TAGA Safaris

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Aug 2nd, 2005, 03:09 PM
  #41
bwanamitch
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... and place of the next total eclipse in Africa (as far as I know).

Kavey, sorry, the operator I had in mind has gone.

The only alternative I know is upmarket:
http://www.bush-and-beyond.com/lake-turkana.htm

So we have to google...

Mitch
 
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Aug 2nd, 2005, 03:15 PM
  #42
bwanamitch
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...combined with a trip to Kalacha...
http://www.tropicair-kenya.com/kalacha/home.htm
 
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Aug 2nd, 2005, 03:19 PM
  #43
bwanamitch
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Hhm, I'm afraid if I do any more research this will evolve into something like Rocco's Tanzania trip.

Mitch
 
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Aug 2nd, 2005, 03:21 PM
  #44
 
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OK, now I will chime in with the good and the bad of our experience with Mark & Taga (mostly good).

First, he was very responsive to our numerous inquiries about various itinerary options. Ultimately we decided to book only a few nights of our stay in South Africa with him, plus a couple of domestic flights and one vehicle rental through him. We ended up booking the rest of the trip ourselves, but he was able to get us a better rate at Chitwa Chitwa Safari Lodge than we were able to get ourselves, and he was able to reserve us the type of vehicle we wanted for our self-drive in Kruger which we were otherwise being told was unavailable, and he was able to get us the domestic flights from JNB to Hoedspruit and Hoedspruit to CPT for the same price that we could have gotten them ourselves, so we figured he might as well get those commissions.

There was a last minute change in flight schedules and we ended up arriving in JNB on a different flight than the one we were originally scheduled on, and he was right there to meet us with our plane tickets to Hoedspruit on SAA as expected. However, he didn't have anything else in writing for us and said we would not need anything else (of course we had brought all of our e-mails with us as written confirmation of everything we had paid for and arranged in advance, plus I had independently confirmed our reservations at Chitwa Chitwa with the lodge directly via e-mail.) Instead, Mark gave us two baseball cap-style hats and said that all we had to do was show those when we arrived in Hoedspruit and we would be shown to our vehicle, and similarly at Chitwa Chitwa.

Well, upon arriving in Hoedspruit we were met by a nice woman from a car rental company, who asked us for our voucher from Taga Safaris, which of course we did not have because Mark assured us we did not need it. I then produced the e-mails we had printed and brought with us. She expressed great surprise that Mark had not given us vouchers and seemed to question this, but she did eventually hand over the keys after requiring us to fill out the necessary paperwork and after we gave her a credit card deposit. The vehicle was exactly what we had reserved, at the correct price.

Similarly, at Chitwa Chitwa, when we arrived they asked us for our vouchers from Taga Safaris, and when we said Mark had told us we did not need to present any vouchers they just laughed and said that's ok, we know where to find him.

So it all worked out fine in the end, fortunately -- although I wouldn't say it's the most professional way of doing business.

Also, after we returned home we had some extra minor charge on our credit card from the car rental company (in the $20 range), which we disputed and did not end up having to pay.

By the way, at JNB airport the cash machine ate my ATM card and Mark was very helpful in getting the card cancelled.

Also, I found his website very helpful.

Would I book with Taga again? Yes, but only if he was again able to get me a better price than I could otherwise get, and only if I got everything in writing -- and I would be sure to bring the e-mails with me spelling everything out, just in case.
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Aug 2nd, 2005, 05:10 PM
  #45
 
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Mitch,

Come on, live a little!

I will say that so far my February/March Northern Circuit safari has been my best booking experience. I was in contact with about four agents, but it really came down to a decision between two agents and I don't think more than one week elapsed from beginning to end before I booked it. Best of all, I believe I did not spend more than another (intensive, sleepless) week on the research.

It probably worked in my favor that the local operators did not respond, other than Comfort Safaris (who seemed to have way too Comfortable a profit margin). At least that way I was not second-guessing my decision to book with ATR.

My philosophy is too just try to book the most amazing itinerary possible and then figure out how to pay for it later!
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Aug 2nd, 2005, 05:35 PM
  #46
bwanamitch
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Rocco,

it's 4:30am local time and I'm still at work because I have an important deadline in the near future. Researching northern Kenya would be a little counterproductive at this time...

I think will do Lake Turkana in November 2013. Well, maybe earlier...

Mitch


 
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Aug 2nd, 2005, 06:57 PM
  #47
 
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Bwanamitch, where are you located. I'll be in Berlin next Friday/Saturday, after one-week vacation in Ukraine, and I'm looking for a hotel with character. Do you know anything about Berlin hotels?

Thanks

I posted this on the Europe forum but they seem much more interested in discussing the best view in Paris.

Michael
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Aug 2nd, 2005, 07:01 PM
  #48
 
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Mitch,

I don't have the first clue where Lake Turkana is and I don't care. I am not going to fall for a trip and then start planning another safari that includes Lake Turkana...well, at least not until 2013 or later!
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Aug 2nd, 2005, 11:14 PM
  #49
mv
 
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I used TAGA in 2002 for a Botswana safari. The itinerary was simple and I had no problems with TAGA. Mark handed over the paperwork in person and was quite enthusiastic.
For this reason I contacted him later in the year for a 2003 safari. In the midlle of the proces he "disappeared" for a month!!! In the mean time I booked with a different operator.
When Mark returned he explained that he had been "worked out" and had been out of the office.
I will never book with a company where I can not get a timely response!!
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 01:31 AM
  #50
 
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Mitch, a work deadline and yet making pretty colours! Tch tch!

Libya is going to be an excellent place to see the next eclipse. Unfortunately I'm going to be on the 3rd Festival of Wildlife in India though our expert astronomer will not be attending this year as he will be leading an eclipse trip to Libya instead!

Lisa thanks for sharing your experiences also.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 03:56 AM
  #51
bwanamitch
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Michael,

I can't help you with accommodation in Berlin, I'm living in northern Germany on the shores of the Baltic Sea, near the town of Kiel (about 100 km north of Hamburg) - heard about 'Kiel Week' and its world famous sailing races? Well, it's like asking someone in Idaho on accommodation in DC.
Here is a look from above:
http://www.bwanamitch.net/About/imag...7266.xxxl.jpeg

Rocco,

Lake Turkana is located in northern Kenya, on the border to Ethiopia, VERY remote (and a little AK-47 infested).
http://encarta.msn.com/map_701514010/Turkana_Lake.html

kavey,

There's ALWAYS time for fun!

Mitch
 
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 04:09 AM
  #52
 
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We had somewhat the same trouble with TAGA getting timely responses. Also, we had determined our exact days in Botswana and what camps we wanted to stay at with Wilderness, so wanted to go ahead and get a price and book that portion of the trip (since Wilderness camps tend to fill up early). But I don't think they were interested in taking care of this portion of the trip until we had definitely decided on South Africa itinerary also.
I do not remember any up front payment so I guess this is something new, I just found them a little hard to work with, so we did not use TAGA to book our trip. Of course, their website is great, and I assume he is quite knowledgable about different camps.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 04:21 AM
  #53
 
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This issue of timely responses is interesting to me as it's certainly one of my main criteria in choosing an agent.

I've been thinking about the post I made earlier teasing Rocco about his previous practices and... Ruthie, I hope you don't mind my asking but:

Before this latest incident, had you previously approached Taga for one of your earlier trips and had them do a lot of work in building an itineray/ answering questions but then didn't book? If this were the case I could readily understand their response.

I think any operator should accept that there will be a certain amount of itinerary provision, quotes and advice given that will not necessarily lead to bookings.

However, trying to look at this from the operator side also:

If I were an agent and had invested more than the usual amount of time in not only quoting on an itinerary but in answering lots and lots of questions and gradually defining that perfect itinerary, I too might be upset if that client chose to book with someone else who was cheaper but who had not (and may not even have been able or willing to) come up with that same itinerary at all.

I don't know whether this is the situation here, but I hope you don't mind my asking.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 04:46 AM
  #54
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Fair question Kavey & yes we did approach TAGA once before, at the end of 2004 when we were planning our trip to Zambia on the Green Season Special. Again, we had approached a couple of other operators and we were explicit to each of them in terms of itinerary and budget.

TAGA initially made some enquiries for us but then we received a negative e-mail from Celeste at TAGA because we had also contacted other operators who were contacting the camps on our behalf. We didn't appreciate the tone of her e-mail and stopped using TAGA at that stage. It felt to me then that TAGA only wanted to deal with potential customers if they were talking exclusively to TAGA and no-one else.

The reason we tried a second time with TAGA is because they had such good reports on this board; in particular since we know that Rocco (sorry to use you as an example) tends to work in a similar way, contacting more than one operator, and he didn't appear to have had a negative response on this from TAGA we tried again - wrong decision!

Sunvil Africa didn't seem to find our approach a problem & we were very happy with the service they provided in arranging our Zambia trip; this and their recent responsiveness on our latest plans are the reason that they will get repeat business from us.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 05:24 AM
  #55
 
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Just goes to show doesn't it - Sunvil are the ones I decided not to use for my second trip - it was one of their members of staff whose work was so sloppy - responding to only one of three questions in an email, making enquiries and tenatively booking for the wrong year despite my being very clear about when we would be travelling, booking us a flight where we'd asked for a boat transfer and so on. It didn't help either that each time I contacted them I was referred to a different member of staff as the one I'd previously talked to was off on a familiarisation trip or holiday - meaning lots of time wasted repeating the same information again and again.

I did discuss these issues with the owner of the company as they queried my decision to book elsewhere, assuming it was based on price and offering a further discount. I felt it only fair to explain to him that the competitor was charing more than his own quote but had shown less sloppiness and more interest in the details. His response was an amicable one but essentially letting me know that we obviously weren't suited to each other. I am the kind of person who says "I just want a nice trip that I'll enjoy, I'll leave it up to you" - I expect to get answers on why one choice is recommended over another, on the details about a particular camp or flight or route and so on. Basically, Chris said I wasn't their kind of customer and I had to agree!

It seems that ALL agents and operators are variable so sharing information like this is invaluable.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 05:27 AM
  #56
 
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sigh

charing = charging

and

I am NOT the kind of person who says "I just want a nice trip that I'll enjoy, I'll leave it up to you"

Nor, for that matter do I usually have an exact itinerary already finalised and just need a quote.

I'm a customer that requires a bit of effort and this was clearly not welcome!
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:28 AM
  #57
bwanamitch
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kavey,

I had the same problems with Sunvil. Unfortunately I decided to go with them, and it evolved into the worst booking experience I've ever made. (I don't tell it here because this is a very long story, but one of the highlights was that they even 'forgot' to book one of the accommodations mainly because it wasn't one of their preferred ones.) Obviously Chris & Co. are no agency for people who have precise ideas what they want. During that tour (Zambia 2002) I met a Belgian couple, also experienced safari travellers, who told me about exactly the same problems
with Sunvil.
My conclusion for people who know what they want: One time with Sunvil - and never again!

Beside this Chris is still one of the best travel guide authors I know. But being a good writer doesn't mean that you are a good travel agent, too.

Mitch
 
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:38 AM
  #58
 
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He is a good author - his guide books are excellent and so too are the various travel articles he writes for a large number of travel publications.

I think the service one gets is very dependent on the staff - I wonder if he's simply become more lax on the recruitment standards or maybe is more hands off now the business is so well established or is simply less interested in it as long as it continues to make a good profit.

I'm glad to hear my experiences aren't unique - there was a strong suggestion that I was being extremely unreasonable in my expectations yet I remained polite throughout and simply expected a thorough and knowledgable service.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:39 AM
  #59
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Intgeresting - I've used Sunvil in both scenarios, 1 where we didn't have much idea of itinerary and 1 where we were much more specific, just requiring pros and cons on alternative lodges from their experience & advice on 1 or 2 nights at a particular location.

I've had several helpful e-mails and discussions with Claire at Sunvil over the 2 experiences and have no complaints whatsoever.

I agree with Kavey - the service is going to differ depending on the individual you get at a particular operator, how busy they happen to be, how well you "gell" with each other & probably a host of other reasons.

So I still think the best approach, particularly when travelling to a new area, is to contact 2 or 3 different operators (certainly take recommendations from here and elsewhere) and then after some initial interchange make your own decision based on your personal experience and on the factors that are important to you.
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Aug 3rd, 2005, 06:48 AM
  #60
 
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I agree...
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