Please note this is not for the 18th Spetember 2009 trip, but the website defaults to this.
This will probably be one of a few poor reviews / complaints from the latest Botswana Wilderness Safari that returned on Saturday 29th August, relating to the vehicles provided and a few other items of note that do not seem to be correct. The trip was good, but for the money we would have expected a better standard of vehicle to allow us to enjoy the trip and get to all the areas that all the other vehicles in Botswana were able to get to.
I quote from one of the responses by Karen Finlay (Africa Regional Manager) to a review of the trip from last December that reinforced my view to book this trip 'All our vehicles are regularly serviced and must all pass road worthiness tests, they have therefore confirmed that all vehicles are up to the job. However, it is recognised that the vehicles are coming to the end of their useful life in terms of comfort for clients which I apologise for, we are therefore in the process of upgrading all our vehicles for this tour for the 2009 season'. This was not the case... Our vehicle had 330,00 on the clock by the time we finished the trip and was definitely not new with a range of faults listed below some of which the group regarded as very serious (e.g. no emergency communications or equipment to get you out of a river quickly). It also seems that many of us who enquired as to the numbers on the trip and occupancy in the vehicles were all told the same story...
'each vehicle carries a maximum of seven people, one in the passenger seat and three rows of two, to allow for a maximum of seven per vehicle'. This was not the case. We had nine people, in three rows of three which restricts your viewing / photography greatly and was a big letdown. Botswana Wilderness Safaris (incidentally not the company we were given as the emergency contacts in the joining instructions) always it seems intended to use one vehicle of nine people for this trip. These two facts leave to me feel that we were somewhat misled over the trip. Here is a provisional list of faults that I will add to my review to be posted on your website some of which would in my opinion be not regarded as “roadworthy”.
- Fuel gauge – Not working – risky travelling when you are not sure what you have in the tank.
- Temperature gauge – Not working and not ideal when you have a leaky radiator.
- Radiator – Faulty (supply vehicle had to be welded to fix a leak during trip and our vehicle leaked as well though not as bad).
- Handbrake – Not working – Landcruiser had to be left in gear when stationary and engine turned off.Fire extinguisher – Missing (there was a bracket for it but no extinguisher)
- Winch – Missing. Neither vehicle had one. Basic equipment to help solo vehicles get out of rivers / sand.
- Tow rope – Missing – We borrowed one to get out of rivers.,
- Jump leads – Missing – Our battery failed after getting stuck in a river crossing. Neither vehicle had jump leads and we were lucky that an Italian couple had stopped (as we were blocking the only crossing) and they had jump leads we borrowed.
- VHF radio – Not working. Restricts the options to find animals, let alone a basic requirement for emergency communication.
- Satellite phone – Absent (a useful backup that should be available as the VHF radio does not work).
- Front windbreak – would last only a few minutes at high speed on any long stretch of road at high speed making it uncomfortable in the back.
- Seats – Last but not least the seats were not very comfortable at all, having compacted most of the padding over the years so that when you go over a bump the combination of poor suspension and lack of padding leaves you bouncing down onto the metal edge of the seat. Very painful.Our vehicle was also petrol not diesel, which we were told also restricted our movement through water as they are more likely to get flooded and have further problems. This combined left us in vehicles that Mr Fish was unwilling to risk going through water unless it was our only choice. Imagine knowing there could be something of interest 100m past the water and all the other vehicles could go through and we would turn back. For the money we paid, we expected newer good quality vehicles as Exodus had implied with sufficient space to allow us to enjoy the full range of locations available to us. In this case I feel we were let down by Exodus, and would like a detailed explanation as to why this was. The viewing of some of the animals we would have wanted to see more of during the trip were limited due to the weather earlier in the year which was unfortunate and beyond anybody’s control. However compounded with the inability of the vehicles to get fully utilise the areas of the parks / reserves due to the vehicles' inadequencies our opportunities were even more restricted compared to other groups.
The activities in Zambia at the Waterfront should be booked in advance (Exodus shoudl provide contact details). Of the two I really wanted to do only one space was available on the day we were there and one was cancelled. These may to be booked in advance or you will miss out. In addition the trip notes / joining instructions need to be updated, e.g. emergency contact details are wrong and breakfast on the last day is not included.
I have complained to Exodus and was told it may be a while before my complaints woudl be addressed. Personally I thought they shoud be addressed straight away as they replicated what had been said the year before and had obvioiusly been ignored.