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South Africa Tour Operators??

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Aug 25th, 2009, 04:29 AM
  #1
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South Africa Tour Operators??

My wife and I are looking at planning a trip to South Africa this year using a tour operator. We've seen a lot of information on:

2Afrika
go2Africa
smarTours
Overseas Adventure Travel

Any feedback/experience with any of these companies? The research via the web and other travel guide sites have varied widely and often there are older posts (2+ years old) but these seem to have the most consistent positive ratings.
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Aug 25th, 2009, 04:47 AM
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of these companies i would say go2africa is the best. they are a big time competitor of my company and they do really good work. they are based in cape town and pricing is going to be good. i recommend you contact mia schoeman directly if you want to work with them. she is their best safari consultant.

smartours - i think you mean smarttours? they run a very budget group safari to south africa. the trip only touches some of the best wildlife areas. i do not recommend it.

2Afrika - i have only heard of them but always in good ways.

2Afrika and go2africa are both going to be best if you are looking for a customized itinerary at the same cost as (painfully) booking all the lodging directly on the internet. the other two run only group tours.

i do not recommend the OAT botswana/zimbabwe/namibia tour if that is what you are considering.

craig beal
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Aug 25th, 2009, 04:57 AM
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trilogy - here is my comments on the OAT tour i referenced above. i pasted this from a comment i made in another forum. i hope you don't mind. since i researched this OAT tour for a client several months ago, the tour has gotten even worse. now they list all the properties with the disclaimer "or similar" so you really don't know where you will stay. if i researched their south africa tours this extensively, i would hope not to find the same problems.

Some of this info is my opinion and some is fact. My advise is to be careful because OAT uses the name of well known main camps on their web site descriptions when they, in fact, use smaller inferior properties and not the lodge they name on the itinerary. These comments are based on their day-by-day on their web site. Also, keep in mind I am in the safari business and technically compete with OAT but to a different market segment.

http://www.oattravel.com/gcc/general...spx?oid=262114
Day 4-6 – Baobab Safari Lodge was rated 1 star by the Botswana tourism board and is no longer rated.
http://www.botswanatourism.co.bw/acc...facilityID=375

Also, you get to camp by road via Kasane which will take about 3 hours. The Chobe river is the most crowded part of Botswana with more than 800 beds in the Kasane area – this is a TON of people. Baobab is on the Western side of the Chobe National park and NOT IN THE PARK ITSELF. For game viewing, this is the quietest side (least animals) of the park and it is also rocky and bumpy. The public camp site is also right next door which will greatly devalue the experience you have. You will have to go through the gate with hundreds of other vehicles (people) each morning and also leave with the same hundred of people each night. The people who go "cheap" and stay outside the park get to experience what they call the "dust bowl" each day when all the vehicles come in and out of the park.

Day 7/8/9 – Lianshulu is a camp operated by Wilderness Safari's wholly owned subsidiary the Safari & Adventure Company. There are few predators here and most guests do not see any cats at all. This fact is stated on the real owners web site: http://www.safariadventurecompany.co...e.asp?LD_ID=25
NOTE: you do not stay at the lodge on this web site. you stay at a lesser quality facility not associated with the main lodge. There is no web site for Lianshulu Bush Lodge.

Day 10 – There is no such place as “Wilderness Tented Camp” on the web. Wilderness Tented Camp with OAT is located in the Kwai in a hunting concession to the West of a village. The southern part of the concession is now photographic however viewing here is quite hard. With a hunting concession right next door, the game will be skittish. I do not think you should go to the Okavango Delta and have this experience. Elephants can be especially aggressive near hunting concessions. Please feel free to verify this information with OAT. If you find something contrary, please let me know on this thread.

Day 14 – Linkwasha – OAT is not using the main camp. They rent a 2-star property nearby in the Hwange that they use for the guests. This is a misrepresentation in my opinion. I would be very concerned about the “or similar” comment as there is nothing similar unless they upgraded to the Wilderness Safari Camps at Makalo or Little Makalolo which would raise the cost dramatically. With this said, the game viewing in the Hwange will be excellent here in the dry season.

Hope this helps. Sorry for being negative. I am braced for the personal attacks...

My recomendation is to NEVER spend less on your safari than you do on the flights to Africa. This is a reciped for a bad experience. I would recommend a permanent tented camp experience with Wilderness Safaris, Kwando, Kerr Downey, Desert & Delta, Orient Express, &Beyond, or Santuary Lodge.

Craig Beal
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Aug 25th, 2009, 05:54 AM
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Define "bad experience."
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Aug 25th, 2009, 06:32 AM
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If you do a search for OAT here there are several threads about them cancelling at the very last minute due to over-booking. Several unhappy posters. Also, look for further info about their status with the BBB.
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Aug 25th, 2009, 07:32 AM
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Gritty - I would define a bad experience as coming home from a journey and feeling you did not get your money's worth or feeling you got ripped off or feeling someone pulled a bait and switch on you.

Have you traveled with OAT?

Craig Beal
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Aug 25th, 2009, 08:44 AM
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At one time, OAT did offer a faily good product for the price, until they became part of Grand Circle, and then everything changed. They advertised small groups (16 max) but then doubled up the groups so that you ended up lodging and dining with close to 40 other people. Changing accommodations at the last minute without notification became the norm and they included far too many pre-arranged shopping excursions, that were a complete waste of time. In my estimation, OAT offers an inexpensive trip because they cut far too many corners. I have not traveled with them in a very long time, nor would I ever again.
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Aug 25th, 2009, 02:25 PM
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Craig--I have not traveled with OAT or any of the other companies that were mentioned by the original poster.

I asked for a definition of "bad experience" because I have seen you say that one should spend more on the safari than on flights to Africa. I have done the opposite more than once and had an excellent time. However, I have traveled independently most of the time with just a few guided excursions. So, I was curious to hear your opinion on bad tour-based experiences.
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Aug 25th, 2009, 03:42 PM
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thanks gritty. the land cost vs air cost is a general thumbrule that i do talk about. that advice is more based on the feedback of clients that tried to go "too cheap". with that said, i have sent many "20 somethings" on excellent youth hostel explorations of south africa and it can be done on less than $50 per day!

craig
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Aug 25th, 2009, 08:00 PM
  #10
 
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OAT has been great for me in Peru and Central Amercia. Best bang for the buck. Sorry, no Africa use with them yet.
ISLANDSAFARIS.COM - use Mandy, mgr. She put an incredible trip together for my wife & I just last June for Zambia & Botswana. It was a custom trip, with drivers meeting you, airport help, bush pilots, etc. We were extremely well taken care, never a hitch. She also helped in So.Africa and got us a better price on one camp that I chose but could not get on the internet. She's honest, competitve, and you can even try to work them down a little! Happy Trails!
Bart / Surfdolfin
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Aug 29th, 2009, 04:56 AM
  #11
 
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I will put in a recommendation here for Southern Destinations, a CapeTown based travel company that provided me with a fantastic trip in fall, 2007. I wrote a trip report about our 3-week trip to SA, Botswana, and Vic Falls.

This is their website; it was wonderful to have the agency "on the scene," so to speak, as they were able to handle any inevitable snags quickly and with great result (this is in reference to the delays on the BlueTrain and the necessary reworking of our flights to Sabi Sands). Delightful people!

http://www.southerndestinations.com/
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Aug 29th, 2009, 06:03 AM
  #12
Amy
 
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Here's my account of the OAT South Africa/Swaziland tour I just took this summer (there's a picture link, too) : http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...a-sunshine.cfm

I really enjoyed it and the price was right (no single supplement, for instance) but then, I wasn't going exclusively for safari. While it would have been nice to have had more time on safari (well, it would have been nice to have had more time altogether, but my vacation time is limited), I also wanted to see other landscapes, cities, and historic sites, so the trip worked well for me. There was more bus time than I generally do (usually I travel independently) but as a whole the trip worked out very well for me. It was a small group--11 of us--which was a big advantage for a group tour. By the way, I don't drive, so I was a bit more limited than you may be in choices.
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Aug 30th, 2009, 06:36 AM
  #13
 
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My husband and I went to SA and Zambia last year and used Lianne Sowdon at Go2Africa. She was awesome and a pleasure to work with. I did most of the planning on my own and compared her prices for hotels/safari camps vs what I could get. Most of her prices were better so I went through her. Good Luck!
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Aug 30th, 2009, 06:44 AM
  #14
 
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Oh, I almost forgot! If you are going to stay in Capetown (hubby and I stayed for 5 nights at the TableBay Hotel) and need a tour guide, I highly recommend Charlie Ratcliffe from Southern Destinations. He works for SD but also does touring on his own. That is how we booked him so contact him directly at [email protected] Charlie was the highlight of our trip in Capetown. He is in his mid-30's and lives in Capetown and truly enjoys what he does for a living. His pricing was good at R1400 per day. I highly recommend a guide to drive you around and show you the area. We toured 3 days with Charlie: 1) Table Mt and city area 2) Cape Peninsula 3) Winelands.
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Jul 26th, 2010, 01:48 AM
  #15
 
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Very old thread which Suzane89 resurrected with a quote from an old post by Safari_Craig, inserted a website that seems unrelated to the quoted paragraph... probably just needs a backlink from an existing thread which has started to show up in search engines.
Onne from Wild Wings Safaris
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Jul 27th, 2010, 12:44 AM
  #16
 
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Hi Trilogy

If I were you, I'd also have a look at Africa Direct. Their website is www.africadirect.co.za.

Kind regards
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