Some questions re: private vs. group tour

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Nov 7th, 2011, 11:43 AM
  #1
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Some questions re: private vs. group tour

I am in the pondering stage for a trip to Africa next September/October. Budget may determine whether we go to northern Tanzania or make a return trip to Sabi Sands & Kruger in S. Africa.

It will be just me and my husband, so I am trying to get a feel for the social aspects of a private tour or a group one. It may be fun to talk with other tourists, but then again I've read about the drawbacks of being stuck with a group. We went on a 3 day Wilderness walking trip in Kruger where it was just us and another couple, two guides and a cook. Neither us nor the other couple were all that social, so there were a lot of awkward silences and forced conversations. Not a lot of fun, we were happier all alone in our rental car. Although, we loved the game drives in the Sabi Sand vehicles, we weren't crowded in the vehicles and it was fun to chat with a handful of other people over beers in the evening.

On a private tour in TZ, are you with your one guide/driver 100% of the time in his vehicle, or do you go out on a lodge's vehicle if you are staying at a lodge? At the lodge, does your guide hang out with other guides during the non-game drive times? Do you have meals with your guide, or does he eat with other guides and swap stories about the peculiarities of the tourists they may be stuck with on that trip?

If you are camping, is it just the three of you in the bush under the stars? What are the common campsites like in the Serengeti, say, are they like camping at Yosemite or something? I think we may want to do a combo of mainly being under canvas and maybe some lodges. Maybe.

Please help me get a feel for this. What if you don't like your guide very much but you are stuck with him for 8-10 days? What if you don't like your fellow tourists in the group and wish some of them could be fed to the lions?
gigib is offline  
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Nov 7th, 2011, 12:29 PM
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www.opulentafrica.com

Klein's camp or similar with game drives my preference

if budget is good... zicasso.com good place to take bids.

porini.com eco-camps well rated.

For me with very small groups and/or private guide

you can get stuck with 24/7 can get strange dodgy at times.

The last private guide I had was an evening person and

I was a morning person he was always not around when I

was ready to do stuff in the early AM... kept lying to me

starting late because he liked to go out at night so not great

The last couple we went with the guy snored like a

roaring lion operating a large chainsaw all night EVERY night

so you are right it is very much the luck of the draw...

Self-guiding can be lots better if budget is good.

Jenmansafaris.com good personal experience also...

Good luck!
qwovadis is offline  
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Nov 7th, 2011, 12:49 PM
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Great questions! I, too, am interested in hearing other travelers experiences.
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Nov 7th, 2011, 01:02 PM
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"On a private tour in TZ, are you with your one guide/driver 100% of the time in his vehicle, or do you go out on a lodge's vehicle if you are staying at a lodge?

A. If on a drive only safari, then yes... you and your guide/driver & vehicle throughout. If a fly in/out, then you use the guide/vehicle of the lodge/camp on a shared basis*; however, you can arrange for exclusive use of vehicle at a daily rate per vehicle.
*depending on lodge/camp, the more expensive, smaller ones rarely put more than 4/pax per vehicle, but can't be guaranteed.

At the lodge, does your guide hang out with other guides during the non-game drive times? Do you have meals with your guide, or does he eat with other guides and swap stories about the peculiarities of the tourists they may be stuck with on that trip?

A. Again, depending on property and whether a driving or flying itinerary, this can vary. Some properties have no issue with guides eating with their clients and this should be inquired about in planning stage and pre-arranged; others may not allow.

But bear in mind, your guide does need a break and enjoying time with their buddies, often enjoying their local cuisine, is just what they need to be bright and bushy-tailed next morning. And, if they are talking about their clients... so be it.

If you are camping, is it just the three of you in the bush under the stars? What are the common campsites like in the Serengeti, say, are they like camping at Yosemite or something? I think we may want to do a combo of mainly being under canvas and maybe some lodges. Maybe. Please help me get a feel for this.

A. Camping will be with guide/driver and cook, so in your case 4/people, along with the tents, bedding, food, cooking equipment, etc. There are public campsites with shared facilities (bathrooms and showers) or 'special' campsites, a bit more expensive, but for you alone and they provide a private loo and shower with water to your desired temp.

What if you don't like your guide very much but you are stuck with him for 8-10 days? What if you don't like your fellow tourists in the group and wish some of them could be fed to the lions?

A. Well, who knows as there is never any guarantee which people will jell with others, but if you advise your operator of your personalities and likes/dislikes... they'll do their utmost to match. That said, however, it's rare that your guide will not have the best game sighting skills, knowledge of the country, history, tribes, etc. that will enhance your experience... though it might take a day or two for all participants to become comfortable with the others. African's tend to be soft-spoken, but don't take that as stand-offish, rather their quiet approach with strangers at the outset. Others are just out there and bubbly. It's rare to read "our guide was terrible."

For sure, private is better than sharing safari with a group - set itinerary, set lodging, etc. - with strangers and decisions being made by committee.

Hope this helps.
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Nov 7th, 2011, 10:17 PM
  #5
 
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Hi,

there are some opinions here regarding private and group travel from very experienced safari-goers,
http://safaritalk.net/index.php?showtopic=2078

Enjoy,

Pol
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Nov 8th, 2011, 09:52 AM
  #6
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Thanks, this helps me a lot!
The silence of the bush is a whole lot more appealing than getting stuck with someone blathering. I'll see if we can afford the private trip.
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Nov 9th, 2011, 07:09 PM
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Good responses.

I wouldn't worry about not liking your guide if you use a reputable company. You can make your wishes known at the outset, especially on a private trip, and the guide will try to accommodate. I think it is unusual to have a guide continually lie to you as qwov describes above. I've never had a bad guide in Africa but I've always used reputable companies and have politely made my wishes known.


"Under canvas" and common campsites can be very different things. The private luxury camps, whether permanent or mobile offer a top of the line experience that provides seclusion and remoteness, unlike the common campsites.


If you can afford it private is better. If not, join a group and just be glad you can arrange to get there.
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Nov 10th, 2011, 08:57 AM
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"I was a morning person he was always not around when I was ready to do stuff in the early AM... kept lying to me starting late because he liked to go out at night so not great"

--- The scheduling should have been discussed and agreed upon during the planning process; the guide's attitude was unacceptable (do tell where he went out at night while you were in the bush); otherwise, after Day 2 I would have been in contact with the outfitter and had guide replaced.

"The last couple we went with the guy snored like a roaring lion operating a large chainsaw all night EVERY night, so you are right it is very much the luck of the draw..."

--- do tell me you weren't sleeping in the same tent! If not, then no way anywhere to be assured whether another guest's sleep habit will bother, whether part of your group or not... even if in a hotel with real walls.
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Nov 10th, 2011, 09:19 AM
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I've had probably 20 different safari guides over my last 7 safaris. Never have I had one as bad as QV had. QV should have talked with camp management immediately. At $300-$800 per day you know what to expect and deserve it. Although I have on two occasions asked to change guide/vehicles because the guides simply did not understand my requests for vehicle placement for photography. Done next drive, no big deal, no hassels.

regards - tom
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Nov 10th, 2011, 01:41 PM
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We didn't like the guide we were assigned for our Tanzania trip a couple of years back, but some of the issues we were able to resolve to a limited extent by expressing our views to him during the trip. Only some, so we weren't best pleased. However, interpersonally, he was fine and not unpleasant to be with so that wasn't an issue. And we did get to mingle with other guests for meals at each camp, which helped a lot.

We had discussed guide requirements with the outfitter in advance and they'd promised a great guide but whilst this guy may have been guiding for years, he'd lost the passion and was going through the motions, more interested in catching up and chatting with his buddies (which we met all the time since he'd been in the industry a long time). The frequent mentions of his monetary needs were grating too.

We've enjoyed self-drive enormously, we thought we'd miss having the expertise of a guide but we really didn't. We did miss being able to go off road, so our sightings weren't quite as frequent/ as good but they were satisfying.

Our favourite is to go to small camps where social time is with other visitors over meals and with management. For game drives, if I had budget, I'd go private vehicle and guide every time. We've seldom had poor guides at high end camps. We usually don't fork out for private though so share with others. Mostly fine though a few nightmare companions, but as they're never on same itinerary at least it's for a few days at most. If really bad can speak to mgt and be reassigned to different vehicle. And some have been very nice. It is a compromise though, in terms of what to see, how long to stay, what to do... and photography. So for us, private would always be the preferredoption.
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