Naipenda Safaris Review (Tanzania)
by Joel Otte
(Ellerslie, Auckland, New Zealand)
Naipenda Safaris At Your Service
Due to my work and travel schedule I planned to do a safari in December 2006. One of my key criteria was: Go where the animals are likely to be. I had never done a safari before, nor been to Africa, so I was open to where I might end up geographically.your guideyour vehiclehow many customers are with youyour accommodations
At that time of year it appeared to me that my best opportunity to see all of Africa's "Big Five" (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) was in Tanzania, particularly in the Serengeti and in Ngorongoro Crater.Given long distances and costs I wanted to get my first, and perhaps only safari, "right".
HOW I APPROACHED THE QUESTION OF WHERE/WHEN TO GO ON A SAFARI AND THEN SELECTING A SAFARI COMPANY:
As I e-mailed various safari providers who did safaris in the areas I was interested in, my thinking evolved. Simply stated, in order of priority there were several key variables:
All of this, of course, at a good price when taking into account value received.Article: Choosing the right safari operators »SAFARI GUIDE:
I can't stress enough the importance of getting a really good guide. My guide was Chris Sebastian and his skills were excellent, personality very affable, wildlife spotting capability (particularly birds) outstanding. Most every day from before sun up to sun down we spent together, so importance of getting someone who works well for you is key. Chris had some amazing stories, including being taken on a wild underwater ride by a huge crocodile. Chris was very lucky to live through that experience and he's got the scars to prove it.SAFARI VEHICLE:
Having a good/comfortable/reliable vehicle is also very important as is availability of a back-up vehicle if anything goes wrong. If your vehicle breaks down, you won't be seeing many animals! We saw all sorts of vehicles out on the plains. We had a Toyota SUV which was quite new and I didn't see anything else out there that seemed newer/better than the Toyota. Other safari companies were using Land Rovers (which I'd rate in second place due to the fact they were less comfortable to ride in). Then there was everything else including mini-vans that the more budget operators tended to use. I would not recommend a mini-van unless you have no other alternative for your budget.
Excellent, very reliable and comfortable given rough driving conditions. Only vehicular casualty one tire (an extra) that was losing some air pressure. GROUP SIZE:
The next criteria turned out to be important: How many customers are with you? Frankly if you have other customers who are going to be with you, they'll have their own ideas about what they want to do. What will the guide do if they want to see lions, but you want to see birds? Or visa versa? You may luck out and find that the other customers are thinking like you, but maybe not!
So, when I considered what extra cost was involved (not that much), I decided that I wanted to do my safari with just the guide and me. This gave me total flexibility; I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. As a result I had a much more intense safari experience than most people do. Chris said we spent far more hours per day out actually looking at animals and birds. From my perspective this was ideal, after all I had come to Africa to actually look at animals, not stay in my room!ACCOMMODATION:
To me the least important thing, within reason, was my accommodations. I only stayed in two places during my safari experience and both were excellent. In the Serengeti/Ndutu Plains I stayed at the Ndutu Safari Lodge
. This Lodge is off the typical tourist tracks and you have to travel many miles on a local dirt road to get there. I really enjoyed the authentic feeling of this place, seeming to me more of the "older Africa". Several wildlife photograph crews based here and had been there for more than one month.
At Ngorongoro Crater stayed at the Sopa Lodge
which is on the east rim of the Crater. Spectacular setting with fabulous sunset (and lightning!) views. Turned out that some of the best bird photographs that I got in Africa were right there at the Lodge. This lodge was more touristy than Ndutu and facilities were more modern, more hotel like. For people going to these locations I'd definitely recommend both.SAFARI OPERATOR:
I sent out a bunch of e-mails to various safari companies. And I got some responses. It's interesting to me for companies who are in the safari business, quite a few never replied . . . ever! Naipenda
was not only the fastest to respond, but also the most informative and responsive to the heaps of questions that I asked. The only other company that I had much of a dialogue with was Sunny Safaris, but it quickly became evident that they were into "packaged tours" and did not want to deviate from the norm.Top 3 operators for a Tanzania safari »
Jo Bertone was my key contact at Naipenda. Naipenda maintained offices in both Arusha, Tanzania and in the USA. This turned out to be another important point. I wanted to be dealing with a safari company that actually did the safaris themselves with their equipment and personnel. Several of the "big names" that are very expensive actually contract their safaris out to others. So, I added to my list of requirements that my safari company must maintain an operating office in Tanzania (by number most are in Arusha that service the Serengeti and Ngorongoro).
Jo was outstanding to work with and never once did she shy away from answering questions or putting me in contact with prior customers. Everyone that I spoke with by e-mail had extremely high and detailed praise for both Naipenda and Chris Sebastian. Many of the prior customers that I spoke with said that their standards of service were very high and that they were quite demanding. I'd definitely say that I fit this profile too! So, if you are demanding and really want a great experience than Naipenda would be a great choice!
As I worked with Jo we developed a custom package, perfectly suited to my desires. In order to make the best use of my time, I elected to fly one-way from Arusha directly into the Serengeti. This effectively added one day to my animal viewing experiences as a drive from Arusha to Serengeti would be a very long day indeed. Over the course of my safari we worked our way back to Arusha going from the Serengeti to Ndutu to Ngorongoro and then back to Arusha.
I just cannot sing the praises loudly enough for this extremely well run and professional safari company. Chris my guide was outstanding. Jo Bertone incredibly knowledgeable and patient as evidenced by the 92 e-mails that went back and forth before I took the safari.ANIMALS/BIRD SPECIES SEEN ON SAFARI:
Over 90 different species of animals and birds seen, including all of Africa's "Big Five".
Wildlife and bird viewing and photo opportunities: excellent.IN CLOSING:
In addition to outstanding Naipenda staff including Chris Sebastian, Jo Bertone and Israel Mwanga, thanks also to other customers who helped me by sharing their experiences.
My sense is that Naipenda pays its guides well. Treating staff well is, I believe, a key component in keeping and attracting good guides. When I asked Jo Bertone how I could best show my appreciation for an outstanding safari, she said that money/tip was best way to do this as the typical standard of living in Tanzania was very low compared to most other places in the world, certainly compared to the developed world. So, I left my Naipenda Safari thoroughly satisfied and I hope that Chris was benefitted by what I hope he felt was a generous tip as well as by the country and western CD's that I gave him.
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