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Monday, September 24, 2012

African Safari Destinations: A Reliable Tour Operator to explore Kenya

Kenya is a country where it is very difficult to travel on your own. The reasons are many: high cost of accommodation, safety issues, reliability, dependability, accessibility for foreign tourists and more. Thus, most of the tourists to Kenya end up going through a tour operator. Even I had to go through a tour operator as I was unable to do bookings on my own (either accommodation was not available owing to high season even though I reached out to hotels/lodges 4 months before my arrival date or the accommodation was working out to be too expensive).

Special Lion Moments from Maasai Mara - 1
After a lot of research, I zeroed in on African Safari Destinations (ASD), a Nairobi based tour operator who organizes tours in Kenya and Tanzania. This is managed and run by Dipesh Galani. I selected them in spite of reading a lot of negative reviews about them on the internet. But, my confidence on them increased when I heard a lot of positive reviews from my friends and from corporates who had availed their services. Thus, I proceeded with them with a mixed set of emotions and with a little bit of risk.

One of the beauties of Maasai Mara
Below is my review of my experience with them. I availed their services for 10 nights and 11 days and I came out at the end of it with a great and happy experience.

1) African Safari Destinations is run by a person of Indian-origin. But, did that give me any confidence? I really don’t know.

2) They allowed me to completely customize the itinerary. I really appreciated this as I did not want to go on a package tour where the itinerary is built by somebody else.

3) Kenya has wide differences in standard of accommodation. Hence, it becomes super important to book in a quality place. African Safari Destinations ensures this by booking only in hotels of good standard. They will refuse to book you in a sub standard accommodation citing bad reviews from their earlier customers. This will take care of your hotel quality, food, safety, et al.

The Towers of Maasai Mara
4) The best part about touring with them was my driver and guide Nicholas, who was very knowledgeable about local conditions, had solid understanding of Kenyan Wildlife and birds (which I really appreciated since me and my friend were on a wildlife holiday and not a normal holiday) and the best part is that he cared about the national park rules and the wildlife. The last one is a quality that is very difficult to get given that most tour operators will break all rules just to please their clients and get a good tip in return. But, our guide was completely law-abiding. I really appreciated this quality.

5) The entire 11 days, I toured 1,500 kms and 14 game drives in their 4 wheel drive vehicle and had no problems at all. The vehicle was in good condition and never even once gave any trouble in spite of the horrible state of roads leading to Maasai Mara.

6) During my research with other tour operators, I found the African Safari Destinations to be marginally cheaper than the others.But, were they really cheap. I don’t know. But, I guess given the rush during the high season, they charged reasonably with not hefty margins.

A soft sunset over the Maasai Mara
7) I found them to be pretty trustworthy too. While making the bookings, they booked us into superior rooms and tents, but during the actual stay, we were booked into standard rooms (this is what we preferred) and the tour operator refunded us the excess amount.

8) The payment process was pretty straight forward. I had wire transferred 50% of the amount as advance and settled the rest in cash when I landed at Nairobi.

9) One of the comforting things in this engagement was the prompt way in which Dipesh and his entire team responded to my emails and phone calls and was always accommodative in spite of my umpteen requests and changes.

Overall, I had a good experience with them and I found them to be reliable.

If you wish to reach out to them, contact Dipesh Galani at dgalani@africansafaridestinations.net or at +254 786 747 804.

Note: Please use your own discretion while booking. This post is my personal opinion based on my recent experience and should not be construed as a recommendation.



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