My wife and I travelled with Basecamp around New Years and enjoyed our safari immensely. The game viewing was great, although Achmed dropped the ball a little at the end of our trip (I’ll explain at the end). Our guide was Johnathan and we thought he was awesome. He had a great sense of humor, he was easy to get along with and knowledgeable. By the end of our trip we really felt like we had made a great friend and we look forward to keeping in touch with Johnathan.
We travelled from Mwanza to Arusha and on our first day toured through the western Serengeti on our way to Seronera. We had plenty of time for game viewing and saw a lion, three leopards and tons of other various animals. The game viewing the following days was also fantastic with plenty more lions, leopards, hippos, etc. We stayed at Serengeti Wilderness Camp for three nights. The camp is fun, allowing you to really feel close to animals. We enjoyed being awoken by a giraffe chewing loudly on our front porch one night. After the Serengeti we headed out to Ngorongoro and stayed at the crater Sopa Lodge. This lodge probably had the best view of anywhere we ever stayed in our lives. It would have been a nice place to spend an extra night and just relax, enjoying the incredible setting. We were looking especially for rhinos and cheetah in the crater and Johnathan found them within a half hour. We saw four rhinos and had a relatively close up view. The following day, we headed out, touring Tarangire and stayed at Ilboru Safari Lodge in Arusha.
There were a few issues that were minimal and did not affect our enjoyment experience too much and one that was more serious. One minimal issue was that our driver was missing for our pickup when we arrived from the Bukoba->Mwanza ferry. This really concerned my wif,e but this was easily resolved by sending an SMS to Achmed and our driver then called us to tell us he was coming. He was stuck in traffic and had originally gone to the airport to pick us up there instead of the ferry terminal. I would recommend getting Achmed’s phone number so you can resolve any unexpected hiccups.
Another issue was a dietary one. My wife mostly eats vegetarian, although she will eat chicken. We made this clear, but Serengeti Wilderness Camp served a set meal each night that included beef or pork as the main course. With that, my wife was basically just offered extra portions of carrots or whatever side dishes they had for the meat. They also messed up on her lunchbox one day, giving her a piece of beef, when vegetarian was requested. Usually there were plenty of other items in the lunchbox to be sufficient, however. No big deal.
The last issue was the biggest and concerned our travel out of town to Dar es Salaam. During our planning we informed Basecamp that we would be ending our safari by traveling to Dar es Salaam by bus and needed tickets on the best bus line possible. We arranged that we would pick them up from Basecamp and pay for the tickets on arrival in Arusha. Bus travel in Tanzania is always pretty dangerous because of road accidents and comes in varying degrees of uncomfortable. We were relying on Basecamp to secure tickets on a reasonably safe and comfortable bus. Unfortunately on the last day of our safari, we asked Johnathan about our bus tickets and he didn’t know we needed them. We found out that no one ever got us tickets and we would need to book them ourselves in town. Johnathan took us to the bus booking offices so we could get tickets. All of the well-known bus lines had no tickets available, and we went from office to office trying to find tickets. We needed to get to Dar the next day and were wondering if we were going to have to start looking for plane tickets, which would probably also be sold out on such short notice. In the last booking office, some shady guy in the corner said some things to Johnathan and it turned out he had two seats he could sell us. They didn’t know the bus company and would not have used it ordinarily because they couldn’t confirm it was of a safe standard. In the end we spent almost an hour running around trying to get tickets and ended up using a bus line that wasn’t known to be safe or reliable. I don’t know what we would have done if Johnathan didn’t find the tickets, but we are really grateful for him working hard and getting something.
None of these issues spoiled our trip, although it would’ve been a tough pill to swallow if we weren’t able to get bus tickets to reach Dar on the following day. When we met with Achmed on our final night and told him that we weren’t really happy about the bus ticket issue, he said, “You should have reminded me.” We didn’t push the issue, but when you are paying thousands of dollars to someone, you expect them to take care of what you ask for without needing to be reminded. Perhaps we could of avoided it by reminding him, but should we really have needed to?
In the end, we loved our safari. In Africa things often don’t go exactly as planned, so keep a positive attitude and enjoy the experience. We look forward to visiting again. We may consider using Basecamp in the future as well.Edited: 3:35 pm, January 07, 2013