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Want the "BETTER" local based tour operators for Tanzanian Safari

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Apr 6th, 2011, 06:16 PM
  #1
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Want the "BETTER" local based tour operators for Tanzanian Safari

My wife and I have delayed visiting Africa thought we made it to all the others, yes, Antartica, and want a "WOW" experience but we may be too late. I read of 10+ vehicles around a tree waiting for a leopard toi show itself at certain spots. I also read the limited off-road restrictions and while I understand them it seems one can miss many opportunities to get up close. We also like our creature comforts and though I went to Boy Scout camp and my wife's family did a lot of camping we are now in our 60's and are used to comfortable king beds with with nice size rooms, we are not in need of suites, plunge pools though I know we will miss the A/C but need big ceiling fans and decent meals.
Can you suggest what local providers we shou;ld consider, we want to keep all the money in Tanzania, the areas that are must see such as the crater and the lodging we should reques?. We were considering going in late February (the shoulder season I gather for lodge rates) just before the rainy season, so we read, and were considering a 9 or 10 day safari. Our price range is $4500-$5500/person inclusive of fees and taxes, etc. Thanks..
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Apr 6th, 2011, 07:32 PM
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You're "stuck" on Tanzania?

regards - tom
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Apr 6th, 2011, 09:22 PM
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Hi

Some of the "better" ones mentioned here are Africa Serendipity, The Wild Source, Roy Safaris, Good Earth Tours, Access 2 Tanzania, Warrior Trails. If you want to look at Luxury + Shoulder season prices you can also check with AndBeyond who run lodges and camps in/around Crater, Serengeti, Loliondo, Manyara among others and they will run a complete itinerary for you including internal flights, park fees, taxes ( even "Meet & Greet" at the international airport!!!)


1.) If you are keen on a mix of Tanzania+February+ Big Migration herds, you could work with your operators on customizing your itinerary to include off-roading. I have used an example link here which Bill (The Wild Source) conducted in late Feb with the same intent (and had wonderful predatorsightings)

http://www.thewildsource.com/pdfs/bi...-migration.pdf

This doesnt include the Crater but includes Mara so you could clip that part and include the Crater with your TA.

2.) A second option could be to go in early December( high rates kick in on 20th Dec -till then would be an absolute bargain). My friends ( 4 of them ) did a 2 day Arusha Coffee Lodge + 3 days Serengeti Under Canvas + 2 days Ngorongoro Crater Lodge + 2 days Lake Manyara Tree Lodge and inclusive of all Africa travel, taxes, park fees it came to USD 5900 per head. You would average a bit more if you are just 2, but they also had flights to Zanzibar and back plus one day stay there included in this. Upsides to going in early December : very very few vehicles and the grass is green and if you are lucky you two would be the only ones in a beautiful camp and in the crater you would have the same wildlife experience with much less vehicle crowding. Downsides : The end part of the short rains, the migration herds could be more dispersed and you would be 1-1.5 months too early for the 'calving season' and spotting wildlife could be more difficult with the thicker grass/bush. My friends had a great wildlife experience and loved the exclusivity but its a personal choice coupled with luck. If you would like to see their pics, let me know -I'll check with them and maybe can email you the link. I can also send you some pricing break ups of the lodges I had shortlisted ( most of them from the camp sources but a couple from Travel Agent sites).

3.) You could substitute Ngorongoro Crater Lodge with Lemala Ngorongoro or Ngorongoro Sopa lodge to save some money. NCL is run by AndBeyond and the most fancy of the lot but in December at USD 700-750 per person it was an absolute bargain to its USD 1500 highs in busy season. Lemala is on the other side of the rim so while has an equally quick access road, it doesnt have the same view of the Crater as NCL or Sopa.

4.) You could substitute Manyara with the southern part of Loliondo Reserve (for December, not recommended for Feb) where off road and night driving would be allowed. Flip side is some of the camps like Nomad are acually in the transition phase at that time and hence closed while moving from North Loliondo to South Loliondo. Also a number of sites mention December to be a great time to be in Loliondo ( Klein's camp, Nomad's camp and Asilia camp called Piyaya operate here among others), while I have also come across mixed views for this part. Maasai cattle herds have also been shown as an issue in some forums/sites but maybe others can chip in here as I dropped Loliondo when I changed my plans from December to September.

Happy Planning!

Anita
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Apr 7th, 2011, 12:30 AM
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Hi Again

Someone put this link to lodges maps on another topic. This will give you an idea of the lodges around Ngorongoro. Seems Sopa and Lemala are on the same side so cannot say whats the view from Sopa- Lemala I have been told the view is nothing to write home about but the camp is really good ( I am staying there in September)

http://www.africadreamsafaris.com/lodge_ngoro.html
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Apr 7th, 2011, 03:07 AM
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The wild source (Bill Given) isn't a local Tanzanian operator.
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Apr 7th, 2011, 05:07 AM
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Neither is Africa Serendipity, but both US-based safari planners obviously use local outfitters. Some people aren't comfortable working directly with the local outfitters, wiring funds to Tanzania, etc. In that case, using a US-based planner makes sense. The main consideration IMHO is having the best guides. Any outfitter can book a guest into any camp or lodge. It's having the best guides that are the most important. I'm booking with The Wild Source for next year to be able to use the excellent guides Bill has chosen to lead his guests.

One of the best guides I ever had in Tanzania was Allen Mnyenye. You can also book directly with him. www.allentanzaniasafaris.com.
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Apr 7th, 2011, 05:32 AM
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Guys, there are differences between local agents and who runs the operations on the ground. I would always council using an agent, especially if it is your first safari. Ironically you typically end up paying the same amount, as the ground operator typically keeps the commission that they would have paid the agent, and thus the same price to the end customer.

I have to say that for a 10-day safari for $4500 to $5500, you are going about it correct in that you aren't expecting the plunge pools or the huge suites.
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Apr 7th, 2011, 05:40 AM
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Sounds very similar to our trip in January of last year - here's a link to our blog

http://lizandrichardsa.typepad.com/africa/

Navigate on the right for Tanzania.

We booked with Nomad Tanzania - a highly regarded Tanzanian based operator with a reputation for excellent guides. Our guide Felix was superb - highly recommend him.
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Apr 7th, 2011, 06:35 AM
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If February, If Tanzania - then it is NOT "shoulder" season. This is "peak" season (thru March... though some properties lower prices mid-Mar) with prices to match. At that budget you'd have to expect mid-range priced lodges/camps, none of which will have plunge pools and certainly not a/c.

Because this is the busiest period and since you're (sorry to say) not the only ones who wish to visit at this time, there are many others with the same idea. But, oh wouldn't it be nice if that wasn't the case?

As to off-roading, there are areas in Ndutu (below) where this can be done. Otherwise, the rules are the rules and to protect the area, off-roading isn't permitted in the national parks (and this would be so in most every safari country...) gotta protect the environment.

February especially is "the month" when the migrating wildebeest are "calving' their young and the busiest, when the herds are in the Southeast Serengeti or Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). Though some years some of the herds are spread out (as this past season was) and some can also be in the Southcentral Serengeti.

So your itinerary, ideally, should take this into consideration, as it all depends on the rains and when it comes to game, whoever really knows where!

Your itinerary could look like:
Day 1 - Arv. Kilimanjaro/JRO; met and transfer to Arusha for - o/n
Day 2 - Drive to Tarangire - o/n
Day 3 - Tarangire in morning; w/lunch drive via Lk. Manyara for short game drive (this an option) then continue to Ngorongoro - o/n
Day 4 - Ngo - morning crater tour; drive via Oldupai Gorge w/stop; continue game drive to Central Serengeti - o/n
Day 5 - Central Serengeti - o/n
Day 6 - Drive to Southeast/Ndutu - o/n
Day 7 & 8 - SE/Ndutu - o/n
Day 9 - Fly to Arusha; dayroom; homebound

Whomever you choose to provide quotes, should provide you with options for either lodges or tented camps and expect for February an average daily cost of $500+/- pp/nt.

Though still 10/mos away, it's not to early to be planning and even booking though 2012 prices might not be firm before mid-year (from June onward).

Good luck!
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Apr 7th, 2011, 06:35 AM
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If February, If Tanzania - then it is NOT "shoulder" season. This is "peak" season (thru March... though some properties lower prices mid-Mar) with prices to match. At that budget you'd have to expect mid-range priced lodges/camps, none of which will have plunge pools and certainly not a/c.

Because this is the busiest period and since you're (sorry to say) not the only ones who wish to visit at this time, there are many others with the same idea. But, oh wouldn't it be nice if that wasn't the case?

As to off-roading, there are areas in Ndutu (below) where this can be done. Otherwise, the rules are the rules and to protect the area, off-roading isn't permitted in the national parks (and this would be so in most every safari country...) gotta protect the environment.

February especially is "the month" when the migrating wildebeest are "calving' their young and the busiest, when the herds are in the Southeast Serengeti or Ndutu area of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA). Though some years some of the herds are spread out (as this past season was) and some can also be in the Southcentral Serengeti.

So your itinerary, ideally, should take this into consideration, as it all depends on the rains and when it comes to game, whoever really knows where!

Your itinerary could look like:
Day 1 - Arv. Kilimanjaro/JRO; met and transfer to Arusha for - o/n
Day 2 - Drive to Tarangire - o/n
Day 3 - Tarangire in morning; w/lunch drive via Lk. Manyara for short game drive (this an option) then continue to Ngorongoro - o/n
Day 4 - Ngo - morning crater tour; drive via Oldupai Gorge w/stop; continue game drive to Central Serengeti - o/n
Day 5 - Central Serengeti - o/n
Day 6 - Drive to Southeast/Ndutu - o/n
Day 7 & 8 - SE/Ndutu - o/n
Day 9 - Fly to Arusha; dayroom; homebound

Whomever you choose to provide quotes, should provide you with options for either lodges or tented camps and expect for February an average daily cost of $500+/- pp/nt.

Though still 10/mos away, it's not to early to be planning and even booking though 2012 prices might not be firm before mid-year (from June onward).

Good luck!
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Apr 7th, 2011, 08:21 AM
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I recently booked a similar trip for mid-February 2012 (following a climb of Kili in early February). I did a lot of research on this forum and the Trip Advisor forum first and found that pricing varies tremendously among tour operators for identical itineraries. My belief, at this point, is that the tour operator can 1) give you advice about itinerary and lodging choices (which you can also get on these forums), 2) handle all of the bookings/transportation (one of their greatest services and not something I would want to try to do myself), 3)arrange for a guide to take you throughout your safari experience (a factor which will probably make or break your experience) and 4)help ensure that your plans go off without a hitch.

If you want high quality lodging be adequate that's within your budget, I would suggest that you take over responsibility #1 yourself. Research your options, find the lodgings that seem to meet your expectations, piece together an itinerary and submit it to several Tanzanian tour operators for quotes (tell them up front that you are asking several operators for quotes). Based on the prices that they give you, the suggestions they make and the level of communications/service you receive, you can go from there. If you need help piecing together an itinerary you'll get plenty of help from experts here and on TA.

When I did this I had quotes that swung 30% for the same itinerary. Because of this we were able to choose a lower priced operator and substantially upgrade our lodging quality while staying within our budget. Note that there are some comparisons to make other than price...are their guides excellent? Are they well paid? How are there vehicles? (all of which you can read about on various forums)...but if you submit to operators that all have a good reputation for guides and vehicles, you can put these factors to the side and focus on quality of lodging for the price.

Best of luck!
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Apr 7th, 2011, 08:07 PM
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I am getting some very good input. I had been reading on the Tanzanian Dept. of tourism website. Fodor's book, Lonely planet that the high season was June-Sept. I suppose that coincided with children being out of school or educators who might be traveling. But from your comments Feb. is just as high I suppose. I am not going to try to save $500-$700 and go when the migration is not around the Serengeti area, though I realize it moves throughout the year through other areas. One operator told me that 2011 prices will not hold for 2012 even if a deposit is made in May/June. I cabnnot imagine prices can go up more than 3%-5% unless demand outstrips supply except for the lodges. We are tended toward luxury lodges and mobile camps and would welcome recommendations in each area knowing we will likely take the Northern Circuit unless in 10 full days we can add a "Don't Miss" area.
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Apr 8th, 2011, 02:36 AM
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It might well be possible or likely that 2012 prices could increase substantially (i.e., > 3-5%), for a couple of reasons. First, the US dollar has continued to decline in value against most currencies. So, even if prices stayed the same in local currency, they'd increase for those in the US. Secondly, 2010/2011 prices may have been kept artificially low due to the recession. As the world recovers from the recession, prices may well do their own recovery.
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Apr 8th, 2011, 06:41 AM
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Stan, in my experience inflation is much more in the safari industry than anywhere else. The demand is quite high, and in many years I have seen an excess of 10% inflation in prices.
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Apr 8th, 2011, 09:30 AM
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As above, while during '08, '09 and '10 there have been increases (lodging, park fees, internal flights), they've been kept low due to the recession. Prices did increase for '11 and with people are back to traveling (Kenya's numbers for '10 were back to, believe even exceeded pre-recession, and assume Tanzania numbers were also up), so it wouldn't surprise that there will be an increase for '12 and more than 3% is probably... 10+% is more likely.

Prices for '12 won't be finalized till mid-'11 (from June onward... and not all at the same time), so while an outfitter can price now, it's contingent on amended rates for '12.

Surprising that whatever you read hadn't mentioned Feb in Tanzania as being peak-season. This is when the wildebeest are "calving" their young in the Ndutu area, why I mentioned it's not to early to get going on this.

Seasons in Tanzania are:
Jan-Mar - peak
Apr-May - low
Jun-Oct - peak
Nov - hi
Dec - peak
with pricing reflective of these.
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Apr 9th, 2011, 07:28 AM
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As mentioned above, I just booked a safari for next February. I, too, was concerned about price increases. One operator, who quoted me the second highest price I received, guaranteed her price regardless how much 2012 prices rise. Another operator agreed to put a 10% cap on the possible increase of prices for the lodges and camps (which for that portion of the trip came to $260pp). A third operator told me that price increases for 2012 were my responsibility and that he would verify any increases if they occurred (this was the least expensive quote). For many reasons we ended up choosing the operator who agreed to a 10% cap. You might talk about similar cap options with the operators you're in talks with.
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Apr 9th, 2011, 05:11 PM
  #17
 
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The Wild Source is indeed incorporated in the US but they have a local base in as much as there is a partnership with Deo Magoye who is a Tanzanian. He was the main guide for Nat Geo's 'Real Serengeti' and has led BBC, and numerous other photographers. His credentials can be found in the link above in my previous post. I cannot be more excited that he will be my guide in September!

I forgot to add Duma Explorer to the list which is a local operator and very highly recommended in all the forums- here as well as tripadvisor.

I contacted all but two of the operators mentioned. Even though I am a single traveller, Bill immediately told me Deo was available, whereas another operator gave me the availability of my preferred guide only when I mentioned I was going ahead with Bill ( though in all other respects they were as brilliant in their response ).

Maybe at the initial stage keep your options open between local and 'not local'. Once you have an initial shortlist of 2-3 of the guys you feel comfortable working with, you can then favor a local operator- Most people would understand that.
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Apr 10th, 2011, 12:02 AM
  #18
 
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Tanya,

I assume you wired your money to the Wild Source's account in the States. Every TA has companies/persons they like to work with in Tanzania, ... .

In f.e. Botswana, Bill likes to work with FIA but that doesn't mean he has a local branch there ...

As mentioned by someone else, in a lot of cases the amount you pay is more or less the same but the beneficiary isn't.

In the Wild Source's case, the commission included in your quote for your Tanzania trip goes to Bill and not to a local safari operator/travel agent.

J.
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Apr 10th, 2011, 08:43 AM
  #19
 
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Hi Skimmer

Yes I wired my money to the US and yes The Wild Source is a Limited Liability Company set up in the USA.

That said, it is incorrect that TWS is just another US agent who have preferred outfitters/persons. Deo is a "partner in TWS's Tanzanian operations" which is different from saying something like "we partner with xyz in Tanzania".

I do not know the exact economics of this partnership. I do know that my T&Cs with TWS says "a private vehicle & guide from TWS".

I did not choose TWS because I wanted to deal with an US operator or because I dont want to send money to Tanzania. I chose TWS only because of my own personal experience of booking which included the best pricing ( USD 1500 less than a highly recommended local outfitter)INCLUDING waivers in single supplements for 6 of the 15 nights, clarity in communication and logistical inputs which I did not feel as comfortable with other operators ( except Duma Explorer which was a great interaction as well as pricing) and the most important criteria for me : my choice of guide, i.e Deo.

Just my two HKD worth
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Apr 10th, 2011, 10:34 AM
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Tanya,

Glad you are happy with the service of TWS (the wild source). Have a great trip by the way.

Fact is that the commission paid to TWS stays in the US and that's the only point I wanted to make.

J.
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