After spending the last two months reliving my time traveling through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe with Nomad Adventure Tours in my day-by-day series, I think it is only fair to my readers that I give you my thoughts about the company itself.
I have made no attempt to hide the fact that I was contacted by Nomad Adventure Tours to partake in their Cape Town to Victoria Falls twenty-day camping tour. In August 2011, after mentioning on Twitter, as well as on my blog in my Big Announcement post, I had expressed interest in doing an overland tour in Africa. Within days of the post going live, Jess, Nomad’s amazing social media guru, contacted me to let me know about the company she works for, Nomad Adventure Tours. After discussions with her and my travel partner, we decided to take their offer of a discounted tour in return for blogging about my experience. All experiences, thoughts and opinions of my time touring around Africa have remained my own and were in no way swayed by any discounts that I received.
The following post contains my thoughts about the company.
Between Jess, Reshma, Claire and Leoni I felt that I was fully taken care of. Initially, I did not have a particular date picked out, and with the commencement of my round-the-world trip, the last thing on my mind was to be getting into the nitty-gritty details of booking an overland tour in Africa over half a year away. These ladies were beyond patient with my travel partner and me; always following up every month or so to see if we were ready to commence our booking process; and always promptly answering our questions – no matter how stupid they may have been. Once a date was picked, we were quickly booked on. This date ended up not working out for the tour company and they quickly let us know that they did not get the minimum numbers required to run a tour – they offered us two different dates and we ended up going with the May 13th departure.
Despite the very professional and knowledgeable sales agents and various contacts at Nomad Adventure Tours – I have one complaint regarding pre-departure, and that is ease of payment. I was told that I could either pay via direct deposit, credit card (no AMEX or Diner’s Club) or cash. Initially I would have chosen the credit card option – however, it was going to be subject to a 5% fee – which given my discount of the tour price, I didn’t feel it was worth paying with that method. I opted for the direct deposit option – and had my travel partner pay for the both of us from her bank. When we made our deposit to secure our spots we realized that Nomad Adventure Tours’ bank details that had initially been given to us were wrong, and the payment did not go through. We tried again with new details for the company and it was accepted, however we were also charged a hefty bank fee on our end to conduct the direct deposit. This same issue of the money not being received happened again when we made our direct deposit on the remaining money owed- and again we incurred a hefty bank fee on our end to make the direct deposit. Had I known it was going to be such a hassle, I would have simply paid by credit card and taken the 5% hit. Oh well – live and learn. I would suggest that the company also makes PayPal an option for those travelers who use the Internet to make their bookings.
The pre-departure information package that was sent to us upon the company receiving our deposit was very thorough and contained tons of useful information. Kudos to whoever put it together, I felt it was very well written and completely prepared me for my overland journey.
The lead guide and driver were both seasoned veterans and despite doing the same route numerous times were still able to make it feel fresh and new and were able to get the guests excited about activities and locations. The trainee guide seemed to have been thrown onto the tour with very little prior training, and it was as if he was more of an assistant to the guide and driver and/or a fellow guest. He will make a great guide one day, but I feel that he needed a bit more tour specific training prior to going out on tour with us.
The truck was in very good shape and we didn’t encounter any issues such as flat tires or breakdowns –something I had been warned is not unusual to happen to overland trucks traveling throughout Africa. The design of the truck’s interior was great. The lockers at the back of the truck were spacious enough to fit my 85L backpack and fairly big daypack and still leave a little bit of room. The four front inward-facing seats were a nice change to the other twenty front-facing seats – although when sitting in those inward facing seats, it makes watching the scenery a bit more difficult. There were sufficient power points in the truck, which were made available for us to use to charge up electronics once we hit a powered campsite (most were). The only recommendation I can make for the truck is that perhaps some sort of strap system can be used to keep the sleeping mats from falling into the aisle (or on guests heads) from the overhead area.
The camping equipment was in fairly good shape – there were a few issues here or there with poles and zippers on the tents, but overall I felt the camping gear was in good shape considering how much they get used. We had two large metal camping tables that we used at mealtimes, which even came with tablecloths – this was a surprising and helpful bonus. The camping chairs were in good shape and there were more than enough for my group of 18.
The campsites chosen were all very nice – giving travelers a variety of different types of campsites. They all seemed safe and facilities (when applicable) were clean and despite the large group, I didn’t ever experience a freezing cold shower. We did stay at a few places that we were warned to lock up our valuables in our lockers and that the truck would also be locked at night – so that was a bit of peace of mind for the travelers to know that the guides were taking every precaution to ensure none of us had anything stolen.
The included activities such as climbing Dune 45, the sunset dinner on the ridge of Fish River Canyon, the visit to the Ghanzi bushpeople, as well as the game drives in Etosha National Park and river cruise in Chobe National Park were very well conducted. There were a wide variety of included activities that gave travelers an authentic and unforgettable African experience allowing them to encounter people, view wildlife and experience the ever-changing African landscape along the Cape Town to Victoria Falls route.
The optional activities were always made available and we were encouraged to partake, if it fit into our budgets. There were various bush walks that were made available for a small fee – all of which I participated in, were very informative, entertaining and interesting. I also partook in optional game drives where I got to see even more African wildlife – including large congregations of elephant, some buffalo, and other various wildlife species. The options were endless, everything from horse riding to skydiving to township visits to relaxing at a spa – the available activities catered to every type of traveler.
The activities included in the optional ‘Activity Package’ included the unforgettable bush camping excursion into the Okavango Delta, the Himba tribe visit and the Victoria Falls National Park entry were good value for money. I felt that these experiences were some of the top ones of the tour- and I highly encourage people to purchase the Activity Package for this tour.
Mealtime was always a treat – Shingie was a very talented cook and nobody went hungry. There were often times enough for people to go for seconds. Breakfast was basic, most of the time – bread and cereal with an array of different spreads. We did occasionally get treated with some eggs, beans and bacon for our morning meals- very unexpected but quite a nice touch. Lunches became monotonous – consisting of sandwiches and salad (and occasionally a pasta or potato salad if there were leftovers from the previous night’s meal). This is pretty standard of most tour companies – and I wasn’t expecting anything different. Shingie made sure to give us a wide variety of sandwich meat options throughout the duration of our tour. Dinners were always lovely – no complaints, they were delicious and hit the spot after our jam-packed days.
THE FINAL WORD
I cannot speak highly enough about my experience I had with Nomad Adventure Tours. Between the enthusiasm of the staff (both on tour and those I was in contact with prior to my departure), getting to see the amazing sights on the well-thought-out itinerary and having received enough prior information to properly prepare myself for my trip to Africa– I am very happy that I went with Nomad. I can easily say they truly gave me the ultimate African experience and I cannot wait to return to travel around Africa some more with them.
**If you would like more information about Nomad Adventure Tours and their products – contact me!**