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denisq.. I don't give specific recommendations typically; but all those that have been mentioned here are reputable safari companies and have been in Arusha for some time.
This August my girlfriend and I went on a 9-day safari with Bobby Tours. When looking around they were by far the cheapest option and we were a bit skeptical. Overall we had an amazing time, I mean how could you not? The parks are breath taking and it was a life changing experience. However, I would give Bobby Tours a mixed rating and would offer a word of caution. This is a long one, so if you are in a hurry you can skip to the last paragraph.
When planning the trip I e-mailed them a lot and they always responded quickly. They really worked with me and we were very happy with our final plan. We went with a private safari which I HIGHLY recommend. We mixed lodges and camping, which I strongly suggest if you are interested in sleeping under the stars in the Serengeti.
In terms of the actual gear and staff, I think the best word to use is adequate. The tents were adequate, nothing new or fancy, just old fashion triangle tents, which served their purpose. All of the other tour operators provided newer dome tents, but ours were fine. The first place we camped was a bit of a joke. It was basically a motel with an empty pool, next to which they pitched our tents. However, the other campsites we stayed in later on were “real” campsites.
Our guide and cook were adequate. Salim, our drive/guide was knowledgeable and his English was good when he was talking about the parks and animals. However, it was not as strong when he was speaking about other things and he seemed uncomfortable and reluctant to engage in conversation. Eventually he warmed up a bit and we had some very interesting conversations. At first we felt a bit left out when we saw other people eating their meals with their guides, which Salim did not, but after the second day we were very happy that he did not eat with us. We saw how conversation can run out quickly and many of the other travelers were stuck in uncomfortable silence with their guides during their meals. You spend a huge amount of time with your guide and it is nice to have some time apart. The cook, Eddi, was adequate. My girlfriend is a vegetarian and we had let them know that in advance. They had let Eddi know and he was ready for us. I must say he did make some incredible things considering the conditions (a quiche with no oven in site), but the food became very repetitive. Our boxed lunches left something to be desired but were fine.
The truck was adequate. A bit on the old side, but it served us well handling the tough terrain with ease. The seats could have used some more cushioning, but they were fine. It was amazing having the truck (a Landcruiser) to ourselves. We were able to stretch out on the very, very long drives we took and could move around when taking pictures, which turned out to be a huge benefit.
And now for the word of caution. I spent a lot of time e-mailing back and forth with the guys at the office. Before I agreed to pay them, which you can only do through a money transfer, I asked them to confirm all of the reservations. I received an e-mail that appeared to me to say that everything was confirmed. Read everything they say very carefully and always double check with them! We had arranged to spend to night at a lodge at the Ngorongoro crater and about a week before we were to arrive they told us that they had not been able to confirm a reservation for us at the Ngorongoro crater. They promised to keep trying and said they would arrange alternative. Indeed, with a very careful reading of the confirmation e-mail it did appear that they never told me they had a final confirmation for Ngorongoro.
When we got to Arusha and went to their offices they still had not confirmed Ngorongoro. I gave them a really hard time and in the end they offered to put us up at two different lodges, one of which the claimed was far nicer then our original lodge. They were all very nice and really seemed to be trying their best to make us happy. However, it appeared that this was a common problem for them. It turned out that the first replacement lodge was way nicer then our original place. Gibbs Farm was spectacular. After five days of camping it was simply luxurious and if you can afford it you may want to think about going. It was the second replacement lodge that was the problem.
When we arrived at the lodge there was no reservation for us and no rooms at the Inn. None, zero, zip. Salim called the office many time and we were told they were working on it. Salim was clearly upset and frustrated with the situation. He felt it made him look bad and that it put him in a very awkward position. He also told us that this happened frequently. Finally after about an hour Salim came up with a plan since it did not appear one was going to come anytime soon from the office. The plan was to take us back to the first place we had camped to stay in a room and to have them give us a refund for the difference. It was definitely not a perfect plan since we were sitting on lounge chairs with an amazing very of Lake Manyara and the alternative was very basic to say the least, and the only view was of an empty pool with chickens walking around it. Salim told us to talk to the people at the office about it and to make sure we spoke to the owner, Bobby, before we agreed to do anything. We did this and everyone agreed to the terms. It was a big disappointment, but we made the best of it and still had a good time.
Upon returning to Arusha we went to the office and I really gave Bobby a hard time. He apologized repeatedly and gave us the money he owed us in cash ($100). I also demanded that he upgrade the accommodations they had arranged in Arusha and he did so without an argument. What struck me was how they were clearly used to problems like this.
So, overall I would say that if you are on a budget and are interested in a private safari (which I strongly suggest) I would recommend looking into a safari with Bobby Tours. It is a case of “you get what you pay for”. It is less expensive then others and it shows in their gear. Yet I want to be clear that we had an amazing time and the less then stellar gear was hardly a problem for us. However, if you do decide to go with Bobby Tours I suggest you are very careful to get everything clearly laid out in writing, and still be prepared that things may not work out they way you planned.
I just returned from a safari with BobbyTours. I booked through GAP Adventures and did little to zero research so I had no clue what to expect. The first night we stayed in Arusha at a dumpy hotel and the 12 of us (I went alone and met up with a group) were questioning this tour. However, the next morning we started our journey to Lake Manyara, then 2 days in Serengeti and 1 day in Ngorongoro crater. Finally our last day was in Moshi village where we went on a walking tour. We stayed in lodges and they were quite nice. Actually our group was under the impression we'd be in a more camp-like environment with nice sleeping accomodations but cooking by the fire type of thing and it wasn't like this at all. That was actually a bit disappointing for half of us because we wanted to mix more with the locals. It's true when you stay at the lodges the guides stay in the staff accomodations and don't mix socially with you. This may or may not appeal to you. We got chummy with our guides and they did spend the last two evenings socially with us but you could tell they were slightly uncomfortable and did this because we asked them to and hopefully because they liked us. We had 2 trucks and therefore 2 guides. In my truck Mohamed was our guide and he was fantastic. Amazing set of eyes as he spotted things we couldn't see until we looked through binoculars. He also would take the time to make noises to get the animals to respond. For example, there was a hyena nursing a baby or so we thought. We argued that there were only 2, not three but he was sure there were three. So he made hyena calls and after about 2 minutes the hyena got up and walked around exposing another baby. Another time he pulled to a stop to make a bird call until the bird dipped its head in its neck and responded. He obviously loved animals and even though he's done this for 10+ years he seems to look at them with fresh eyes. The other guide was cute as pie in his way but he didn't seem to take as much time to explain what the other group was seeing. So while I have nothing to compare it to, I'd recommend you request Mohamed Ally (yes, that's his real name). Tell him Suzanne sent you.
I posted this in another area, but thought I should repost in this thread so that others do not make the mistake of going with Bobby's Tours.
We were shooting a doco in Arusha and had been recommended to use Bobby Tours.
We were picked up at JKIA Nairobi in the morning for the shuttle bus run to Arusha-Tanzania.
Despite us asking the driver about the faulty fuel gauge, our Shuttle bus ran out of diesel 12 km into Tanzania, in the middle of nowhere. The driver left us while he hitched a lift back to the Namanga border town for more juice. The explanation we found out later was that the Bobby's Tour office in Nairobi did not give the driver any/enough money for fuel.
Later that same day, we had another vehicle for a trip through the lake Manyara (sp ?) national park. This time it was a well used Toyota troop carrier. It had a cracked windscreen, most seatbelts were not usable, and both spare tyres were bald. The vehicle was clearly unroadworthy by Australian standards at least. We asked the driver to switch off the engine in the park so that we could record an audio atmospheric track. Then the 4WD would not start up, so we had to get out and push. Apparently the battery was faulty. We phoned "Bobby" who informed us that we'd have to pay for a new battery if we wanted one that night, and he'd deduct it from our bill.
When we later spoke to Bobby in his office, he got quite loud, abused his driver in front of us, and was uncooperative about making good on the delays we had suffered due to faults with his vehicles.
I could go on further, but these simple facts here should provide anyone with enough detail to make an informed decision about whether or not to risk it with "Bobby's Tours" Tanzania.
I am just back from a trip to Tanzania and chatted with a few guides. Bobby Tours get a bad rap from them! Apparently the owners do not treat their employees well. Also the joke among the guides is that if you opt for a 7 day safari, the poor driver-guide is expected "to manage" the safari with only 4 days of fuel meaning that there are limits to game-driving or possibly the driver/guide having to pay for the fuel from his own pocket. Also, while it is not uncommon for fuel vehicles to break down, the Bobby Tours vehicles are supposedly having a much higher break-down rate and are in a worse condition than the industry average. Nevertheless, Booby Tours seems to get a lot of business mainly from British tourists.
In contrast, Kibo Safaris, for instance get high marks from guides for treating their employees very well and "as equals".
Whilstnotexcusing Bobby forthe bad act you must accept some ofthe blame as you did not comply with his T&C.
1. You pay the full deposit. why should he bear the charges?
2.If his T&C say "balance in cash orTChgs" then that is what is needed. They do not take C/Cards without a hefty surcharge from their Bank. You had the option of paying over the balanc by Wire before leaving home and did not take it.
Next time, whoever you use,read the methods of payment carefully and comply.
Sorry about your bad exprience.
If you want to know who these destinations experts are look at their country of origin, look at who they recomend and look at what they write when a Mzungu complains of a Local Tanzania tour operator
One fails to understand what they realy mean,They easily advice one to Go with TATO member, if a TATOmember has bad comments in this forum they dont give another option who or which kind of association a traveller must choose. The problem is our Tanzania government!!!
Giving foregners a chain of command over the indigineous, Is Bobby a TATO members if yes Destination experts what advice do you give to those whose safaris were ruined by your advice that strictly travelers must go with TATO members??
Interesting comment can2na. Not sure what it means, but interesting.
Er where exactly is Kamwari? This knowledge would help readers to better assess the objectivity and relevance of your comments.
I write as an "Expert", A title 'bestowed' on me by TA and not of my choice!
I do not think anything I said on the previous page merits your strange post. Indeed I was advising wazungu to read the T&C of ANY Firm they do business with. Bobby's T&C were explicit enough. It was not his fault if his clients did not read them.
I do not care if he is a member of Tatotz or not. It makes no difference to the problems reported.
I work for no Organisation but my own and clearly state that in my Profile. My comments are based on many years of Travel in Africa.
I know of several Tanzanian owned and operated Safari Outfitters. They are not all foreign owned.