|OUR GUESTS' PERSPECTIVE|
Our guests were Andy and Louise Godwill of London, England.
What made you come to Africa?
Visiting Africa has been a longtime childhood dream of mine. The opportunity finally came up and here we are. My wife needs her creature comforts so, we made our booking through Rickshaw Travels.
Why did you choose Rickshaw Travels as your agent?
I had heard from a colleague at work of a honeymoon couple who did a Namibia safari and Victoria Falls through Rickshaw Travels 4 years back. They had been really well looked after. I googled the company and was reassured to learn that they had more than two decades of experience in African travel.
I found their website and sent an e-mail. It so happens that they recently opened their London and Canada offices to personally serve their customers in Europe and North America respectively. That was smart, because the London office responded right away.
Was it easy to organise your Safari?
I always wanted to see the Serengeti and the migration-like views featured on BBC documentaries so I visited their office and the tour consultant was very helpful, he was able to get all my questions answered and we designed an itinerary through their London office via emails. Unlike other travel agents, this company actually has their people on the ground.
What do you mean by “on the ground”
Well, for example, their office in Kigali offers Gorilla Trekking Safaris. We visited Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater right here in Tanzania through their office in Arusha. Their Nairobi office handles Masai Mara and other parks in Kenya. Their 4 x4 car was impressive. Apparently, they own a fleet of cars for Safaris and offer personalized itineraries. I understand they can also arrange a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro.
From the sounds of it, you know a lot about them?
Well, after talking to our tour consultant and trying to figure out where in Africa to go, I learnt a lot about them in the process.
My wife kept changing her mind, trying to persuade me to go on a Caribbean cruise or Maldives but I wanted her to try this experience at least once. Now she is hooked and all her sentences start with ”When we were in Africa... Do you know that in Africa...”. It is a dream come true.
So you went to Serengeti?
Yes and also visited Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater.
Where did you stay?
The first night we stayed at the The Arusha Coffee Lodge. The local staff that greeted us were warm and friendly. Never having been to Africa, we were blown away by the beauty of the property. Just imagine sipping your morning coffee with zebras grazing on the lawn.
We found out that the property actually lies in endless acres of a Tanzania coffee plantation and was designed around the farms’ original plantation homes. The coffee served is home-grown and blended.
For the rest of our trip, we stayed at the Serena Ngorongoro Serena and Serengeti Sopa Lodge
What concerned you the most about travelling to Africa?
You know, the usual things - where to go, how to get there, is it safe?
Rickshaw Travels arranged all our tickets, accommodation, visas and travel insurance. They told us before hand to get our vaccinations so we were prepared. Apparently, They are the EUROP ASSISTANCE representative in the country so health wise, we felt we were in good hands and they could react quickly.
My wife also has a fear of unfamiliar places. She was worried we would not be able to have access to well prepared meals or have to travel in rickety planes. Not the case. There is private jet type plane that takes you around the Safari Circuit. It is brand new with a flight attendant and everything.
All my dietary restrictions were noted before we flew out from London.
I became quite sentimental while we were admiring an old lion make its way across the crater. I was munching on a baguette of feta and tomatoes, taking small sips of cold beer and I kept thinking what lucky souls we are to be here. Unreal.
Which parts were the most enjoyable?
Hard to say because there were so many. The crew was great in how they treated each one of us personally, as if we were treasured possessions. Must also add the awe-inspiring views and unique wild life. I will never look at a zoo with the same eyes again. My ultimate desire was to see lions and when we did, I could not imagine how we put such a magnificent animal in a cage.
Overall how was the Safari?
The guide during the Safari could communicate well in English. He even knew the various tree names and plant in Latin, trying to make us feel at home. Obviously I shed a tear... okay two... when I saw my first lioness with her cubs. It is an amazing, amazing experience. I cannot describe the crater, such stillness, the silence, absolute peace with thousands of zebras, wildebeests and impalas grazing on dewy grass.
At one point in the distance, there is a small lake dotted with hundreds and hundreds of pink flamingoes. I am not a fan of pink but since I have been back, I cannot look at the colour pink without smiling. Every now and then you would see wildebeests or zebras stiffening up in a synchronized motion, raising their heads looking at a point in the tall grass and the guide would immediately say shhh, SIMBA (lion in Swahili) and we would go quiet, holding our breath waiting for the lion to appear.
I felt like I was on the moon. It’s not something I could ever have, just wonderful, what can I say?
What about your travelling companions, how did they feel?
You mean companion. We were alone in our 4 wheeler during the safari. My wife was moved by the gift basket that we were given after touch down at the Kilimanjaro airport. Every item has a meaning and has been chosen carefully.
The team randomly gives goody bags.
It is a gesture meant to catch you unawares, I have been asked to continue keeping it a secret for future lucky guests. I cannot reveal the items inside.
As well, the pampering we received from everyone. Being such a fan of old school glamour and the class of bygone eras, my wife was delighted by the customer service. She enjoyed being called “madam’ by the friendly staff she encountered.
But did you get a chance to interact with other guests?
Yes, of course. Every night during dinner at the lodges, we mingled with other like travelers, all beaming because they can’t believe they have just come back from seeing wild animals in their natural setting. You would too. You see a lot of guests with their cameras reliving their experience through their pictures.
So what can you tell me of your overall experience?
Great! Once in a lifetime trip. If you can do it, then I say go for It. When we arrived in Arusha town, we stopped in front of the clock tower and our guide Sisti said, "you are now exactly in the centre of Africa, at equal distance between Cairo and Cape town".
Thank you to everyone who made this trip so fantastic!!!
We have made new friends, had thrilling, cherished moments visiting a Masai Boma and practicing Masai warrior jumps among lots of laughter. I was lucky to see so many animals that I had only seen on TV or at the zoo, roaming free.
Africa is more than what you think it is going to be: vast expanse of land, stunning sunsets, listening to unfamiliar sounds of lions growling under the starry night while sipping some excellent wine. These are all things I will remember for the rest of my life. Amazing.
How does Rickshaw Travels give back to the community?
Deepak, the team leader in Arusha, explained that all the fruit in the picnic boxes is locally sourced. He has gone a step further by teaming up a group of women to prepare cassava or banana crisps as snacks. It allows them to directly receive an income from visiting tourists.
All our souvenirs are hand made by local artisans and the Masai, the leather works hand- stitched by people from really poor households.
We are so grateful for this holiday, but even more so, that some of our monies have helped put food on someone’s table or contributed to the makeshift Masai school we saw during our visit to the Masai village.
Will you be coming back?
Most definitely yes! Hopefully with other family members, so we can share the experience. I would like my parents to see the crater and Serengeti. We are now saving for our next trip to Tanzania to visit the Selous National Park or even Kenya for a river safari and Masai Mara There is so much to see, I can’t even say for sure where we might end up.
So what else is on your bucket list?
On my bucket list? Umm a Champagne breakfast in a hot air balloon, over the Serengeti, watching the migration below.
On my wife’s: Go to Zimbabwe and do a helicopter ride over Victoria Falls and an elephant back safari in that area. You want to come?
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