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Safari review - Calabash Adventures

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Bristol, United...
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Safari review - Calabash Adventures

Having just got back from yet another safari – out ninth African big game safari – I wanted to write a review about the company we used, Calabash Adventures.

Four years ago we wanted a budget safari for five days in Tanzania, and Calabash did such a great job of arranging this, that we thought we'd use them again. I am so glad we did, as this certainly was the best safari ever!

Calabash is a small, locally owned company and I am a firm believer in using someone who is there, 'on the ground' for my arrangements, as you get more local knowledge and someone who can sort out problems if there are any. Not that there were any problems, in fact the safari ran smoothly from start to finish.

We were really impressed with the tented camps (some permanent, some mobile), that Calabash chose for us (I left the choice entirely up to them, the only input I had was my budget). They seem to have got a real 'feel' for what we wanted. I didn't realise tents could be so luxurious! (and no, we didn't stay in the top star places, just middle of the road).

Dickson, our driver was amazing. Again. He seemed to always know where the best place for photography was (and a great spotter), was extremely knowledgeable about birds, animals, geology, history, culture and botany, and imparted the knowledge at the right time and place, making it such an interesting trip. Another thing I really liked about Dickson was his English – a great vocabulary and an easy-to-understand accent. He's also got a great sense of humour and became a really good friend.

I can wholehearted recommend Calabash to anyone who wants personal, friendly service combined with competitive prices. And no, I don't work for them..... hehe

http://www.calabashadventures.com/

55 replies to this topic
41. Re: Safari review - Calabash Adventures

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42. Re: Safari review - Calabash Adventures

Before writing this review I read through all the previous posts. Yes, I am one of those first-time posters on TA. In fact, I’m a first-time poster on any website. I don’t do this. Ever. I’m someone who also had a gulp in my throat when I blindly sent all that money to Africa based solely on emails back and forth. I had to write about our 17-day trip with Calabash in November, 2013 because it was the most wonderful adventure made all-the-better because of Calabash. Our trip was far beyond our expectations. Like some others, our guide/driver for the first 14 days was Wilson, who picked us up at the Nairobi airport and hardly ever left our sight, except to sleep, until he left us off at the airport to fly to Zanzibar for the remainder of our trip. He was fantastic, taught us a lot about the culture, people and animals, and went out of his way to find all those beautiful elusive creatures we were looking for. We stayed in lodges and tented camps, where the food and accommodations were excellent. In Zanzibar, our boutique hotel was right on the beach. The whole experience was breathtaking. I have other places to travel in this world but, if I ever go back to Africa, Calabash will be my go-to company.

43. Re: Safari review - Calabash Adventures

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44. Re: Safari review - Calabash Adventures

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45. Re: Safari review - Calabash Adventures

We have just finish our safari with them and i would like to thank calabash staff for yours assistance,we booked with them because we saw this thread on tripadvisor that reported your experience,so tank to all of you,we had some doubt,to send them the money but we noticed that they are enrolled to TATO and that is the first inportant thing.Tillya the owner greated us at JRO airport,and it was good because specially in Arusha people are very rude and sometimes aggressive.The lodge that he booked for us were good(sopa serengeti,Ndutu lodge and sunstar resort)and also the guide Wilsom was excellent..there's only one thing that we have to complain with them..by staying sleep in Ngorongoro conservation area (Ndutu)we had to leave the crater the next day at the same time we entered the day before and at 3pm we were already at the resort so we had the impression to lose time.Finally their jeep are good compared to other and the price also,I've taken 15 offers and they were part of the 3/4 resonable.

46. Re: Safari review - Calabash Adventures

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Bristol, United...
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47. Re: Safari review - Calabash Adventures

Review of our recent (September 2014) safari with Calabash Adventures

As this was the THIRD time we have used Calabash Adventures for our safari arrangements in Tanzania, we had a pretty good idea of what to expect. The only problem with that is, we had such high expectations. As the previous two safaris were so excellent, we were naturally concerned that this one would be a disappointment. It wasn't.

Over the last 30 years of taking safaris in Africa (and beyond), we have used a number of different tour operators – some with group tours, some private; some based in the UK, some based in Africa. There are good and bad with each of these of course, but we find that we like using an African based company for several reasons:

1. They are specialists in that particular area

2. That's all they do, and they do it day in day out, so they know the area very well

3. The money we pay goes to support a local family (families) rather than a huge international conglomerate.

4. They have people on the ground in Africa to sort things out should there be any problems (not that we've had to put that to the test – we've not had any problems with Calabash to date.

5. The cost is obviously a factor – we are not paying a middle man.

These days we will not travel with a group of strangers, even if this (theoretically) brings the price down. I say “theoretically” as I compared the price of a private safari with calabash against a group safari with a well-know Small Group Adventure Tour operator from the UK (who we have used on a number of occasions), and I found that the private tour we booked through Calabash was in fact LESS expensive than the group tour. Our reasons for preferring a private tour are many:

1. We can have the exact itinerary WE want, not the one the tour operators think we want.

2. We are not into shopping, and we find that most tour groups stop at markets and other stores for shopping.

3. Conversely, we ARE into seeing birds on our travels, but find that most people on group tours are not, and would prefer to drive on to see larger animals rather than stop for our feathered friends.

4. We have had experience of other passengers on group tour preferring a lie in of a morning, rather than starting at the crack of dawn to make the most of the sunrise hours when the animals are at their most active.

5. We have also found that we have had to go back to the hotel for the swimming pool midday (majority rules!) rather than spend time in the bush on a group tour.

6. As we have now travelled to Tanzania on three occasions, we don't necessarily want to stop at all the usual tourist stops – again – so having a private tour we can choose where we want to stop and for how long.

7. With just the two of us there is so much more room in the vehicle to spread out, and only one other person who may get in the way of your photographs,

8. Being a very keen photographer, I find that I like to spend more time at each sighting, something that may be difficult with more people in the car.

OK, so why Calabash over any one of all the other operators out of Arusha? I am sure many of the other safari outfitters are excellent too, but these are some of the reasons we we keep coming back to using Calabash:

1. They are based in Arusha and have been around for several years.

2. They are Tanzanian owned and run (many others are owned by foreign investors)

3. They have good work ethics and the drivers enjoy working for them – as shown when our intended driver fell ill shortly before we arrived and the manager of Calabash contacted one of his ex-drivers (now freelance) who was more than happy to step in and take us around.

4. They have no mileage limit – this can make a HUGE difference if you suddenly learn of a kill or something similarly exciting – we did hear of other guests who were told that their driver couldn't take them there as “he'd run out of miles”.

5. The drivers are all very knowledgeable and experienced and they carry several books on the flora and fauna in the area.

6. Each time we have been to Tanzania, Tillya – the owner of Calabash – has been in touch with us at least once during our safari to ensure everything is going well.

7. They can not only set up safaris in Tanzania, but can also add on arrangements in the neighbouring countries – very useful if you want to fly via Nairobi for instance.

8. Before each of the three safaris, I felt that Calabash really listened to our requirements and created a perfect safaris for us. I mention this, as I have arranged a number of tailor made private trips in a number of different countries over the years; and I have often found that you send an email to a local company stating what you would like, but they don't seem to take any notice of what YOU want, they just try to sell you a trip that THEY think you want. Calabash selected the type of accommodation that I was after (which did vary from each of the trips too), and the parks that I was interested in. They made suggestions, of course, of things that might be better than what I had already thought of, but it was open to discussion and I never felt anything was forced on us.

9. For many people, the price is the deciding factor, and I found Calabash to be extremely competitively priced. We chatted with a few people in a couple of camps, and it seems we got a VERY good deal!

This time we travelled up to the far north of the country, staying in the Kogatende area of Tanzania, in order to see the Mara River crossing part of the Great Migration. This area borders the river, and unlike the Masai Mara side, there are relatively few tourists that make it this far up.

The crossings we amazing – we saw three – and I wouldn't have missed it for the world, but I am not sure it is something I would recommend for a first time safari traveller. The main reason for this is that crossing are fleeting occurrences and a LOT of time is spent waiting and watching – we spent two whole days just watching wildebeest walk around, to and from the river, sitting in the car, doing very little. Ten hours each day for three crossing which lasted between 7 and 18 minutes each. If this had been my first safari I think I would have wanted to spend more time looking at other animals too. If you are serious about safaris and this is NOT your first one, I think you really SHOULD see a river crossing at least once. I would certainly do it again!

To recap on everything I have said above - I have no hesitation in recommending Calabash to anyone who would like a quality safari at a competitive price.

If you would like to contact me, I have lots of tips on what to do, what to see and what happens on safari, I'd be only too happy to chat!

London, United...
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48. Re: Safari review - Calabash Adventures

We went for a 5 day safari with Calabash Adventures in Dec 2014. It was an amazing experience and the whole trip was organised to the tee by the company. The tents were perfectly adequate and the onboard chef, cooked great meals every day. The highlight of the trip would have to be our drive Malissa, he was very knowledgeable about all the animals and had unbelievable eyesight. He would spot things which we struggled to view with binoculars. Right till the last minute, he would constantly be looking out for animals making sure we didn't miss anything. We did a lot of research into organising the safari and Calabash came out as the best value for money.

I would highly recommend this company to anyone interested in Safaris in Tanzania.

Fairfax, Virginia
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49. Re: Safari review - Calabash Adventures

I also had a fantastic experience with Calabash Adventures this year in late March/early April. Tillya, the owner did a great job of laying out my time with them where each day was better than the last. We even made a slight change in my itinerary once I arrived to take advantage of the opportunity to still see the great migration. They are pro's at knowing where to go at just the right time. I paid extra to do a private tour and it was worth every penny. If you are serious about safari's, then go with a private tour. The lodging they set me up with at three different Serena Hotels was first class all the way.

My tour guide, Malisa, was simply the best. He went out of his way to find what I was looking for and always made sure I had the best camera angles. We stayed as long as I wanted to while watching particular animals. His knowledge of the animals and their behaviors was amazing to say the least. And I could tell by watching other tour companies that my guide was so much better (other guides were telling him that they were not seeing the things we were seeing). My guide predicted a mother zebra was going to give birth minutes before she did. It was amazing and we saw it all happen!

I could not recommend Calabash Adventures higher. I am hoping I will get back to Tanzania soon and will absolutely be using Calabash Adventures again. My pictures were amazing.

Chaguanas, Trinidad
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50. Re: Safari review - Calabash Adventures

My husband and I were very pleased with our safari with Calabash Adventures in June 2015. We had a wonderful time, saw so much wildlife and were thoroughly impressed by our guide, Malisa. He was patient, knowledgeable and kind. Tillya also spent a lot of time beforehand liasing with me to get the perfect itinerary and answering all my queries quickly and patiently. Overall it was an amazing and unforgettable experience! Thank you so much for this! I would highly recommend Calabash tours...their tour was excellent value for money and they are very attentive to their guests.

We will never forget Malisa's warmth and kindness. “Poa kichize kama ndize!”

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