Fraud by local operator in Kenya & Tanzania

Jul 13th, 2011, 10:22 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 5
Fraud by local operator in Kenya & Tanzania

We just returned home to the States after a disastrous Safari in East Africa. We booked a trip with Larry Naphtally(Www.Neodestinations.com). They came recommended by friends and various websites. They are a local tour operator based in Kenya and Tanzania. They seemed to be able to customize the safari best and their rates for the various lodges were comparable. We had a satisfactory Safari in Kenya with fabulous stays at Ngerende Island Lodge(Masai Mara) and Tortillis Camp in Amboseli. When we reached Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania the trip disintegrated. We were completely abandoned by Neodestinations and had to seek out a new tour operator. Our safari was rescued with the help of the Serena Hotel group. We had to rebook and refinance our trip through them. The hotel vouchers for the Kirawira lodge and Serena Ngorongoro given to us by Neodestinations were fictitious and there were no bookings for us at these places. Naturally on returning to Nairobi we lodged an official complaint with the police department. Futher complaints to the Ministry of Tourism in Kenya and Tanzania as well as reports to the "Tourist Boards" of these two countries in the USA have so far gone unanswered. A complaint to IATA however did get us a response stating that Neodestinations were not registered with them and that they would insist that Neodestinations take the IATA logo of their website.
I have no illusions over expectations over any refund however I earnestly hope to bring this misadventure to public notice so future travelers may not find themselves in a similar predicament. After some reflection I have some advise for future safari goers. I would strongly suggest you avoid the small local your operators. Should things go wrong there is very little scope to recompense for them. Always use a card and avoid wire transfer of payments.and finally always insist on hotel vouchers and verify them with the actual hotels.
Finally should someone know of an organization or authority who might take some action on this I would much appreciate receiving it so I could forward the details of our misadventure.
Marcobatuta is offline  
Jul 13th, 2011, 11:49 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
Sorry for your trouble MANY local scammers in Africa/CA/SA

insuremytrip.com always wise sometimes built in to other

policies for me both my business card and homeowners

IF you paid with CC you can do a merchant reversal dispute

Why I NEVER wire money you are totally at their mercy.

File complaints with BBB.org FTC.gov although mainly US comps

If the fraud crossed international boarders

scare them to death and

Threaten to and only then if you do not get

financial satisfaction report them to Interpol for wire fraud.

Did this in South Africa on an antiquities scammer one time

Lastly write cntraveler.com "Ombudsman"

have seen them resolve very complex issues and sometimes

they will make you famous by publishing you.


Good luck you will need it.
qwovadis is offline  
Jul 13th, 2011, 01:23 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
That's terrible and unacceptable.

May I ask though, during your planning, inasmuch as Neo Destinations is a Kenya based company (and not licensed to operate in Tanzania), did they advise who your contact would be in Tanzania, a company licensed to provide service here?

Most Kenyan or Tanzanian companies work with an partner company in the other country for a smooth hand-off from one to the other.

As you were to visit Ngorongoro Crater (Serena) and Western Serengeti (Kirawira Camp... a Serena property), what were the arrangements indicated by Neo Destinations to get you from the airport in Tanzania to the Crater and then to the Serengeti? By road? By air? Were these clearly indicated in your pre-trip planning? Did Neo provide you with a detailed itinerary and in-country Tanzania contact?

Was there no one to meet you on arrival at Kilimanjaro/JRO airport? How did you then come to contact Serena? Important to know, though too late now... it's not unusual for Serena themselves, to do "switch-a-roos" with their bookings and move clients from one property to another.

While I'm not familiar with Neo Destinations, the 40+ reviews on Trip Advisor (didn't them read all) appears almost all are very positive.

Do let us know if there is any further outcome to this situation.
sandi is offline  
Jul 13th, 2011, 04:43 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 596
Don't depend on travel insurance in a default situation. I was not covered because the travel supplier suspended operation and did not declare bankruptcy within a certain period of time. I think I have mentioned this before and now I will never travel without paying by credit card. Even companies that have given great service in the past can develop problems.
Louise is offline  
Jul 13th, 2011, 07:01 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 346
I am extremely angry this happened. The OP is a close friend of ours and I unfortunately recommended this Agent to them based on our experience last year. The Kenyan authorities should shut Neo Destinations down immediately. They are nothing but common criminals.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic...ARE-Kenya.html

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic...onal_Park.html
AKR1 is offline  
Jul 14th, 2011, 02:37 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 5
Sandi
Neodestinations have a office in Tanzania listed on their website. still have the vouchers they gave me for the Serena bookings. They are clearly fictitious and Larry as much as admitted it to me. Besides the Nairobi police who came to the Serena confirmed that.
Incidentally his website also alludes to membership in the IATA and other organizations. We contacted IATA. IATA clearly stated that Neodestinations was not an IATA member and asked them to get it of their website. I would be happy to forward the IATA letter to you.
Serena helped rejuvenate our safari and I remain most grateful for that. Overall we came back much enamored of the place, people and animals of East Africa. I felt Neodestinations was an aberration and not representative of East Africa.
Marcobatuta is offline  
Jul 14th, 2011, 05:49 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Marcobuatuta,

I am so sorry about your experience. How wonderful to read your comments on East Africa and overall experience.

Very scary stuff.

Maybe we need to check sith IATA directly for members.

Verifying with the hotels directly is a good reminder.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 14th, 2011, 05:50 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Kudos to Serena. Can't forget that.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 14th, 2011, 05:58 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Neodestinations is not part of KATO or TATO. I put some stock in belonging to those for companies located in Tanzania and Kenya.

I am interested in comments from anyone about how KATO or TATO might have helped out or might not have made a difference.

Again, sorry for the stress and dispair you were put through, Marcobatuta, and thanks for sharing your unpleasant experience. I hope you can share the good parts of the trip as well.
atravelynn is offline  
Jul 14th, 2011, 06:27 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
KATO, TATO, IATA (in UK), ASTA (in USA), and similar are membership organizations and not all travel agents, tour operators, tour outfitters participate... it's voluntary only.

Again, this is terrible, even more so when a friend ARK1 who's posted here, your friend who had a very good safari with Neo... even more disappointing and upsetting.

Still, don't expect anytime soon for many in-country outfitters to accept credit cards. By them doing so, the cost of your safari will increase. Besides, some who have in the past have had issues on their end, example: because client funds can take sometime to reach outfitter, often even after client has taken their successful safari, then to have client contact outfitter claiming all that went wrong (even if not), and wanting a refund; then sending of the card company to handle dispute... the outfitter looses out. And, this isn't only one client that does this, but many do. So, outfitters being burnt previously, simply won't accept plastic.

OP - Making others aware of your experience with Neo is the best "heads-up" when it comes to others who may be planning future safaris.
sandi is offline  

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