We recently used Acacia for their overland 14 day trip between Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam. In short, it was a great experience which comes highly recommended.
Our favourite things:
The main strength of the Acacia tour was our guide, Sam. He was a wonderful blend of being helpful, friendly, knowledgeable and entertaining, without ever being overbearing or getting flustered by frequent questions or dodgy weather. I would recommend going with Acacia to secure his services alone, as we have encountered a number of poor guides during our round-the-world trip and know what an impact this can have. Our main driver of our large truck, Julius, also had a brilliant attitude and came across well. The various game drives were excellent, and the campsite at the Ngorongoro crater was a real highlight of our trip.
The camping equipment was of a decent quality, and even though we had a lot of rain we were generally snug and dry in our tents. We only had a small group so we could double-up on camping mats which was a bonus. The food was of a good quality throughout, and our favourite meals came from what we cooked at our campsites rather than at the restaurants we visited! The trip ran smoothly and the organisation and implementation was good.
Our least favourite things:
The safari services are subcontracted out to other companies. The driver and our vehicle for the Masai Mara game drive wasn't particularly good. Safari HQ, who run the Tanzania drives generally offered a good level of service. The Boulevard Hotel in Nairobi is realistically the only place you can stay at the start of the trip, due to the pre departure meeting being held after dark, and the departure for the tour being early. While the hotel is a pleasant place to stay it is ludicrously overpriced, and they know that they can get away with charging whatever they want as the companies such as Acacia leave this part of the organisation up to the customer. It would be appreciated if Acacia would do more to negotiate a favourable price for this hotel, and at least do more for their customers in this regard. The spice tour with Mr Saiidi on Zanzibar was terribly run, and a complete waste of money. We have already complained about this, and while our $35 per person charge is long-gone, we understand that steps have been taken to find an alternative supplier of this tour. Perhaps with a better guide this tour will be able to be recommended in the future.
A final gripe is about the "custom" of tipping. Basically, tipping would appear to be a system that benefits the tour companies more than the staff (obviously Acacia is not alone in its promotion). As a consumer, I don't mind paying for Acacia to organise my tour. I don't mind the fact that they will then pay their team of Directors a large salary. This is how capitalism works, and it is not really any of my business. However, it does really irritate that a profitable business such as Acacia then tells me that despite the thousands of dollars I have paid for my tour, I must set aside and pay more in tips to all of the people I encounter on my trip as wages in Africa are low. Why not set an example and pay them a bit more Acacia? Using the money I have already paid you?
I could frankly do without the awkwardness in having to work out a suitable extra payment for employees I encounter on the trip, who I am using while having been told that they aren't being given enough money. By the time you have thought about the three drivers, guide, chef, and supply driver, almost every day is filled with a potentially awkward discussion between the travellers as to what tip should be paid, if any. It put a bit of a downer on an otherwise great experience.