family vacations with special activities for kids, not a standard Tauck tour!

I understand that taking such a tour has many benefits. It is one of the top tour companies for good reason!

But I disagree with you about costs!

The 11-day Classic Tanzania tour in October is listed for $4290. That's $390 per person/day for a group tour sharing while utilizing Sopas and Serenas, with a short flight and balloon ride included.

In Tanzania, this is considered expensive! Private safaris for 2 average about $250 pppd using the same class hotels! Groups of 6 pay less than $200 per day each!

Ease of mind, kinship, meeting people, etc are excellent reasons for going to Tanzania in Tauck-style! But it ain't cheaper!
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Jul 20th, 2005, 09:29 PM
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I highly, highly recommend Thomson Safari. The quality they provide is top of the line plus they are a company with impeccable integrity. Their guides are all Tanzanians who love and know their land. Plus--they give back to Tanzania in education and medical assistance and have been recognized by the government for their commitment to the country. They treat their employees with great dignity and respect. If you go to my trip commentary and photos, you will have a good idea of what they offer, along with a preview of the experience you have ahead of you.
www.janeandken.com
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