Personal Evaluation of Overseas Adventure Travel -- The Best of Kenya & Tanzania
Superb 25 Days but "A Trip Through Hell for 12 Hours"
Let me preface by saying this was one of the best of the 16 trips we have had with OAT. Even the 41 hour flight schedule returning to Denver does not diminish the beauty and wonders we saw and experienced in Africa between September 15 and October 9, 2009.
Let me first highlight the very positive and fantastic trip.
1. Trip Leaders - Our Trip Leader/Driver Barikiel Bee was exceptional and did everything in his power to make all 13 of us comfortable and have an outstanding experience. He was knowledgeable in all facets of the trip, extremely upbeat, always smiled, and punctual.
Our Assistant Trip Leader/Driver Leonard Sangeth completely complemented Barikiel and provided a wonderful balance between the two men. He was a Maasai warrior and his perceptions of life, culture, and history of the natives gave all of us a look into Tanzanian (Kenyan) life.
2. People of Africa - Do all of them smile? This is one of the wonders of our experience. It seems everyone we saw and met smiled and was genuinely happy to see us.
3. Tent Camps - Yes, they were tents but the tents were plush. Private baths with hot water on "demand" for showers, complete privacy, and cool nights led to nice sleep. Meals were prepared by "chefs" who went all out to provide great food served in a 5 Star restaurant style. Their clothes's washing was excellent. Electrical power was very limited.
4. Safari Trucks - Well, this is a negative. With our group of 13 we rotated between all the seats in the two vehicles. These vehicle were old, I was told that OAT were getting new vehicles in February 2010.
No A/C, no sun cover on the roof, dust was a constant. I carried my backpack and camera in heavy plastic. Our clothing was covered in dust at the end of each and every day. Even travel days were DUST.
5. Itinerary - very good. I read all the other reviews and ours seemed much better. Yes, we had to drive to get to the game, but there were no other camps closer. Everyone else had to drive. The roads were very PRIMITIVE. There is no way I can reflect on these. But if we had wanted paved roads we would have stayed home.
6. Hotels - most were 4 Star. A/C, plush rooms, well appointed facilities, great meals, welcoming staff. The only exception was the Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge and their practice of discrimination against the black Tour Directors and Drivers. We always ate with both Barikiel and Leonard until this hotel.
7. Game - we were a lucky group; we saw all of the big five and many times. Barikiel and Leonard knew where they were and drove us there. They waited for all of us to shoot our pictures (with engines off).
8. Weather - Sun, SUN! Temperature was cool in the mornings (mid 60's) to mid 90's in the mid afternoon. No rain. I was told by natives that the best time to go would be April and May. But due to the severe drought, trees had no leaves so we could see the game.
9. Post Trip to Victoria Falls - again, we were very fortunate to have an excellent Tour Director in Reason Ndloyu. He took care of us! He went out of his way to show us everything he could in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Zambia. He even took us to his home where we met his wife and two children. The hotel felt like 5 Star but was in fact 4. Free clothes washing, internet and all meals (from the menu) were provided.
NOW "A TRIP THROUGH HELL FOR 12 HOURS"
Our OAT "specially prepared" itinerary stated":
Day 18 Arusha/Nairobi "Fly to Nairobi"
We enjoy an early breakfast and then we head to a small airstrip in the Serengeti and board a small aircraft for the short but thrilling flight to Arusha.
We have a box lunch in Arusha before flying to Nairobi. The rest of your afternoon is at leisure to rest or doing some last-minute shopping in Nairobi.
Dinner is at a local restaurant.
Included Meals: Dinner
Unfortunately, this is not what happened. We flew from the Serengeti Tent Camp to Arusha. When we were transferred to a safari truck at 12:30 PM and we were driven to Nairobi where we spent an awful 7 hours on the under construction East African Highway. No A/C, severe dust, washboard road that is almost impassible, vehicle driven at 60 to 70 MPH (GPS data).
We had to eat our lunch on the drive. We stopped once for a bathroom break and only stopped again when one of our group got very sick. We had water for only five of the six people. We entered Nairobi and traffic was stopped. Friday night. We got to the hotel at 8:30 and were told we had no dinner. It was to be on our own.
What made this unacceptable, other than what I have written above is that I had been told this by a previous OAT group on the evening we arrived in Nairobi on the second day of our trip. I spoke to our hostess and she promised to look into this problem.
During the trip, I spoke to our Tour Directors and even offered to pay for a flight from Arusha to Nairobi when we were told that we could not fly as OAT had promised. And no meal! We had a flight at 4 AM the next morning to go to South Africa so we had a very short night.
We discussed the fact that someone from the Boston office should take this trip. We now see that OAT's Best of Kenya and Tanzania trips in 2010 have this exact itinerary; drive from Arusha to Nairobi.
In summary, a wonderful and beautiful trip was almost ruined by the 12 hours reflected above.
Fortunately, we had a spectacular time on the Post Trip. I should also mention that those people who do not take the post trip fly out of Arusha, Tanzania and do not face this problem.