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Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

Nashville, Tennessee
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Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

I am not near as experience as many fo the experts ont his forum. I appreciate their help. However, for many deciding on a trip to Tanzania, they are novices and, like me, need some simple, plain Jane advice. I read how many people were diappointed in aspects of their safari, mahy of whom were unrealistic or communicated poorly.

I am in the process of planning my second Africa trip. I am VERY type A and metoculous (maybe too much so). However, after now inquiring from 10 tour operators, a couple of pieces of practical advice. I posted my process a few days ago in an active thread. These are the first few nuggets I have found:

1. Don't get upset if you don't get immediate response about a trip you are planning 6-12 months from now. I read reviews that say "S/He often responded to my emails within a few hours." So what? You have many months, hopefully you aren't their only client. I would rather get a well thought out repsonse than the quickest response. Also, this is a third world country with spotty internet service at times. Owners are often out working or taking care of issues. Give them time and don't write them off because it takes a day or 2 to get back to you about a trip a year from now. Relax.

2. Carefully look over the itinerary. I have 2 that left out a day (day 8 do this....Day 10 do this) yet quoted the price for all days. Easily could have led to confusion or refund demands.

3. Ask for specific quotes from specific lodges and compare apples to apples before allowing the TO to make suggestions/upgrades and changes. Most of us wouldn't note Lewana from Kati Kati from Seronera Wildlife lodge. HOw can we compare the prices when the lodges vary so much? Send a specific request, narrow down your choices and then allow changes.

4. Be specific in your suggestions and requests. "We want mid level accomodations," or "we are on a tight budget" means nothing. Absolutely nothing. One man's luxury is another's budget. Don't be vague. "We want a friendly guide" is a useless statement (as opposed to the normal jerk they send out). Make specific statements with specific terms that are easy to understand. Communicate and request specifics.

5. Communicate special requests specifically and repeat them often. Do not expect a minor request, food allergy, issue to be remembered and passed along to each camp and your guide. Take responsibility and remind, ensure it is communicated and then re-tell everyone that needs to know. See lots of posts about this after the fact.

6. You are the client- make your requests. If you want a certain lodge or a certain park or a certain time of year or a certain size group or....then make your request. They are not doing you a "favor" by taking you on safari. It's your money, you control it and how it is spent.

7. Do some reviews yourself- PRIOR TO SENDING MONEY. Don't come on the forum and post a name of a company you have already sent money to or about to send a deposit to, and ask if anyone has ever heard of them. Search here and other places for reviews. Ask for references. Do your homework. It's a lot of money- try to be diligent.

8. Do your homework. Buy a guide book and maybe a map. Read the posts up to the right about common questions. Many of yours (and my) questions and worries have already been dealt with. Don't expect everyone else to plan your safari, tell you what to look out for and tell you what you need to know. Feel free to ask, but take some responsibilty for this trip. Make it great by doing your homework.

9. Ask questions- don't let any of this make you think people are more than willing to help. Everyone seems to love to help. Their knowledge (not mine) it amazing. They have saved me time, money, grief and headaches already. I am sure more to come. Ask. Post. Get involved. Let them get involved.

10. Enjoy it- enjoy the planning. Enjoy the posts and discussions. Enjoy the reading about the country. Enjoy the anticipation. And enjoy the trip!

11. Post a report and reviews when you return. Let others benefit in the way you did.

Hoep this helps!

187 replies to this topic
tennessee
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1. Re: Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

Thank you Stephen. You have made some excellent suggestions. I am still learning and enjoy reading any and all ideas.

Columbia, Tennessee
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2. Re: Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

Stephen-

Thanks for this post. I am in the early planning stages and this helps. I, too am learning.

Also, I am just down the street from you guys (maybe an hour!). I may PM you if I have questions.

I have been folowing your other post on your planning and itinerary. It is great and I appreciate the help of the many experts. I will post there with a question as well.

See ya!

Emily

Nashville, Tennessee
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3. Re: Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

@Emily -I was down in columbia last week. I actually live south of Nashville and maybe 30 minutes from you. I sent you a PM with my email in case you have any questions. The process of starting the planning and choosing a TO can be a little daunting. Maybe these things will help someone. Who knows?

There are a lot more qualified people on here than me, but maybe I can contribute a little. I have read a LOT of bad reviews or issues and can see that mot of them could have been avoided. Not all, but most.

Good luck with your planning. Let us know when you are looking at going or any questions you might have.

Nashville, Tennessee
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4. Re: Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

@keeponcruisin. Glad I could help. I learned a lot from this forum. You can tell there are a lot of experts here on this forum that can hopefully help. Ask if you have any questions.

Isle of Man, United...
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5. Re: Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

Heck Stephen if a "few" is eleven, I can't wait for the full Monty.

Seriously, you are right and I just loved "We want a frendly guide!".

Most of the fun of a Safari is the planning. Get it right and the actual trip should just be pure enjoyment.

Findlay, Ohio
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for Tanzania, Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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6. Re: Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

Good tips for someone starting out on their planning process.

Steve... Note you made the list of FAQs

Findlay, Ohio
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for Tanzania, Ngorongoro Conservation Area
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7. Re: Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

I might add one more Tip. When you come on here and post an entire itinerary with all the puffery which goes into an itinerary the safari operators will send you, know that this only confuses the inquiry with superfluous information (we all know that the landscape of the Serengeti is a wide plain containing plenty of animals, or that the Tarengire is replete with baobab trees or that the Ngorongoro Crater has a magnificent panorama view from the rim).

For some good answers all you need to say when putting an itinerary on here for review is - the Day (the time of year is important also), the place you will be, and the accommodation; everything else is superfluous to what you want to ask probably.

Nashville, Tennessee
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8. Re: Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

Thanks Karl! Hopefully this post will help some people.

Also, thanks for the comments. I made that mistake early in my "Trip advisor career". I simply copy and pasted from an email (or website for some people). A few minutes of editing or typing will make it much more readable. You will get more comments and others can learn more easily from it.

Thanks for your help (on this and many other topics!)

Findlay, Ohio
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9. Re: Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

Karibu sana.

Nashville, Tennessee
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10. Re: Before you decide on TO or safari- a couple of tips

@emily-

I noticed your question on another post ("Blood type") and thought I might make a comment here for others to learn from. Some of the experts may disagree...

First step, after deciding on a TO and sending money...BUY TRIP INSURANCE AND MEDICAL EVACUATION INSURANCE. This may be the most important advice you an get. Very important! I read a post recently about a person that go sick and had to miss their safari. They wanted a refund from the TO. I believe that about 6 of the first 7 posts including a form of "Did you have trip insurance?" Unfortunately, the answer was no. The poster was out thousands of dollars and frustration. BUY TRIP INSURANCE. There are too many variables, issues that can arise, problems that can occur. Buy trip insurance.

Prior to being such an "experienced traveller" (just kidding, still not an expert) I took a trip with my family. Spent $6,000 on the trip and $6,800 on the plane tickets. I was advised to buy insurance (and luckily did). After about 14 days, some things occurred and problems arose. We spent $13,350 in 24 hours getting back to the US (unplanned). My trip insurance covered $11,850 of it and negotiating with the airline got over $800 back. Credit card only covered $75 (and was lucky to get that). If I had not had trip insurance, I would have been out $13,000. With insurance, only about $600. Lesson learned.

First step after sending money- BUY TRIP INSURANCE AND MEDICAL EVAC INSURANCE. Just my opinion.

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