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Choosing Between Africa Odyssey, Africa Adventure Company, & andBeyond

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Mar 4th, 2014, 09:52 AM
  #1
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Choosing Between Africa Odyssey, Africa Adventure Company, & andBeyond

I'm planning a solo, private safari to Kenya and Tanzania in September, 2015. This will be my first safari. I've been in contact with Africa Odyssey, Africa Adventure Co, and andBeyond to get quotes and preliminary itineraries and I'm trying to decide which company to book with. Africa Odyssey and andBeyond have both been very responsive and very detailed and good to work with. The jury is still out on AAC. I'll be basing my decision not just on the quote itself, but the overall level of service provided from start to finish.

I've seen positive posts on all three, but would like to hear more details such as:
- Trip documentation provided (was it detailed, and provided timely, and accurate)
- How well were issues or problems handled during the trip, if any arose
- Was a representative available at all times throughout the trip
- Any problems if changes made to itinerary
- Did you feel 'taken care of' throughout the trip

Also, I'm wondering if andBeyond provides any extras since it's a high-end operator. Do they provide anything that the other companies don't? My proposed itinerary and quote from them includes properties that are not owned by andBeyond as requested. Could there be any issues with planning/service for the non-andBeyond properties?

I'd appreciate any feedback provided, as well as suggestions for other operators I might consider.
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Mar 4th, 2014, 11:31 AM
  #2
 
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I traveled as a solo female with AAC. Here is a link to my trip report...

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...e-duma-tau.cfm

As to your specific questions, the trip documentation was fine, no worries. I had no problems during the trip, but made sure ahead of time that I knew who to contact if I did. At every point in 3 countries I was met on time by a representative. All were friendly and professional. I do remember being a little worried that with so many changes of venue that at some point there would be no one to meet me when they were supposed to. And of course when you are traveling alone that would be even worse than if you had a companion. It didn't happen however, much to my relief

I stayed at all Wilderness Safari camps (I don't think they operate out of TZ and KY). At the time I also had quotes from &Beyond, but decided to go with AAC. Got a very nice duffel bag for the trip that I used again on a subsequent trip to Africa. I had a great trip and give AAC a hearty recommendation.
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Mar 4th, 2014, 03:23 PM
  #3
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Thanks Cateyes555. That's helpful. Did you find AAC to be very responsive? When I first contacted them last September they were very prompt in responding. However, I've twice now had to follow up with them because they didn't respond or provide info when promised. I know they're a very reputable company, but wondering now if their inconsistent response time is the norm or not.
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Mar 4th, 2014, 06:37 PM
  #4
 
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We have done trips with Africa Adventure, Ultimate Safaris - Namibia, and Lion World Tours. Lion World Tours was our most recent. Found them through their deals on TravelZoo. They ended up being top-notch. All correspondence was handled in a very timely manner. Ultimate Safaris was also very good, but it is based in Namibia, so a bit different. Africa Adventure was good, but from start to finish had a few different agents helping me. I would have rather dealt with the same person.
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Mar 4th, 2014, 07:12 PM
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I would strongly suggest you include Sandi at Africa Serendipity in your search for a tour operator.

She handled my solo trip to Kenya and I was astounded at how detailed and concise the information and documents were. Even got the words to the Jambo song and reading suggestions prior to leaving. Never even thought twice about not being met anywhere as she came across that capable.

I liked the way she suggested other camps in different price ranges and included the price difference with each one allowing me to determine based on price and internet which one I preferred to go with.

She's works out of NYC and replies frequently here & on TA always generous with sharing her knowledge of the area.
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Mar 5th, 2014, 03:56 AM
  #6
 
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I do recall having some delay occasionally when I contacted AAC - my trip with them was in 2011. I found if I phoned rather than emailed, I got questions answered even if my representative was out of the office. My guess is that they are a really busy company and it's hard for them to be right on top of emails instantaneously like some companies can offer. Ultimately it did not lead to any problems with the trip and I was happy with everything. But if that causes you concern another company might give you more peace of mind.
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Mar 5th, 2014, 07:49 AM
  #7
 
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We used &Beyond when it was still ccAfrica. Dealt with them directly and had a dreadful experience with reservations, payments, etc. I ended up begging for an invoice so I could pay. Their suggested itinerary was off, recommending properties away from the Great Migration. Sandy and other Fodorites told us what was wrong with the plan and we revised it. On the trip we met others who also had dreadful experiences with the same agent. Once in Africa everything went smoothly and the trip was fabulous. You don't get a price break for booking directly with &Beyond, so I would definitely work with a good travel agent to book the properties.
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Mar 5th, 2014, 08:06 PM
  #8
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Thanks to all for your feedback. Now I have what may seem like a silly question, but I'll ask anyway. Once you decided on who you were going to book with, how did you let the others you were getting quotes from know that you weren't going to book with them? My contacts have been so helpful, I hate to turn anyone down. I'm sure they're used to this as it's part of the business, but I'm curious how folks go about doing this.
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Mar 5th, 2014, 09:43 PM
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There's no need to turn them down, simply stop emailing.

It comes with the territory so they're used to it.
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Mar 6th, 2014, 10:00 AM
  #10
 
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You could do what KBC recommends. I usually responded to one of the other company's emails saying I'd elected to go with another company. That seemed more courteous to me than just not responding. I only ever had 1 company ask why I had chosen someone else.
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Mar 6th, 2014, 11:31 AM
  #11
 
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Great month to go to Tanzania.

Regarding The Africa Adventure Co, I have had the exact experience on responsiveness and found that calling, like Cateyes suggested, to be the best solution. But once when there were pre-booking problems due to a political situation on the ground beyond AAC's control, the emails and phone calls were flying back and forth daily and hourly to reroute and make changes so that everything worked out. Here is a link to a whole slew of accolades for AAC that they earned over the course of many trips that certainly address each of your points, 15safari. I too have almost always been a solo traveler.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...ngeti-help.cfm

See the comment from me: atravelynn on Feb 28, 13 at 9:10am.

As to extras for AndBeyond, they are top notch and offer really fancy lodging and absolutely exquisite food. I've stayed at their properties 2x (fabulous and not just for lodging and food but the staff, guiding, wildlife). But whether you book them direct or use an agent, all the amenities or extras are the same. I used an agent to book AndBeyond because it was the same price as going direct. That's typically the case. That agent was Eyes on Africa in Chicago. So you can stay at AndBeyond but use one of the other agents you have mentioned to arrange the trip. As you have brought up, incorporating other properties is probably easier with a non-AndBeyond agent.

Cateyes and I have more in common than AAC. We have both used Eben Schoeman Signature Safaris with success. I went with Eben in Sept to Tanzania. Absolutely great. Not sure where you are planning on going, but the southern parks of Tanz are very good that time of year. Here's a link to my solo Sept Tanz report, both in the north and south.
http://safaritalk.net/topic/7679-north-south-tanzania/

For the companies you decide not to use, I think it is nice to let them know you are no longer interested in their services. You never know when you might want to re-engage them for a future trip so an amicable parting is to everyone's benefit. Sometimes I'll even mention the "also rans" favorably in a trip report.

Have a great trip to Tanzania.
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Mar 6th, 2014, 01:47 PM
  #12
 
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Not unusual for traveler to be 'shopping.' Often even the actual ground operator will mention to the safari planner of such, thus it's no surprise as most everyone who is reputable shares info. However, as it's expected if travelers chooses one planner over another a short one sentence email 'thank you for your help in assisting us/me in planning our/my safari, however we/I have decided to go with another company.' I personally will acknowledge this and assure travelers they will have an outstanding adventure.

Some travelers will graciously even recommend you to friends/family or return to you years later for another trip. A 'thank you' never hurts, even though people in sales eventually get used to it! NOT! But that's how it goes!
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Mar 6th, 2014, 04:12 PM
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Well, here's my 2cents about andBeyond.
Been to two camps, South Africa. Kirkman's Kamp was very good, go there. Ngala Safari Lodge was bad, their game drive territory is 20 minutes south of the lodge. The rangers/guides (at Ngala) varied widely in quality. Varying ranger qualities may be typical of andBeyond. Because they are so large an organization? But your ranger is the most important factor in your safari experience.

regards - tom
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Mar 6th, 2014, 06:06 PM
  #14
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Well, it's sounding like I can't go wrong with any of these companies. Any experiences with Africa Odyssey(aka Tanzania Odyssey)?

Sounds like AAC, other than their responsiveness, is great. They're more than a week late on their promised delivery of a quote, but I'll be patient and see if they actually send it.

As for andBeyond, it turns out that most if not all of the properties I've chosen to stay at are now non-andBeyond properties. While they still quoted on these properties, it's sounding like it may make more sense to book thru an agent. They also have a non-refundable deposit which is a little scary!
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Mar 9th, 2014, 01:51 PM
  #15
 
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Most companies have non-refundable deposits, but should there be need to cancel or postpone, deposit in most all instances can be used for another date within a given timeframe (usually 1/yr). This because the land outfitter has already submitted the funds as deposit to actual accommodations to secure your room/tent.
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Mar 13th, 2014, 07:45 AM
  #16
 
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Most travel companies, whether to Africa or not, have a non-refundable deposit. Sometimes it is partially refundable if you book many months in advance and cancel well before 90 days from departure. Like Sandi states, the companies usually work with you for another date. Wayland Travel applied the full deposit amount for a trip one year later from my original date when I cancelled.
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Mar 15th, 2014, 03:35 PM
  #17
 
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... and there are some outfitters who will hold your provisional reservation for only 10/days as andBeyond (especially) and a few others (whether you're booking direct or thru a tour operator/safari planner). If it's an outfitter that pays on your behalf and you change your mind, they have to almost have to beg for a refund of funds. Why it's best to do your research, ask questions and know for certain so not to run into this possible situation.
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Mar 18th, 2014, 11:08 AM
  #18
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sandi, can you explain a bit more about the provisional reservations and how long should they be held for ideally? Also, you mentioned outfitters begging for refunds. Would that be the case even if I booked thru an operator/planner that then pays the outfitter? Are there certain questions other than 'what is your cancellation policy' that I should be asking to get to the nitty gritty of things?
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Mar 18th, 2014, 01:41 PM
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A Provisional Reservation is a 'hold' of your space pending receipt of your deposit or at minimum the client's actual wish to book; maybe an extension of the expiry date. Some properties are more stringent on when deposits are due as andBeyond (usually within 10/days of booking) and some others I'm sure. Deposits are most often non-refundable and if you wish to change or especially cancel reservation this must be done in writing at minimum 60days prior arrival though some companies might require 90days.

If you do have to cancel even prior those # of days shown, it's possible the owner of said property, might not be generous in refunding any amounts due client, (sad to say) ground operator requesting said refund might actually run into having to beg for the refund. Yet if outfitter has a strong relationship with owner, might be able to hold off a bit longer.

Such reasons for cancel can be: the traveler dies, gets an illness that won't allow travel, a child/elderly parent gets sick, etc.

Also know that if any internal air flights are included, these are often the most difficult to get refunds on, why many outfitters will 'hold' the space, but do not make the actual booking till closer to the actual date of travel...

As you have a safari scheduled for '15, I would consider waiting till you at least have your int'l air tickets arranged before booking specific lodges/camps which would be approx. 330/days prior travel. Though if you do decide to book one or two specific properties earlier, be prepared to make deposits at least on these to assure the space. But know it's not unusual for some properties to advise even 1/yr out that there is little space when in fact that's not the case... they simply want the booking.

Do make certain to purchase Trip Insurance for Cancellation and Interruption to cover your prepaid expenses as airline tickets and all ground costs. See a site as: www.insuremytrip.com for details.
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Mar 18th, 2014, 02:33 PM
  #20
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Great info, sandi! Thanks!
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