Tanzania: Ruaha & Selous in June

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Mar 7th, 2014, 05:14 AM
  #1
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Tanzania: Ruaha & Selous in June

I've done a lot of research to plan my first safari and am just about to give the tour operator the OK to finalize everything but I have two nagging concerns, which I figured I'd run past the Fodorites. I contacted 3 tour operators and settled on one who I was most comfortable with, so have done the price comparisons, etc. The trip will be 2 weeks in Tanzania's Ruaha and Selous from June 22-July 5: 4 days in each of these 3 camps: Mwagusi, Lake Manze and Selous Impala.

#1: I am travelling by myself which I've always done and am fine with my own company. However, in reading trip reports from people who've stayed at these camps, a lot of them mention how great it was that they had a vehicle to themselves. I can see that would be a positive but for my situation, how will it be to just have me & the guide? I'd be happy if the guide talked a lot, pointing things out, explaining habitats, etc. since that's what I'm there for! I like to absorb the scenery, listen to the wind, etc, so am OK with some silences but If I didn't get an extroverted guide, I might feel compelled to chatter to fill the silences. I guess what I'm asking is, when I arrive at the camp, is it appropriate to ask the camp owner (manager) if I can be given an outgoing guide? Or, if they can ask other guests if I can join them? (That might annoy the other guests since a vehicle solely for themselves seems a great treat and they might feel obligated to agree to the request).

#2 I'll be flying from New York to Dar and the least expensive flights are on Emirates airline, with a layover in Dubai. I read a few reviews of Emirates where several people mentioned lengthy flight delays in Duba, some of which caused them to miss their connecting flights and poor customer service. I take any on-line reviews with a grain of salt, but since there were more than one like this, I wanted a reality check from Fodorites (who always seem rational!) I was going to schedule my flights so that I stayed in Dar overnight before transferring to Mwagusi, so that provides a bit of a cushion. (I'm arranging the US/Tanzania/US flights myself.)

So, any feedback or insights would be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
vickiebypass is offline  
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Mar 7th, 2014, 12:49 PM
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I've stayed at Lake Manze and Selous Impala, but not Mwagusi.

At Lake Manze I'd say it's more likely you'll be sharing a vehicle as it's a larger camp and I don't think they have enough vehicles, unless they're very quiet but even then I'm not sure they'd give a solo traveller a vehicle to themselves (but you never know!).

At Selous Impala, they do try to give each party their own vehicle, which I think is mostly possible unless they are really full. I stayed there last year, and another poster (from here and tripadvisor) recommended Dennis who was his guide but I didn't request him. I wish I had, as our guide was a bit uncommunicative whereas I met Dennis and found him very personable and knowledgable. I think if you requested him you'd be fine. But if you do so, get your TO to do it in advance. It's often too late when you get there as guide rotas are already arranged.

I flew with Emirates last year (from London) and had no problems with delays. If you are concerned, check when the next flight Dubai-Dar is and whether that would get you there in time for your flight to Ruaha. If it doesn't, it might be safer to do Selous first, as the flights to Selous are much more frequent than to Ruaha. I think to Ruaha, Coastal flys at 8:30 am and there is a Safari Airlink flight at 10:30 but nothing after that, whereas to Selous there are flights even in the afternoon. But I would have thought your overnight in Dar should give you enough of a safety net.
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Mar 7th, 2014, 02:00 PM
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I agree with SG about requesting guides in advance. I had not done that on our two previous trips to Africa, but made requests for each camp on our last trip to Botswana. It made a world of difference. We had the best guides and the most fun.

I don't know that you will be able to just ask other groups if you can join them. The vehicle loads are figured to assure that each person has a good viewing opportunity. The additional cost for a private vehicle (PV) is quite high at most camps. I also believe the managers try to make sure all the guides have guests since they depend on tips for income.

I have spent time at Mwagusi. The staff is lovely and will make every effort to "match-make" with vehicle assignments. Hubby and I shared our first day with one other gentleman. The second day he decided he wanted his own vehicle and paid for a PV . By default, we had a PV for the rest of our stay for free. It was quite nice. As I recall, at Mwagusi you have a driver and a guide (tracker) each day in the vehicle. So you really won't be forced to fill a lot of time with chit chat. I've always found that simply showing an interest, asking a few questions, and having some fun with the guides was enough.
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Mar 7th, 2014, 02:45 PM
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Thank you both for your insights - you've eased my concerns. Now that you say it, it makes sense that waiting until I arrive would be too late, so I'll definitely ask my tour operator to request Dennis and other guides in advance.

Good to know that Emirates worked out fine and I agree that with the extra day in Dar, that should provide a good safety cushion.
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Mar 7th, 2014, 06:01 PM
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We flew emirates into Lusaka after we were cancelled by British Airways. The flight left JFK very late, but they held the plane from Dubai to Lusaka and we arrived on time. They lost our Only checked bag, but sent it to our camp the next day. (Our bags were misplaced by KLM on our first trip to africa, and we didn't get them till a month later)
The return was on time.
Their service on board is excellent, and if you are flying coach, more legroom, better food, and much nicer employees. The airport is Dubai is beautiful. I recommend them.
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Mar 8th, 2014, 05:03 AM
  #6
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Good to hear another positive opinion about Emirates. I was actually thinking about leaving a day earlier than I originally planned in order to stay overnight in Dubai and do a bit of sightseeing there before flying onward to Dar. Dubai is one of those places that's intrigued me but not enough to plan a trip so this might be a way to see at least something of the city. Will have to ponder that but at least I'm confident about booking my flights.
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Mar 8th, 2014, 05:46 AM
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To answer your question #1:

Safari outings in a vehicle with a guide are very different from social outings with someone where you expect conversation to flow much of the time with give and take. So some periods of silence when you can just absorb what is around you can be welcome and relaxing.

Guides get all kinds of guests--quiet ones, those who are not proficient in the languages the guide speaks, and talkative ones with a life story to share. If you have a private vehicle, you can chat the whole time, ask about history and politics, sit and look at one cheetah for 3 hours, take a nap, whatever. I had one guide explain to me, "We can do whatever you wish. If you'd like to sit on the side of the road and stare at a rock for our whole drive that's ok." He was exaggerating of course.

One guide recounted how a guest was a wildlife artist who did not like to draw the feet of animals. So their outings were to drive around and find interesting looking logs to photograph so the artist could use them as models to put in the foreground, in front the feet of the animals he painted. The guides go with the flow, which is directed by you, the guest.

Definitely make your preferences known for your guide when you arrive at camp. Most guides can adapt to meet your wishes.

You are right to hesitate to ask others if you can join them. Assigning guides/guests/vehicles is the camp or lodge manager's duty. I have seen staff become visibly irritated and upset when a guest states, "I want to be in this vehicle not that one," and proceeds to plop down in the vehicle of their choice, upsetting the whole vehicle assignment scheme.

All this strategizing surrounding a private vehicle is an exercise in unlikely luxury, as usually you will be assigned a vehicle with another couple or another solo. Going solo, when you have not specifically paid for a solo trip, is a rare luxury.

You'll have a blast regardless of the vehicle composition.
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Mar 8th, 2014, 08:35 AM
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I'm the one who mentioned Dennis to SG. I spent 5 full days with him in June when the camp wasn't full and it was just the 2 of us. Couldn't have been better. He also joined me for fishing one afternoon and taught me "to fish like an African" (using peas rather than meaty bait), very fun.

Pardon my hubris but here's
a travelogue of my stay there.
http://www.africaguide.com/articles/..._in_selous.htm
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Mar 10th, 2014, 03:12 AM
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"All this strategizing surrounding a private vehicle is an exercise in unlikely luxury, as usually you will be assigned a vehicle with another couple or another solo. Going solo, when you have not specifically paid for a solo trip, is a rare luxury."

It's not that rare in my experience. I've ended up with a vehicle to myself quite often. I was just in Kenya for 10 days and had a vehicle to myself for about 6 out of the 10 days. I often travel off season, which is a good way to avoid single supplements anyway, but it also means camps are quiet, so there's more likelihood of being allocated your own vehicle.

Also, as I said above, Selous Impala have a policy of trying to give one vehicle per group which they can manage almost all of the time, so in this case, I'd say a private vehicle is very likely.
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Mar 10th, 2014, 07:59 AM
  #10
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ATLynn and StG: "All this strategizing surrounding a private vehicle is an exercise in unlikely luxury"

Did I miss something on this post? I don't see any strategizing mentioned. It seems the OP is more concerned with filling the conversational time if she were to be assigned a PV, than how to get one.
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Mar 10th, 2014, 05:00 PM
  #11
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Yes, my concern was about being assigned a PV since it can be nice to share conversation responsibilities with other folks people on a tour, in a car, etc. I just booked my trip with the tour operator and asked them the same question. Their response was that, regardless of whether I have a PV or not, the guides are used to all types of personalities and as long as I'm initially friendly and responsive to their commentary (in other words, not standoffish), the guides are absolutely fine with silences and won't be offended by quiet. They also mentioned that if I am by myself, it's a good opportunity to ask questions about living in Tanzania, how they become a guide, etc - discussions that might not be possible in a shared vehicle since the other passengers might want to focus solely on the wildlife. So, they agreed with the Fodorites who said not to worry; we didn't talk about the liklihood - or not - of getting a PV since that's out of my control. Very excited now that I've made my deposit and am committed! Thanks to everyone for your responses - I'll probably be back with more questions as I get further down the path...
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Mar 10th, 2014, 05:08 PM
  #12
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SDB2 - thank you for the link re: Dennis and the search for wild dogs. I will definitely ask my tour operator to request Dennis. She also suggested that I shoukd let her know if had any specific tent requests at the 3 camps, so I'll research trip reports for any tips.
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