My husband and I went on a 10-day semi-luxury safari with Safari Infinity for our honeymoon over Christmastime in 2013. From the start of planning to the day we returned home, our experience with Lucia and Simon at Safari Infinity was amazing. Everything reached far beyond our expectations!!!
We got married in September 2013 and of course had no time to plan our honeymoon until after our wedding. We knew we wanted to do something really unique and experience something that was "once in a lifetime." Tanzania was one of the top places on our list. We went to a local travel agent to do our initial research and had conversations with an agent there that was connected to many other safari operators. He offered some options and prices. Honestly, we weren't fully satisfied with the information, only because we couldn't sense the safari experience through glossy brochures. Then I remembered that a friend of mine travelled on a safari just a few months before. I learned of Lucia and her team and there began our real planning.
We really loved the direct contact that we had with Lucia. She operates directly out of Arusha and we knew she had contact and details about all her drivers and all the lodges. We loved how there was no "middle man" or agent between us and the safari operator throughout our planning. Lucia was ALWAYS so prompt with her replies with all our questions regarding pricing and accommodations, down to the smaller details like the shape of the truck in which we would be travelling. Whenever we emailed her, we would literally wake up to an informative email from Lucia the next morning. Not only was this important in easing any worries, but also because we only had three and a half months to book and plan our safari. The matter of time was crucial for us.
We began to be impressed with their service even before we departed Toronto. Lucia had offered to help us plan the Zanzibar portion of our trip for us, which was a lifesaver during our busy schedules. She knows tons of lodges in all price ranges on the island. We let her know our budget and she suggested several that were available in the very busy Christmas high season. During this planning, she hit a snafu with the final lodge that we had to book. After a delay in their response, they had informed her know that we couldn't stay with them because there was a minimum 6-night stay during this high season. Of course, because of their delayed response, we had lost some chances to book with other lodges. Lucia amazingly took the initiative to contact the hotel management and complained about their inconsiderate services. The result, we were able to book for our two-night stay and our honeymoon planning was complete!
Regarding our flights, Lucia connected us to a Canadian travel agent who specialized in trips to Africa. Their services were also top-notch and they were very dedicated to finding the BEST price for us. Be sure to ask Lucia for her preferred travel agent. Payment was the only thing that made us hesitant in the planning process. We were to wire money to Africa and this would be our first time having to do that. Lucia made sure to let us know when she had received the money. There was absolutely no glitches with the multiple payments we had to make and Lucia made sure to send us professional payment receipts after each one.
Our trip began with a shaky start but not to any fault of Safari Infinity. Departing in the middle of December in Toronto of course becomes risky business in terms of snowstorms. Of course, to our bad luck, we departed during the evening of the first big snowfall of the season. We were delayed for four hours on the tarmac. This caused us to miss our connecting flight in Amsterdam, which then resulted in a detour to Nairobi before landing in Arusha. Instead of landing in the evening before Day 1 of our safari, we landed the morning of Day 1 and began our safari right after arriving! We were on very little sleep after being enroute for 26 hours. But once we landed, we were full of adrenalin and were ready to go see some wildlife! Oh, also add into the mix of the shaky start - our luggage was delayed in Europe. We were out of clean clothes for an indefinite time.
Lucia was always in contact with us while we were enroute to Arusha. We let her know through email that our flights were delayed and she made sure to revise our schedule to suit. Our driver, Fazal was met us at the airport at the revised time. Fazal was so patient with us while we were getting the paperwork done for our delayed luggage.
I have only heard good things about Safari Infinity's drivers and I can only say very good things about our driver, Fazal. He speaks very good English, always had a smile on his face from Day 1, and he exudes passion for his job, Tanzania, and its wildlife. He even brought us a great surprise when we first met him at the airport! Because we were out of clean clothes for an indefinite time, the first place he brought us was in the middle of town in Arusha where we had our first local market experience! We were successful in finding some underwear and fresh shirts. This is where Simon Kombe, Lucia's life and business partner met us! He also had a smile on his face all the time. He asked us to give him the airline's paperwork for our luggage and told us that he would do his best in tracking it down for us. This was great news, as the language barrier that we experienced while trying to do this at the airport left us feeling very discouraged.
I am not going to do a day to day write-up on our entire safari experience. But I will highlight a couple of incidents that shows Fazal's and Safari Infinity's great organization, services, and genuine personalities involved. Fazal, for one, was amazing. Because of his passion for the land and the animals, he always knew where to go and how to have us enjoy it as he would. From the very beginning, he told us that he will take us off the beaten track whenever he could so that we could have our true private safari experience. He never let us down about this. More than once were we the only ones watching a pride of lions in the middle of the Serengeti, hours at a time. We spent two ours with a cheetah one afternoon. We were always a speck amongst 2 million migrating wildebeests and zebras. We saw a black rhino in the Ngorongoro Crater!! We went to visit some of his old friends at a Masai boma. We walked through a local market at the base of high mountains in the Great Rift Valley, where we met people whom have never seen tourists before. Fazal has eyes that are better than a hawk! He can spot a lion that looks like a rock from afar! He stopped the car one time and we thought it was for a large elephant or lion, but no. He had stopped it because he saw a tiny dung beetle rolling its eggs on the road! I have no idea how one could spot something like that in a large moving vehicle. He made sure to show us the big and the tiniest creatures of Africa. It was all amazing and intriguing. Fazal can tell you so much about the behaviour of elephants, lions, cheetahs, dung beetles, bees, rhinos, snakes. Everything. I was thinking that we should of brought a wildlife book for our trip but I'm glad I didn't bring the extra luggage. Learning from Fazal was much better than trying to find it in a book.
Another highlight during our trip related to our luggage. Simon was always in touch with Fazal during our trip. It is incredible how far cell phone reception reaches in the plains of Africa! On our third day Simon had great news! He had tracked down our luggage! Him and Fazal organized a pick-up spot. Had our bags arrived one day later, we would of have been too far along in our circuit that we would of had to pick up our bags at the very end of our safari. A Safari Infinity colleague had met us in a small village between Tarangire and Lake Manyara to hand us our bags. Seeing our bags waiting for us amongst the mud huts and dusty roadside stalls in the middle of Africa was one of the best feelings during the trip! I don't know what other safari operators would of done if this luggage debacle happened to one of their clients. We were so glad that our priorities were also Safari Infinity's. Never had a fresh t-shirt felt so good!
Leaving mainland Tanzania was actually one of the saddest moments of the trip. We had an emotional goodbye to Fazal, who dropped us off at the tiny local Arusha airport. He made sure our bags went through the right people and that everything was good to go before he drove away. We were sad to say goodbye but happy to have made a new friend! Fazal was not only a driver for us. Ten days in the bush with a person whom you first met in a foreign land can be intense. For us it was an opportunity to make a new friend, talk about life in Africa, life in Canada, compare our lifestyles, and just be educated in the most fun way possible.
Our trip to Zanzibar was blissful. It was a great way to end our trip. This was the time when we reminisced about what we saw on the safari and also enjoyed the real African heat (way hotter in Zanzibar than mainland). The food was great and scene was amazing. Service was always went a bit 'pole pole' ('slow and easy' in Swahili) but we were on vacation so what was the rush?? We slept so well and had no plans except to enjoy eating fruits while sitting on the white powder sand.
Safari Infinity's their business is transparent, and their operators are VERY organized and dedicated. I can't say enough great things about them. We would go back to Africa in a heartbeat. We miss it already and we would for sure book with Safari Infinity again if and when we have the chance! It was great to directly support a local business and we would have done it no other way. I highly recommend them! Thank you so much, Safari Infinity!