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Daniel   –  
Denmark DK
Visited: December 2022 Reviewed: Jan 14, 2023

Email Daniel  |  35-50 years of age  |  Experience level: first safari

The review below is the personal opinion of Daniel and not that of SafariBookings.
I was looking forward to the safari ending.

TL;DR: The safari is amazing; the accommodations were pretty decent; the company was not great.

My partner and I booked a four-day, three-night safari from Arusha in late December 2022. At first, I was pleased with the constant updates and communication from Marta, my journey designer. We made the first 50% payment, via credit card, and almost immediately we were asked for the 2nd 50% payment. It was a little awkward because we're talking about thousands of dollars here. We had been previously staying in Arusha, so we didn't require a pick up from JRO, and we expected to meet our guide in the morning on the start of our safari.

And that is where my qualms began. I had to reach out to SoT to confirm the guide would meet us at the hotel, I wasn't provided his or her name at all. The morning of the safari, we checked out of the hotel at 8AM promptly, and had to go searching in the parking lot for our guide - it seemed like he couldn't be bothered to actually meet us. In fact, the first thing he said after hello was how much he expected to be tipped at the end of the safari. Off-putting, to say the least.

The car was fine, it wasn't that updated and the charging ports didn't work. It certainly managed across the rough roads and terrain. There was water for us, which was great, but there was also no hand sanitizer or wet-wipes, which in a post-COVID world should probably be standard. Setting out from Arusha, we made a pitstop to "support the local community" and were basically asked to buy trinkets from folks at a roadside gas station. Moving on to Manyara, the animals weren't out but our guide was indeed very good at spotting them and highlighting them for us. There were several times, however when we had an opportunity to take pictures of certain animals (giraffes, for example) that we asked him to stop and he did not, saying we needed to be "kept on schedule". After blasting through Manyara, we made two - two - pitstops at gift shop tourist traps. We expressed our non-interest in doing so, and the guide told us that we would stop because he got credit for how many tourists he brought and would get a present at the end of the year. It was frankly a bit annoying that it seemed like we rushed through Manyara just to spend time at gift shops selling the same things, and yet another Tanzanite Experience, neither of which we wanted to do.

The first night's accommodation was fine. It was us and another solo traveler staying at the Mandhari Lodge as the original accommodation was booked up. The food was fine, nothing to write home about. The bed was comfortable and the coffee was strong. The staff was friendly and I really enjoyed chatting with them. The second day was a long drive to Serengeti which was fantastic. The guide was informing us about the great migration, and how we would see a lot of wildebeests and zebras. However we stopped at **two more** gift shops and were asked multiple times if we wanted to go to a masaai village and make a "at minimum" fifty-thousand schilling donation. We were exceedingly clear we didn't want to stop at anymore gift shops nor the masaai village and it seemed that it annoyed our guide.

The accommodation at the Acacia Central Camp was by far the best of the entire four days. The staff at Acacia was professional, warm, helpful, and just a great deal of fun to be around. We clicked more with the guys at Acacia than we ever did with our guide, unfortunately. The dinner and breakfast at Acacia was wonderful, and the bed and tent were sublime. No notes.

The third day was more Serengeti and the drive back to the Ngorongoro Crater. Ngorongoro was fabulous, however we were slightly disappointed at the accommodation when we arrived at the Pakulala Luxury Safari Camp. This was also the most expensive accommodation (at $740/night) and so I think we had a certain expectation that the food would be fantastic and the place would be comfortable. We were disappointed - the food was fine, but not great. And there was no electricity so we sat eating dinner with a high-powered halogen light in our faces. Not entirely sublime. We don't discount that the remoteness of the camp makes it more expensive, but the camp was also located between two permanent, luxury lodges, that were priced not that much more than the camp.

When we booked the safari, we contracted that the SoT would take us straight from our fourth day at Ngorongoro to JRO for our evening flight. We spent the entire safari reminding the guide that this was something we expected - he very clearly did not want to take us to JRO and in fact arranged for another driver to take us - he drove us to a mall outside of Arusha where another driver picked us up and took us to JRO. It was super awkward.

Finally - the lunches. The website goes to great lengths to say that your lunches will be the envy of other safari groups, with hot plated lunches and wine. We had three plated lunches, all variations of spaghetti bolognese and all stone cold, to the point that I was curious about food safety concerns. The wine was fine, it was incredibly inexpensive South African wine that was served room temp and in glasses that weren't cleaned. The lunch on the last day was a piece of cold pizza wrapped in foil and some cookies and juice. I was really not impressed with the lunches and I strongly advise a potential customer for SoT to manage their expectations.

My partner and I were happy with the animals on the safari and with the people we met - we had a fine time with the guide though it seemed like he was pre-occupied with other things, to the point of watching videos while we were stopped trying to take pictures of animals. We certainly don't discount that safaris are expensive, and that we were in an expensive country. However, we definitely did not feel that SoT, nor our guide appreciated just how much money we had spent to even do this safari - we felt a little like we were treated as an ATM, and it soured the experience a little bit. Our guide tried to even have us agree to stop at the same four gift shops we stopped at on our way out - it was a bit much.

I also got some insight from a friend in Arusha who runs another safari company (I didn't know this before booking with SoT, else I 100% would have). She informed me of the things that she does for their clients (provides a recommended list of packing, reminders for sunscreen, bug spray, etc.,) and I realized that SoT was only communicative when it came to getting the payments - I never received a recommended list of anything, a highlight of what to expect, emergency contact information, nor even the name or picture of the guide so that we could find him on our first day.

Do the safari - it's an incredible experience and you will want to do more. We do, but we will not go with SoT the next time

Brent R   –  
Canada CA
Visited: September 2022 Reviewed: Oct 12, 2022

Email Brent R

The review below is the personal opinion of Brent R and not that of SafariBookings.
Mixed experience with Soul of Tanzania, likely would not use them again.

We booked a lengthy safari through Soul of Tanzania that included gorilla trekking in Rwanda and a 12 day safari through Kenya, Tanzania and back through Kenya. This review will focus on the role of Soul of Tanzania - i.e. planning, communication and execution of the actual logistics of the safari. Accommodations will be reviewed separately (with 1 exception) on their own merits. Every segment had a different operator, which in and of itself was an issue, but ultimately I worked with, and paid, SoT, so feel there is a role of overall accountability with them.

The Good:
Communication, responsiveness and professionalism with Luis throughout the planning process was excellent. Looking back, I think this is the "hook" that people look for. Our assumption was that the execution on the ground would have that same level of professionalism and this was simply not the case, for reasons mentioned below.

All our guides were there upon our arrival point - pick up at the Kigali airport, Nairobi hotel, border transfers between Kenya/Tanzania/Kenya, which was a welcome relief.

The guides were mostly good, with one horrible exception. Our itinerary meant we had 4 different guides. 3 were generally good but 1 in Kenya was very poor. As mentioned on SoT website (and it's true) that guides make the experience. So to have a very poor guide is not acceptable to me. All were good drivers and we always felt safe when in the vehicles. Mugabe in Rwanda was very personable and Shafino in Tanzania was excellent.

When I shared my concern/frustration with guide/vehicle in Kenya, Luis did offer a Land Cruiser and different guide for the second Kenya portion.

The Not So Good:

One of the first transfers arranged through SoT was from our hotel in Nairobi to the airport to fly to Kigali. They no-showed. It meant us hastily having to connect to wifi to WhatsApp SoT on a Saturday morning. The woman who answered sounded half asleep and rather annoyed and I had to coordinate with her and the hotel to have the hotel drive us and be paid by SoT. I was not happy. When I emailed Luis his eventual response was "sounds like it worked out". Yes but it was ME doing the legwork, otherwise I would have been waiting forever, as the driver had not communicated that he was not there.

The hotel for gorilla trekking in Volcanoes National Park - Mountain Gorilla View Lodge - was awful and should not be offered. We had no hot water for 3 days, it was dated and run down. Not the responsibility of SoT, but just should not be an option. In Rwanda the day of the gorilla trek there was no lunch provided on the trek. It was absolutely required, we were hiking in difficult for conditions for most of the day. All 6 others in our group had been provided a packed lunch. Thankfully I sourced some of my own snacks. The Ibyiwacu Cultural Village was listed as optional on our itinerary and we expressed our desire to go. The guide said we'd have to be pay $20/each entry. I questioned this given it was listed in our itinerary. It should have been included. Again Luis was responsive and suggested an alternative, but it shouldn't have happened in the first place.

The guide and vehicle in Kenya for the Lake Nakuru/Masai Mara portion were not good. When he picked us up at the hotel in Nairobi to start the safari there was no welcome, no overview, no introduction - just get in the vehicle and go. Within 3 minutes of leaving, the guide asked for $20, which was an apparent shortfall in the amount paid but had been resolved prior to even leaving with Luis. Very poor first impression. We were surprised that the vehicle was a minivan. I guess this was in the fine print somewhere when we were booking, but it is a very poor vehicle for a safari. I could not see out the side window without slouching down. Imagine being on safari and not being able to look out the window properly... This guide was actually just a driver. He provided almost no information on flora or fauna and did not spot one single animal on his own. We just followed the masses of vehicles or would go to a location based on the radio chatter. At picnic lunch, we mostly set up and packed up ourselves. He was eating before we were and at one point was burping in front of us. It was entirely vulgar. At the end of the first Kenya portion on they way to the Tanzania border, he started asking for the $20 again! I was so frustrated by this point, it resulted in raised voices. For the amount we paid AND that the issue was resolved and documented via email, this was entirely tone deaf. When I provided my feedback to Luis on the guide his response was that the guide would be immediately suspended, but guess who we saw on the first night at second time in Kenya. Just saying what they think the customer wants to hear.

The food. The SoT website really markets their food as a differentiator. It was not. At all. Of the 12 days, we had "hot" lunches twice. And they were cold by the time they were eaten. Trust me, there was absolutely no food envy by any other safari goers. And not ONCE was a table and chairs set up. It was either on a blanket on the ground or at park site concrete picnic tables. Most days were cold lunch boxes like every other person had. In fact when we enquired about hot lunches at some of the accommodations (including the Four Seasons), they said they will not provide them due to food safety issues.

There was too little information provided on the details. With a trip of this magnitude, I would have expected more details than a 1 page summary of the itinerary. There should have been much more information provided prior to departure on what to expect, how to prepare, etc. We had to source all of this entirely on our own. As previously mentioned, when we started the safari in Nairobi, there was ZERO information provided, just get in and go. I had to ask if he was going to be our guide or is he a driver, etc. The accommodations provide varying inclusions in terms of beverages with meals. Some offer full open bar, some offer beer and wine, some you even have to pay for water. There should have been a short summary provided on each place and what to expect, inclusions/exclusions, etc. We learned we had to ask about this at each check in. Other travelers had professional looking folders full of information provided by their tour operators, luggage tags, etc. We were not provided with one single item.

Soul of Tanzania appears to be a marketing name only. The providers (even in Tanzania) were not SoT. They seem to just be an organizer who then contracts to guides, vehicles, etc. In Tanzania alone, the guide and vehicle was actually branded Exclusive Africa Safaris and another vehicle was branded Gosheni Safaris. This seems to result in an overall lack of cohesion and accountability.

Drive times were understated by up to 50%. This became a running joke, and not in a good way. 4 hour drives as stated in the itinerary would become 6 or 7 hour ordeals. There needs to be transparency and honesty in drive times based on the (very poor at times) road conditions.

For us the animals and some the accommodations we chose made the trip. Would I do a safari again? Absolutely! Would I choose Soul of Tanzania again? The answer is, unfortunately no.

Mauricio   –  
Brazil BR
Visited: June 2024 Reviewed: Jun 18, 2024

Email Mauricio  |  35-50 years of age  |  Experience level: first safari

The review below is the personal opinion of Mauricio and not that of SafariBookings.
Do NOT recommend

I have been struggling with doing business with this company since my early talks with them. I have requested phone calls to understand better the offerings and choose better what would be the best options for me and my wife, and think that's not asking too much right?
The hotels we stayed that were recommend from them were expect melia and the cliff that were really our exceptions.
The cars were OLD, rusty, outlets wouldn't work, seats were super uncomfortable, and they were not branded soul of Tanzania or Spirit of Kenya, I think we were not important customers so they "outsourced us" to different companies.
The water offered in the game drives were room temperature.
The guides made a good effort to find some nice animals life, but I would look for a different company.

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