Unfortunately, we had a very bad experience with an Arusha based Safari company, namely, Meru Mountain Treks. We wouldlike to share it so, others can avoid this unpleasant experience.
Our guide was very rude (often started driving without asking if we were ready although we asked him to do that, didnt stop although we asked him to, etc.) and showed no interest in us at all (i still dont know his name because he never introduced himself), always insisted on his own schedule when we suggested changes, he was late a couple of times which meant we lost hours of game drive, disturbed the animals on purpose by making loud engine noises, went much too fast and didn't slow down for crossing animals (almost hit a wildebeest) and he gave us a lot of wrong information about the animals and the geology of Serengeti. He also was a bad spotter and identified a lot of animals wrongly.
On top of that, we got meat although we ordered vegetarian food, we had to go to to karatu (near ngorongoro gate) by bus because we were joining a safari that already had started (although we were promised to go by car), we had all our luggage on our roof all the time (except for half a day) which meant we couldn't see out the front and our car broke down in the end (it wasn't working well all the time, so we had to hitchhike out of the park and go back to arusha by shuttle. There also was a third guy(other than the guide and the cook), who seemed to be some kind of intern, he behaved even more inappropriate and constantly gave us orders (close the window, get in the car) and at one point wanted to throw something at a lion to make him wake up.
All in all this made it very hard to enjoy the incredible place the serengeti is, because the drivers behaviour made us angry most of the time.
When we complained about the guide, the managers response was "i have to say sorry, but you will have to forgive me". It didn't exactly come from the heart.
I then said that i think a partial refund would be appropriate which resulted in aggression and insulting on the side of the manager. His immediate response was "if i will not give you a refund, what are you gonna do? go to the police?" He accused me of wanting to harm his company and just taking advantage of "little problems" to get money out of him. He also called me a "very bad man" . He also lied to me: when we booked he said the guide was his best driver, when we coplained, he suddenly had only used him once before. Also he claimed that he made no profit with this trip. But even if i calculate with the best salaries paid in town, i still find that he must have made at least 400usd.
To me the guide was not a "little problem", but really ruined parts of this experience, which i had dreamed about for a long time. The response of the manager towards a reasonable complaint was absolutely unacceptable. If he had explained me that he absolutely cant made a refund because he would go bankrupt and had shown that he was really sorry, i would have totally understood, but instead he got aggressive and insulting.
My impression is that most budget companies are like that. The guides usually are young and do the job for the money, not out of interest in nature. I would recommend to ask for a guide who is 30+ and has a lot of experience. Always ask to meet your guide before you sign a contract. The extra dollar for a reputable company is probably worth it in most cases.
Wish you a better experience, Marco