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The ABCs of booking a safari

Arusha, Tanzania


View Tanzania 2005 on GregW's travel map.

Today I booked a safari starting tomorrow. 5 days, 4 nights in the Serengeti, Ngorogoro Crater and Lake Manyara. I will try and post pictures when I get back, but that might not be until Toronto. Unfortunately, I am having trouble getting the pictures out of the camera and onto these African computers.

I am staying right now at the Novotel. The Novotel is full of people who booked safaris back at home, and thus have EVERYTHING arranged. The hotel seems to play on this, and tries and make the guest afraid of the ground beyond the hotel. There is a sign that reads something like this:

Don't leave the hotel.
If you need to leave the hotel, don't leave the hotel on foot.
If you are going to leave the hotel on foot, for GOD SAKES TAKE A GUIDE WITH YOU!

A guide? To walk in town? When the doorman saw me wandering out this morning and rejecting his offer of a taxi, he was very distressed. He gave me one of those looks that says, "you, sir, have no idea what you are doing, and the touts and conmen will eat you alive."

He pointed at my camera case slung around my shoulder. "Please sir, be careful. This is not safe out there."

I thanked him, walked into town and booked my safari.

Actually, to be honest with you, I didn't book the safari. I and up to 5 other people booked the safari. You see, when you go to book a safari in Arusha, you get all sorts of help. "My friend, you are looking for a safari. I know a good company. Let me take you there. You just check it out. If you don't like it, I take you somewhere else." And with that, soon you have a group of people leading you from company to company so you can compare prices and options.

And, of course, you are asking yourself, what are these people getting out of it?

I once had a boss named Ray Lui. Ray was a salesman through and through. He used to love using the acronym ABC, which he stole from the movie Glengarry Glenross. ABC means Always Be Closing. No matter what you are doing, you should be working on getting somebody to sign a deal with you. That's the salesman job.

And that it was my friends showing me around Arusha's safari companies were doing. They were getting ready to close. Close on what? Whatever they had. "Ely from the Block" (swear to god he told me that was his name) owns a curio shop that I took a look through after booking the safari. "Rasta Carlos" wanted me to go to Tanga after my safari instead of Zanzibar. "It's much nicer and much cheaper." Everyone is carrying around a roll of paintings to sell you on the spot. "Later, maybe after I get back from my safari," I would say, to which they would respond, "but they are very light."

And that it why it is perfectly safe to wander around Arusha as a tourist. Because there are SO many people who see you as an ATM full of American dollars bills ready to spill out on tours and curios and paintings and god knows what else. If anyone as so much laid a hand on me today, I am sure that I would have had 20 men come to my rescue, who would have then taken me to their shop where they sell authenic African carvings.

So after reviewing and rejecting all my friends offers of extras, I headed back to the hotel. And I took some pleasure in smiling smugly at the doorman and patting my camera case. I can take care of myself.

Posted by GregW 19:35 Archived in Tanzania

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