Sam's Exotic Travels to Kenya '07- A Story of the Good, the Bad and the Truly Ugly
Not all tours are created equal - and my July 07 trip is the exception that proves the rule.
I booked the recent trip for my son and I to Kenya, which included a day and a half stop over in Cairo from a US Tour company, following an email from their representative requesting a link exchange and our continuing discussions. The trip was booked through Vacation Safaris, Overland Park, KS USA. They have a website, You can look it up if you want.
After seeing the proposed itinerary and flights (which weren't great as the trip to Cairo had an 8-hour layover in both Bangkok and in Amman, but I figured no pain, no gain), I sent them my deposit - only to find that the flights had not been booked - and I was sent a new schedule which showed two full days to reach Cairo (arriving in Bangkok at 1am, leaving at 11:30pm) plus the layover in Amman. When I replied that this was not acceptable - and if it wasn't possible to get a short connection in Bangkok I would accept an afternoon flight there on the previous day and spent the night and day sightseeing before continuing at my expense. After being told over a course of the next week that it was being worked on - I found that the tickets had already been purchased online through Expedia - which means that they couldn't never had been changed AND really brought up some serious questions in my mind if the company was a true licensed travel agency as their website maintained.(1) Anyway, I bought an earlier one-way flight myself - and could have got one for half the cost IF I had told me the truth to begin with - all which did not generate a great deal of confidence.
Egypt was a disappointment - with only a 6 hour tour in the day and a half (plus a pretty lame dinner cruise the night before) , and we were dropped off at a hotel in a seedy section of town at 3:15pm the second day, picked up at 7:30 and delivered to the airport over an hour before check in time and four hours before the night flight to Nairobi - but not totally unexpected from what I had encountered earlier.
But this was only the prelude. When we were met by the driver/guide at Nairobi's airport, I was told there was a big miscalculation and that I needed to pay an extra $US1,000 - and I was given no option except to pay or stay. My urgent email to my contact at the tour company proved useless
Here's a brief summary:
1. I was required to pay $480 for park fees for the six parks we visited.
2. I was required to pay $320 for reservations at The Ark - even though I learned from the manager there that this had been prepaid. The money was obviously for the driver.
3. I was also required to pay entry fees to visit two tribal villages ($100) and for a cultural show in Nairobi ($20)
My agreement clearly stated that all these costs were included (2)- plus two other items we didn't get:
1. Tour of Nairobi and cultural show on our first day in Nairobi - we ended up spending the full day (7am - 9pm) in our hotel room, which was not in an area we could safely walk in, as I would have had to pay an extra $150 for the half-day.
2. Lunch on the last day at Carnivores Restaurant, a popular restaurant, because I would have had to pay another $160 out of my pocket. We ended up eating lunch at a fast food place and did not eat dinner because I had NO money left at that point.
The safaris were good however.
(1) I was later told that since all their trips originate from the US, they didn't have contacts with carriers operating out of Hong Kong, hence the Internet booking.
(2) Since I have returned the tour company did reimburse me $340 on my credit card and an additional $250 or back a couple of months later. The balance owing was never refunded
Due to all the stress of the trip or whatever, I caught a virus on the flight back which caused me to spend the first three days in bed sleeping (with headaches, fever, muscle aches) - quickly followed by a bad cold. I am well now (knock on wood).