Jennifer Tice review 2 Aug 2011
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
Hiking to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro was a memorable (and, on summit day, very challenging) accomplishment. In the Serengeti we saw three male lions attempt to hunt a hartebeest, which was amazing, and an elephant scratch himself on a tree before he charged our vehicle (that got us to leave quickly!).
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
The "Trip Details" document that the tour operator compiles for the tour has a ton of useful information both for planning the trip (e.g., detailed itinerary, what to pack) and during the trip (e.g., tipping guidelines). This tour is a combination of three tours, so there are different guides (and orientation sessions) for each section. Some people in our group did all three parts, but some joined only for individual sections. I was lucky in that I missed Ramadan, but I should have looked to see when that was to avoid traveling in Zanzibar then (when most restaurants are closed during the day).
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?
The tour did benefit local people, in that it relied on local tour operators (only the lead coordinators were funded by the tour operator in Toronto). For example, a local agent led the Kilimanjaro Climb, which included 4 guides (one from the tour operator), 5 assistant guides, 2 cooks, and 24 porters for a tour group of 12 people!
In addition, the tour's "Trip Details" document mentioned several things that we could bring on the tour as donations (pens, pencils, notebooks, etc.). Based on that suggestion, several of us on the tour brought donations (or purchased them there). We informed the safari guide, and the guides adjusted a local village tour (if we hadn't said anything, it wouldn't have been done) so that we could give the donations to an organization that helps people with disabilities and houses an orphanage. People also donated unneeded gear and clothing at the end of the mountain climb and safari to the guides, porters, and their families.
In terms of environmental impact, I think there's a lot more that could be done; however, I didn't see anything that led me to believe this company was worse than others. On the positive side, the safari tour company (a subcontractor) used recyclable/Tupperware containers for picnic lunches instead of disposable containers, as many other companies used. On the negative side, the Zanzibar tour company (another subcontractor, and the only one of the three providers we did not have a good experience with) advertised swimming-with-dolphins tours, even though the information we had from the tour operator (in the Trip Details) said that this activity is not condoned because of how it disturbs the animals. (I called the guide on this, and he said that had been a concern in the past, but no longer; however, I didn't buy it. This is something I will report to the tour operator; I'm going to suggest they change local tour companies in Zanzibar, for a variety of reasons.)
None of the groups at camp in safari did anything to put out campfires - they just left them burning all night (even into the morning). It seems like spreading out the coals and/or covering the fires with dirt or water would help reduce particulate air pollution and haze, which there seems to be a fair amount of (I noticed a lot of haze - a lot of which is from the dirt roads, I'm sure).
While I didn't notice guides littering, it might be helpful for guides on Kilimanjaro to teach "leave no trace" principles to clients. There's a lot of TP and other garbage on the mountain, especially higher up (it wasn't quite as bad on the trail as I'd heard, though); the summit is especially littered. The least we can do is not make it worse. I picked up litter (not TP) on the trail on my hike out on the last day.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
It was an excellent trip. We had a wonderful tour group, especially for the Kilimanjaro portion, with people from Europe, North America, and South America. The mix of activities was great - climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was a tremendous accomplishment and a fun way to explore different habitats; seeing African animals in their natural habitats was amazing, and I enjoyed visiting local tribal villages and even dancing with some Masai; and we capped it off with souvenir shopping in Stone Town and relaxing on the beach in Zanzibar.
Read the operator's response here:
Thanks for the kind words Jennifer. I have also hiked Kili, and the trash in places is alarming. We encourage all our travellers to collect some on the way down the mountain. Together, we hope to make a positive difference.
Manager Customer Satisfaction