East Africa Question...

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Aug 10th, 2004, 10:40 PM
  #1
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East Africa Question...

I suppose those individuals fortunate enough to have experienced both Southern Africa and Eastern Africa will best be qualified to answer this question.

How would you rate traveling with the same guide over an extended course of, say, 10 days, compared to having an expert guide that is completely familiar with the surroundings of the camp at which he is employed?

While the East African guide is likely hired by the tour operator and takes his guests on an entire circuit, the Southern African guide, the vast majority of the time, works directly for the lodge and is, therefore, completely familiar with the surroundings of the lodge.

I have heard a couple horror stories about East African guides pretending to be low on gas/petrol, in order to pocket the money that has been provided to him by the tour company. Such stories want me to stick to an outfitter like Roy Safaris which is perhaps 10% more expensive than some of the other local tour operators, but are still 30% less expensive than most American or European tour operators.

Should I go on the Northern Circuit of Tanzania (Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti), I would expect no problems with fuel, but you never know.

Are the guides available for game drives anytime the client requests a game drive? Are the clients able to request perhaps a 5 hour game drive, if they so desire? I have no problem generously tipping a guide for excellent service, but I don't know if the Tanzanian guides are as outgoing and friendly as Zambian guides.

Should I expect the guide to take me into town if I so request, or once I am at a lodge, should I expect only to be provided with twice daily game drives and then I am on my own?

What are the biggest differences that you can think of between the Eastern Africa safari experience (with private vehicle/guide) compared to the luxury lodge Southern African safari experience?

I have learned to overcome my hesitation for poptop vehicles, as this will probably make game drives a lot more comfortable for my wife, whom gets petrified with fear when lions, leopards, rhinos or elephants are too close to the open air Land Rovers/Land Cruisers.

Have any of you had a guide in the last couple years with a local tour operator who you thought so highly of that you can whole-heartedly recommend? I just see this as the very most important component of the Eastern Africa safari experience, even more important than the lodges.

Lastly, what about night game drives? Are they able to get a spotter from the lodge, or are they on their own (or perhaps does one of the guests grab the spotlight and act as tracker?).

Thanks.
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Aug 11th, 2004, 05:31 AM
  #2
sandi
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Roccco - Generally East African itineraries call for two game drives - one morning, one late afternoon. However, if you wish to take two in the morning or stay out all day - i.e., during Migration; as long as you prearrange this when booking, there should be no issue and any costs associated with this will be included in your pricing.

On our trips, we always had itineraries that included two morning drives. However, since Im not one for 6:30 am game drives, except for two occasions when my partner went out on drives at this "too early" hour, we made arragements where we would have breakfast early, about 7:30-8am, then went out on our morning game drive by 9am latest and stayed out till lunch (between 1-2pm); then out again at 3:30pm. Also on these trips, we did mostly road transfers so had the same guide throughout and it worked out to be an excellent situation. We had outstanding guides and no problem with schedules or anything for that matter.

It is important to note though that some camps insist that their guides be used even if you arrive with your own. In this situation your guide can have free time for himself, or you can request your guide join you - two sets of eyes spotting for game. So this is a question to ask and prearrange, to avoid surprises.

Remember - you are the client, and though there is a basic itinerary and way of doing things, if "you pay your money, you get what you want."

Comparing Southern Africa camp/lodge specific rangers versus "generalist" guides/drivers in East Africa - many Southern African rangers themselves move (for more money, change of scenery, disagreement with management, what more of a challenge, etc.) from camp/lodge on different reserves (private or otherwise) so they have to learn the new areas with each move (relocation). While camps/lodges in East Africa have in-house guides, they too move around (for the same reasons above) their country's camps and likewise have to learn the new terrain. With single guide/drivers throughout an itinerary, they are licensed, have taken various courses re animals, birds, terrains, etc. and go out on many "dry-runs" before they are allowed to work with clients. They know all the national parks/reserves in and out, where to locate what, and, of course, there are the two-way radios used between guides for special sightings. Also, guides are selected for client's based on their needs, requests, itinerary, etc. It is possible that every guide is capable to handle each and every park/reserve, but then there might be others who have special knowledge; will be selected for specific itineraries/clients.

Nite game drives. I've never done in East Africa, but these cannot be done within the parks/reserves on the Northern Circuit if your lodge/camp is located in the park/reserve. However, there are lodges/camps situated on the outskirts of the park/reserves peremeter; these camps/lodges often do night drives. If this is something of interest, select your accommodations accordingly.

Traveling the Northern Circuit of Tanzania, however, you might want a flight back from the Serengeti (likely to be your last stop) - here is where you will say goodbye to and tip your guide, but your pricing will include his trip back to Arusha.

Reputable tour operators provide reputable guides and should any not meet the requirements of the tour operator or "pull irresponsible stunts" (no gas, pocketing money, whatever) will very quickly find themselves out of a job.

As far as petrol in the Serengeti - unlike the Mara which is smaller and has petrol stations on the outskirts of the Reserve, when traversing the Serengeti, you take your petrol with you - no petrol stations here; though there might be one near Seronera.

So it comes down to planning carefully, asking the questions, getting the answers, know that some of your needs will add to your price, but just about any arrangements should be able to be accommodated.

Hope this was helpful and get you working on your Tanzania trip.
 
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Aug 11th, 2004, 08:20 AM
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I do remember there being a couple of petrol stations in the Serengeti and one was in the Seronera area. I can't remember where the other is.

If you do have your own private vehicle and guide, you should be able to go on game drives at your convenience. And stop in towns between parks, etc. With your own vehicle, you should be able to go at your own pace but the parks close at a certain time each night so you have to be back at your lodge/camp by then.

Ask for a guide who has a # of years under his belt. Someone who has driven the circuit many times and knows the parks.

You might want to get a quote from Ranger's Safaris. They are the largest tour operator in Tanzania and a lot of the U.S. operators sub out to them. You can cut out the middle man and get it priced yourself.

Make sure you ask for someone with an outgoing personality and who isn't lazy. You are well schooled in your knowledge of animals so you want someone you are compatible with.

If you get a good guide, you should have a blast. We did meet one guide that worked for Ranger Safaris (subbed through Africa Adventure Co.) who was a jewel. He was taking another couple on the route and itinerary we were on and we wished he were our guide. We met him at Tarangire. His name was Omari. High energy and great stories.
Been guiding for 20+ years.

Don't forget...you might want to squeeze in the Selous. Go on my behalf since we didn't make it! And are you sure you don't want to make it to the Mara in Kenya too. You are in the vicinity and it is a great park. And you can drive off-road.

I guess Phinda will have to wait. Maybe next time.



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Aug 11th, 2004, 09:18 AM
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Roccco,

I suppose, as a safari newbie--and an incredibly easygoing traveller in general-- I'm not really qualified to answer your questions, but we LOVED our guide in Tanzania so much I feel compelled to. Adrian (Adriano Augustino) at Easy Travel was the perfect guide for us to spend nine days with: we felt equally comfortable with silence as we did chatting away with him. I'd follow him to whichever company he moved to (used to work for A & K for those who care). He's great at spotting game and is a lovely person as well. My friend and I both had anxiety dreams about him the last night of our safari!

We did game drives of varying lengths, particularly in the Serengeti. Sometimes we'd go out at dawn, go back for breakfast, take a late morning drive, have lunch and rest, and then go for a late afternoon drive. Other times we'd go out all day with picnic lunches. It's really up to you.

And he was super responsible about the Land Rover. Problems can occur at anytime, of course, but if anything happened it wouldn't have been because Adrian wan't conscientious. We had no probs at all.

My caveat would be that you should communicate exactly what you want; these guides often give you what they think tourists want--basically what most tourists want, I guess. But personally I was mortified and weirded out at the Maasai village we stopped at. Hilarious and quite the experience in retrospect, however, and I'm glad we went.

Also, Easy Travel didn't want to book us at the hotel we wanted on the East Coast of Zanzibar, so I did that myself and dropped that part of the itinerary with them. No problem.

Just go; the Serengeti is fantastic! My sense is that there are all sorts of accommodations, including ultra-luxe-yet-rustic mobile camps with staffs of 12 in white gloves out there in the bush.
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Aug 11th, 2004, 08:06 PM
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Divewop, Sandi and Leely,

Thanks for the recommendations. It is such an interesting endeavour in booking an East Africa safari. It seems like such a crapshoot that it is a little unnerving, and that is for a three time visitor to Africa. I can see how it would be downright petrifying to the first time visitor where A&K or Micato may seem like the safest option (although I would never go that route, personally).

I am a little concerned about not being able to leave the road, but I guess that is not much different than South Luangwa. While we are on the road 95% of the time, if there is a good sighting possible and it only requires a short trespass into the prohibited areas, more likely than not, the guide will bend the rules for the benefit of the guests (Definitely not Singita where the guide will mow down whatever vegetation is in front of him in order to track a leopard however far off the road is necessary.)

For a couple reasons, however, it looks like it will be one more year of Southern Africa (in 2005) before I am able to finally make my way to Tanzania in 2006, if all goes well. First, and foremost, I have to take my wife's wishes into consideration. While she has no way consented to South Africa, she has not NOT consented, either. That is good enough for me. With six nights spent between The Twelve Apostles and Le Quartier Francais, and the remainder of the time spent at Mala Mala and Simbambili, I think I am making this trip as tolerable as possible, even to a person that does not care for safari.

It will be a very easy trip with a flight into Cape Town, followed by six nights, followed by a flight into Kruger/Sabi Sand, followed by seven nights, followed by a flight into Joburg and home. Even the road transfers will probably never be longer than about 1 hour each.

The other reason I feel this trip is necessary, is because I REALLY need to get in shape and run the Two Oceans Marathon. Life is too short to continue being out of shape, and I cannot think of a more beautiful locale than Cape Town to step it up a notch and attempt my first ultramarathon, although I honestly must drop at least 35 pounds in the next seven months to have any chance at successfully completing the race.

However, if I do finish the race, the rest of the trip is set up perfectly, with two nights remaining at The Twelve Apostles in possibly the most comfortable beds in the world, followed by two nights of wine, great food and spas in Franschoek at Le Quartier Francais, followed by three nights at Mala Mala and as a grand finale, four nights at Simbambili featuring a private plunge pool, and if my schedule goes as planned, my final night at Simbambili (and in Africa) celebrating my birthday.

The world is a big, big place, but Southern Africa continues to have this magnetic and irresistible effect. Honestly, the only solution will be to one day own a nice house in the Western Cape and spend a couple months per year in South Africa. Wouldn't mind leaving behind this 100 degree stretch of weather in the San Gabriel Valley that we enjoy each August and September for the cool weather of Cape Town right now, rain or no rain. Hey, if nothing else, it will help qualify me for resident South African rates at the game lodges, right?!
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Aug 12th, 2004, 03:17 AM
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Roccco,
I would not be too worried about being "road tied" while in Tanzania. Having been there twice, albiet with budget company, we never thought we were missing anything with the practice. On the other hand I really did not like the liberal practice in Kenya where we literally chased game. Yes, at the time it was kinda of exciting to drive thru the tall grass to flush out a leopard but after I thought about it-- how crude. Then to see the poster in the one lodge about the concern for cheetah and precautions the drivers should take--wow! Not supposed to have more than 5 vehicles viewing at a time, keep a certain distance (25 meters) back, not using radios to alert other guides, etc. Yet, I also wanted the perfect photo was at the time appreciated efforts to get our vehicle properly situated. Kinda goes back to your one post months ago as to the "foot print left" as a result of our trip.
Don't worry about being stuck on the road. We saw plenty of game along and on the roads.
Dick

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