“ Operating organized adventure travel and holiday trips throughout Africa, South America, Asia, India and China. „
hi there, I was on a 60 day Dragoman trip totaling 4 legs starting on July 9th 2009 in Cape Town. The first leg went to Livingstone (trip code ZLC) the second leg went to Dar es Salaam, (trip code ZDL) the third leg went to Nairobi (trip code ZND) and the fourth leg went to Uganda and Rwanda and ended back in Nairobi (trip code ZNN).
It was a horrible experience, I would strongly discourage anyone from going on a tour with this company. Though I will admit the trip to Rwanda was actually ok, so if you feel a strong urge to go with Dragoman, that is a decent trip.
Why was it horrible?
1) the tour leader didn't know anything about any of the places we went through, and if he did he didn't care to tell us.
2) The tour leader was unapproachable and sarcastic. He talked down to us. It got to the point we were afraid to ask him any questions.
3) Neither the tour leader or the co-driver made much of any effort to pitch in at all (unloading the truck of tents and kitchen supplies). They would smoke and watch. Left us with a negative impression.
4) the itinerary was rushed. So when you read their itinerary read it with a grain of salt - do not expect to be able to do all the things they glowingly write about because you probably won't have time.
5) Dragoman accepts all customers even if they are not fit enough to do the tour - so be prepared for the possibility of having people on your tour who might affect the tour due to their health.
6) I wrote to Dragoman about my issues and they wrote back that I could have solved the situation by writing them while on the tour - at which time they could have a) put me on another truck or b)changed the tour leader. They did not account for the fact they do not have trucks going to the same destinations at the same time (I was on a very fixed timeline) nor the fact we were in the middle of nowhere a lot of the time so communication was difficult or the fact that they would have had to tell our tour leader he was being changed so that would have made him even more crappier than he already was. Though, to be honest they did say they let that tour leader go - so that is good.
7) Almost everyone on the first three legs of our tour was very unhappy with the tour. In fact there were some people who ended up crying at times (including myself).
Anyway, maybe we were supremely unlucky and other Dragoman tours are ok, but based on the fact that I had a horrendous time and that Dragoman did not seem to really care all that much tells me they are not a tour company I would ever want to deal with again. I'd hate for anyone to go through the same experiences as I.
Dragoman - It's a truck not a bus
Last November, hubby and I set off for our "last adventure before kids" - 16 nights travelling through Kenya and Tanzania before ending in Zanzibar on the beach.
We did this epic voyage with a world class overlanding company called Dragoman.
This is the story of our adventure.
We booked our trip over the internet simply by visiting the Dragoman website and checking out all of the trips that they do. When we booked there had been some political unrest in Kenya following the elections, so advertising showed a reduction in cost for the tickets. This piqued our interest, and I, because I do enjoy the finer things in life was worried about spending a long time on a truck and in a tent, so wanted to go for one of the shorter trips. We settled on Nairobi - Dar Es Salaam. The brochure said that most overlanding companies do the trip in 10-12 nights, but Dragoman take 14 nights so you can really experience the Serengeti and get up close and personal with the animals.
Booking was very easy, Dragoman recommended some flights for us, and these included a heavy discount better than anything else we could find on the net, so we booked, paid our deposit, and then started planning.
We were sent a kit list of essentials and nice-to-haves, and we duly went out and spent a small fortune on really heavy duty first aid kits (complete with sutures, drips and surgical knives - just in case); and an even bigger fortune on rabies, hepatits B and Cholera injections. Typically for us, the recommended Malaria tablets were also the most expensive ones on the market, so what started off as a relatively cheap holiday for what we were doing, soon escalated into being quite expensive. I guess it is like an insurance policy though, there is no value on your own health, so better pay for all of the immunizations than risk it.
Dragoman were supplying the truck, the tents (with built in mosquito net) and the crew, and we had to bring our own sleeping bags, airbeds/bedding rolls, clothes and kitty money.
Quickly the day of departure arrived, and we (somewhat nervously) set off for Nairobi. This involved flying from Norwich airport to Schipol, Amsterdam, and the Schipol to Nairobi. Unfortunately for us, snow occurred. I don't think Norwich airport were that well equipped to deal with the snow, so this meant we were 45 minutes leaving. We arrived in Amsterdam to discover that our flight was leaving from the furthest away terminal, in a pretty big airport, so we had to run from one side of the other, and made it to the check in desk with seconds to spare. We were the last ones on the flight, but luckily managed to get a block of 3 seats between the two of us, and had a pretty comfortable flight (not bad considering all of the reviews I could find of Kenyan Airways were really diabolical).
We arrived in Nairobi (I had been told this is one of the most dangerous cities in the world), and stood waiting for our bags to come off the plane. One by one all the passengers from our flight picked up their luggage and left, and we eventually realized that our luggage hadn't made the connection.
After pointing to diagrams of luggage we were eventually told that our luggage was still in Amsterdam, and that it would arrive later on that evening.
So with a heavy heart, and smelly clothes (snow weather wear doesn't go well in 40 degree heat) we got a taxi to the hotel that we were meeting at.
In the hotel we met up with our crew, Jax the trip leader, Alex the driver, and later on met up with Jackson, our cook.
We were taken to our first campsite just outside Nairobi national park, and taught how to put up our tents. We were all given a "job" to do for the length of the trip. Mine was stools. This meant that at every campsite I had to get the stools out of the truck and set them up for our meal, then clear them all away at the end.
We were divided into pairs, and given a rota for cook duty as well.
Then we met Josh. Josh was our truck for the next 14 nights. We grew to love him like a family member, and compared to all of the other overlanding companies that we met en route, Josh was by far the best, with the most character.
We were a fairly small group - 8 of us on the trip, plus the 3 crew members. This meant there was lots of space inside Josh to spread out. We had overhanging net "buckets" in which we could store things which we would need on a day to day basis, like first aid kit, guide books, toilet paper etc.
All of the tents were stored on the roof of Josh, under a big tarpaulin. Our big bags, and sleeping bags were stored in the back locker, and then all of the cooking equipment, our water supply, food and other bits and bobs were stored in locked compartments above the wheels of Josh. It was a very well adapted truck, painted a beautiful bright orange.
We all paid about $600 each for the kitty money, and one member of the team was tasked with being in charge of this. We used this money for the food that we bought, plus entry into National parks and the petrol for the trip. This way, it was our trip, and we could decide what we did and didn't want to spend the money on. I was a little dubious about this at first, but it actually worked out really well as we bonded more together when making group decisions.
Whilst in Nairobi we went to a Giraffe Sanctuary, visited an elephant orphanage, did a walking safari on Lake Nakuru where we got a boat through the Hippo infested waters, then walked among the giraffe, antelope, zebra etc finding animal bones and all kinds of interesting trails. Our campsites were mostly equipped with showers and toilets, and although they weren't of a massively high standard, they did the job. We could hear lions and hippos at night whilst laying in our thin canvas shelters, and it was all pretty special. We went to Elsamere, of Born Free fame, and had high tea in the Adamsons' house.
We headed through Tanzania, which was absolutely beautiful to the Serengeti National Park, where we saw lions, a leopard and her cub, hundreds of hippos, millions of giraffe, zebra, bison, buffalo, pelicans, flamingos, baboons, monkeys, rhinoceros, hyenas, cheetah. It was absolutely breathtaking. At night we slept in the middle of the Serengeti for 2 nights, we made sure we had no food in our tents, but it was quite scary hearing the lions and growling right outside.
We did a balloon flight early in the morning, and while we weren't lucky enough to see the great migration while we were up there, it was an amazing experience, and after all the camping we appreciated an English breakfast and couple of glasses of champagne!
After the Serengeti we headed over to the Ngorogoro crater where we saw the elusive elephants that we hadn't seen in the Serengeti. There was a high concentration of animals inside the crater, and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting in our jeep being whizzed round by Lionel our guide.
Back in Josh, we met a masaai tribe and had a trip to their village, visited an orphanage and met all of the children where we spent some time with them, and then left them a huge food hamper that we had all clubbed together to buy.
As we headed further south the temperature was getting hotter, so it was strange when we drove past Mount Kilimanjaro one day and saw the snowy peaks.
We eventually arrived in Dar, where we spent the night camping on the beach, before heading out on a ferry to Zanzibar. It was at this point that we waved goodbye to Josh who was sadly to heavy to come on the ferry. Apparently an overlanding company had tried to take their truck on the ferry and it had sunk!
We spent 3 nights in Zanzibar, visiting a spice plantation, doing snorkeling trips, and generally chilling out. It was an amazing end to an amazing experience and one that I will never forget.
Whilst we were on the trip, at a lot of the campsites we stayed at, other overlanding companies would also be staying so we got to socialize with other trips, and see their trucks. In all honesty our truck was far and away the nicest truck. Some of the others had seats which all faced inwards which meant if you wanted to look out of the window behind you, it meant craning your neck. Josh had forward facing seats, and was also the only truck I saw which had a roof seat, so while we were going through the Serengeti we could sit up high and watch the wildlife go by.
I would definitely recommend an overlanding trip to anyone considering something different, and definitely would recommend Dragoman.
There was recently an article in The Times about overlanding trips, and Dragoman came out the clear winner as the best and safest overlanding company.
One thing you have to remember though, is that you are on a truck and not a bus. The tour leaders get quite offended if you call it a bus!