Arusha: Sunday Delays

by on February 23, 2014; Africa; Tanzania; Travel

Being fairly exhausted from our bus trip over we didn’t feel like immediately leaving to brave Safari touts, so we took the early afternoon off to have a siesta. Unfortunately, this went on a bit to long and by the time we were back in the organising mood most of the safari companies were shut. Which was fine, we could check back on them tomorrow – or at least that’s what we thought. What we hadn’t thought of though was that tomorrow was a Sunday, and unlike in Nairobi where all the safari companies seemed to be open for business seven days a week, Arusha was far more sensible. When we turned up the following day the only companies available for business were those of less than stellar repute. We still chatted to a couple, and were almost swayed by our friend from the bus station (very smooth talker) but in the end he promised too much for too little (e.g. being able to book us into a Special Campsite with one days notice when previous enquires with reputable companies have said that they need to be booked months in advance) in addition to far too many positive reviews from Trip Advisor members that had been on eight Safari’s that year and all with Arusha-based companies but had reviewed nothing else. It’s a shame though, it was a hell of a good price.

Since we had most of the day to kill, we decided to try our hand with some of the street vendors getting a Tanzanian guidebook and a ki’swahili phrase book, given that the bookstores were also closed for Sunday. We had limited success with the Arusha touts continuing to live up to their reputation with one saying Farah had something wrong with her head when she didn’t want to buy a collection of photocopied A4 pages as a phrase book for 20,000TSH (=$15NZD); we eventually purchased a fantastic pocket guide for 18,000TSH from a bookstore. We had another group follow us for six blocks after I refused to buy a third hand ex-Calgary City Library Tanzanian Lonely Planet guide for 85,000TSH (=$63.87NZD), eventually purchasing it for 35,000TSH (=26.25NZD) just to get them to stop following us. When we got home we pealed off the 85,000TSH price tag only to find 25,000TSH written in pen behind it! No doubt they were laughing all the way to the bar, but they seemed genuinely insulted when I opened negotiations at 20,000TSH.

The following day we spoke to the remaining Safari companies and booked in our Safari in with a company called Budget Safari’s. It was an easy decision in the end with Roy’s Safari’s, the other option we were considering and probably the biggest company in Arusha, ignoring us when we came to their office. When we finally did speak to someone they were really uninterested in answering our questions or discussing the different options. A strange experience given that we were used to safari companies fighting for our business. No matter, if they are disinterested before taking your money we can only imagine how disinterested they would be after we’ve paid.