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!