We just returned from a lodge safari (Lake Manyara, Ngogongoro and Serengeti) ending with two days on Zanzibar organized by Base Camp Tanzania.
We expected things to go smoothly based on the experiences of others who have used this company, but must say that even those high expectations were exceeded. Achmed Phillips was simply a pleasure to work with. From planning the trip (all arrangements were made by email which he always answered promptly and thoroughly); to delivering exactly what he promises (rare these days); to his prices which are amazingly low considering the quality of the product he delivers; to the fact that he went way above and beyond the call of duty to make sure our Tanzanian adventure was a care free holiday.
We were considering a National Geographic Expeditions safari until we wised up and realized (thanks TripAdvisor!) that we could get the same experience for much less money by working with a tour company on the ground in Tanzania. Not only did Base Camp deliver us the same safari as Nat Geo, but they did so at less than half of the price and we got a private safari to boot. Further, I doubt that National Geographic would have hand-delivered the 12 pounds of beans I requested for my camera beanbag and then refused payment for same. Or that they would have made a special trip to Arusha airport to meet us between flights on our way to Zanzibar to refund us 100% of one night's lodging that we had to cancel due to flight problems. (This was done before the hotel had made a final decision on whether they were going to refund half or all of the money so Achmed is trusting us to send him back half the money if the hotel doesn't approve the full refund.)
We must also commend Thomas, the driver/guide Achmed assigned to us. As others have noted, he is truly amazing. We were continually astounded at his ability to spot game in the far distance without the aid of binoculars. He was also a delightful traveling companion, Swahili coach and expert driver. We will not forget our new Tanzanian rafiki.
Although I cannot speak from experience about any of the other Tanzanian tour operators, I cannot imagine any better. Do yourself a big favor and let Achmed bid on your Tanzanian trip and know that he will do everything in his power to make sure you have a great experience at a reasonable cost.