Warning! Do not Travel in Africa with Solomon Moses Olemwaipasi
by Charlene West
(Pismo Beach, California, USA)
Solomon Moses Olemwaipasi defrauded us of approximately $1000 beyond what we had already paid. I have wanted to visit sub-Saharan Africa since I saw my first pictures of the magnificent animals through a view-finder as a small child.
I have worked and saved for many years for this "trip of a lifetime". Last year, I retired from my job and I decided that the time was now. I have traveled a good deal in the past, India, Peru, Egypt, Southeast Asia, generally independently, and always "budget".
This trip was to be my gift to myself. I envisioned game drives followed by comfortable and, sometimes luxurious, lodges and tented camps. My experience was completely different from my expectation.
In reality, my traveling companion and I were the victims of a con artist posing as a Maasai guide, named Solomon Olemwaipasi, who scammed us for approximately $1000 above and beyond the already inflated price of the trip.
This is the story and I hope it prevents him from taking advantage of others.
January 6: Our commuter flight from Santa Maria, California to LAX was cancelled and we drove to Los Angeles in the middle of the night having been rebooked on the flights to Dar-es-Salaam.
January 7: We flew from LAX to JFK, only to find out that there was a mistake in our booking and all flights seemed to be full or overbooked and we could not arrive in Dar-es- Salaam on January 8.
Since, we did not know where we were to meet Ole, Dar or Arusha where the itinerary was to begin, we opted to fly to Arusha and catch up to the planned trip at the Holy Mountain Lodge, where we were to stay on January 8 and 9.
Finally, through the diligent efforts of United ticketing agents, we were booked through Hamburg, Frankfurt, Johannesburg and Arusha to arrive on January 9. Needless to say, our luggage was lost.
January 9: We arrive at night and finally find our luggage. Outside the airport none of the taxi driver's know Holy Mountain Lodge.
Finally we find someone who knows the lodge and takes us to the owner's home. This man then calls Ole and Ole tells him to have the driver take us to Ndoro Hunter's Lodge outside Arusha.
Ole arrives at the Lodge later that night and we think our problems are over. Actually, they are just beginning.
January 11: The first small problem arises. He stops to buy four cases of water for safari and asks us for $76, even though soft drinks are included in the itinerary. We give him the money and drive to Tarangire National Park.
January 15: We drive to Serengeti National Park and our problems really commence.
At the Visitor Center, Ole's electronic credit card does not work, he says, and so we have $500 to pay for our time in the Serengeti, which he will return to us in Arusha when he can get to the bank again. My friend and I pool our funds and give him $420.
January 19: We were to leave in the morning but Ole did not have enough money to pay the bill for our lodging for the past four nights.
The resolution was to send Charles Nkuba, one of the managers and a very nice person, with us to collect the funds from Ole when we reached civilization and Ole could use an ATM. Our safari was to continue as planned.
January 22: When we woke in the morning, Ole had disappeared and the manager at Rhotia did not want to let us leave because the bill had not been paid.
Charles spoke to him and we were allowed to drive on to Arusha where we would meet Ole. When we arrived at "his" motel in Arusha, it was substandard; it did not even have a western toilet.
Ole sat down with us and said that we owed him approximately $200 each for airline tickets he had purchased for us to go from Dar-es-Salaam to Arusha on January 8, which we had never authorized, and miscellaneous small expenses like our "sundowner" in the Serengeti.
Charles and Ole had an argument because Charles had still not been paid. We succumbed to the pressure and were taken to a bank where we each withdrew 200,000 TSH (total 400,000 TSH) and gave it to Ole. He paid Charles.
January 23: Ole picked us up with his wife who was to take us shopping in Arusha. Ole demanded $250 each for his airline ticket to Uganda.
We were too tired and upset to continue arguing with him and we felt that we were at his mercy. We were again taken to a bank where we each gave him 250,000 TSH (total 500,000 TSH). He said there would be no more "surprises".
January 25: Ole and Abdul, our driver, picked us up after breakfast and we were driven to an ATM in Kampala to get Ugandan currency.
I asked Ole if I could borrow a few dollars from him until February 1, when I would have money in my checking account. At first he refused. I was tired, upset and sick and asked to be taken back to the hotel to rest. Ole eventually gave me 50,000 USH.
January 30: Gorilla tracking (without Ole) and it was incredible to be so close to these primates in their habitat. We stayed that night at Buhoma Rest Camp.
January 31: We drove all day. Ole was very rude to the waiter where we stopped for lunch and took it upon himself to scold some local Ugandans who were playing cards. It was embarrassing.
We made it to Entebbe barely in time to make our flight from Entebbe to Dar-es-Salaam. We ate dinner on the street in Dar at midnight and Ole took us to his house on the Mansani Peninsula to sleep.
February 1: We were left at the house with no food, no driver and no Ole until the afternoon when a driver came to take us to the airport.
I had earlier asked Ole for the airline tickets we paid for, so that I could write to Air Tanzania and request a refund. He did not bring them to the airport when he met us, but said he would leave them for me at the office when I returned from Zanzibar on February 7.
My friend boarded her flight for home and I flew to Zanzibar, without Ole, thank God.
February 1-6: I had a wonderful visit in Zanzibar. I booked the hotels myself on the internet and they were splendid.
While on the east side of the island, I told my story to Carola at Matemwe Beach Village. She was most sympathetic.
I had "googled" Ole before the trip and found an article written in Swahili. A member of the staff translated the article.
I quote his translation: "The transportation agent Mr. Solomon Olemwaipasi (35) has been sent to court facing money stealing accusal.
Reading the statement in front of the Justice Bi Khadija Msongo, the assistant police inspector, Mr. Dustan Kombe, said that on 5th June (2007) Mr. Solomon received US Dollars 2171 from Mr. Ebeneza Gabriel after lying to him that he would buy flying tickets from Tanzania to USA while he knew that it wasn't true.".
I realized that Ole was more than a bully and we had been his latest victims.
January 7: I flew to Dar-es-Salaam in the morning, where I immediately checked for the airline tickets we had paid for.
Of course, they were not in the Air Tanzania office. The woman working there put me in touch with an airport security person.
When he heard my story and the name Solomon Olepwaipasi, he said that he was a con-man who had stolen his car the previous year with a bogus check. Ole wasn't even a Maasai.
The security person took me to the police station at the Dar-es-Salaam airport where I filed a report with Manase Mkumbo for the loss of $420 and 9000.000TSH.
I realize that this has been a long story and parts of it are not pertinent to the crime committed, but my aim is to stop Solomon Moses Olemwaipasi from cheating other travelers out of their hard earned money.
What I have stated can be verified by airline boarding passes, hotel registrations, and ATM withdrawal slips, as well as my email correspondence with Ole.
Let me finish by saying that Tanzania is a wonderful place to experience a safari. The land is beautiful, the animals are amazing, the scenery is breathtaking and the people are friendly.
I do not know for sure if Ole is licensed, although he says that he is, so I will close with a quote from the Minister of Tourism:
"(1) Tourist Agents who are not listed here (TATO) are carrying on Tourist Agents business without valid license contrary to the Tourist Agents Licensing Act of 1969.
The Ministry wish to inform them that this is an offence under section 3(1) of the above Act and are therefore directed to stop forthwith the operations of those businesses.
(2) Given the above context in paragraph one, it should be further noted that only bonafide Tourist Agents will be allowed to enter the National Parks."
The highlight of the trip was definitely the mountain gorillas in Uganda.
The best accommodations were Tarangire Safari Camp, Rhotia Valley Tented Camp, Serena Ngorongoro, Lobo Wildlife Lodge in Tanzania and Mweya Safari Lodge in Uganda.
Charlene's Safari Details:
Rating: The scenery and animals were a 10. The experience with the guide was less than zero.
Safari company used: Maasai Conservation
Parks visited: Northern Tanzania and Uganda
Date of safari: January 9 for 21 days