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Safari Makers - Review

boston, ma
Level Contributor
264 posts
3 reviews
6 helpful votes
Safari Makers - Review

Went with Safari Makers in June, 2010 (Serengeti/Ngorongoro, mix of camping and lodges) based on a recommendation in this forum and the general "vibe" we got from initial communications. We can't say enough good things about them.

Our guide Mosses was terrific on every level - spotting game, educating us (we were with our 11-year-old daughter), managing the time with just the right balance, making adjustments as needed and/or wanted, and just generally being a great companion for our trip.

Our cook Juma is a saint given that he managed to find a way to feed the two incredibly picky eaters in our family, and with a great sense of humor.

Gideone, who handled the arrangements in the office is great too: personalized service, responsive, efficient, and incredibly patient as we fine-tuned the details. In addition to the safari, he booked our transport from Nairobi and then onward to Zanzibar.

We got several quotes, and Safari Makers wasn't the cheapest, nor were they the most expensive, but we feel like we absolutely made the right choice, especially once there... we didn't feel like we were missing anything not going with the higher cost option, and we could see some of the corner cutting elsewhere.

My one issue is that it would be nice if they could take credit card payments, although I'm not sure I would have been willing to pay the 5-7% surcharge other places in Arusha were adding to credit card payments. In the end, we simply invested in good money belts for all that cash.

Happy to respond to private messages with any more info.

Findlay, Ohio
Level Contributor
12,485 posts
8 reviews
3 helpful votes
1. Re: Safari Makers - Review

You're right it would be nice for them to start accepting credit cards. But they probably won't for several reasons. Counterfeiting and Identity theft is one big reason and they would be left with no recourse, and another is that people who change their minds can get their money back through the card company and the safari operator will be left holding the bag. This might be after they have already invested some money in the safari that they can't get back. So they don't view credit cards like we do, and they don't thnk it's all that good a deal for them. I know that we view credit cards as a way to increase revenues, as a business owner I know this is the case, but I doubt if it would increase their business at all, if someone is going to do a safari they are going to do it and pay for it the way they suggest. Until many more start using them most won't go to this.

There are a few who are beginning to use Paypal, but only a few.

Isle of Man, United...
Level Contributor
40,505 posts
472 reviews
477 helpful votes
2. Re: Safari Makers - Review

Nice report Futzysmom.

As an old aquaintence of mine used to say "The only Credit Card he would take was a green one with the US Presidents head on it."

Wise words. there is just too much fraud around to make it worthwhile in Africa. Take a Money Belt.

boston, ma
Level Contributor
264 posts
3 reviews
6 helpful votes
3. Re: Safari Makers - Review

I actually have some faith that payments systems in Africa (including fraud prevention) will improve enough down the road so that smaller locally-owned companies can accept other forms of payment without unreasonable cost and risk. (...wearing my day-job hat here... global payments systems are an area of my professional background...). China, India and Latin America have all gone through this evolution, and East Africa will eventually get there too.

In the mean time, I think it's unfortunate that the cash-only system used by Tanzanian companies is something that drives many people to work with non-African operators. That means tourist dollars that could/should be going into the local economy are going to management and marketing staff outside Africa. One would just like to see the playing field leveled.

Saint Paul...
Destination Expert
for Tanzania, Serengeti National Park
Level Contributor
1,922 posts
7 reviews
4 helpful votes
4. Re: Safari Makers - Review

It can be rather difficult to get the merchant account, especially in the travel industry because there's a lot of fraud in it.

I would say that once or twice a week I receive an email from someone saying that they have 5 or 6 customers who need a room at 'our place' and that as soon as we let them know the price, they will pay by credit card.

These are obviously scam artists and they just get deleted. I think I finally figured out their game: They steal credit card numbers (million ways to do that) and then they book rooms or flights with unsuspecting tour operators/travel agents. Then, soon after, they say that they have to cancel the booking and therefore want a cash refund. If they get the cash refund, the tour operator or travel agent then immediately loses everything as soon as the credit card company finds out that the transaction was fraudulent. It's the company that loses. But if it happens a lot and the travel agent/tour operator goes bankrupt or is otherwise unable to pay, then the company that brokered the merchant service loses. That's why they don't want to touch travel businesses. The first time I applied for merchant services, the banker told me that he wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot-pole. When I complained, he said, "Look, I just turned down Air Canada."

Isle of Man, United...
Level Contributor
40,505 posts
472 reviews
477 helpful votes
5. Re: Safari Makers - Review

I agree (as another Ex insider.) It is the cash-back refund scenario that is the bane of everyones life. Same with T/Chqs. Steal them, buy fully refundable Airplane tickets (not first but maybe high end) don't travel and claim the cash refund. Aim to get the refund before AMexco or whoever bounces the chqs. Bingo. Cash!

I used to buy such tix (in the day job) and had always to send a courier, with a letter, to pick them up from the Airline.

Africa also has another problem. Power outages just as the transaction is getting 'authorised'. A nightmare.

I do share futzysmom's optimism though. It will happen but not some time soon.

Findlay, Ohio
Level Contributor
12,485 posts
8 reviews
3 helpful votes
6. Re: Safari Makers - Review

Fifteen years ago or longer there were no ATMs in Tanzania, in fact ten years ago and even five years ago they were difficult to find. And in those time frames finding someone to take a credit card was even more difficult to find. Fifteen years ago I found one lodge who would take a credit card, and after I used it I was sorry that I did, and never used one again there.

I noticed that the Bank of Tanzania the other day came out with one of the first things which is needed to stabilize the credit system there, they are starting a Credit Bureau. I personally think this will take a very long time to get going for a lot of reasons; but one big reason is the lack of a well used system of identification. Several years ago they did initiate a TIN but few people use it. In addition, many of their tribes have a tradition of name changing so over their life times they will change their names several times. I knew a man by the name of Phillip for many years, one time when I was there he told me that his name was no longer Phillip as he had a vision and his name was now Paul. In addition, almost all women change their name when their first born son arrives. That is one aspect of the credit system there which needs to be solved somehow.

They do now have what is called the Tembo Card which is useful for those locals who carry large sums of money when they travel. It's an ATM kind of thing so that they deposit the money before traveling and when they get to the local destination they can go to the bank and pick up the cash. Kind of a first step to a credit card. That was started about eight years ago.

Credit cards will probably only be accepted when they are available to the vast majority of the local people there. And that won't be any time too soon. Remember 80% of the people in Tanzania do not live in the cities, thus use banks regularly, they are rural people, and they have their own way of transacting business.

By the way Mfuwe, Ben Franklin and Alexander Hamilton (prominent people on our bills) were not former presidents. Franklin was a revered founding father and ambassador to France at a very important time in our history (he got France to side with us against the English, not all that hard of a job to do at that time); and Hamilton was a co-writer, with John Jay and James Madison, of the important and defining Federalist Papers along with being our first Secretary of the Treasury (which is probably the reason he's on our bills). Washington was our first Constitutional President in 1789 (there were actually fourteen others before him under other constitutions and confederations) and Franklin died in 1790. He was too old to be one of our Presidents and is seen by us as defining the American Spirit of enterprise. Obviously I'm a Revolutionary Period buff.

Saint Paul...
Destination Expert
for Tanzania, Serengeti National Park
Level Contributor
1,922 posts
7 reviews
4 helpful votes
7. Re: Safari Makers - Review

Good points Karl. When you say some tribes have a habit of changing their names, I hadn't realized that it was some tribes. I thought it was everyone in Tanzania. I can't tell you how many times I've seen people change their names. And not only that, when I was teaching, my students would rarely spell their names the same way from week to week. It was always fun trying to grade exams and record the results! (BTW, roll call was something that I eventually avoided because it was impossible for me to pronounce everyone's name appropriately and I would invariably say something profane in Swahili on accident. It's entertaining to think about now, but not cool at the time.)

Isle of Man, United...
Level Contributor
40,505 posts
472 reviews
477 helpful votes
8. Re: Safari Makers - Review

Thanks for the history Lesson.

<<he got France to side with us against the English, not all that hard of a job to do at that time);>> ((Never is!)

And look where it got you. 2003 you were threatening to rename French Fries.

Byeee!

Dallas, Texas
Level Contributor
79 posts
6 reviews
1 helpful vote
9. Re: Safari Makers - Review

We are planning our trip next year. It's nice to read your comment about Safari Maker. We are thinking about small / mid size group tour. did your family take private tour since you have a cook with you ?

Cheshire
Level Contributor
18 posts
30 reviews
28 helpful votes
10. Re: Safari Makers - Review

We are thinking of going to Tanzania on safari at the end of May or the beginning of June and as there will be 3 adults in our party we are trying to keep the cost down by going in the low season. There again we don't want to miss the animals by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Could you let me know how your trip went, what your itinerary was, would you have made any changes.

I know you are not a travel agent, but advice from an independent expert (well someone who has been there) would be great.