We just returned from our safari in Tanzania and would like to give you some feedback on how it went.
Overall, we had a wonderful time and a great safari with most things going according to plans. My husband and friends enjoyed themselves tremendously and
would not hesitate to go again if the opportunity arises. I thought you may like to know our opinions of Predator Safaris and the organization of the trip as well as our rating of accommodations, transportation, food, driver/guide, tours and other miscellaneous items so that it will help you in future.
a) Welcome arrangements - Our arrival into Kilimanjaro was not met on time because the driver was given wrong instructions to meet Ethiopian Air an hour later than our flight on Precision Air. Fortunately, we had the office phone number and rang them and they informed the driver who was not far away.
We were taken to the Predator office to be ‘briefed’ but this took an hour, when all we wanted was to have lunch before restaurants closed. Perhaps, in future, this briefing can be done at a more convenient time and place (at the lodge, after check-in) so that information can be digested properly.
b) Transportation - We were allocated an 8-year old Land Cruiser which was in quite good condition and which got us around safely enough. There was only one
occasion when it would not start which worried us, thinking that this could be an issue if we were confronted by a dangerous situation. However, it worked well the rest of the trip and our driver kept it clean and tidy throughout the whole trip. As there were only 4 of us, we had plenty of room to move around. I would not put more than 5 people in it as this would hamper movement when game-watching. Also, luggage space is limited.
c) Driver/Guide - Our driver and guide is Augustino, a soft-spoken, unflappable and cheerful person who has had many years of experience in game-driving for
Predators. He was a skillful and safe driver who knew his way around well and we never felt any doubt that we would be safe in his hands. He is very knowledgeable and was able to discuss animal behavior and ecology with reasonable expertise even though we were quite demanding in our quest for information. He was also able to offer information relating to environment, history, culture and politics in Tanzania. Augustino always appeared on time each morning, ready to take on his daily challenge and he was always amenable to changes in itinerary if they were reasonable. We were very happy with him and would highly recommend him to all Predator customers.
- The driver who was assigned to drive us from Arusha to Kilimanjaro at the end of our trip, however, was quite different. He is a very bad and dangerous driver who makes the strangest decisions when over-taking. Our one-hour drive to the airport felt like forever and we often wondered if we would ever get to the airport in one piece. I would not recommend Predators to use him for any of their clients. If we had been assigned this driver, we would have asked for our money back.
d) Accommodation - Overall, the quality of lodges was good or excellent, with some qualifications.
- Arusha Coffee Lodge was great - comfortable rooms, great service, wonderful setting and generally a good place to start or end a safari.
- Manyara Escarpment Lodge was in a wonderful location over-looking the lake with very well- furnished rooms and public spaces. The only down-side is that the water pressure is very low which makes showering or bathing an unpleasurable affair. Service was excellent.
- Ngorongoro Serena Lodge was a little severe and cold - they initially had assigned us rooms on ground level and far away from the centre. We were later able to change to upper-level rooms nearer the centre, which suited us better. Service was great and staff very helpful.
- Serengeti Serena Lodge was very comfortable and service was also very good. We had called to request for upper-level rooms and they were very obliging and helpful. Dining arrangements were a little inflexible but we managed to persuade them to change tables because it was not full.
- Mbalageti Lodge was my personal favourite because of its excellent location and wonderful tented-chalets. There is some concern regarding safety at night but the bathroom area is secure should there be any need to bunker down. Food here is better than elsewhere although choices are more limited. We like the exclusivity of the lodge with fewer rooms and people. Of course, the view of the migration in the Mbalageti valley below was priceless. That made our safari!
- Zanzibar Serena Inn was also a very good choice. Initially, we were assigned two different quality rooms - one sea-facing and the other, not. After much negotiations and insistence, we were given a prime room with sea-views, which made our last 2 days memorable. Except for the fact that there was no lift in the whole hotel, we were quite satisfied with the rooms and the facilities here. Service was excellent.
e) Tours/Activities - Game Drives in all areas were very good, although we were unable to go off-road and therefore, unable to see some animals up-close.
If permits can be bought to go off-road, we should have been offered this option so that game-watching can be more rewarding. We saw many animals and birds and generally, we were able to see quite a lot.
- The Hot Air Balloon Safari was a highlight for the two men in my group. It was a wonderful experience and they enjoyed themselves tremendously. It was well-worth the expense. The champagne picnic was particularly good.
- Manyara Escarpment nature walk was interesting, although we did not see any animals. However, we learn to identify plants, trees and birds and we had great views of Lake Manyara from several vantage points. It lasted 2 hours and was well-worth the effort. Walkers should be advised to wear boots or proper walking shoes.
- Olduvai Gorge was absolutely the most informative and meaningful tour of the whole trip. Everyone should be made to visit the museum and be made aware of how the Cradle of Mankind was discovered. The simplicity of the place belies its importance and we could not help thinking that more could be done to highlight it to all visitors. It puts a lot of things in perspective.
- Sundowner in Serengeti was also a success. The lodge had organized a beautiful private party with drinks and canapés just for the 4 of us on a deck facing the sunset, plus a special cultural group to sing and play music for us for half an hour. It was more than we expected and we thoroughly enjoyed it. However, we were told that we should have opted for a Bush Dinner following the Sundowner, which we did not know about. This would have made a great day even better.
- Bush Breakfast at Mbalageti did not happen. There seemed to be some confusion as to whether this would take place or not. Our itinerary from Predators says we have paid for it but the lodge did not know about it. Can you clarify this issue please?
- Stone Town Tour - this tour lasted 3 hours but the guide was not very good and he kept taking us into shops and places where we would have to spend money. However, we enjoyed wandering around since it was our first time in Zanzibar. I think the guide should ask people if they wish to shop for souvenirs or drink coffee or eat local food etc before taking them into the establishments. I learnt more about Zanzibar from my own reading material than from the guide, who was a bit fuzzy about Zanzibar’s history - or perhaps his language skills were limited and could not get the facts across effectively.
f) Flightlink - We had some trepidation as to the quality and safety of Flightlink flight from Seronera to Arusha. As it turned out, the aircraft appeared well-maintained and the pilot was excellent. We had some concerns that it was going to be delayed since it arrived late, but it worked out ok.
Most of our aggravation centered around immigration and security in Dar Es Salaam and Zanzibar airports more than elsewhere!
Other than the above, I just want to say that food, generally, is either average or good and plentiful in every place. Overall, we were very happy with the trip because it has met most of our requirements, and we would be happy to recommend Africa Travel Gateway and Predator Safaris to our friends and family who may wish to see Africa the way we had. Thank you again, Lize, for all your hard work and attention and for making this safari a memorable experience for us.
Until next time,