Zambia: Bushcamp Company & fairy-tales from Mfuwe

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Sep 17th, 2005, 02:19 AM
  #1
bwanamitch
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Zambia: Bushcamp Company & fairy-tales from Mfuwe

28 hours and counting...

...and the big confusion in Mfuwe.

or: My pre-safari experiences with The Bushcamp Company (something you don't need if you're about to leave)

In May I contacted BC and wanted to know in which of their bush camps they offer day game drives. I knew that this operator emphasizes walking safaris, but on their website is a line reading "Activities are tailored to individual tastes and include day and night game drives" and I wanted to know more about it. BC were telling me that they only offer walking safaris, but that there is an option of hiring a private safari vehicle at extra cost of $250. I told them that I wasn't interested in paying for something that I would get for free at other operators. Quoting this special line from their website I finally, after several mails, got an answer that explained everything: clients at BC's camps decide amongst themselves what they would like to do as an activity and this can include day drives. Then they offered me a very reduced rate for a private vehicle at $150 in their camps if I would visit them in October. I told them that I was still in the planning stage of my safari, but if I would decide to go with them they would be contacted by my travel agent or her SA partner.

What I've learned during this conversation is that talking with BC cannot be described as 'efficient', that BC's contact person has a real problem coming to the point.

At this point I had no plans to visit any of BC's camps, but that changed a few weeks later when I decided to drop Puku Ridge in favour of one BC camp, Bilimungwe, and my TA made the booking.

Last Sunday I decided to consider BC's offer of the private vehicle. I will already make three days walking before Bilimungwe, and it doesn't make big sense to me doing another three days walking if, at the same time, I want to do great wildlife photos. I contacted BC telling them that I would stay for three nights at Bilimungwe and that I wanted to hire a vehicle for the two full days there. And again something started what I would call an 'unefficient' process. I asked them about availability of a private vehicle, rate, payment options and whether we should handle this directly or by my TA. Up to Friday I didn't get any clear answer to my questions.

Friday morning I sent them a mail telling them that I was quite unhappy and that I would forward this matter to my travel agent to handle it. Then I adviced my TA to handle the vehicle hire and inform me in Zambia on the result. Suddenly I got some answers from BC, along with a new vehicle rate offer of $200 "as you are only needing it for 2 days" (I wrote about this in the "Bwana - Leaving soon?" thread, http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...4&tid=34670952).

In the meantime my TA has contacted her SA partner, and her partner called Bushcamp Company. And now the whole story goes like this (quote by the SA agent):

"[Mitch] initially contacted The Bushcamp directly earlier in the year via their website to book directly with them. At that stage he wanted a lengthy stay of about 10 days, and enquired about a private vehicle which they offered to him at USD150 a day. Now that he is staying for only 3 nights, he contacted them again about a private vehicle, and they said because the time is much shorter (only 2 days), cost will now be USD250 a day, which he was not happy with. They eventually offered the vehicle to him for USD200 a day."

Read this twice, and compare this with the above. I wanted to book directly in May? 10 days? I enquired about a private vehicle then? Now they made a offer of $250 and reduced it?

These people are telling fairy-tales, they are telling lies! It's unbelievable. I've sent my complete BC mail thread to my TA and her SA partner, and they can't explain what has happened to this Bushcamp Company representative in Mfuwe.

After this I got a mail from BC:
"Sorry that I was not clear I my correspondence. I was under the impression that you would be staying with us for a number of days, when you first made your enquiry - obviously I was
mistaken. Please can you make the booking through your agent, as I think that this
would be the better option. Sorry for any confusion that I may have caused you."

Yes, I will do so.

Mitch
 
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Sep 17th, 2005, 02:34 AM
  #2
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 2,501
Hello Mitch,

Hope the experience there lives up to your expectations -- what a lot of faffing around!

Not sure if Bushcamp will be high on my Zambia list after this...

Best of luck sorting this out.

Cheers,
Julian
jasher is offline  
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Sep 17th, 2005, 05:47 AM
  #3
 
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If it was me, I'd try to get out of it and find someplace else to stay. Probably not feasible at this point, but sheesh!!!

Again Bwana...Put this aside and have FUN!!!!!!

Sharon
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Sep 17th, 2005, 06:15 AM
  #4
bwanamitch
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Sharon,

I've put this aside, and I WILL have fun.

But I would never cancel a stay at a nice camp in a beautiful area because of some 'weaknesses' in the operator's administration.

My TA will book the vehicle, and the only special wish I gave her is, that I would prefer a direct transfer from Mfuwe Airport to Bili Camp, WITHOUT a break at Mfuwe Lodge, actually with a very long turn around this lodge. Currently I can't guarantee what will happen when I meet this BC sales woman personally. This story has cost me a lot of time this week.

Mitch
 
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Sep 17th, 2005, 08:08 AM
  #5
 
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Mitch - Good for you. If it was me, I would probably have negative feelings that would carry over and I might have a hard time enjoying myself.

Good luck

Bon Voyage,

cooncat2 is offline  
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Sep 17th, 2005, 08:10 AM
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HAHAHAH!!!!!!!! I'm having trouble with the emoticon legend obviously!!!!!! That was suppposed to be -

Good luck (four leaf clover?)

And bon voyage,
cooncat2 is offline  
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Sep 18th, 2005, 04:30 PM
  #7
 
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Regardless of the inefficiencies with operators, the bush itself is always amazing. Glad your attitude reflects this and hope all goes well.
atravelynn is offline  
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Sep 18th, 2005, 11:38 PM
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I have recently returned from a 10 day walking safari with The Bushcamp Co at all of their 4 bushcamps, including a 3 night stop at Bilimungwe. This camp IMHO is the nicest camp of them all, it is close to the Luangwa River and has a fantastic water hole that is kept filled during the dry season.
You are going on a WALKING safari and although they drive you to your start point for the AM and PM walks, you are going on a WALKING safari. Why make a meal out of BCCo office failings when you are going to one of the most fantastic places in Africa.
I know BC Co offer private vehicles, but this causes them problems with guides, rangers etc. The days activities are decided by public concensus and by requesting a private vehicle you will alienate yourself from the other guests by not being part of the group. You will be looked upon as trying to be superior from the other guests. You will miss the whole point of going to this camp if you spend all your time sat in a Landrover.
Speak to Andy Hogg or Julius(I think) and they will sort out the problems. When you get to Mfuwe Lodge to have a break you will see the size of the operation there and it is hardly suprising that the odd mistake does happen in admin!!!!. It is Africa and not everything runs as smoothly as in The Western World.
Go there with no 'moans and groans' and after the 4 hour transfer from Mfuwe airport to Bili you will be glad of the walk. There is nothing like being 30 feet away from 2 lions whilst on foot, it totally blows away being 10 feet away from lions in a Landrover.
If anyone is considering going to BC Co camps all I can say is "do it" it is all about getting back to nature and relaxing, not driving around the bush. If you want that go to Singita or similar.The Luangwa is about WALKING
I hope you enjoy your stay at Bili, it is a very special place.

Mark.
antipest is offline  
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Sep 19th, 2005, 07:00 AM
  #9
 
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Bwana Mitch.
It sounds to me like you really weren't sure what you wanted & involving a multitude of third parties only served to confuse people at the other end.

Not making excuses for the guys & gals at BC, but:
All those businesses lie in the heart of "the middle of noweher" have limited access to efficient technology, have a sporadic and iffy power supply. Etc.

The mere fact that they are able to communicate with the world from their hidewaway in the wilderness is practically a miracle.

Hope you enjoy your stay at Bili, and I do hope to that you end up on the vehicle of your choice.
mkhonzo is offline  
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Sep 21st, 2005, 08:59 AM
  #10
 
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While I can understand your frustration, there is plenty of confusion here to go around. Expecially confusing (for the operators) are conversations that go on directly with clients AND with their travel agents. I think this is why some outfits (WS, RPS) will just NEVER EVER deal with individuals-- you tell an individual one thing (assuming they are booking direct, so no commission) then plans change, times change and a travel agent shows up and needs/expects to be paid. ( From your story it seems that BCC thought you were booking direct, and it was only AFTER the quote was given you told them that your agent would handle. This was not really fair to BCC, and I suppose at this point they should have said "No, this is a direct booking rate only, and only if you book with us for X days by this deadline". It's no wonder that this ends in confusion and unhappy clients.

Also confusing is the time lag involved. You have one conversation, they quote you a price. Then 4 months later you are ready to book at that price. Sorry, I don't know ANY travel outfit that will guarantee prices for that long without any down payment. (OK a big hotel chain can...but they can also bump you when you show up, with no compensation required.) I don't think any operator running small safari camps should be expected to do this. Bookings, availability and staffing can all change too much. I guess that BC Company should have been very explicit, like airlines are: you get this rate if you buy your ticket within 24 hours, or immediately, or whatever. I guess BCC will learn from this experience too. They obviously haven't worked through all the problems and solutions of dealing both with travel agents and with travellers directly.

By the way-- I am not on the "industry" side. But I do sympathize with both sides on this issue. And BCC may not have the most experienced admin staff, especially when it comes to dealing with a confusing mix of direct booking travellers and agents.

I think you are showing a good attitude, and I hope that despite these snafus you have a great trip.
ddgattina is offline  
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Sep 21st, 2005, 12:20 PM
  #11
 
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I'm also going to chime in support of the Bushcamps. The camps are fantastic and Bili might be the best of all.
JUST RELAX and ENJOY THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME!
I can't even follow what exactly is the issue you are moaning about, but it AIN"T WORTH IT!
Andy and the rest of the people there at Mfuwe and the Bushcamps are the best.
tripster is offline  
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Sep 21st, 2005, 12:35 PM
  #12
 
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FYI, the OP has long since left for Africa.

Cheers,
Julian
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