Review of Orongai: Tour Operator in Tanzania

Travel Forums Africa and The Middle East Review of Orongai: Tour Operator in Tanzania

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1. Posted by capahaddock (Budding Member 2 posts) 4w Star this if you like it!

This is a review of my recent experience with ORONGAI AFRICA SAFARIS, out of Arusha, Tanzania.
I post it here in the hope that I can help others not to be cheated like I was.

Short story: cheats, crooks and unprofessional. Avoid this outfit like the plague. They offered us a price of 2150$/pp and three days before the trip they increased it in 650$/pp. Finally we were forced to pay 200$ extra and downgraded us from lodges to mobile tented camps.

Long story… It’s a long review, but I wanted to give all the details. If you are thinking of dealing with this people, I strongly advice you read on.

In December 2018 we got a quote from Orongai for a 7-day safari in northern Tanzania: Ngorongoro, Ndutu and Serengueti, for 8 people, all lodges. From February 16th to 22nd 2019. The price was 2,150 $ per person, total 17,200 $. I will send the quotation to anybody interested. Park fees, All accommodations, all transportation, and all Taxes/VAT were explicitly included. All lodges were mid/upper level: Lake Duluti Lodge, Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, Ndutu Safari Lodge and Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge.

The price was lower than others we had (first clue) and included a flight back from Serengeti’s airstrip to Arusha the last day, which was the clincher: “Around midmorning join a scheduled flight from Seronera airstrip to Arusha airport.” (sic). So, we agreed to this quotation: 2,150 $ pp.

In January 2018 we all paid a 30% (645 $ pp) by bank transfer. The remainder was to be paid on arrival in cash. The remainder was: 2,150 - 645= 1,505 $ per person, or 12,040 $ total. Two of us decided (stupidly, it turned out) to pay also our part of the remainder beforehand by transfer: 3,010 $ for two people. After this payment the remainder was: 12,040 – 3,010 = 9,030 $, for the other 6 people (who decided to pay their remainder on arrival).

On February 12th I received the following message from Martha, the person in charge of our trip: “just wanted to inform you that there is additional 650$ per person this is due to additional concetion fees at NDUTU area and Ngorongoro area that we’re not there before. We apologize for the inconveniences coursed” (sic).

Cursed indeed! This left us all worried, to put it mildly. It followed a frenzied interchange of emails with the said Martha, trying to understand the extra 650 $ pp, a 30% increase! We checked with TANAPA and other authorities and there had been no increase of any park fees for more than a year. Finally, after many, many messages back and forth Martha wrote to me: “Yes, I received the transfers and the cost is 2150$ per person plus the hotel payments fees 650$ per person. The total is 2,800$ per person” (sic)

We considered not going, but we really wanted to do the safari, we had already paid 645$ each (or 2,150 $ some of us) plus the flights, a dear price for us, and we decided to go (another mistake). We contacted the lodges where we were supposed to stay to confirm the reservation. They confirmed it, but at least one of them called Orongai to tell them we were asking.

On arrival we had a very long and very unpleasant discussion with Martha, a guide called Asseri and another guide Freddy (who, unbeknownst to us, spoke a bit of Spanish, but much less than he thinks). We tried to convince them to honor their original offer, but reasoning with them was impossible. They denied evidence and the most basic logic stone-faced. It was like talking to a wall. They said for instance that the word “Total” next to the 17,200 $ didn’t mean “all the money”. They insisted that the remainder was 12,030 $, and not 9,030 $ as we said, because of the additional charges of 650 $ per person. Which doesn’t even add up! If we had to pay an extra 650$ the remainder would be 14,230$. They further informed us that the flight back from Serengeti to Arusha was not included in the price, even if “All transportation” was explicitly included, because a flight is not “transportation”!

We called the Spanish embassy for advice. They put us in contact with a person in Arusha, who sometimes helped other Spaniards informally. He has more than 20 years of experience in the safari business himself. He was extremely, awfully kind. He tried to convince Orongai’s people for maybe another hour. He couldn’t.

Finally, we decided to take it to the “Tourist Police”, an institution created to deal with cases like this. We went there, a concrete bungalow in the outskirts of Arusha, bare of any official look or sign that I could see, and met with an official, a guy just dressed in jeans and a polo. We spent there another 2 hours, repeating everything to him (Orongai’s people speaking mostly in Swahili even if we repeatedly asked them not to). He initially seemed to lean to our side, but finally, probably tired of the whole thing, told all of us that this was not a criminal dispute and that we had to resolve the thing among ourselves. And left. So much for the Tourist Police. During this, we offered to pay 200 $/person over the agreed 2,150 $. Orongai rejected this.

We went back to the hotel at around 11 pm. We were leaning to cancel the whole thing and leave. Mind you, in the middle of the night, without a car and without a hotel, because the lodge we were in, Lake Duluti Lodge, told us that we would have to pay our rooms ourselves (~ 300 $/room) because Orongai wouldn’t pay if we canceled the safari. At this, Martha threatened us with legally/judicially demanding whole payment (her amount not ours), even if the safari didn’t go ahead, because “it would be our decision to cancel”.

After even more discussion, somebody suggested (I don’t remember who) that if we paid the 9,030 $ we still owed, PLUS the 200 $/person we offered before AND they downgraded us to mobile tented camps, instead of lodges, we could go ahead. Tired of the whole thing, and worried of what a judicial process in Tanzania would entail, we agreed to this. They, then, made us sign a paper saying that these changes were our responsibility because we had not understood the original quotation correctly. Without this condition, they threatened again, the deal was off and they would sue us for full payment. Some of us signed, under duress obviously. So that you understand this downgrade, a mobile tented camp is a far cry from a permanent camp, let alone a lodge. Some permanent tented camps are really luxurious. The mobile tented camps are most definitely NOT luxurious. In some, the showers didn’t even work, and didn’t have enough power even to recharge the batteries/phones if we all tried at the same time.

A very suggestive thing happened at the Tourist Police. Martha, to convince us that 2,150 $/pp was an impossible price, listed in a piece of paper, from memory, the actual cost of each item: car rental, several park fees, lodge fees, food, water, everything. The total came exactly to 17,000 $. This shows that they know the cost of everything by heart, and that the quotation they gave us WAS NOT just a mistake they made, as we thought at some point. This clearly shows that this was a deliberate and, more importantly, practiced scheme to cheat clients. Mine is not the only story like this. Check the comments on Orongai in the web, many of the negative ones are from people with relatively “high level” safaris. The ones that may be amenable to pay extra when confronted with problems. Another suggestive detail is something our friend said. That, at least the Ndutu lodge (there is only the one) was almost certainly full by September already! That by December, when Orongai supposedly made the reservation, it would be utterly im-po-ssi-ble to get four double rooms there for mid-February. Possibly the others too. This makes me suspect that some reservations didn’t exist. Instead, tented camps are easier to get at short notice. I sincerely believe that if we had paid the 650 $ extra, we would have still ended up either in lower-category lodges or in tented camps. Something that has happened to some clients of Orongai.

About the safari itself, one of the guides was nice (Freddy), the other (Asseri) wasn’t at all. He never made any effort to place the car in a good position for the photos and barely spoke at all. Both were a bit risky drivers. Especially Asseri who frequently texted on his phone while driving, took photos or even video putting his full arm outside the window. Some of the seat belts were either broken or "repaired" with a knot. The lunch food was quite poor and always the same, including a piece of chicken so deeply fried as to be mummified. Almost inedible.

All said, what most vexed me, far beyond the extra cost and the downgrade, was that it half-ruined the whole trip. The preparations, the pre-travel excitement (one of the best things), were all erased in a flurry of worry and anger. A lot of the time while we were there talking about it… it all embittered an experience that should have been exhilarating and special. They robed us of that.

Before the travel we contacted TATO (of which Orongai is supposed to be a member); Tanzania Tourism (government office) and TANAPA, asking about our problem. Only TANAPA answered. TATO and Tanz. Tourism didn’t deign. The American Society of Travel Advisors confirmed that Orongai is not a member, contrary to what it says in safaribookings.com

2. Posted by Peter (Admin 6672 posts) 4w 2 Star this if you like it!

Hi capahaddock, that does sound like a bad experience.

Can you please provide your full real name in your post and add a photo of yourself to your profile? Negative reviews like this can be posted by competitors and in order to trust them in any way, it is necessary to know who is actually posting this review.

If not, Travellerspoint ends up becoming liable for slander and that's not something I'm willing to wear for an anonymous review. So please - add some details about yourself that can be verified. I'll leave the post up for a day or two so you can add the extra detail.

3. Posted by capahaddock (Budding Member 2 posts) 4w Star this if you like it!

Subject: Review of Orongai: Tour Operator in Tanzania

Hi Peter,
I can tell you that my name is Francisco de Castro. I live and work in the UK. Moreover, I can assure you that I'm not a competitor of Orongai trying to damage their reputation. Everything I wrote in my review is true. There were seven other people in the trip that can vouch for it. About puting my name in my profile I don't want to do that, much less my photo. I realize you don't have to believe me.
Cheers,
F

4. Posted by Mrsmith9080 (Budding Member 3 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Like Tanzania many other countries have Honest operators who guide the people properly and perfectly

5. Posted by 55vineyard (Budding Member 26 posts) 3w Star this if you like it!

Wow, that is terrible, pity you did not pay by credit card as you might have been able to dispute some of the charges through them.