trip report

Feb 7th, 2007, 11:18 AM
  #1  
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trip report

Hi,

Well, this isn't quite the 15 page trip report i typed up and was in the process of editing but *this* volunteer has lost the incentive to spend any more time for this forum based on recent experience. If you have any questions i'd be happy to answer them.

Arumeru River Lodge, Arusha (Lodging – 1 night)
Nice place to transfer to after a long flight. Would probably continue seeking the perfect place, but no complaints here. The food was mediocre and waaay over priced had it not been part of the board.

Tarangire NP / Lake Manyara NP
(+) breaks up the drive
(+) Introduces diversity to the trip. Saw a lot- birds, giraffes, hippos, mongoose, monkeys, baboons, zebras, flamingos, impalas, wildebeest, buffalos…
There’s a lot, but much is far away, and the driver is restricted to the road. The Nutudu area is the only area where drivers are allowed to drive off road. For the amount of driving done, I believe there may be higher value is in the Serengeti. In hindsight I’d fly into Lake Manyara, skip all the driving, and do a day at one of the parks (not 2) before heading to Ngorongoro (assuming you fly out of the Serengeti). Call this the macro day, developing perspective and clearing the adrenaline.
Kirurumu Tented Lodge (Lodging – 2 nights)
OK. Basically, there are two options: Tented camps or Lodges. We wanted to hear the wildlife and “live” outside… in comfort. Comfort I suppose is defined as bathroom in tent and sleeping on something other than the floor. Food is sacrificial.
Per our guide, KTL is the nicest tented option in the area. The price point of $200 pp/pn is reasonable when compared to others alternatives at $790/pp/pn. I didn’t particularly enjoy KTL primarily because they catered more to large groups which created a certain type of atmosphere. Generally many of my issues are with very friendly staff that just hasn’t been trained to international standards. For example, in my book, if dinner starts at 7:00, don’t tell me to return at 7:30. If breakfast is @ 7:00am, don’t start setting up at 7:00am. I’ve got to leave on safari at 7:30am!

Originally, we were assigned tent #9. It is the furthest tent from everything and is the quietest. Yet I recommend asking for a tent (#1-#5) overlooking lake Manyara. At the least ask for a tent that is private and not right off the main walking path. We were switched the following day to #1. While it is next to the restaurant/bar might be loud until 10:00pm, waking up and watching the sunrise is well worth it. You still have the privacy, but can’t fool yourself that you’re in the wild. Also to not: the walking path is elevated and uneven—a serious risk for the less mobile. Additionally, the stairs down to the bar have no handrail.

We also went on a nice 1 hour afternoon walk (4:00pm). By the resident guide. Unfortunately, he was insulted by our $5… Not quite sure why given there was no dialogue and we couldn’t really understand him. Note: if you go, take some Tz shillings are you are have unavoidable situations requiring a “little gift” - a few shillings fine, but nothing worthy of US$1. I was a little miffed that I was expected to “gift a little something” to a homeowner whose house the guide walked me to without taking photos or interacting at all with the owners.
Misc notes:
• Scorpion! At night
• Bring own alarm clock. Didn’t get the requested wake up call, got one the next day when didn’t request one
• Inefficient as heck- 2 guys wait outside every tent starting around ~6:00am to see if you need help with your bags (even on the day we weren’t leaving)
• #1 can hear the bustle of kitchen crew in am. Didn’t bother us but #2 might have been a better choice
• No shampoo!
• Maybe bring a sink stop if washing own clothes. Water bottle holder for walks/hikes if you don’t want to put in a knapsack.

Kisima Ngeda Permanent Tented Lodge (Lake Eyasi, 1 night)


The highlight of our trip. An oasis from the mass tourist providing 7 tents, intimate guest escape. There is also a public campground in this location. The breeze is blowing through the palm trees. Exceptional service of a few staff who personalize your stay.
Generator is on from 6pm-10pm and in morning (can’t hear it). Farm their own Tilapia.

While were there, we were only 100 feet from the salt lake. Typically it’s 3km away! Due to rising water concerns they will be moving their campsite to a higher ground temporary campsite.

Very good dinner, exceptional soup. Fabulous swimming hole.


Ngorongoro Farm House (1 night)

Indian style African Interpretations. Immaculate, informal gardens everywhere.

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well! The accommodation is far from a “farm house.” It’s a ~50 room commercial enterprise that provides a seamless experience from the moment you enter the driveway. The food is organic and the farm does a fabulous job of hiding all the people, which provides for a relatively private experience for what it is. I thought the dining experience was wonderful from fresh squeezed juice from the bar to the assorted dinner buffet. The rooms are obscenely large, making one wonder if we’d been accidentally been assigned the honeymoon suite (fresh roses included). Included is your own fabulous shower, tub, fireplace, and verandah.

+ Great place to “spread out” and repack
+ Tour the vegetable garden and learn your product/flowers
- In general, I prefer to support small private individuals. But this owner has gotten it right!
- The rooms are quite a walk from the entrance. Our room was ~200m (Tai).
- The birds outside the front door are fabulous to watch
- Internet connection was down when we tried to use it.


Sopa Lodge (Ngorongoro Crater – 1 night) –
Overworn, stained carpets, worn furniture. Out of date Indian African style. Do NOT like and would never stay here again, until a renovation and ownership change occurs. Personally, I would spend the second night at either Ngorongoro farm or the special campsite. Apparently the special campsites are quite nice (NOT the public campsite).

Guides are treated poorly from accommodations to food. The only place we stayed at where guides slept near the generator. Unlike every single other location, guides are not invited to join the guests. 100 rooms. Really, everything from the room itself to the food to the staff’s attitude is totally gross.

There is a beautiful view from the room, but it’s all glass. So you loose the outdoor elements. Not a place/room for relaxing. Also the west road is closed so you have to drive by all the other lodges and practically drive along the entire rim of the crater to continue on to the Serengeti.

This is one of the most disgusting hotels I’ve ever stayed at. Let’s attempt to overlook the HUGE fact that our rooms smelled like bat guano inside and out (dH thought it was the campor in the rafters but agreed regardless of cause the smell was foul and unacceptable). The rugs were stained, there were cobwebs in the room.
I’m not even comfortable walking on the carpet in my bare feet. The food was disgusting. The smell in the nile perch was greasy and overcooked (let alone the fact that they’re supporting that commercial trade for the moment). The beef was saturated with soy sauce and unpalatable. The staff were rude when we told them we wanted nothing for drink with our dinner except coffee (apparently, coffee is only for AFTER the meal).

This place reminds me of a cash cow hotel, long forgotten by management. An American Indian Reserve casino where you pay $2 for a greasy buffet and if you’re a big spender are given a room compliments of management … if you can bear touching the comforter to get it off the bed.

The “bed tuck” consisted of the bedspread being literally tossed backwards and with zero attempts at being folded nicely or put away. 100% sloppy and lazy effort by employees who are not proud of their employment.

Swimming pool was inoperable and debris floating in the pool.
The only place where we encountered smoking
Can hear the generator on the east side sleeping rooms
2 small screens in the sleeping room otherwise can’t open the windows.

Serengeti Ntudu Private Campsite
Semi-luxury tented camp, private.

+ Awesome. Can’t break it down from the GO so won’t discuss here since I’m just focused on places. If you’re thinking of doing a temporary tented experience some observations:
- Lacks little amenities like shampoo, place to put your luggage other than the floor or bed.
- 2.5 gallons of water for a shower (but toilets attached to tent!)
- Great food
- Eating in a tent at night so lights are kept low so as to not attract bugs.
- “Sink” is outside tent and warm water is placed in container each morning

Ideas for gifts

Not being a person who supports candy giving or money, some things to consider:
- Tennis balls or any sort of durable ball for children to play with. I saw kids kicking around what looked like a sock, deflated soccer balls, cans, etc.
- Jacks for the ball and jack game they can play anywhere
- Tire patch kits (IF they can get the bike, often can’t afford to repair flat tires)
- If you visit the Hadzabe tribe, twine for their bows, iron for their arrows.
- Sugar is very expensive right now
midwestgypsy is offline  
Feb 7th, 2007, 01:50 PM
  #2  
 
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Midwestgypsy:

Sorry but I guess I must have missed something. Please post the rest of your trip report. Ignore any idiot who may have said something to offend.

Kevin
stakerk is offline  
Feb 7th, 2007, 01:57 PM
  #3  
 
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Kevin,
You need to read the OP's posts in this thread to understand http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34942034
Patty is offline  
Feb 7th, 2007, 02:50 PM
  #4  
 
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Melissa:

Please not take any comments personally. Some people get a bit sensitive here. "Let and let live" gets a bit forgotten at times here.

Our primary concern here is Africa and sharing our common love of it.

If you have written a longer trip report please post it. I can assure you it will be enjoyed by the overwhelming majority here. It will also surely be a help to someone in the future planning their own trip. I know the trip reports here were an invaluable assist to me. That made our trip absolutely wonderful.

Please share your additional thoughts with us. Also, any photos, we love photos.

Kevin (from laid back California, of course)

stakerk is offline  
Feb 7th, 2007, 03:23 PM
  #5  
 
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Melissa - I appreciate your sharing what you saw, as you saw and felt it. In my trip report last fall I stated at the beginning that this is what I thought from my admittedly limited perspective and experience. You are doing the same and honestly. Sometimes I have the feeling that trip reports ignore un-pleasant parts of the trip for a variety of reasons. (BUT not yours ).
Communication is difficult on forums like this, we miss the aural and visual clues that help so much in real life communication. So please don't get too put off by some of our/my comments, try to read them from the best "angle" possible.
Anyway, please continue, you write very lucid and you have had a lot to share with us. God bless.
regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2007, 03:28 PM
  #6  
 
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Melissa,

Thank you for sharing and please continue! I appreciate your effort, and anyone's, who takes the time to write a trip report.

Again, Thank You!

Local2542 is offline  
Feb 7th, 2007, 06:35 PM
  #7  
 
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Melissa
I liked your report and thanks for posting it
Often we say things without thinking it through I am one of those
also on a board like this it is
easy to be misunderstood
However we are all entitled to our opinions and we should be able to express them without fear or favour

But I will say this if I read your report and I owned Ngororongoro Sopa I would be out there as fast as I could to see why you have those impressions
of that lodge
Geelong2007 is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 05:04 AM
  #8  
 
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Hi Midwestgypsy. Just wanted to say I really appreciate your trip report. The details are very helpful to give a balanced impression of what to expect. Thank you for going to the trouble of typing it all up!

setauketli is offline  
Feb 8th, 2007, 06:22 AM
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Come on Midwest gypsy!! don't have us beg you and go on! your writing is too nice to be missed!

Ivee
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Feb 9th, 2007, 05:20 AM
  #10  
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*** This is a trip report for southern Serengeti (nutudu area) end of january 07. We flew out of Serona (central Serengeti) and spent one night in Zanzibar.***

ok, well thanks to continued jet lag (sigh), i decided to check back in with the site and feel a little better. I have never posted anything of a trip report nature so i'll probably not meet the standard protocol. just let me know if my omissions are confusing things. Usually I keep these write-ups in my own files for friends, so bear with me. I've spend the morning trying to clarify certain views and perspectives, but as one writer suggests, i need to CMA! Especially since i'm not so much descriptive as analytical So here goes:

Before I begin, I want to make the requisite disclaimer that this is a retelling of my observations in one week on the ground. Obviously to create a complete story I’ve filled in the gaps using logic. It’s not a research paper and could very well be completely wrong. Extract that of interest for your own personal use -- caveat emptor!!!

Since this board has taught me the importance of background, here is some about me: In the past decade, I have flown around the world nearly 4 times, primarily on NWA/KLM. While we prefer independent travel we have started softening and appreciating the “finer things in life” the past few years. We're in our mid/late 30s. Regardless, our travel preference run the gamut: Staying in places like Raz Villas in India (a MUST if you do northern circuit India) is as equally appealing to us as a “best of the country” hostel. It all depends on circumstance and objectives though 70% of the time I choose a locally owned B&B. We’ve stayed in large chains (like Ritz Carleton DCA or DTW westin inn) to budget chains (la quinta inn everywhere!) to scary places where they charge for a room by the hour.

My only other trip to Africa has been with Ker and Downey on a private two-week luxury safari trip to Botswana with my mother. Like Botswana, we decided to take our Tanzania trip 10 days prior to departure. My objective this time around, was to retain the essence of the trip without the cost. In a variety of ways I simultaneously failed and succeeded, but what we both agree, is it was the best trip we’ve ever taken in 10 years. Perfect? No. The two things we’d change 1) stay 2 nights at the farmhouse and nixing sopa from our memories forever. 2) Spend 2 nights at Kisima Ngeda Permanent Tented Lodge at the expense of the extra night spent for lake manywara/Tarangire. Ideally, arrive in time for dinner and depart just after lunch.

For our 10 day Tanzania trip, we settled on a semi-luxury tended experience (Our second week was spent diving in Pemba at Manta Reef). We wanted to view the northern circuit with a top quality private guide, minimize driving/transport, maximize the “outdoor” experience, not have to dress for dinner (or shower if so inclined). We wanted our money to buy the best guide possible as well as comfort for the tush. We were willing to compromise on lodging quality and food as necessary. This decision was made after I discovered top end lodges run $700ppn vs $200pp/pn. Not such a hard choice... Additionally “top end” does not necessarily equate to “small” or “intimate” - a preference of mine, you’ll soon discover.

GROUND OPERATORS
There are approximately 600 ground operators in Tanzania. Only about 150 are licensed. The rest are referred to as “fly-catchers.” These guides entice tourists on a 7-day “cheap” safari in the streets and are known to run out of money on the fourth day and leave their guests stranded without driver or car! Since we’re all plan aheaders, we don’t have to worry about this risk!

Of the 150 only ~30 actually buy the $2000/year license to be able to provide a tented camp experience in the Serengeti (important for our objective); the majority are limited to public campsites or lodges. So, if you want a tented experience in the serengetti, i'm just suggesting you ask a few more questions and clarify any assumptions you've made.

Naipenda is considered a top “tented camp” style safari organization (IMO). They are known as one of only two US/African co-ownerships. Roys, in comparison, is Indian owned (and as one Fodorite pointed out the owner(s) is African born). Some differences I learned about however, are how different GO quantify their service levels. Service level includes guide quality, and quality of assets (like tents and vehicles).

While on safari more than 4 guides from other GO asked Chris about hiring opportunities at Naipenda. WHY? I wanted to know… this is what i learned -

Naipenda offers their guide certain benefits which appealed to me as i could see the american "culture." For example, they have a very high pay grade component in comparison to other tour operators. “They wear uniforms,” (interesting association/value) they have solid experience/knowledge. Chris, our guide, had three years of ranger training; he had two years as a hunter assistant and now, has been working at Naipenda for 6 years. He has his “own” vehicle, which he can use for personal use when not on safari, every staffmember has a company cell phone they are allowed to use for personal use when working, etc. (If anyone knows of other GOs that offer similar benefits please post company/benefit as i'm very interested to know if this is the norm or unusual!)

As an example of where I encountered discrepancy post-departure was an itinerary comparison between naipenda and roys. I was suprised by the differing definition of semi-lux tented experience:

Roys - Semi-luxury mobile tent camping price includes..... Dome-style tent, mattress, … privacy tent, shower tent and utensils. Prices do not include: … laundry, personal toiletry items… sleeping bag or towel.

Naipenda – well, it wasn’t described in my material, but, the tent was a big A-frame walk-in (same, I’m told, as the luxury tents but with different “contents,” an attached shower/toilet, we did not need to bring a sleeping bag as good quality linens and towels were provided. Laundry was free which meant I washed EVERYTHING the day before we finished safari!

As the itineraries are not exact between Naipenda and Roy’s, the cost is not the issue (~ $400pp price difference in Roy’s favor) but I want to stress the importance of clarifying details and not making any assumptions otherwise you may be in for a surprise.

Does this mean I’m bashing Roy’s or think they’re terrible? Not at all. But in my case, wanting a SEMI-LUX tented experience; Roys does not meet similar standards established by Naipenda. I’m not interested in sleeping in a dome tent, or finding my own sleeping bag or hauling my own towels halfway across the world… If I was doing a Lodge safari trip, or if I wanted a basic camping experience, perhaps.

Vehicles are another example where service quality can be cut. Factors include noise, durability, and comfort. Naipenda modifies their Toyota land cruiser (Chris was strongly against Land Rovers based on experience concerning cost, maintenance, reliability, and cabin noise). On top of the base price of the car, Naipenda make significant improvements to their Land cruisers (as it sounds like any competitive company must). I was interested to learn that Naipenda actually has an auto shop where they modify/service other GO’s vehicles. And it sounds like in the off-season, Naipenda guides end up working on cars in the shop! What Naipenda does not yet offer but hopes to in the future are car amenities like a refrigerator and long range frequency radio for encrypted guide/corporate communication. An upscale version of the Toyota land cruiser which they are presently trialing, etc.

ok, that's page 1-3. more ramblings to come where i discuss the value of a great guide, what made our guide "great", a sample of the type of day we had while on safari and misc notes. I also talk about my perceptions with CC Africa and A&K whom we saw *often* in Nutudu – ironically all three (incl Naipenda) are completely different business models. You could add the independent GO staying at Nutudu lodge in that grouping if you wanted…. Because i was writing this during the trip, it's a little (lot?) redundant and unorganized.... but it would take too much time to actually write it well... and I apologize for that.
midwestgypsy is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 05:25 AM
  #11  
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oops. after all that...

I meant to say pre-departure, not post-departure in the sentence:

"As an example of our exposure to discrepencies in service level post-departure, I recieved quotes from both naipenda and roys. "
midwestgypsy is offline  
Feb 9th, 2007, 05:35 PM
  #12  
santharamhari
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That's Rajvilas........
 
Feb 9th, 2007, 06:49 PM
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Hey, great re-intro and refresh Melissa. Your writing flows nicely, lucid, lots of good info. Take your time, I'd rather read more than you shortcutting story for time. More please and thank you
regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2007, 02:06 AM
  #14  
 
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the west road (Ngorongoro) is closed so you have to drive by all the other lodges and practically drive along the entire rim of the crater to continue on to the Serengeti.

Melissa, what dates were you there? We drove on this access road Jan 26 (up), 27 and 28 (down and back up) and Jan 29 (down and across the crater floor) and it was in perfect shape, with not even a pothole. You said you were there in late January, so I'm curious ...

The roads at the bottom were a mess (rutted and muddy) but this access road was the best road we saw in 10 days of driving beyond the end of the paved road.

Bill
Bill_H is offline  
Feb 10th, 2007, 03:11 AM
  #15  
 
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Melissa
forget the protocol this is a board for everybody
I dont necesarily agree with some of the figures in your report BUT I did enjoy reading it
keep it coming
Geelong2007 is offline  
Feb 10th, 2007, 03:46 AM
  #16  
 
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Thank you for a very honest report!

Some facts are very wrong but I understand what you are trying to say so please continue! It is very good reading!

Just a couple of notes:

1. There is only one west road at the crater and it is an access road (one -way into the crater). On the east are two roads. Then one-way exit road and the western rim road to/from Sopa.

In the north there is the two-way access road near Sopa.

There is a trekking trail on the west rim and I would not dream of driving there but I have not tried!

2. Special camp sites are special for only 3 reasons:

a) They cost more ($50 ppn)
b) Must be prebooked
c) Are private for one group only

Any company with a $2000 safari license (a license to carry passengers to the parks) can book special camp sites.
Even individuals when driving their own cars! As long as you book it, pay for it and get a ranger to protect you and to make sure you clean up your waste and leave the site as clean as you found it!

3. I wonder why you think there are only two GOs with US/African co-ownerships and why you think that's special? There are plenty actually. And there are many South African/East African co-ownerships, and European/East African co-ownerships and so on. Very few local companies can survive for 3 years or more without financial and marketing assistance from abroad.

climbhighsleeplow is offline  
Feb 11th, 2007, 04:31 AM
  #17  
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Hi,

Thank you for clarifying my post. Please continue posting corrections.

I appreciate every correction readers can find regarding my notes/posting... i'm in one of those situations where i'd love to share what i've come up with but i know there will be incorecct data but i also know i don't have the time to flesh it out thoroughly. So thank you for not allowing me to waylay some unsuspecting reader.

If you disagree with numbers, and believe the discrepency is significant enough (or it's just driving you crazy) to affect the decisions of a future traveler, please post.

Melissa
midwestgypsy is offline  
Feb 11th, 2007, 04:53 AM
  #18  
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climbhighsleeplow,

hello! Responding to your point #3. I suppose it's special to me just because it's one more way to legitimize an unfamiliar company when i'm evaluating various GOs.

It feels like fodorites post frequent topics like "help which GO should i choose with xyz price differences between a, b, & c companies". I believe that question stems from a need to isolate more information about specific companies and somehow help create distinct personalities across each of their choices. For me, in this imperfect world, i'm the type of person who wants to know the ownership structure. I believe ownership structure will loosley help me gain a perspecive on the culture of the company and their way of thinking. This is important for me because it will tell me how they will handle the little things i either forget to ask about or don't even consider imporant pre-trip.

For example, will the driver fill the tank of gas up right before we take off for the day? or will they do it invisibly without us ever realizing it's being done?

Silly example, but i've been on trips where our driver makes us get up early so they can stop and fill the tank, and pick up supplies with us sitting in the vehicle. Not good, not bad, but it helps raise my awareness. If i discover the co-owner is born and raised in central america... ok, yes.. i'd give pause about going with that GO in this case. I've never had an experience in CA where time is a priority.... doesn't mean i would nix them on a different type of trip, but given how much time we spend on the road during safari, if i can shave even 30 minutes off my time in the vehicle... it's important.

I suppose for this posting, the ownership isn't relevant so much as it's an additional piece of data with which someone can use to make a decision. Personally i'd like to see a uk or us co-owner because i assume that reflects the majority type of clients they send on safari, hence i can assume my experience will be structured for their "typical" client... (ie i know what i'm getting into)

Now, on the topic of the co-owner on the other side of the ocean, that's a little different. I tend to prefer a local tanzanian (sp?) over a south african or "east african" primarily because my perspective suggests networks are everything in this part of the world. I'd rather go with a company who is "in the network" vs outside the network. As an example, on this trip chris (our guide) continually was running into classmates. And from those run-ins he told us backgrounds on their life. Some he helped keep of the street, others became extreemly successful businessmen. others are guides. If the company was not a local go company, i feel i'd loose a very special element of our experience. Let's say we'd had a kenyan guide... he may have had significant ground experience, but could he really have shared the personal insights chris was able to about the dozen or so people... probably, but it would have offered a different expereince. And would i have wanted chris in Kenya? doubtful.... This is just how I think, right or wrong....

Also, i did not realize there were lots of us co-owned companies. Would love to know how to identify those companies....
Melissa
midwestgypsy is offline  
Feb 11th, 2007, 05:33 AM
  #19  
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I created a segment of tour operators whom for identification purposes only, I termed point and shoot. In my book, leopard tours and ranger were good examples of this category (sorry loyalists, please feel free to post your differing experience!). They cater to “large” groups and often only stop in a park when there’s an elephant in the road. In one situation, we were watching a heyena cool down by the water. This van skidded to a stop, backed up, stopped, then took off 3 minutes later. No car positioning, nothing. BUT the occupants were snapping furiously away from their non-prime position. I can’t speak to the amount of education going on in the vehicle, but this category are the vehicles that arrived after us and left before us… always seeming to stick to a schedule.
On the subject of groups, how do people feel about this theory – The more knowledgable guides tend to lead private tours. The rationale being group guides require different skillsets, such as the ability to manage a bucket of minnows. Oops I mean different sub-interests within the group. Wouldn’t leadership skill be valued more than knowledge in a group guide?

With all this said, if I were to go on safari again, I would choose solely on the “services” component. Ie guide and car. I can control the rest – lodging, schedule, etc.

Chris, the senior guide (6 years) at Naipenda is an excellent benchmark for what to look for in a guide. He’s extremely personable, has thorough knowledge from ranger school, and can speak on a breadth of topics. He is very upfront and pulls out his guidebooks on anything he’s unsure of (a rare occurance). He learned quickly our preferences and incorporated our priorities into daily routine. He has superman ears (for better or worse) and always anticipated our needs without request. For example, he knew I despise crowds – so he accommodated us. He recommended we get an early start to beat the crater tourists and out of park tourist. He encouraged us to relax when schedule was less important. I viewed my experience comparable to what I would have experienced with a local “friend”- someone willing to share his or her perspective and was honest and open enough to build trust with us over the course of the relationship. What blew me away was the macro AND micro awareness he developed with us. The ability to spot a dung beetle on the road as the same time we’re in cheetah territory (we spotted 5 cheetas in 1 week!)….
Here’s my perspective. You’re spending more active time in your truck with the guide than anywhere else. For the safari, you’re wed for a fixed amount of time. I’m not a very social person and it was tough – and I LIKED chris. Not only are you driving with him all day, you also eat dinner with him. That’s tough (for me). Lodges come and go. The guide makes your trip unremarkable, good or extraordinary. And here’s another incentive.. the more experienced the guide, the better the stories
So what makes a great guide in my book? Excellent service is invisible.
- Fuel in gas tank is always magically full
- Car is spotless daily (except in Serengeti where fresh water is limited)
- Knowing your client so well, they can anticipate your every need/want
- Assertive – if another car moves, upgrade position of vehicle up for better position.
- Optimizing - Positioning vehicle for optimum shots without request.
- Accommodated our desire to avoid the mass tourism itinerary allowing us to have a relatively “off the beaten track” experience!
- Information swapping with other guides (this is different than information taking as some guides appeared to do).
- Excellent driving for comfort – drivers around us getting stuck except for Chris
- When speaking in Swahili with other locals, taking the time to explain the conversation or humor we were unable to understand.
- Patiently answering all our questions and tuning into our interests so when opportunity presents itself he could offer info (such as pointing out the holes elephants create to dig for salt).
- Stopping randomly for us without visible complaint. Stopping randomly for us without our request.
- Pointing out unnecessary points of value/interest (like dung beetle, aardvark hole, unfamiliar birds, etc)

If you have a good guide, I don’t personally think it’s necessary to get up early to get to the crater. We were in the crater from 8:30 am onwards and aside from the entrances, we saw very few cars. Also, Naipenda had purchased 2-6 hour tickets so we could be in there the entire day. After the lunch crowd left it was veeery quiet (but so were we, as exhausted as I became). It’s only a matter of having a confident/experienced guide who knows the roads (for example, certain roads haven’t been managed by the rangers so you’re guaranteed to get stuck. Our guides comment regarding a stuck driver – he must be a flycatcher and does not know no one drives that road anymore). Additionally, we did not drive along the lake as he mentioned to us, that’s the scenic tour where most guides take their clients. Then later, we changed roads, because the game spotting was not that good, indicating we’d see very little if we remained on the road…

But I diverge. My schedule at Ngorongoro Farm House would be to get the lunch box before you go to breakfast. If you’re on a private, this will save you 10 minutes as you will avoid the inevitable lines that form after breakfast.

The things we saw in Ngorongoro Crater:

• A Massai boy we met at the water’s edge who was so unfamiliar with tourists that the boy edged closer and closer to the vehicle trying to see inside. Son and Father were watering their 100 cows
• Cheetah in grass, birds!, buffalo
• Lion pride sleeping – overheated
• Hyena chomping on bone and another staying cool in mud
• Zebra running from warthog!
• Warthog family playing chase
• Zebra mom chastising baby Zebra for getting too close to the car
• Baby hippo with mom at lunch spot
• Black Rhino from a distance


Next up is some discussion on our time in the Ntudu area. I believe this area is totally the coolest because it's the only area you can drive off-road.
midwestgypsy is offline  
Feb 11th, 2007, 05:50 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
I enjoyed your observations on guiding, which affirm the importance of that aspect of the trip.
atravelynn is offline  

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