TANZANIA SAFARI: HIPPO CREEK SAFARIS or FISH EAGLE?

Old Sep 11th, 2009, 07:12 AM
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TANZANIA SAFARI: HIPPO CREEK SAFARIS or FISH EAGLE?

Hi
I'm still working on planning my trip to Tanzania with a friend. Right now we are looking at 3 different 'Specialists' to help us and I'm wondering if any of you have had any experience with any of these:
HIPPO CREEK SAFARIS
FISH EAGLE
AFRICA ADVENTURE COMPANY

This is turning into a difficult choice! I'm not used to going through "specialists" as I have planned all my other trips around the world by myself. I feel as if there is some protocol I need to be educated on to follow since no one charges for coming up with proposals. How does one decide? And how much can you ask without taking advantage of their services if you don't end up using them in the end???? I actually wish they would charge a fee for their proposals to relieve me of the guilt!! Am I the only one? ;-)

would love to hear your advice and recommends for the above if you have any suggestions!

thanks so much!
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Old Sep 11th, 2009, 07:45 AM
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I have used Fish Eagle Safaris for South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe and can't speak highly enough of the wonderful, personalized service we received.
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Old Sep 11th, 2009, 02:05 PM
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We used Bert for our southern Africa trip in 2004 (our first), and he was excellent -- very personable, professional, knowledgeable, flexible. We live in Houston where Bert lives, so it was great to be able to meet personally and look at maps and go over potential itineraries.
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 12:53 AM
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RECOMMEND TO DEAL DIRECTLY WITH THE TRAVEL AGENT IN TANZANIA.I HAD BOOKED DIRECTLY AS WE WERE GROUP OF 10 PEOPLE. RECOMMEND TO BOOK DIRECTLY WITH WILDNESS SAFARI (T) LTD.
THE SERVICE WAS OUTSTANDING AND PERSONALIZED.OUR TRIP TO TANZANIA WAS WOW FACTOR.
WEBSITE IS www.safaritz.net
EMAIL ID IS [email protected]
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 03:35 AM
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If you really want to take advantage of this forum, focus on the ground operator as well as the agent when considering your booking. There are sveral considerations to keep in mind such as, quality of the guiding, vehicles, back up facilities (if you have a vehicle break down), track record etc. Some of the better known companies in Tanzania include, Good Earth, Thompson, and Ranger Safaris. There are others and searching this forum will turn them up quickly. I beleive the agents you mention specialize in Botswana and South Africa which is really an entirely different matter. In Tanzania is boils down to the driver/guide and vehicle since any company can book nearly any accomodation. Another caution, some ground operators provide services (cars and guides) to large tour companies such as OAT and also to independent agents in the U.S. and elsewhere. The trouble with these mass suppliers (Kibo Guides for example) is that they do not have the best guides or vehicles. Just be cautious, the agents you mention are specialists in a region of Africa different from the one (Tanzania) that you wish to do a safari in. They of course will claim otherwise but it simply is not so.
Jon
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 12:29 PM
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I know Bert Deplessis of Fish Eagle safaris. They are a competitor of my company. He is very good and so is his company. I highly recommend him.

My second choice would be Africa Adventure Company. I have met Mark and Alison Nolting on several occasions. Good people and a good company.

Craig Beal
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 02:34 PM
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The companies mentioned may be good but they do not operate safaris in Africa. They are booking agents who specialize in Southern Africa, not East Africa. They are also known to be expensive.

As suggested, you will find much better pricing and knowledge by booking direct. Good Earth and Roy Safaris have representation in the USA.

Craig Beal, it is a bit amusing that you consider yourself an authority on other companies. Or is it self-promotion? Have you actually done safaris in East Africa with the companies you recommend?
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 03:34 PM
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tonwncountry - i don't think wanderfilms is looking for advice on lodge owners and inbound tanzania based operators. he asked for a specific recomendation on three US based safari consultants. i don't believe good earth and roy safaris are the actual lodge owners either. the are both tanzania based safari booking agencies that happen to employ some guides and freelance guides and they also own some vehicles. they don't own or operate the safari lodges. they, like me, and like the three companies mentioned by wanderfilms are all middlemen.

if there is an authority on US based safari consulting companies, then i am one of them. who do you suppose would know more than me? all i do is arrange safaris to southern africa and manage my company. newsweek magazine found me knowledgable enough to use me as their only source of information in a four page article on april 6 http://www.newsweek.com/id/191513

i not only study africa as a destination and travel there 3-4 times a year, but i like to think i know my competition - especially the good ones. in fact, just last year, fish eagle and my company competed for the business of the st. louis zoo. i know bert (the owner) and i know they do excellent work. i also know his last safari was to tanzania (unless he has gone since i spoke with him in march).

mark notling owns africa adventure company. he is also the author of Africa's Top Wildlife Countries in its seventh edition. he is a big time expert on east africa. you can read his knowledge in his books. i have met him twice and i know him quite well through the industry.

i think i am in a very good position to judge these three competitors. mark notling has also been named (one out of four) as a top safari specialist by conde naste magazine the past seven years in a row. i think he must be pretty (good my opinion aside). if you care to sample my knowledge, you will find i make my recomendatons public with over 100 posts on fodors and 1,200 on trip advisor.

price: fish eagle, AAC and my company have direct contracts with the major lodges and hotels in east africa. it will not cost more to book with them versus booking direct as they make their money off of the difference between net price (our price) and rack rate (consumer direct price).

you will also get a lot more consumer protection from fish eagle and africa adventure company. as far as i can tell by their web site, good earth and roy do not even take credit cards. any company that takes cash (i.e. wire only) could easily dissapear or go bankrupt inbetween the time you pay them and the time you start your safari. if you pay by wire, you have no recourse. like my company (which has been in business since 1975) fish eagle and africa adventure company are covered by the major US travel insurance companies for bankruptcy protection. for travel guard (AIG) you have to call and ask to find out. for access america, scroll to the bottom of their home page and you will find a short list of companies that have bankruptcy protection. this is free additional coverage if you buy their insurance. you won't find any cash only tanzania based operators on the list...
http://www.accessamerica.com/

if you have any questions about going on safari in southern africa, i would be glad to answer them time permitting. i am taking my wife to nantucket tomorrow so i won't be on here much this week.

Craig Beal
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 04:27 PM
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I can't remember whether the discussion regarding insurance covering bankruptcy came up before on this forum or somewhere else. Be extremely careful when buying insurance thinking that you will be covered if you pay cash in the event of bankruptcy. I just had an incident where a U.S. company canceled my trip and I could not collect $10,000 even though I was insured. The company must declare bankruptcy and then within 60 days of the start of your trip. Can you imagine trying to prove to your insurance company that a company in Africa has declared bankruptcy? Luckily, it turned out well for me - I never thought I would see the money again. Even though the company has suits from vendors against them, they have not as yet declared bankruptcy and after 5 months I received the money with help from the Attorney General's office in N.Y. I will never pay with anything else but a credit card again.
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Old Sep 12th, 2009, 04:48 PM
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louise - that is some sound advice.

to add fuel to this fire: i just had to provide a $136,000 cash bond to paypal (my credit card processor) in order to keep processing client's credit cards. every credit card processor is requiring more and more money from any company in the travel business in order to allow them to take credit cards. very few tanzania based operators take credit card. most of my competitors in southern africa (go2africa, rhino, etc) DO take credit cards. i am not sure why the companies in tanzania don't but they almost always require payment by wire.

a company taking credit cards is an immediate sign of financial health in these trying times.

this a great reason to book with fish eagle or africa adventure company.

craig beal
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 08:28 AM
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Craig, although you may be "in a very good position to judge these three competitors", a word of caution about expressing knowledge regarding specific ground operators in Tanzania....

You are quick to tell townncountry, "i don't think wanderfilms is looking for advice on lodge owners and inbound tanzania based operators", and then proceed to offer it anyway.

Similar to Warrior Trails with whom I book and travel, Roy is not a safari booking agency and certainly not "middlemen". They are a very reputable Tanzanian owned ground operator. They do not "happen to employ some guides and freelance guides", but pride themselves on hiring talented, permanent, full time guides and the use of an extensive fleet of beautifully maintained company owned vehicles.

I won't comment on Good Earth because I have no first hand knowledge of how they do business...a concept we should all adopt before posting uninformed comments.
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 11:35 AM
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None of the three above Tour Operators are the ground outfitters, the folks who actually conduct the safaris, i.e., Roy Safaris, Good Earth (many others as: Kibo, Leopard, etc. etc.). If the OP is interested in utilizing the services of any of the named Tour Operators, it's important they ascertain who the ground outfitters are.
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 11:48 AM
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Craig Beal
I still think it is amusing how you insert yourself in every conversation! “ABC is a competitor of mine and very good”.
Why don’t you just come out and say, “I am Craig Beal and I am a competitor of the companies under consideration. They are good but I am better. Please contact me!”? BTW, how is this self-marketing working out for your company?
Africa is big. One cannot be an expert in the whole of Africa. Many overseas booking agents have experience that is a mile wide and an inch deep. They offer little more than basic itineraries from a few suppliers. I looked at your company and you sell trips all over the world! Enough said.
A true expert does not have to convince others of his expertise. We know who the experts are on this forum and you are not one of them, sorry. You are one of many agents who sell Wilderness Safaris and you have some knowledge in this regard but I read your posts about Botswana and thankfully others are stepping in to correct many of your posts.
Here are a few more corrections.
The public can book safaris with Roy Safaris, Warrior Trails and Good Earth and buy trip cancellation insurance including financial default of the supplier from top insurance companies! Please visit insuremytrip. Many ground operators have been in business for much longer than overseas agents. I am not aware of any established East Africa ground operators who took off with client money. Please provide examples.
Roy Safaris own a hotel and camping equipment. Leopard Tours own a hotel and a popular tented camp. African Conservancy Company is one of the ground operators for Africa Adventure Company and owns several lodges. Other ground operators with property ownership include Asilia, andBeyond, Elewana and Kibo. These are not middlemen. You are a middleman!
You say it will not cost more to book East Africa hotels direct than to book with you. I dispute this claim because clients need more than just hotels in East Africa. How do clients get from point A to point B without transfers by road and air? Please tell us who you use as a ground operator in East Africa. I bet when clients contact your ground operator direct they will get a better price. If not then they will do better with a different ground operator for the same itinerary.
When you pay by credit card you pay from 2 to 10 percent more for your safari. If you then add the markup of the overseas booking agent you could be paying a hefty sum for your safari. To save lots of money and with piece of mind, buy trip insurance and wire the money!
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 02:14 PM
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As I said before, be very careful when purchasing insurance. None of the 3 companies mentioned above would be covered by Access America in case of default. If you select an insurance call the company and make sure you would be covered. In my case,the trip I booked was on an approved list by Access America but still not covered because the company did not declare bankruptcy. The U.S. company has been in business more than 20 years but is experiencing economy-related problems. Just call and make sure when you insure.
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Old Sep 13th, 2009, 02:36 PM
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I don't know about Hippo Creek, but I have traveled succesfully with Africa Adventure and have heard lots of good things on Fish Eagle.

If you get some itineraries from them or any other companies mentioned in this post, you can post them for more detailed comments.
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Old Sep 17th, 2009, 09:04 PM
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Hi All,

I made it back safely from Nantucket quite well rested. Too much lobster…

Anyway – I was mildly surprised to find such a harsh response to my comments so I feel I better clarify things before going to bed. I have come to expect that some people do go on the attack when they find out there is a travel agents posting opinions on the forums. Unfortunately for these types of people, this is not against the rules on Fodors. I suppose these same people get angry at their insurance agents and car dealers as well. Oh the middleman... Agents that specialize in Africa can provide quite useful information.

To Calo – Thanks for keeping me in check. But, I don’t think I really offered advice on Roy or Good Earth. I really know nothing about these companies other than what they present on their web site and what I read on forums. From all accounts, their service looks and sounds very good and probably worth whatever they charge – even if it is more than rack rate. I don’t believe I posted an uninformed comment. I simply pointed out that they do not own safari lodges (this is exaclty what I said) and are also in the “sea” of middlemen with my company and many others if they are used to book lodges. This is more fact than opinion but I am guilty of straying off topic and for that I apologize.

Since Roy, Good Earth, and Warrior Trail do not own safari lodges, I would define them as booking agents for safari lodges. This may be semantics but I guess I am now unsure of the difference between a ground handler, a travel agent, a booking agent, and tour operator. All are middlemen I think? The fact that some of them own hotels may help control the cost of about 2-4% of a safari.

What Roy, Good Earth, and Warrior Trail can do differently from some travel agents is utilize their own employed guides to conduct the safari at third party lodges. Since their guides are by all reports very good, this can add great value to a safari. Keep in mind, a person like Bert at Fish Eagle or Mark Nolting at Africa Adventure can also directly book a guide for you thus cutting out the middleman ground handler. I do not personally do much business in East Africa but the last family I sent I did use one private guide throughout the journey. I contracted him directly and booked the lodges (like Ndutu) on my own (directly). He met them at the airport and drove them all over the country and was their guide for all game drives. For this particular trip I booked Mbogo from Mbogo Expeditions as the guide. He has visited our main office in Minnesota twice and has worked well for many of our clients. http://www.mbogoexpeditions.com/ I cut out what Calo is calling the “ground handler” in the case of this particular booking. A well connected agent does not always need a ground handler in the sense of a management company “in country”. Once again, the lines are a bit grey.

As another alternative, almost all lodges can also be booked direct which would cut out all middlemen but the client would be “stuck” with the lodge’s employee as their guide. Also, you lose the advantage of an independent advocate.

towncountry – I am glad you find me amusing. I will address all your questions and all your comments that are directed at me, but I also hope you can come back and answer the questions I have for you. Overall, our companies marketing strategy is working well. It includes comprehensive use of direct mail, email, web site, public relations, client events, print advertising, internet advertising, face to face (networking), trade shows, travel agent consortiums, and social media marketing like facebook and forums. But, most of all, we provide great service and get most of our business from client referrals. I find it amusing that some people who participate heavily in travel forums always question the motives of agents who participate. Maybe I am here for the same reason as everyone else: I love safaris and I love Africa and I love sharing my experience. Maybe I am here to engage potential clients in the research phase of their safari planning? Either way, I am what I am. I have a complete and accurate profile and you can find out whatever you want about my on the internet. I do not hide behind a screen name. Here is my personal bio since you are so interested in me: http://www.linkedin.com/in/craigbeal Who are you? Where are you from? Do you perhaps work in the safari industry? You seem to know a lot about the business and seem to really be pushing these Tanzania based “ground handlers”.

You are also correct that my company sells trips all over the world. As I said in my first post I only arrange safaris to Southern Africa. Fortunately, we provide good enough service that people want to book other trips with us after their safaris so we have grown to fill that customer need. If you call the company to go to the Galapagos, you won’t be directed to me. Regarding Botswana – it is not hard to be one of the many people that sell Wilderness Safaris. Many agents that sell Botswana as a destination sell Wilderness Safaris since they own about 40% of the beds in the Okavango Delta in the permanent tented category. It is sort of hard to avoid them. They also do great conservation work.

Back to your first question: I think it adds legitimacy to my comments on safari agents/booking agents/tour operators if I let the reader know that I am a competitor and in the business. Many casual readers on Fodors don’t know to look at someone’s complete profile (yours is blank) to find out who they are or what their reference frame may be. Although it is not always the case, I don’t comment on my competitors unless I have something nice to say. I have no idea about Hippo Creek so I “left them alone”.

For your example of a company that took off with someone money, I see Louise has already provided a personal example from her own experience. She has also implored people to pay by credit card which not many of the Tanzania based companies can take.

Oops – I just noticed that I missed one of your questions: In Tanzania, we use a network of private guides, like Mbogo, that are all one man/one land rover companies. They do all the transfers and meet our clients at the airport. I also use Serengeti Select Safaris, &Beond, AKORN, A&K, Leopard Tours, African Horizons, Far Horizons, Serena Lodges and a few other companies. It all depends on the needs of the client. These are companies in Tanzania that have handled my clients in the past 12 months. I really don’t care if any of them undercut me (they don’t) because most clients would pay a premium for our service IF we chose to charge it.

I guess our entire discussion is for waste as Wanderfilms never came back on the forum or thanked anyone for the vast and varied advice.

Good night!

Craig Beal
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Old Sep 18th, 2009, 06:47 AM
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Craig -

>> I really know nothing about these companies (Roys or Good Earth) other than what they present on their web site and what I read on forums. From all accounts, their service looks and sounds very good and probably worth whatever they charge – even if it is more than rack rate.>I simply pointed out that they do not own safari lodges (this is exaclty what I said) and are also in the “sea” of middlemen with my company and many others if they are used to book lodges.>Since Roy, Good Earth, and Warrior Trail do not own safari lodges, I would define them as booking agents for safari lodges. This may be semantics but I guess I am now unsure of the difference between a ground handler, a travel agent, a booking agent, and tour operator. All are middlemen I think? The fact that some of them own hotels may help control the cost of about 2-4% of a safari.>What Roy, Good Earth, and Warrior Trail can do differently from some travel agents is utilize their own employed guides to conduct the safari at third party lodges. Since their guides are by all reports very good, this can add great value to a safari.>Keep in mind, a person like Bert at Fish Eagle or Mark Nolting at Africa Adventure can also directly book a guide for you thus cutting out the middleman ground handler.

... Bert and Mark are still middlemen, as anyone with sufficient expertise in these East African countries, can hire an independent guide with his/her own vehicle, but a 1/vehicle guide does leave one to wonder "what back-up do they have." Breakdowns, illness, etc.

Much comes down to the particular countries in which the traveler wishes to visit: how they like to travel, budget and relationship established with the travel or booking agent, in-country outfitter, so it's best to be a with a specialist, if they don't choose to book everything directly. That's why there are so many options and thus the many questions... there is no one answer for everyone.
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Old Sep 18th, 2009, 07:40 AM
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Hi Sandi,

Thanks for the refreshing response. You have provided more clarity to anyone conducting a first time safari. I think we have provided TMI (too much information LOL).

Craig Beal
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Old Sep 18th, 2009, 08:20 AM
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Sandi - you are a class act, as always. I wouldn't have had the patience to respond with the care and clarity you did. The amazing thing is that [based upon his last posting] the craigster appears to have gotten the message. Jim.
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Old Sep 18th, 2009, 08:30 AM
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Got the message loud and clear. I think the casual reader of the thread will now be even more confused!

Craig
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