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Botsawana Wilderness Safari

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.

Staff member

We are investigating the comments by Mr Pearce on this trip and will be responding in full in due course; a summary of the actions we have taken will also be posted online. For all clients booked on departures on this trip later in the year I kindly ask for your patience while we work with our local suppliers to ensure that all future departures run to the high standards that we expect from all our trips.

Many thanks

Jim Eite

Head of Product

Staff member

Botswana Wilderness Safari

Further to Mr Pearce’s comments (above) a number of actions have been taken to ensure our operations in Botswana deliver the standards of operational quality we expect in all the destinations we operate. A summary of these actions is provided below. All vehicles used in 2008 where completely overhauled for 2009 operations. These passed tough ‘roadworthiness’ tests in April 2009. Unfortunately, due to an internal administration error our literature was incorrect and the maximum number on each trip was in fact nine, not seven as previously stated. This will however change in 2010, when we will be using larger vehicles; the maximum group size in 2010 will be 12 clients.

On the clock - All vehicles used where overhauled (as mentioned above) in early 2009, and although it did have many miles on the clock this is not uncommon for safari vehicles. Many that you will see operating in Botswana, South Africa’s Kruger or the parks of East Africa may have in excess of 500,000 miles and will still be going strong. Fuel Gauge – An error occurred with the fuel gauge during this departure, for all those who have done safaris in Southern or East Africa this is not that uncommon, and is certainly not a concern as in addition to the standard 80 litre tank, a reserve 150 litre tank has been installed. This holds sufficient fuel to comfortably reach any destination on the itinerary. Temperature Gauge – This has been fixed following this departure. Radiator – We have been assured that there was no problem with the vehicle’s radiator, however there was a small leak in your supply vehicle’s radiator. The supply vehicle radiator was serviced earlier this year, but unfortunately leaks can occur even with new radiators due to dust blockages or stones hitting them. Handbrake – a new handbrake had recently been fitted which unfortunately developed a fault on this itinerary; this has now been fixed as a matter of priority. Fire Extinguisher – The supply vehicle was carrying the extinguisher on this departure. Winch – Our vehicles do not carry winches as towropes are considered to suffice. This is the same in many parts of Africa and with the vast majority of safari operators. Tow rope – All our vehicles on this trip carry towropes, following the snapping of one due to the dead weight of the mud all have been upgraded to six ton tow ropes. Jump leads – Al vehicles carry jump leads on this trip. VHF Radio – Both VHF radios were serviced prior to your trip; however there were issues in contacting the supply vehicle although the client vehicle could communicate with other operators’ vehicles. Both radios have been sent to the technicians to be fully checked. In other African countries, safari operators use VHF radios to communicate to spot game, however this is not the case in Botswana. The radio is intended as a means of contact should a group experience any problems and in this capacity it was functioning correctly. Satellite Phone – Botswana Parks Authority provide two-way radio reception, satellite phones are therefore not required and are not carried by the majority of local operators.Seats – The seats of the vehicle have not been recently replaced as our local manager felt that the current seating was adequate; we will however take this feedback on board and consider ways of improving customer comfort in future. Petrol Vehicle – The vehicle’s movement was not restricted because it was petrol. Client health and safety is of paramount importance to Exodus and the decision to not drive through deep water was in our opinion the right one to make.

Away from the vehicles we will be reviewing whether we can provide links so that our clients can book their preferred optional activities in advance.

Jim Eite

Head of Product


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