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Feb 6th, 2004, 05:48 AM
  #1
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safariplanner.com

Does anyone have any experience (good or bad) using Charles Aljian (safariplanner.com) to plan their safari?
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Feb 6th, 2004, 12:37 PM
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sandi
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I was not familiar with this company, but did check their site. It is rather bare. There are no sample itineraries or prices, though many people do design their own itineraries.

You do not indicate which country/ies you wish to visit, time of your, your budget or what you are looking for in a safari experience.

Have you already contacted Safari Planner for a proposed itinerary and prices? Have you received same and if so, have they been responsive to your communications, questions and/or concerns?

Since this is a California based company, with whom do they work in the various countries (ground operators)?
Have they provided references from former clients; have you checked them out thru the Better Business Bureau?

Also, have you check other operators and gotten comparable itineraries for comparison?

Note: The photos on the site are have been taken from brochures of Tortillis Camp in Amboseli, Kenya; Klein's Camp in the Serengeti, Tanzania.

Hope some of these questins help in working with this tour operator or any other.
 
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Feb 6th, 2004, 01:03 PM
  #3
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thanks sandi. BBB says the company is a member and there are no reports made, given a satisfactory rating. I have gotten prices and all and he has been extremely responsive and helpful. Just curious if people had experience with him.
We are looking to do an E. Africa/Seychelles trip for our honeymoon. He has recommended Campi ya Kanzi and Saruni. As for the Seychelles, we are looking at a variety of options, including sunset beach hotel, Anonyme, silhouette...any thoughts would be helpful.
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Feb 6th, 2004, 02:15 PM
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Just my two cents...personally, I would not deal with a tour company that operates out of a ritzy address like Santa Barbara. You can be nearly certain that you are going to pay A LOT more with a Santa Barbara tour company than you will with an East Africa based tour company.

Here's a test...take the same itinerary safariplanner.com gives you and forward it to Tanzania Serengeti Adventures, Roy Safaris, Predator Safaris or Leopard Safaris (all Arusha, Tanzania, based operators) and see which one of the five is the most expensive. Please let us know the results.
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Feb 7th, 2004, 03:07 AM
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We were going to use them one year ago but got much better prices from four companies mantion here often.

Sunset Beach hotel? Did she/he ever visit there?
Anonyme, Silhouette? How were these chosen? Why? What is your reason for going to the Seychelles and staying in these places?
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Feb 7th, 2004, 05:10 AM
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bscharba -

Very good that the BBB gave SarafiPlanner.com a good review. Have you also contacted other tour operators to obtain comparable itineraries? You should contact at least two (2) and possibly three (3) others.

I've heard of the two camps/lodges mentioned, but not familiar where in East Africa they are located. Why not list the itinerary here, such as:
Flying from ( )
Day 1 - Arv. Nairobi (name of hotel)
Day 2 - To (Name of Park/camp/lodge)
Day 3 - same
Day 4 - by land to (as above)
Day 5 - by air to (as above)
Day 6 - fly to Seychelles (hotel)
etc. etc. - it's obvious I've given you a "blink of an eye" sample itinerary, but you get the idea. Will your itinerary include both Kenya and Tanzania or just one country?
Also - important - for what time of year are you planning your trip?

As to the Seychelles - Sunset Beach on Mahe on the Glacis coast has recently been refubrished and is lovely. Silhouette, if I understand is one of the outer islands. How long do you plan to stay in the Seychelles.
The newer resorts in the SEZ - Banyan or Lemuria - are very expensive.

And don't hesitate providing the quoted prices for the trip (we all do)

As to Roccco's remark that Santa Barbara is a high-rent neighborhood - that can, but doesn't really mean that prices will be higher. There are operators located in many areas throughout the States and the real estate has little to with it. This guy might be running his operation from his home, or a small one-room office nearby with a small staff so not much overhead.

I've used a tour operator in the past who was located in the heart of Manhattan, large space - and had some of the best prices available; though this company has since moved to (assumed lowerer rent area) on Long Island, the prices haven't gone up. And there are two tour operators in Conecticut (generally very high rent communities) that has excellent prices and services. So god and/or lousy tour operators can be located anywhere.

It comes down to whether they can provide the services, have the reputaion, and support services on the African-end you need, at the price you wish to pay.

That said, you should still try to contact at least another two (2) in-country operators in East Africa and at least another in the States.

One of my recent responses to another poster listed a few operators, both stateside and in Africa - do a search on my name - highlight "sandi" and search and these posts should appear on the left border. Read thru to find those website addresses and check them out.
 
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Feb 7th, 2004, 05:18 AM
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Sunset Beach - when did you stay there, Sandi? We were there in October 2003
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Feb 7th, 2004, 09:29 AM
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many thanks to all of your for your help. we visited africa last July (S. Africa) and planned the whole thing ourselves so using a planner is new to me.
Our sample itinerary looks like this:
9/29 - arrive in Nairobi, overnight Nairobi Serena
9/30 - 10/6 - Seychelles, destination unkown
10/7 - return to Nairobi Serena
10/8 - 10/11 Saruni camp (maasai mara)- air transfer
10/11 - 14 - campi ya kanzi (in between Tsavo and Amboseli) - air transfer
10/15 - return to Nairobi to go home
approx cost = $16-17K
We picked the seychelles because we really want to be at a place that is relatively secluded and not crowded. We would like to avoid Zanzibar and it seems that Mauritius destinations are larger than those available in the Seychelles.
I have consulted with 2 other US-based tour companies (CCAfrica and Africa Adventure Co.). CC has been less than responsive and I am due to see an itinerary and costs from AA on Monday. I will consult an E. Africa based company, though a cursory glance at those referred to by Roccco indicates that they do not offer either the Seychelles or Mauritius as a destination.
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Feb 7th, 2004, 10:17 AM
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bscharba, you really do not need any travel agent to book your trip to the Seychelles. We went several times and each time we saved lots of money by booking directly. If you know where you would like to stay it is easy to do it. Do you want to do touring of the Seychelles or do you want a couple places to relax and visit on your own. I will be glad to tell you about places we stayed in. Does $16-17K include airfares? How much are you dedicated to one week in the Seychelles? If you staying in Nairobi one night before your flight to the Seychelles you may need to purchase two visas for the Seychelles. This is what happened to some people who stayed in Nairobi one night before they continued their trip to Mahe We met them in the Seychelles last June. With six or seven nights in the Seychelles I would suggest only two places and my choices would be Praslin and La Digue or Mahe and La Digue. However there is much more rain that time of the year on Mahe than any other island. Just my .02 cents
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Feb 7th, 2004, 10:46 AM
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thanks wildflower. We are not tied to the idea of 7 days on the seychelles, but we would like to spend at least 5 there and would really rather stay in one spot to minimize travel and expense. where did you stay on la digue and praslin? are they smaller places or larger? we really just want to relax on the beach, maybe do some snorkelling but that is about it.
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Feb 7th, 2004, 12:49 PM
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bscharba -

My first suggestion is that you do the Seychelles after Africa. The reason is that the Africa portion is more hectice - therefore, it would be nice to relax after bumping and flying around Africa and before returning home.

I'm also surprised that without a hotel/island listed in the Seychelles that you can have a quote from anyone. Though initially you mentioned Sunset Beach (on Mahe). Prices can vary greatly.

But I would suggest for your time in the Seychelles you split your time between at least two islands. There are individual resorts on private islands such as Fregate or North Islands, but those will easily run $1000/nt.if not more and I believe meals are included (there is no place else to go for food).

Likewise as mentioned previously, the two newest resorts - Banyan on Mahe and Lemuria on Praslin are also expensive and I'm not certain whether meals are included - there are a number of sites to check which should indicate prices.

However, when we visited in '98, we spent 5-nts on Praslin at The Acajou, a relatively new small hotel, maybe 32 large rooms w/ air conditioning - this is a must in SEZ, then the last 2-days on Mahe at the Northolme (the Grand Dame of hotels here - which has just recently been refurbished) - on its' own private beach next to the Sunset Beach. With the Sunset Beach I believe they have at least a 5-nite minimum - I'd think twice about any place that required a minimum stay (with exception of Fregate or North Is).

From Praslin Island we were able to do day-trips - one day to Cousin & Curiuese Isls., another half-day to the Valley de Mai, a day-trip to La Digue Island by ferry (45-min). The remaining 2-days we had to ourselves.

On Mahe we spent half-day in Victoria (the capital) upon arrival (just had our driver take our bags to hotel) we took the local bus to the hotel. We did one day-trip around the island, and then had the second day to ourselves.

As to the Visa for Kenya, while is is a 30-day Visa, if you arrive there and overnight, then fly out to SEZ and then return - you might need a multi-entry Visa and the price might be different.

If you've been in Kenya, either first as indicated, or after safari, do check with the Seychelles Embassy whether you require a Yellow Fever inoculation! Yes - as when we visited, we spent 2-days Kenya (had been there before) then headed to Tanzania (8-days) for which we needed the YF booklet (though no one really looked at it) and since we had it that was that. However, upon arrival in Mahe, Immigration required proof of YF inocs from all passengers arriving on the plane from Kenya - luckily we had, or we would have be "in the s___ts!"

I will check the particular camp sites after this response, but notice you are only spending 3-nts in the Mara, but 4-nts at Tsavo/Amboseli. I would spend more time in the Mara as you'd be there during Migration (occurs anytime between July - Oct [even till Nov sometimes]) - another reason to do Kenya at the beginning of Oct rather than closer to the middle.

I also presume the price quoted includes your Int'l air (from where?) and the air to/fr SEZ, and air to/fr Tsavo and the Mara?

Note that CCAfrica almost always offers their own properties and can cost more than most; and Africa Adventure (while this is Mark Knolton's company) can also be higher in price. Will get back to you regarding the lodging in Kenya. Hope this helps in your consideration.
 
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Feb 7th, 2004, 01:14 PM
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bscharba, things are kind of very busy at my home right now but if you would like more information I will be glad to give you some ideas.
You may e-mail me at [email protected]
After a few trips to the Seychelles and staying in many different places on different islands I have some suggestions based on our personal experiences. One of the hotels we stayed in 2000 and 2001 was the Sunset Beach Hotel. In 2002 we also stayed at at the Northolme on Mahe. In 2002 we stayed in Acajou on Praslin. So I have more recent personal information on those hotels that were mentioned here. Did you check schedule of Air Kenya or British Air to SEZ from NBO? Air Kenya flies twice a week and British Air once a week.
Yes, you still need Yellow Fever shots before entering Seychelles after your stay in Kenya. Last year they were even more strict than ever before because of SARS. There were some airlines that were not allowed to the Seychelles during that time.
If you thinking about Fregete Island last year it was 1700.00 euros per nigh with 5 nights minimum. But it is a paradise. The Sunset Beach has no minimum but I wouldn't recommend staying there until they improve their facilities and food service.
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Feb 7th, 2004, 01:40 PM
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bscharba -

I checked the sites for the two camps and Kenya and "thumbs up" - Saruni in the Mara is quite interesting and small, something I always like. And Campi ya Kanzi in Tsavo more "tumbs up" and also small. And admittedly they are on the high-end pricewise which is fine - any of the camps in the Bush Homes category are "going to cost."

Again I would suggest you spend more time in the Mara than at Tsavo considering the time of year you will be visiting.

You might want to do a search here on the Africa/Middle East board for a recent (within the past three-wks) trip report by "babette" who visited the Seychelles a few months back. They stayed at only one resort/island (Banyan on Mahe) and while they did arrange for private day trips, admitted they should have split their time between two islands -she also comments on Banyan as a resort. It's good pre-reading.

Another hotel in SEZ to consider, though not new, and probably refurbished since we were there (but do check this with whichever tour operator you work) - is L'Archipel which is on Praslin, kind of small - do check on the a/c. But another alternative.

Banyan while new is also at the far south end of Mahe in a rather windy area; Lemuria on Praslin is also rather large (about 80 rooms). It's apparent from your selections in Kenya, you'd prefer "small".

Keep us posted as your plans come together.

 
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Feb 7th, 2004, 05:40 PM
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Sandi I misspoke, we are actually due to spend 4 nights in the Mara at Saruni and then 4 nights at Campi Ya Kanzi, which brings me to a question. I feel like being in this area and not hitting Ngorongoro is not a good idea, but that would obviously necessitate one less night at each camp so we can spend at least two in Ngorongoro. Any thoughts?
Based on the flight schedule, (FYI to Seychelles travelers, BA no longer flies there from Nairobi, per a phone call I had today with BA) I think we are going to go to SEZ from Oct 7-14. Looked into l'archipel and acajou and both look good. Should we maybe spend two nights on Mahe and 5 on Praslin?
I think I may take wildflower's advice and plan the Seychelles portion myself. Frankly, the only reason I wanted to use a tour operator was to take advantage of any price breaks and have him arrange transfers and such as I am completely in the dark as to how to arrange a flight from say the Mara to Tsavo!
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Feb 8th, 2004, 03:28 AM
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bscharba, for transfer from Mara contact Kenya Airways. This is what we did and there was no problem. Very easy.
If you are willing to do your own arrangements in the Seychelles and if you want some ideas how and where to book you know what to do. Have fun planning.
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Feb 8th, 2004, 03:35 AM
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bscharba, avoid Acajou on Praslin. It used to be a really nice place. It changed a lot and our stay there in 2002 was very dissapointing. We heard nothing but great things about L'Archipel. We never stayed there. Lemuria is fantastic and not big at all.
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Feb 8th, 2004, 04:04 AM
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bscharba -

Glad to hear you'll be spending more time at the Mara than Tsavo. Something to consider though, since Saruni is outside the Mara, how long will it take from the camp to get into the park to the area near the Mara or Talek Rivers to hopefully see a "crossing" of the wildebeests and zebra?

If long drives, you might want to spend some time "out all day" with the camp providing lunches to take with you; hopefully this way you can actually catch a crossing - but understand there are never any guarantee.

Know that National Geographic photographers sometimes wait days on days and weeks on weeks hoping to see a crossing, and they don't - but it is something to inquire about.

Sure anyone can arrange their own flight arrangements between the Mara and Tsavo or other connections, but personally, if you have a good tour operator with whom you are working, let them handle it, you don't save anything by doing it on your own.

As to going to Ngorongoro in Tanzania during this same trip, remember that you will have to return to NBO, then fly from there to Arusha/Kilimanjaro, (also will have to get a Visa there for Tanzania) from there you can drive to Ngorongoro. The closest airport to Ngorongoro is Manyara and you still have a drive to the crater, the same on the return back to NBO.

Since BA is no longer flying from NBO to SEZ, how were you planning on flying? Air Kenya? Again, from where are you starting your trip? The States or from Europe? Gather the States, but from where? And what routing has so far been planned to get to/from?

As to the Acajou or L'Archipel on Praslin, I'd go with L'Archipel and 5-days are good. You'll be able to arrange any of your day trips thru the hotel (believe there are two major tour operators in the SEZ that handle touring, not the hotels themselves).

On Mahe, you might want to check whether the refurbishing of the Northolme is complete and what it looks like and comments from a tour operator would be helpful. Tour operators get updates regularly which we as clients don't. Two-days here are good. You can even rent a car for a day to tour the island - which isn't very big - stopping anywhere you wish along the way.

While many people prefer to do their own bookings, I've found that if I have found a respected tour operator who can handle all for me, I go for it. Has nothing to do with the money, rather, should anything go wrong, I have an advocate to handle "issues".

I'll check some SEZ sites for you to look at, and then you can make the decision for yourself.
 
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Feb 8th, 2004, 05:14 AM
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bscharba -

Well the Northolme on Mahe won't be opened after refurbishing till Jan'05. But the prices for the Lemuria, though a property larger than I personally prefer, aren't as expensive as I thought - about $450-$500/nt. whether meals are included or not, I didn't check (but if it's usually bkfst & dinner).

What I might suggest if the hotels insist you take them with meals, is request breakfast only and pay for dinners as you go. You might want to eat elsewhere (another hotel) or free-standing restaurants on any of the islands. On those days you are out on full-day tours, lunch in included. Often the heat is so oppressive, you might not want more than cold drinks/beers during the day if not on a tour.

The two main tour operators in the SEZ are Masons Travel and Travel Services Seychelles. You might want to email them to find out what day-tours are available and prices so you have an idea ahead of time as to what you might like to do.

Check some of the following sites for details of hotels available and prices. Some are European based, so prices can be in either USD or Euros; and some sites don't have all hotels/guest houses listed - that's where a good tour operator comes in.

www.seychelles.com (this I found best)
www.justseychelles.com (UK based)
www.indianoceanodyssey.com (UK based)
www.banyantree.com
www.airseychelles.net

Hope these help.

 
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