Travel reviews by Mr. J - Essex
My Nov 2007 trip
On this trip, I visited Tanzania & Zanzibar between 24-Nov-2007 and 21-Dec-2007 and I travelled with 1 other person.
In general, it was a most enjoyable holiday and the arrangements make by Expert Africa worked perfectly in all important respects.
Based on my experience, I have made comments which I hope will be accepted as constructive and assist you to improve still further your level of service.
I experienced some difficulties in getting to Heathrow for a Saturday departure. Both mainline rail and the tube often have engineering work at weekends. I spoke to some other people who also had problems. Where there is an option of a mid-week departure, I would suggest you might point out to would-be travellers that a mid-week departure would avoid snarl-ups with rail and tube.
Visa. May I say that I object to the entry “visa”, which is not really a visa, but an arrivals tax. (The fact that you can buy it on arrival at Dar indicates this is not a true visa). Most countries have a departure tax, but on arrival I would prefer to receive a warm welcome, not a poke in the eye. In terms of the overall cost of the trip, this is not a significant amount, but I do not like having to pay a tax both on arrival and on departure. I appreciate this is not under your control, but I mention this in case you ever speak to the appropriate authorities.
A general comment: All the tents/rooms were spotlessly clean.
Laundry. At Mdonya the embargo on hand washing women's underclothes also extends to men's underclothes and handkerchiefs. (Strangely, this did not seem to be an issue at Manze and Impala. Change of religious taboos??). The cost of laundry is included at Impala.
p.6 Airport departure tax. The only place in Tanzania where I had to pay a departure tax was on departure from ZNZ to DAR. USD6.00, not 5. Claire's email said, "You no longer need to pay the international departure tax out of Tanzania as this is now included on your air ticket. You will still need to pay the domestic departure tax out of Dar and Zanzibar but not out of Selous or Ruaha. We have recently amended our Notes for Travellers accordingly." I took this to mean I would be charged the tax flying Dar-Ruaha, and Dar-Znz, but this was not the case.
You state that it is essential that we reconfirm our return flight. When I eventually managed to find a computer and logged on to BA.com, I found a message saying that reconfirmation was necessary only for flights from Libya and Saudia Arabia.
Postcards are unobtainable at Mdonya and Manze. They can be bought at the shop in the domestic terminal at DAR airport - if you are awake enough to buy some whilst awaiting the connecting flight to Ruaha.
The safari vehicles in Tanzania all have an overhead awning to keep off the sun and/or rain. This is an excellent idea and one that their competitors further south (e.g. Zambia, Namibia) would do well to copy.
Both Ruaha and Selous are happily free from the accumulation of plastic bags, Coke tins and other rubbish which I found spoiling the Zambezi at Chobe last year.
My experience did not bear out your advice concerning payment of ranger fees. On no occasion was I asked to pay any fee for the services of a ranger, although it is of course customary to give them a tip.
Mobile phones: the Tanzanians are as addicted to mobile phones as we are. This was not a problem at Impala, but at Mdonya and Manze drivers and guides made and received calls when out game-viewing. When drifting peacefully across Lake Manze in a small boat with the engine stopped, or being stationary watching 40 elephants moving silently across the road in front of you, these are not ideal times to have a mobile start ringing. I look forward to the time when some of the bird mimics, such as robin chats, master the ring of a mobile and then this sound will be heard all over the park! Perhaps drivers and guides should be discouraged from taking or using their phones outside the confines of the camp – unless there is an emergency. I already mentioned this at Manze, so corrective action may have been taken already.
Compared with my experience in South Luangwa, the Tanzanian guides are less knowledgeable and they are less able to express their knowledge in clear English. Many of them do not distinguish between the letters “l” and “r”. Rilac bleasted lollers are common birds! (aka Lilac breasted roller)
At some stage in the planning process it was suggested that I split the stay in the Selous and do Manze, Mdonya, Impala. More by luck than good planning, I think I did my trip in the right order. The standard of the camps rose as I progressed, culminating in extreme pampering at Impala. I think I would have been disappointed if I had ended up at the comparatively Spartan Mdonya after I had enjoyed the luxury of Imapala. A small example, the tin wash basin to be emptied by hand at Mdonya was plumbed in at Manze, and replaced by two porcelain sinks at Impala. (This is not meant to belittle Mdonya. It is a charming place which I really liked, but if you expect every camp to be like Impala, then you may get an unpleasant surprise.)
Although I appreciated the comfort of having the wad of vouchers which you sent me, in the event I was never asked to produce even one. The pilots of Coastal Aviation did not even ask for my air ticket when flying out of Ruaha and Selous!
Fly Camping. You say in your brochure that you are not sure where this term originated. If you read the Life of Selous by J.G.Millais (1918) he makes references such as,
“horses could be no longer used and the elephants themselves must be pursued on foot in the 'fly.'”
“…mostly killed by hunting them from horseback, but even as an old man he killed many on foot in the 'fly' country.”
“Their main hunting veldt was the 'fly' country between the rivers Zambezi and Gwai.”
This suggests to me that the term fly camping means to camp in areas where there are tsetse fly. I realise this derivation is hardly likely to encourage tourists!
I found the Tanzanians universally friendly and welcoming, although the Zanzibaris I met at Unguja were not quite to cheerful as their colleagues on the mainland.
Thank you to everyone at Expert Africa and all the camps and hotels. After the hiccough last year over car hire in Namibia, this has restored my faith in Expert Africa.
I stayed at and have reviewed:
|Mdonya Old River Camp, Tanzania
25-Nov-2007 review: Mdonya Old River review
|Lake Manze Adventure Camp, Tanzania
2-Dec-2007 review: Lake Manze Tented Camp review
|Selous Impala Camp, Tanzania
9-Dec-2007 review: Selous Impala Camp review
|Unguja Lodge, Zanzibar
16-Dec-2007 review: Unguja Lodge review