Overall trip was OK except
1. The camp in Tanzania was considered 3 perhaps 4 star not 5 star.
2.We failed to see, other than for a shadowy form in the jungle vegetation, gorillas in Uganda after spending a lot of money and time going to that country. The Clouds Mountain Gorilla Resort, a 5 star resort, failed totally to look after our interest in ensuring we had the best opportunity to actually see and experience an encounter with the gorillas. Totally underwhelming and forgettable part of the trip and a total waste of time and money.
3.For the very first flight of the holiday we arrived at the Johannesburg airport to fly to Kenya 2 hours before the flight to be told that the flight had been cancelled and the next flight would be some 4 hours later (after having booked out of our hotels and therefore having no place to which to retreat to wait out the delay). The cancellation meant that we had to take a much later connecting flight to our final destination for that day arriving just before midnight to be told that we would need to be up at 5am in order to travel to the airport to get that days flight. There was no attempt to contact us to advise of the flight cancellation and the alternative arrangements as we would have expected from a travel agent specialising in bespoke high cost tours (we were left arguing with airline staff).
4.Our flight from Mara North Airstrip on 12 August was 1 hour late. There was attempt to contact us of notifying us of the delay. We had to contact the agency rep in Nairobi to get them to contact the airline to find out what was going on and when we could expect a plane to arrive. On top of this the departure time of our connecting flight to Entebbe had been bought forward 1 hour. Until we arrived in Nairobi we were not advised of this. There was no attempt to get our luggage from the Mara North flight expeditiously to ensure that no time was lost in making the transfer to the other Nairobi airport from which the connecting flight was leaving. Consequently we arrived at the check in counter at the other airport 1 minute late to have our luggage checked in for the flight to Entebbe. We were refused permission to check in and only after a very loud argument did they accede to allow our check in resulting in we only making it through customs and immigration with 2 minutes to spare. This whole experience could have been less stressful had the local agency taken some responsibility and initiative.
Mara North and Botswana
Travel Company's Comments
We are shocked and saddened by this review, and I think it is an unfair reflection of the quality of the trip and an extremely unfair characterization of our role as his tour operator. In the review, the client raises five distinct issues with his trip. I will explain these issues in detail below. I think that each of the five details relates either to unreasonable expectations of quality, given the budget (i.e. 5-star quality for 4-star prices), or things that we simply cannot control (such as delays with bush plane transfers or unpredictable behavior from Gorillas)
1. The camp in Tanzania was considered 3 perhaps 4 stars, not 5 stars.
· When creating his itinerary, we discussed his budget with him and *clearly* explained that he would need a higher budget to get 5 star every night. This camp is a solid 4-star from our long experience and a very good value. The client was given the option to cut out days to lower the budget an up the quality which he declined.
2. We failed to see gorillas.
· This is extremely unfortunate, and we are sorry to hear this. While the vast majority of visitors do see gorillas on their gorilla treks, we cannot actually guarantee that clients will see gorillas. They are wild animals in remote mountainous forests. In this case the Silver back kidnapped a female from an un-habituated family so all the Gorillas were very nervous that day. We gave the client the option to buy a second permit before his trip as we recommend booking two days of gorilla trekking in order to ensure the best gorilla viewing. They declined to do this.
3. Our flight was delayed from Johannesburg to Kenya.
· While we cannot be held responsible for international flight delays, it is unfortunate that the clients were not notified of the flight cancellation and subsequent four hour delay. The airline also never notified us beforehand. However, our team on the ground in Tanzania a was able to adapt to the situation and meet them in Tanzania the moment their flight finally touched down in Arusha. We are looking into why Kenya Airways a did not notify anyone and why the flight was cancelled. I think Air Kenya’s lack of communication was unreasonable, and we have filed a complaint with them.
4. Our flight from Mara North Airstrip to Nairobi was delayed by one hour.
· Again, we cannot control the exact timing of bush plane flights. These are small planes (anywhere from 4 to 20 seats) landing at very small airstrips and travel schedules can change based on things outside of anyone’s control such as weather, air traffic control, etc. However, our ground team did everything in their power to rush our clients to the Nairobi airport for their flight to Entebbe. They took a special bypass road to avoid traffic. They checked the clients in online, and they printed their boarding passes ahead of time so as to save time at the airport. Even with all of the delays, our ground team got them to the airport exactly one hour before their flight, which is rushed but not unreasonable.
4. There was no attempt to get our luggage from the Mara North flight expeditiously
· It is true Air Kenya had several delayed flights and were slow unloading bags. However we are absolutely not authorized to go to the tarmac and pick up luggage for clients directly from the plane. It would be illegal.
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