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Recommended Tanzania safari guide - and a bird specialist!

Recommended Tanzania safari guide - and a bird specialist!

Mar 31st, 2007, 08:42 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 196
Recommended Tanzania safari guide - and a bird specialist!

Hello again, sorry it's taking me a while to post our trip report for Kenya/Tanzania last month! But I just had to post a recommendation for a fantastic guide we had in case anyone out there might be interested as they plan a tour in Tanazania.
His name is Emmanuel Mkenda and he had been recommended to my husband and me by Deb Young, a fodorite from Hawaii who travelled with her niece last year. He works for Ranger Safaris and we had asked for him by name. (Our travel agent has used Ranger/Pollman's as their ground operators for years and they turned out to be a first class company, we were treated like royalty from start to finish.) Anyway, we were on a private safari and Mkenda was everything we'd hoped for and more!
He was trained by CC Africa and was their head ranger at the Crater Lodge. He is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge about anthropology, archaeology, geology (more than you'd ever want to know!) as well as animal, aquatic and bird life. He is VERY well educated (Rangers sent us a copy of his CV.) He has worked for Ranger's out of Arusha for the past several years as his children now go to school there. Extremely personable, lots of fun, conscientious and what a driver!
As Ranger's top guide, he always has a new vehicle. Ours was brand-new, a Toyota landcruiser with all the bells and whistles, even a folding table and chairs for bush lunches (and a refrigerated cooler.) The vehicle was spotless every morning. Lots and lots of water provided. Mkenda adjusts the pressure in his tires to accomodate his passenger load. We drove for a week with him, from Lake Manyara to the Serengeti, and it was comfortable ALL THE WAY! We never suffered through uncomfortable drives anywhere. We avoided the "highways", took scenic routes, had the animals to ourselves virtually the entire time. Never had to use a back cushion! He is a VERY careful driver, can't say enough about him! A plus: in the first three days we (he) spotted and identified 153 different birds! Mkenda not only has eyes like a hawk, he knows all the Latin names of every bird and instantly flips to the right page in his bird "bible" to confirm each bird and offer additional info about its habits etc. (if you are interested, and we were!) He also made our visit to Olduvai Gorge a highlight of the trip. His knowledge is vast and his explanations clear. After the "talk" at the Gorge lookout he drove us down into the gorge (we were the only ones there) to show us where the excavations took place by the Leakeys, took us walking,
and filled our heads with the ancient past. He rarely used his communications radio, was expert in locating animals (including a leopard up a tree, yay!) and drew our attention to even the smallest creatures, lizards, even the plant life and especially the flowers. (By the end of the safari my husband was an enthusiastic bird-watcher, which was an added bonus for me!)
I just had to post this recommendation because we had the most wonderful time! and so comfortable, it distresses me to read how some travellers have suffered on the road from the Crater to the Serengeti! And yes, Mkenda drove us through the migration (but, as he warned, only because the "babies" had not yet been dropped on the plains.) We have already begun to plan our next safari and wouldn't dream of travelling with anyone else. In fact we'd already sketched out an itinerary with Mkenda for next time!
Had to pass on Mkenda's name as we are ever so thankful to Deb Young for posting it last year after her own safari!!Thanks, Deb!
carolines is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 09:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,220
Fantastic recommendation, thank you for sharing. Have you/ will you be posting a more detailed trip report and itinerary? Apologies if you already have and I've missed it. I'd certainly love to hear more about your journeys, your accommodation, your sightings and anything and everything else!
Kavey is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 09:57 AM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 138
On our last Safari February 2006 the Rangers Safari guide and vehicle were the total opposite!
net_warrior is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 12:44 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Thanks Carolines!

NetWarrior, would you mind telling us if you booked with an agent or directly with Rangers? I am wondering if I detect a pattern. Sorry for your unpleasant experience.
atravelynn is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 01:18 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 196
Hi Kavey, yes I'll be posting my trip report! We had the most amazing month of our lives and my brain is still jumbled with emotion and awe at everything we experienced. We just came back from the bookstore ten minutes ago,having purchased the latest "Travel Africa" magazine to help us plan the next trip. We have truly been baptized into the Fodors cult of Afree-kah obsession!
Net-warrior, we had read your trip report from last year where you said you had a great safari with Rangers in Oct. 05, but your last-minute venture with them the following Feb. (through an agency I think?) did not turn out so well. That made us worry, but our agent, Great Canadian Travel, assured us Rangers was first class and they guaranteed our complete satisfaction. We had the agency relay our concerns to the head office in England, nevertheless. We then read additional favorable postings on Rangers, and after reading Deb Young's posting we specifically requested Mkenda from Rangers and they reserved him for us (first time I've ever reserved a person!) We also spoke to other of our agent's clients who had safaried with Rangers and Pollman's, and got high recommendations and enthusiastic feedback.
I have to say that Rangers gave us everything we asked for and much, much more. They patiently adjusted our itinerary with us several times and their ground service in Africa was fantastic. We had wonderful surprises throughout our safari and when I was afflicted by Nairobi fly they went above and beyond the call of duty for us, we were overwhelmed (details later!)
Our safari was arranged by Great Canadian Travel through the Rangers/Pollman's office in London. Our travel agent meets with them every year there at the annual travel show I believe.
carolines is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 01:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 138
Hi atravelynn

First time booked through Kuoni for a group safari.
We had the lead guide of a two car group. He was good.

Second time was a private safari through African Safaris Direct who seemed to be Rangers agent in the UK. Very bad guide who happened to be secondary driver on our first Safari!

Remember my trip report? Malaria et all.
net_warrior is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 01:51 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 138
Hi Carolines

Your agent obviously had more clout than ours. After our first safari we knew what we wanted, good guide and good transport. Unfortunately we got neither.

I am glad you had a fantastic guide and safari. It is great when you have a guide recommended but most clients, the majority, are not in that position.

Now people have a balanced view that's all I was after, since there's no chance of an apology from Rangers.
net_warrior is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 01:55 PM
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Posts: 196
Hi net-warrior, you're right, that's why I posted my guide recommendation! If Deb hadn't posted we wouldn't have had the guide we did! Hopefully others can take advantage!
carolines is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 04:04 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Thank you for the info NetWarrior. I used Rangers in 1994 on my first safari alone and in 2001 with 3 other people. We used a reputable agent (Africa Adventure Company in US) and had outstanding guides both times. The second booking was even done last minute for reasons that were no one's fault. The guides had gone on safari with the owners of AAC and had been picked for their clients.

Your report is not the first I've seen of people being unhappy with Rangers. I wonder if they have various levels of guides and equipment and dole out the best to their strongest partners and its luck of the draw for the others.

Now I am going to search for your report to refresh my memory.

atravelynn is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 04:06 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 1,774
Hi Carol-

Glad to see you have posted - I was wondering if you were OK as I hadn't heard from you!

Looking forard to your trip report... and hearing from you!
LyndaS is offline  
Mar 31st, 2007, 04:18 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Of course I remember your report now from about a year ago. The tse tse bites, the engine that wouldn't shut off, the huge ele herds in Tarangire. I even commented on your massive reedbuck find.

Despite the problems you mentioned, there were some excellent sightings and experiences on this return to Africa that you detailed nicely.

Here it is for anyone else that wants to read about Rangers and Tanzania.

atravelynn is offline  
Apr 6th, 2007, 02:22 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 12
Hi all - sorry for the drought between posts but I've been doing research down in the Maasai Steppe.

I just wanted to add a thought to this string to say that I wish recommended guides like this were free-lancing and not ties to a company and not being offered the best outlet for their vast knowledge etc by companies that 'gover' their every move. Personally I have heard less than impressive thoughts about Ranger and their staff advocacy on many occasions but it is refreshing to know that they may be reshaping their if ways if they have managed to keep such a well-recommended, knowledgable and impressive guide for a duration.
travellingjoe is offline  

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