This is getting painful - waiting for Africa

Reply

Mar 31st, 2003, 05:09 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 314
This is getting painful - waiting for Africa

So much waiting, thinking, and planning is rough once you're bitten by the Africa bug. The concept of waiting a year for such bounty is harsh. My kingdom for a little taste of what you describe here.

How does one pacify this yearning? The wildlife channel, rent Out of Africa to see Meryl say, "I had a farm in Africa". Harness a large scruff to the doberman's neck and fill the yard with peacocks (snicker). Only to have twenty years of African adventures in heart and head, would that sustain, or make it worse?
mariacallas is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 05:52 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,180
Well, I can't advise as I haven't learnt how to pacify that raging desperation I feel to get back to Africa NOW either!

We went in 2001 to Botswana and Namibia and knew instantly we wanted to get back. Infact I suffered the strongest withdrawal syptoms on getting home, for several weeks afterwards. It was almost as bad as when I quit smoking (going from 40 to zero a day, cold turkey). I kid you not.

We knew we couldn't afford it for a while and finally figured out that a) our 10th wedding anniversary falls in 2004 and b) our TESSAs mature in 2004 (those are tax free savings accounts which have 5 or 10 year life spans).

So 2004 it is.

I would have booked it then and there but there was a lot of wisdom in the advice to wait... I was told that to get exactly the dates I wanted I should book 18 months in advance (because of Mombo being in my itinerary). More than that was pointless. Less could be difficult. Before you laugh, I should say that my itinerary is actually not in exactly the order I wanted, though it does include the right number of nights at all the right camps, and this is because even 18 months in advance there were already blocked out dates in not only Mombo but a couple of other camps in the Delta!!!!

So to get back to the question. I've already booked, so no planning left.

How do I copy with that Africa bug?

I spend time on here. I talk to people who can put up with it. I read Travel Africa magazine. I scour websites with photos and articles on Africa. I look through weekend newspaper travel supplements for Africa stuff. I read my guidebooks again and again. I look at my own photos again. Oh and I spend HOURS watching every Africa program on discovery and animal planet channels, plus any that the BBC do. Big Cat Diary, Safari School, Game Park, Built for the kill, anything that has an Africa setting and African wildlife.

I'm often asked why I don't go back sooner?

The reason is that although I have this intense passion for Africa, I love travelling elsewhere too.

I adore France (despite current opinions in US and UK against it) and I love Europe city breaks in general.

I want to get back to the US - we'd probably have been in FLA now if it weren't for the finances, despite the current war situation. I've visited about 30-35 states and hub and I both want to do another fly drive of New England states.

Phew.... see, I just went a whole 10 minutes without experiencing pangs...
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 07:47 AM
  #3
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
MariaCallas-
A while ago some of us went through this here. You might like to read our thoughts. I'd top off the thread, but it is not a pleasant one for the first half. It is when I was coming to the realization that I would have to cancel our trip for April/May of this year. Skip down and just read the last third if you'd like to hear someone in the midst of an 'Africa bug' fit. I just checked and it was at post 128, entitled "April Safaris". Like I say though, its too much of a downer to top off for others to read. Some of us serious Africaholics added our two cents for the world to see. tee hee.
Just hang in their sweetie, you'll just grow to be thankful you are one of the luckier ones bitten by this bug. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 08:43 AM
  #4
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 48
only 5 months and 17 days to go for me and counting.... (will start counting sleeps nearer the time

I must say I have enjoyed doing the planning of the trip it adds to the excitement.
barcadi is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 08:52 AM
  #5
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 314
Kavey - quit smoking and so I know the craving thing. Thank for your waxing poetic, it helps. Besides, my doberman's hating his new scruff and the peacock feathers are getting stuck in the air conditioning vents. Guess I could put on my pith helmet and khakis and stealthly stalk something. If I hurry, I can catch my doberman shredding his scruff, snarling and snarfing. A true Nikon moment.
mariacallas is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 09:01 AM
  #6
rhtt
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Liz, am I seeing things, or did you say you actually had to cancel Botswana? If so, I am so sorry you felt you had to do it. I do understand. I know this must have been a crushing blow. Do post the latest.
 
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 09:15 AM
  #7
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 314
And Liz, I'm sorry you had to cancel your trip. I found the thread you mentioned. I don't suppose anyone with this illness could read that without a tear. Whew. I felt the same way the first time I saw the Grand Canyon. If they'd had something handy to chain myself to, I would have never left without hiking it. I went back years later to hike in the canyon and it was everything I ever expected and more. Now that's a top ten world event in my book.
mariacallas is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 10:49 AM
  #8
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553
For me...This is getting scary - getting Africa booked as soon as possible! I am scheduled to go in early June yet nothing is really finalized yet.

I guess I am more impulsive than most and do not plan very far ahead of time, so I am usually scrambling to make things happen and never have a chance to get impatient about the trip.

By the time the trip arrives it is perfect timing as I am completely spent from my trip planning and need a holiday!
Roccco is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 10:55 AM
  #9
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
rhtt, are you the late rnr?
If so I will cry right now. Yes, we will not be going to Botswana/Namibia. I waited until the final payment was due and just couldn't put that much at risk. I don't think Wilderness did enough for travellers. The bare minimum that actually was even less than that in my honest opinion. Just a wee bit angry over it, but will get over it. Kavey gave me a hug in an email and it helped. Thanks for caring. I hope you are rnr, I've missed him/you. I think our next Africa trip will be a dash to see the Wildebeests and after that a later trip to Botswana during the green season. Just too many specials then to pay full price to freeze to death (remember we're older and complain of the freezing) tee hee. Really, I think we could go on shorter notice then. Less crowding and more migratory birds too. When I say crowding, I mean planes, etc. Not the camps, other than Mombo.
MariaCallas, I've enjoyed this thread, thanks for starting it. Those of us who are heartsick for Africa can recognize a sister a mile away, or should I say a half a world away? Take care guys. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 11:23 AM
  #10
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,180
Liz
The last postings on that sad thread mentioned that WS were being reasonably positive - I take it from your post above that this didn't follow through in practice and that you ended up losing your deposit.
I am so sorry to hear that but I think it's just as important for you to be able to be open about sharing your experiences with the operator, even when negative, as it is for people to be positive.
We need both sides if we're to make a fair judgement.
So if you're willing to tell us more, perhaps it's time to resurrect that thread, or let us know if you are willing, what happened.
If you'd rather not say, that's OK too of course. You can always email me!
Anyway, here's more hugs to the lot of you - who else would understand the longing, the addiction, the OTT research and reading!
Kavey
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 04:12 PM
  #11
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Kavey-
We put $2234 down as requested. Plus we bought our international tickets. We got most of the airfare back. I think we lost $600 on that part. We got back $765 of our deposit, which was Burt's part of it. He returned it to us. WS kept the rest as it was their policy if you cancelled. We were very reluctant to pay another $15,000 without an assurance we would get something back. I offered to let them keep the deposit and we would go when it was safer and pay the going rate then for the camps we got. They didn't want that. They offered to give us up to a year to take a trip at the price we had agreed to and we would take whatever camps were available at that time. Well, when you pay for Mombo, you don't want just anyplace. There were no assurances, just trust us---and send us the rest of the money. I don't know about you, but we have never spent that much on a trip and never would again. We are really just as happy with Ker & Downey camps. Sitting around a bonfire at night, sipping Amarula and watching the southern skies, listening to the hyenas whoop and smell the smoke drifting past. My Africa love gets just as satisfied by that. So we live and learn. I don't blame Burt, I blame myself for trusting anyone I don't know. He said he did what he could. He doesn't really have much say so it seems. This is WS game as I see it, and they are there pulling down fat fees that people keep paying. I just never will again. If you check the specials right now, almost ALL of the camps have dropped their rates dramatically due to cancellations over the war. Guess who is missing. That's right, WS. Where is their understanding? Why make the customer pay? We also lost over $1,000 on the insurance that would not have covered us after war broke out. So we couldn't see anything else to do. At first the WS offer seemed ok. When I tried to get an interpretation, it was kind of whatever they could get away with. They said CC Africa wasn't offering anything more so why should they? I sent emails showing Robin Pops Safaris, Ker & Downey both offered full refunds when the war broke out, so that people would book. These other places took the risk in order to keep their customers. Not WS. So, I don't like to report things like this, but this is what happened to us and I don't like it.
Reason for chasing the Wildebeests instead. We'll decide later where to go in Botswana.
Did you happen to check the Africam website I posted to Rocco? The dropped rates were incredible. Even Jack's Camp was on it. The dates don't cover past December, but who knows what else will pop up? So I think we'll wait for specials and pop over then on our own. I have found websites for all local air and each major stop point offers packages that pick you up at the airport and drop you back after you visit whichever camps you want. Lots cheaper.
Thats it, you ask, I tell. Thats just part of the reason for this forum I believe. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 05:43 PM
  #12
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553
Liz,

Do you think that the Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge price is for real??? It was only 3,750 ZAR per room per night. That is about $475 USD per night! Enough to want to make me think of giving up the Garden Route.

I absolutely love the rooms at Sabi Sabi Earth Lodge...it was my second choice after Singita last year.
Roccco is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 31st, 2003, 05:59 PM
  #13
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 612
Dear Roccco

Yes, the rooms are fantastic at earth lodge-look at posting again under Michael please.
pattysuericia is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 1st, 2003, 12:11 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,180
Dear Liz
That's awful - and I really appreciate you sharing it with us. As I said, I think it's really important the negatives should be aired as well as the glowing reviews.
It sounds as though WS are either more cocky about their ability to make profits/ keep the camps reasonably full or have suffered less cancellations than other companies, though I find that hard to believe. Weird and very money grabbing behaviour and I'm really sad that you had to have that happen to you. I can understand why you feel so bad.
Kavey
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 1st, 2003, 01:00 AM
  #15
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 5,553
Liz,

Very sorry to hear about your experience. I cannot believe that travel insurance would not have a war provision! Makes me want to think twice about spending $400 - $500 USD on travel insurance.

Last year I got stuck an extra night in Zimbabwe but because I was staying at a quality place (that screwed up by not confirming my flight), they put me up free of charge in the Victoria Falls Hotel in a room that was probably $500 USD per night plus dinner and breakfast.

I was lucky enough to be staying at another quality place, the Mount Nelson Hotel, that was gracious enough to not charge me one cent for the night that I had reserved but did not make due to being stuck in Zimbabwe.

I realize that this is probably the best case scenario, but if travel insurance doesn't take care of a person in your predicament, then it just all seems like a hustle or scam.

I am just curious...are you American or European and if you are American were you going to fly through Europe or directly to Africa??? Maybe I am naive, but I feel pretty safe going to Southern Africa right now, more safe than I feel at home in Los Angeles or than I would feel in Europe. The only scary part is flying out of LAX, the #1 terrorist target, reportedly, on the West Coast.

I would like to think that terrorists would not target a South African Air jumbo jet, given the fact that South African leaders have been so critical of the war.

To me, it is surprising that such a big outfit like Wilderness Safaris is behaving in this manner. More than likely, had I gone to Zimbabwe, I would have stayed at their lodges (Chikwenya, Matusadona Water Wilderness and Makalolo Plains). They seem to have such a high stake in Botswana and Zimbabwe that there almost appears to be no way around them if you are choosing those countries.

Perhaps you should write to Conde Nast Traveler's Ombudsman??? If they take up your cause, you just may get your money back and unwittingly help others in your same shoes with Wilderness Safaris.
Roccco is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 1st, 2003, 01:06 AM
  #16
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 9,180
Roccco
Sadly, the way I understand it, the ombudsman would be likely to do little - this comes down to an issue of goodwill. According to the cancellation policy of WS Liz cancelled her trip too late to have the deposit returned. As far as they are concerned that's her tough luck. It's just that other companies are choosing to waive their cancellation policies in such instances and are doing this as goodwill gestures. Long term I think those other companies are the clever ones - when someone has had their deposit returned, even though, technically the company didn't have to, they will remember that and book again, and recommend. When someone has their deposit retained, and loses out to the tune of a few thousand dollars, they will be unlikely to put further business in that direction again. So WS will (and should) lose out on Liz' future business.
But legally? I doubt the ombudsman could do much to make WS return her deposit, especially as the war hasn't impacted on the countries in question.

Again, Liz, I really understand why you feel let down - I would feel exactly the same, and I feel that your information has given me a good insight into what I can expect from WS if I have to cancel for any reason that is outside their policies. Thank you.
Kavey is offline  
Reply With Quote
Apr 1st, 2003, 07:26 AM
  #17
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Rocco-We live in Las Vegas, Nevada. We would fly to Atlanta and on SAA to J'burg. I have posted some of this before but here goes. We were on a trip on 9/11. We had just left NYC and were out in the middle of the ocean on a voyage to Europe. The trip was half over and we still had another week before we arrived in Scotland. We had patchy news at best on the ship. It was horrible. The trip was ruined, we didn't know if the US was being demolished. We felt like we were isolated and fretted not knowing if we could get home because we heard that all airplanes were grounded. You don't go on with your vacation as gay happy travellers. Oh No! Thats what no one considers when they post that Africa is safe, go and have a good time. How can you when you don't know what is going on at home?
After insurance companies lost so much money on 9/11 travellers, they all changed their way of doing business. I called Travel Guard, the company we always used, the company we paid over $1,000 to cover our African trip. Sorry, not covered. If ANY delay is a result of war or terrorist attack, we don't cover any of it. Well, how can you go off thinking "I won't get hit", I'm safe. ANYTHING that happens because there is a war or attack automatically disqualifies you. I have since read the fine print from the camps in Africa. Almost without exception their rates include emergency medical evacuatiion evacuation. So why then do we double insure to cover that? I have bought a separate coverage just for that. I don't think you need it. Also, I question why should I buy insurance if they cop out on what you need most. So what if you lose a suitcase. You can buy things in Nairobi or J'burg after landing if necessary. It won't cost $1,000. So I haven't yet decided against it, but if I get insurance at all, it will be the cheapest I can find. I will self insure a lot of the things, i.e., airfare. On SAA your tickets are refundable if not used. I think its just a $150 amount not covered.
Having worked 30 years for the federal Government in my career, I KNOW fine print. I consider myself well read in fine print. I saw just what the insurance companies were getting at. They are not responsible. Yes insurance has always been as much of a scam as the law would allow, imho. Don't you read exclusions in your other insurance policies? Well, catch on? I can't tell you what to do, but if we wait till close to travel time to go, I'm not real sure I will get such a policy. Everyone must decide for himself. DO NOT take my word for it. Check it out. Its there, in fine print, under exclusions. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Apr 1st, 2003, 07:39 AM
  #18
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Kavey, thanks. I can always count on you girl. You see things as they are, not as you wish they were. Just like me.
I am extremely disappointed in WS. One, you cannot book direct with them. So they don't want to deal with us. They want the middle man there and I wonder why. Why do they not post their rates? I also do not believe they have not suffered cancellations. Didn't we just hear of someone getting a reservation there within 3 months out for Mombo? I'll bet he paid full price too. I think they are acting very cavalier and I for one will avoid them. When I am in Africa I am there for a connection on a different level than most places provide. My soul does not care where I stay, just be there. The night air and the sounds and sweet smells are everywhere. Our excitement over the trip when we were last in Botswana lasted a full 2 years. We weren't even close to Mombo. I will definately try Chief's Camp. It looks like all the luxury I need and they are in the Mombo concession. I know that doesn't mean that we will drive up to Mombo and have a drink. It means that I'm guessing that the lions know that the Mombo concession doesn't end abruptly a mile from that camp. At least if I do, all will know exactly what lies elsewhere on that island.
Sossusvlei is the only place where there is no good alternative to WS camps. I've contacted two air services that offer packages from Windhoek. Elena is one and the DuneHopper Safaris is another. They sell a package that includes the flights and 1 night at Soss. Wilderness Lodge and two nights at Wolwedans Dune Lodge. They will also fly you over the shipwrecks, coast and whereever you want. They will pick you up at the airport, take you to a hotel, collect you at the hotel and everything you need. You deal directly with them and you just purchase your airfare from abouttravel.com, pay by credit card, and you're cutting out the middle man. Thank you Rocco. I learned how to do this from all of you wonderful informative posts. So, I lost a few thousand dollars, but I ended up with an education that will last a lifetime. So am I bitter? No. Do I like WS? No. But that is over and I will not comment as folks say should they go there. This is available for anyone to read, but I won't do anything to hurt WS. They can do that for themselves. Enough on that. Thanks to all for your kind words, I think I finally got rid of this bad stuff. The karma is on them. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Apr 8th, 2003, 09:06 AM
  #19
LizFrazier
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Hello folks-
After a few days of reflecting, I have done a lot of thinking and feel I should make one final post on this subject. Really, really sorry to bring up this sorrowful tale again and am dreadfully sorry to involve you all. You have been very kind but I know now that I went too far. I feel that I left a bad impression about WS and also the agent I booked with, Bert. In reflecting back and looking at how this war is going, I see now that I should not have cancelled our trip. I know you all told me not to, but I couldn't see this working out so quickly. I can also see that the prices that Bert got for us were better than anything I could have done with anyone else, and when I think of that wonderful itinerary, I want to weep over letting it go.
Please if you all could erase any of this from your memory I would appreciate it. Also if you could forgive me for my ranting, it would be nice. I still recommend Bert and WS as the best bet around. Once again, sorry I cut loose here and put my anger over the war onto people I shouldn't have blamed at all. I have found out that the WS cancellation policy is the same as many other outfitters in Africa, Kenya and other places offer very similar policies. So I was wrong expecting more than I should have. (If I'd have kept my big fat mouth shut I wouldn't be having to do this now.) Ugh, will I never learn that words once spoken are impossible to erase? Thanks again for your kindness and understanding. Liz
 
Reply With Quote
Apr 8th, 2003, 09:33 AM
  #20
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 314
It takes a lot of guts to rethink things and even more to apologize. You didn't share by your own volition but rather by repeated prodding, so lighten up on yourself.

If the worst error you ever make is to decide not to venture near war, then you are doing fine. Life is long enough for the important stuff as long as you put it first.

No harm done. It's forgotten. Now get out that calendar and start planning the danged trip - an even better one
We love ya! (And we want that trip report)
mariacallas is offline  
Reply With Quote
 


Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:03 PM.