Sardius Tours Review

by Sean Greene
(Derby Western Australia)

Lions at Masai Mara

Lions at Masai Mara

We do not have any complaints about the accommodation which was all of a very high standard, the tour guides, who were wonderful and helpful, but I resent being out of pocket US$640 plus visa charges, when I had paid for all the safaris in advance.

Our Safari:

It was in Kenya and Tanzania, organized through Sardius Tours Nairobi. We wanted a safari just for the 2 of us, so we arranged to have our own vehicle and driver for both countries.

Sardius Tours Nairobi gave us the itinerary and we paid in full before arriving in Kenya.

We were supposed to be met at the airport by Felix (the company owner), or a driver ... he turned up 30 mins late, by which time we were a bit panicky!

We were told we'd be met at the Pan Afric hotel at 7.45 the next morning, but Felix only turned up at 8.30, so eventually we set off to Masai Mara, a journey over shocking roads that saw us arrive at 5.30 that evening, but the Mara Sopa Lodge was wonderful, the facilities excellent, and the food and service extremely good.

We had two full days at the Masai Mara, saw elephant, giraffe, lions, all the antelope, and a cheetah mother with 2 cubs, which were playing with one another ... wonderful!

The game viewing continued, we visited Nakuru, spent a day, rhino, lions, flamingos and more ... the accommodation was great, and lots to see, then we set off to Samburu ... where we stayed at the Shapa Lodge ... the roads once again are shocking!

The Samburu Shapa lodge was OK, but the drinks were very expensive, and we had to drive about 30km every day to get to the game.

Next we visited Sweetwaters Tented Camp ... excellent facilities and food, great game viewing, good food and a very relaxed atmosphere.

We had a bit of a hiccup when we were due to leave. They said the accommodation voucher hadn't arrived from Sardius Tours, but after being detained for over an hour we were allowed to leave. Felix said it was a head office mistake on their part.

My highlight here was being allowed to pet a fully grown white rhino who had been raised from a calf by the game rangers, and followed one of them around like a puppy dog (fantastic!).

Next was Serena mountain lodge at Mt Kenya, a lovely place, set high up in the misty rain forest with a waterhole out front (lit up at night for game viewing)... elephant, buffalo, water buck etc.

We then visited Treetops mountain lodge which involves a lunch at the Outspan Hotel and a night at Treetops - my advice is Don't Bother! The food at both the Outspan and Treetops is average, the waterhole is almost non-existent, the rooms are tiny and cramped, and the shower and toilets are across the passageway ... I wouldn't recommend it!

Tsavo West was the next place ... once again a BIG DRIVE we arrived late again so spent the whole day driving ... awful roads as usual!

Tsavo West was good; accommodation at the Ngulia Safari Lodge - good food, service and facilities. They hung a hunk of meat out the back of the lodge, and managed to attract a leopard in the evening - a great photo opportunity.

Amboseli (Amboseli Sopa Lodge) was next - a nice place with African style decor (as were most of the lodges), but the game reserve is about 20-30km away on (you guessed it) an AWFUL road, so you are better off getting a lunch box and spending a day in the reserve, as you wouldn't want to drive it 4 times in one day!

The next part of our safari took us to Tanzania ...

We were supposed to have a 5-day safari in Tanzania as part of the package, and this is where things went badly, beginning at the border town of Namanga.

We were supposed to be picked up there by our Tanzanian driver at about 10am as we had to get to Ngorongoro by the afternoon to have a game drive, but the Tanzanian driver didn't arrive until 1pm and then spent an hour trying to get his money sorted out from Felix.

We left eventually, driving at great speed to Arusha, and he tried (again unsuccessfully) to get the money organised. He took a call from Felix, handed me the phone, and Felix asked me to "lend" him about US$300 to pay for the game park fees, as the internet banking wasn't working.

I was reluctant, but it was getting late and the driver said that unless these fees were paid, we could not enter the park, and would have nowhere to stay, so I gave him the US$400 (which is what it turned out to be), and relied on being paid back within the next day or two as promised by Felix.

I did not get the money back, instead, the driver told me that he was still having problems getting his money from Felix for the game parks, as they would only accept US Dollars, and he had a card that needed to be charged up, but Felix had not put the funds into it, so I paid for all the park entry fees with Visa card and was told I'd get my money back at Namanga, when we were picked up to go back to Nairobi.

The total amount (which I have the receipts for) is US$640.

When we finished our Tanzanian safari, we arrived at Namanga at 2pm (we were supposed to be picked up at 1pm but were told it had been changed). We waited until 5pm. When Felix finally arrived, he was with a Nairobi taxi driver.

We got into the van after Felix had had a heated discussion with our Tanzanian driver, and set off at about 5.30 in the darkening evening, at high speed to Nairobi, and we arrived at about 8.30pm.

During the trip, I asked Felix about my money, but he just waved his hands and said it would all be sorted out. We arrived at a restaurant (where we were due to have our final night's meal) and went in to eat. Felix didn't say much during the meal, and we were not very enthusiastic about being there.

After the meal, Felix told us that he wanted to apologise for what had happened, and he said he had not had time to get to a bank to get us our money, but he would give us a bank cheque for US$660 (the extra $20 to cover bank fees etc).

He then proceeded to write a cheque and gave it to me. I said this is not a bank cheque, it's just a ordinary cheque from your bank account, and I will not be able to cash it in Australia, so he told me that if I gave him my bank account number and deposit details, he would direct deposit the money into my account, and I could post him the cheque back, with the receipts.

We sent him the details on 18th June 2009, and this included the bank account number, the swift code etc, but have still not received the money, despite a couple of emails.

I got an email from Felix saying be patient I will get the money to you, but this has STILL not happened, and I have come to the conclusion, that we will not get it now.

We left Kenya on 30th June and the money has not reached our account (as at 12 July 2009), I have also written to various forums listing Sardius Tours as an operator best avoided, but of course (given the current economic downturn) it reflects badly on ALL the East African operators.

Tips and Advice:

My advice to anyone planning the "Trip of a Lifetime Safari", is DO YOUR HOMEWORK - check out the operators, get a good map, and visit any Forums like this one that will help you weed out the dodgy operators.

If you are offered a safari in Kenya, do yourself a favour, get a good map of the place, and work out the distances between places ... we found so much of our time was taken up just driving over awful bumpy corrugated roads, and just getting to our destination (that with better planning could have been minimised - we seemed to criss-cross the country in a haphazard way).

If you have expensive digital camera equipment in East Africa, do yourself a favour and make sure you have a really good padded backpack type of camera case, and a dustproof cover you can drag over it whilst travelling. The drivers travel with windows wound down, the dust gets everywhere, the vehicles are old and the shock-absorbers are non-existent!

A couple of heavy duty garbage bags is a good idea as well for extra dust proofing whilst on the move!

Get a bean bag sewn up before you arrive. You can fill this up with rice, beans or corn when you reach your destination, and it's perfect for resting a camera with a long lens for those steady shots.

Sean's Safari Details:

Safari company: Sardius Tours

Parks visited: Masai Mara, Nakuru, Samburu - Kenya; Serengeti - Tanzania

Date of safari: May 10th for 21 days

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  • Comments for Sardius Tours Review

    Click here to add your own comments

    Jul 16, 2010
    Update on Sardius Tours
    by: Sean Greene

    We finally got the refund of the US$640, after I had contacted the Kenya Association of Tour Operators (KATO) ... and they apparantly persuaded Felix to refund the money. This arrived at the end of August 2 months after we had left Kenya.

    Felix wrote me an email asking me to withdraw all my comments, since he had "now paid the money, as promised", but I refused telling him that people planning a safari should know the facts, and the whole incident should never have happened.

    Dec 26, 2010
    Dissatified with Sardius Tours and Safaris
    by: Barbara & Jean

    We traveled to Kenya and Tanzania in June 2010, with 7 other friends, for a pre-arranged animal safari with Sardius Tours.

    We originally selected Sardius based on the fact that they were African owned and operated and because they were cooperative in scheduling an itinerary and accomodations that we selected.

    However, from the time we arrived until we returned home we encountered numerous problems and changes, usually without explanation or one that was untrue. Additionally, Sardius is sloppy and unreliable; e.g. they booked our flight from Zanzibar for the wrong month, causing us a delay and a fee penalty.

    We had agreed to pay extra for four nights accomodations at the Chalets in Mbalgeti but only stayed two nights. There were several other changes, usually to "more economical" facilities. After a series of exchanges with Felix, he agreed to refund us for the these unauthorized changes but never did.

    Felix and Sarius are simply unreliable and very unethical in their dealing with clients. We would strongly recommend that you consider another tour guide.

    Dec 18, 2011
    Sardius Tours and Travels Con operators
    by: Vijay

    I agree that Felix the owner of Sardius Tours and Travels is a con operator.
    We had paid the full amount for a Kenyan and Tanzanian Safari. In Tanzania the problems started. The driver could not find the lodge and we were totally lost in the middle of the night.Finally after driving around for 4-5 hrs in pitch darkness we found the lodge. The driver disappeared with the vehicle stating that Felix had not paid him. We had to pay for the lodge and travel back to Nairobi which cost $1315. Believe me it was a nightmarish experience.
    I would never ever recommend anybody to book their safaris through sardius travels as the owner is a smooth talker but a total con operator

    Sep 08, 2012
    rip off
    by: majedphotos.com

    Sardius Tours owned by Thomas of flex what ever his name he make our safari to the hell this is my fifth safari to kenya and this is first time i went with this very bad company

    from two month ago he said that all the hotels are reserved ok and when we arrived i give him all the money from the first day

    and i shocked he did not pay for the hotels and not all of them are ok

    i did one of my worst workshops for photographers ever

    he did not pay for the drivers

    he did not pay for the fuel

    he did not pay for the park fees

    every time we should wait him to send money by phone then we can enter the park

    the same problem happen to us in each hotel he did not respond to the hotel call until the time we should leave then the hotel hold us about two to three hours just waiting him to pay

    and each time he tells a story about the hotels

    u can ask mara serena or sarova in nakuru or mara lusure camp in mara about what he did for the group from kuwait and i am a famous photographer doing work shop and this is my website just to ensure that this story is real

    the big thing that i select this company is his low price then i surprise that he was laying on the hotels and reserve rooms for us as residents of Kenya and not as Tourist i also paid 560 dollar in nakuru just to release us and tell now he did not send it to me also the drivers did not tell now paid

    so plz don't deal with him

    Sep 15, 2012
    Avoid using Sardius Tours
    by: ChuckElton

    In August of this year I was on safari with friends in the Masai Mara reserve, which has a well-earned reputation for spectacular game viewing. Unfortunately, our trip was marred somewhat by an unscrupulous tour operator (Felix Ndunda, who runs Sardius Tours). We arranged for him to book our lodges several months ahead of time. We ask for 4 separate rooms in a luxury lodge and paid him by wire transfer in advance. He assured us that all was arranged.

    After we arrived - and only after he collected the remainder of our fees from each of us in cash - he informed us that our booking had been changed and that we no longer had 4 rooms (some of us would have to share a room) and that it was not in the lodge we chose. We insisted that our original arrangement be honored, and after a brief argument he promised that he would fix it. We left with our driver, under the naïve hope that Felix was sincere.

    We spent most of the day on the road until our driver finally got a phone call instructing him to take us to another safari camp – not the one we supposedly reserved in the first place. The camp was rather obscure and the driver got lost attempting to find it! When we finally arrived, very tired and dusty, we were shocked to be told once again that there were not enough tents for us all, so we had to double up in one of them. And these were hardly the high-end accommodations we had paid for. Two of the tents had no mosquito netting!

    We lost the entire afternoon, and only managed to squeeze in a cursory game drive in which we saw remarkably little. Moreover, there was no early morning drive the next day. Instead, we had to leave for yet another camp.

    The second camp (Masai Basecamp) was far superior to the first and equivalent in value to what we had originally paid for. But we lost an entire day out of our 3-day safari. When we met Felix back in Nairobi, he promised a partial reimbursement to cover our lost expenses. A month later, we have still not received it – and Felix has ignored our inquiries.

    The lesson here is to be wary of any tour operator that does not accept credit cards (in which we could challenge the fee, if the service was not forthcoming). I strongly advise anyone not to arrange a safari through Sardius Tours. Travel websites are filled with accounts about Sardius Tours that should serve as a warning to travelers, and on hindsight we should have heeded them.

    Sep 23, 2012
    Do not use SardiusTours
    by: Rob

    I used this company in August 2012, together with 3 friends, all supposed to get their own upgraded lodge room for each of 2 nights. Felix took our wire deposits, which were intended to book the lodges - but when we arrived, after paying him the balance owing, he told us the lodges were not available. He stuck us in 2 tent camps, with 3 not 4 rooms in the first one. They were inferior to the high end rooms in a lodge we had paid for. Our diver arrived the first morning at 730am, so we lost an hour of the best safari time. When we got back to Nairobi, Felix promised to reimburse us each $200US, but he stopped communicating and never deposited money in the bank accounts as he had promised.

    We saw wonderful things in Masai Mara, but would never go with Sardius Tours again. Felix, the owner, is not trustworthy.

    Feb 18, 2013
    Beware of Kenya tanzania tented camps/sardius tours/felix ndunda/karen
    by: Anonymous

    BEWARE OF BOOKING YOUR HOLIDAY TOUR WITH KENYA TANZANIA TENTED CAMPS/SARDIUS TOURS OWNED BY ONE MR FELIX NDUNDA. THE PHYSICAL LOCATION OF HIS OFFICE IS AT SUMMIT HOUSE, 5TH FLOOR, MONROVIA STREET.
    Early 2011,My Mother, My Friend and I booked a trip to Egypt through Felix, the proprietor of Kenya Tanzania tented camps and Sardius Tours. The trip was to cost us kshs 249,000.00.Each person was to pay a total of kshs 83,000.00 excluding air fares.
    On 14th April 2011,We banked a deposit of:
    Amount: kshs 150,000.00-a deposit of kshs 50,000.00 per person.
    Bank: Equity Bank Limited
    Account No: 0260295754799
    Name: Kenya Tanzania Tented Camps
    On 24th September 2011, we paid him kshs 150,000.00 for the air plane tickets.
    On 19th December 2011, we cancelled the 9 day trip to Egypt after repeatedly asking for information and following up for our air tickets which we had paid 3 months earlier without success. We cancelled because we did not want to suffer in a foreign country since Felix Ndunda of Kenya Tanzania tented camps\Sardius Tours was not communicating with us despite having paid most of the money required for the trip.
    This was the beginning of our problems. By the time we cancelled the trip, Felix Ndunda had not paid for the air plane tickets. On 20th December 2011, when he was informed that we were in his office, he went ahead and paid for the airplane tickets. This action led us to lose USD 300.00 as Cancellation Fees levied by Egypt Air. This we confirmed when we visited Egypt Air Offices that afternoon of 20th December 2011 with his employee Tom to cancel the air plane tickets.
    To date, Felix has never returned Kshs 150,000.00 for the air plane tickets (despite having been paid by Egypt Air) and the kshs 150,000.00 that we banked in April as deposit for the Egypt trip.

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