Serengeti help!

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Feb 27th, 2013, 10:35 AM
  #21
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Bboopz,

It is possible to have a private guide and vehicle as a solo traveler so you don't have to contend with unwelcoming couples or readymade small groups who are not interested in including others. A private trip works well in Tanzania and is the option I have chosen in the past and for an upcoming trip.

What also works well is a combo of a group trip with a private add-on.

On a private trip at lodges, though, you can really end up being "odd man out" at your own table, while others in groups share a table during their meal. But nobody has ever gawked at me or said anything about being me alone. In fact, most people don't notice who all is sitting with who.

Sometimes it is even possible to make some acquaintances and join others at mealtime or downtimes. If not, there is plenty to see around camp if you have binocs and maybe a bird book.

In contrast to lodges, at camps, the meals tend to be family style where everybody dines together.

No guarantees of the travelmates you will get, but safaris tend to attract like minded people who enjoy nature and wildlife. The focus is on what's "out there" and not each other. When gathering around the campfire or during meals, there are plenty of shared sightings you can discuss and sometimes your guide joins you, which makes for additional interesting conversation. It is easy share a vehicle with 2-5 other people when prospects for exciting wildlife encounters await the group. It's not like you have to pal around at various exhibits at a museum and then decide where to go for lunch. Safaris are fairly cut and dried as far as activity options and meals go.

Some group trips, such as OAT, drop or reduce the single supplement if traveling at non-peak times.

Good luck but don't let the lack of traveling buddies keep you from visiting Tanzania or similar places, Bpoopz.

Several of those trip reports linked above are from solo travelers, all having a fantastic time.
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Feb 28th, 2013, 04:17 AM
  #22
JEF
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Thank you all for your help and advice!
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Feb 28th, 2013, 04:19 AM
  #23
JEF
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Has anyone used Africa Adventure Company?
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Feb 28th, 2013, 06:10 AM
  #24
 
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You are probably seeking anyone else besides me since I mentioned previously I have gone with them.

I’ve posted some of this before about The Africa Adventure Company but it is worth posting again.

Nothing of consequence has ever gone wrong with The Africa Adventure Co and every trip I’ve taken with them has been memorable and wonderful. I now tend to use more local agents and everything has gone well with them too. Fortunately there are many reputable and excellent African travel agents.

Here are some specifics about Africa Adventure’s fine service.

Just before a scheduled departure to Uganda in 2001 for myself and three friends, there were security problems that fell short of a State Dept warning, but made us feel uncomfortable going gorilla tracking at that time. Africa Adventure re-did the Uganda portion of the trip last minute, omitting all our Uganda activities, with no cancellation fees, and not charging us for a total of 12 gorilla permits. They replaced the Uganda days with all the Kenya & Tanzania parks and activities I requested. It also required changing airline tickets to different countries just days before the flight and they got us changes without any fees or penalties.

On my first trip in July of 1994, I had planned to see the gorillas in Rwanda after a Kenya/Tanzania safari. In April the terrible genocide began so Rwanda was out of the question. I was still keen on gorillas and asked AAC to work up a Uganda gorilla alternative. They planned and costed it for me and it would earned them more than my original Rwanda plan. But owner Mark Nolting talked me out of it because he felt the Uganda gorillas would not be sufficiently habituated for a good experience. Instead he suggested, and I opted for, an alternative that was far less expensive than either the original Rwanda option or the Uganda plan. So they didn’t just try to bilk a new, inexperienced customer for all they could get, and at that point I figured it would be only Africa trip. (I went the following year to the Uganda gorillas and had a great time. By then they were more accustomed to people.)

Another time as I was returning home, Air Botswana redirected its scheduled flight elsewhere to accommodate VIPs, and offered no replacement, stranding all its passengers. A collect call to Africa Adventure got me on another airline's flight, only one day late when some of the other passengers were still stranded with no available flights or options, and getting desparate.

In 2004 they even got me in as a volunteer in a program directed by the Peace Corps for a Jane Goodall chimp sanctuary. To visit as a guest would have cost thousands, and resulted in better commissions for them. But the experience would not have provided the hands-on contact with the chimps.

On one trip there was another client, who was not with Africa Adventure, who was extremely rude and actually perverted. When I explained this problem to Af Adv upon my return they sent me a couple hundred dollars refund just for the inconvenience of putting up with this guy. On that same trip I was asked to pay park fees that my itinerary stated were included. I got documentation to prove I had to pay again and told AAC I’d send it in return for a refund. They told me don’t bother sending anything, asked how much I paid in fees, and sent a refund. (Looks like that trip may have been a bad one given these couple incidents, but those were two blemishes on a wonderful safari.)

On one trip my luggage was lost on the way home. Going through all the accepted British Air channels produced no results for days on end. It had just disappeared. So I called Bill at Af Adv, who did the flights and explained my problem. He contacted their British Air rep and 5 hours later I had an email that my luggage had been located and it was at my home the next day.

More than once I have agreed to a price for a trip and made a deposit and then several weeks after the deposit has been applied, AAC has informed me that they were able to reduce the price of my trip further. Once they knocked off $700. Another time, they were able to do away with the single supplement after I had agreed to pay it. They’ve also added freebies. There was a complimentary Zambezi raft trip—the slow kind, and an absolutely amazing chimp habituation program in Kibale where we saw the chimps wake up, spent the day with them, then watched them make their nests at night.

Twice now, I have been able to plan the exact highly non-standard itinerary I wanted but could not afford alone. AAC promoted my unusual trip (which included an excessive 4-8 gorilla visits) and obtained 4 travel partners on both occasions to share a vehicle, making the trip affordable for me.

On a primate trip in 2009, AAC teamed up with a new partner for them, Volcanoes Safaris, with me as the guinea pig client, which offered me a lower rate.

One time after returning home (back when travelers checks were widely used) I was informed there had been a travelers check signing problem (my fault) that resulted in my guide being accidentally shorted $200 in tips. Mark Nolting was able to meet with the camp’s reps at a conference in London several weeks later and hand over $200 of his own money to go to the guide and retrieve my problem travelers checks, which were then sent back to me and then I reimbursed AAC, after the fact.

One time I booked a cultural camp for the typical single night stay about 20 months in advance. Three months later that camp closed unexpectedly. AAC immediately informed me and offered me another night at any of the other camps in my itinerary at the cost of the cancelled camp, which happened to be 50% less than my other camps. Such a deal! When I got to Africa, I ran into several people whose agents had told them just prior to their departures that this cultural camp had closed and these people had to scramble last minute for an alternative. In many cases their alternative was not ideal because the most desirable places had already been booked.

As far as pricing goes, when I shopped my last two Botswana itineraries with Wilderness camps around to several companies both in the US and in Africa, Africa Adventure came back with the best land and air deal of anyone. For just land they beat everyone except Bert of Fish Eagle Safaris in Texas, who was very knowledgeable and sent me all sorts of interesting information.

I think East Africa is a more competitive situation than Botswana. It is easier to get very cheap safaris in Kenya and Tanzania by going with lower quality guides and vehicles. AAC hand picks the guides and I’ve always had great ones in Kenya & Tanz with them. Sometimes a large safari company has a range of guides and the less experienced ones without the honed guiding/spotting skills have to begin somewhere. You don’t want them beginning with you. They don’t begin with AAC clients. The guide I’m using on my next Tanzania safari with Eben Schoeman Safaris is great (had him before) and Eben uses special big-open-side-window vehicles in the Serengeti, designed especially for photography, which sounds expensive but I am impressed with his pricing. I know you mentioned photography The Wild Source (company mentioned above) Tanzania guide is supposed to be great too.

The only time I needed to use trip insurance was in 2005 when a delayed flight meant I missed an afternoon on safari. My insurance was purchased through AAC and I got a very fair refund with their assistance, without hassles, about a month after submitting my request. A friend of mine who used AAC also bought their insurance and broke her leg in Africa. She was pleased that both she and her 16 year old grandson, who was her traveling companion, were promptly given first class tickets—with more room for the leg—back to the US. She said all her medical outlays were covered, no questions asked. I think she even made a slight profit.

AAC offers some set departures with group trips. They also do custom trips. For almost every trip I’ve taken with them, I tell them where I want to go and they arrange it.
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Feb 28th, 2013, 06:40 AM
  #25
JEF
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WOW I am out of breath reading your reply atravelynn! Thank you always good to hear what you have to say. Seems like you have had many great trips! Yes I mentioned photography very interested in that, just bought a new camera! Thanks again.
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Mar 10th, 2013, 02:35 PM
  #26
JEF
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Well into picking who we want to do out trip, has been lots of fun....hopefully within the next couple of weeks we will have made our choice. Can you please let me know when we get to Arusha should we spend the next day going to Arusha national park or just head stright into the safari? is it worth spending the day? thank you all for your help!!
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Mar 11th, 2013, 04:22 AM
  #27
 
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JEF - I have also used Africa Adventure Company once - to Botswana and Zimbabwe - great service, no problems. I have used Eben Schoeman once (to Tanzania) and he's planned my next trip later this summer to Rwanda and Kenya - also great service. As Atravelynn mentioned, his vehicles in Tanzania are great and in very good condition. An interesting note, we did not book the vehicle she describes (which may come with an extra fee) however he gave us this vehicle anyway at no extra charge. If you were to go with Eben, ask for George as a guide - great guy.
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