I got back from my safari. It was the worst experience of my life. I will attach the e-mail I sent to the US rep. I am still awaiting a response 6 days later. I am also awaiting $7,200.00 in deposit money (10 days and counting).
Here is my e-mail to the US Agent. (Just FYI, 400 hectares is about 900 acres):
I am back in the office, but I wanted to take a few minutes to fill you in on our trip. I have nothing positive to bring from this experience. From the moment we arrived, it was absolute chaos. Please note that I am speaking for myself and of my own experience, but suspect that my companions, on some level or another, will agree with what follows.
When we arrived at OR Tambo, we were met by Adele and her husband, Anton. Unfortunately, neither of them knew where we were headed. We got into the car, where we were told, "Welcome to SA, you are now a walking wallet." We drove out of town, and stopped at a truck stop for an hour as Anton tried to get ahold of Chico to figure out where to take us. Once he figured this out, we realized we would not be staying at Steyn's camp. Instead, we were to be carted off to the Limpopo, reportedly nine hours from where we thought we would be staying.
When we were were dropped off with Chico in Nystrom (sp?), he had clearly been drinking. On our way up, we stopped at a restaurant, because Chico did not know if there would be dinner at camp that night. Chico had another rum and coke. He drove us to Lephalale, where we met up with Sampi. Sampi had clearly been drinking, and still had a rum and coke in his hand when we arrived. We stood around for 1 hour. We don't know why. On the drive from Lephalale to Camp, Chico thought it would be funny to race Sampi, so he passed him at well over 120 KM an hour. When we hit the dirt roads, he thought it would be funny to make Sampi "eat his dust," so he sped, slowed down, sped, slowed down, sped, all the way to camp.
All in all, it took 9 hours to get from OR Tambo to camp.
When we arrived at camp, we were disappointed to say the least. Where were the luxury linens? Where was the pool (there was a pool, but you couldn't see the bottom for the muck)? Where was the internet access (which was essential to me, a traveling lawyer)?
Neither Sampi nor Chico had ever stayed at this camp. On numerous occasions both Sampi and Chico proclaimed they would never stay here again because it was so terrible. However, neither one considered our interests and attempted to remedy the situation. Here are a list of the problems with the camp:
1. Breakfast was served 4 times in 10 days. One of those days it consisted of yoghurt and granola. Another, there was not enough food for four people, let alone the seven who were there. 2. Lunches on 7 of the days consisted of white bread, margarine, and either one slice of tomato or one slice of bologna. There was a packet of crackers, a piece of fruit, and a juice box. On the other 3 days, we got either a cold hotdog, a cold sausage, or a cold hamburger. 3. We were allowed to eat game on 3 out of the 10 nights. It was very important to us to be able to eat African game. Despite shooting two impala, a kudu, a steenbok, a pig, and two gemsbok, we were fed game only thrice. One night we received gemsbok steaks, another we had warthog stew, and another we had impala stew. No one ever got to try kudu or steenbok. 4. Laundry was done twice in ten days. I don't believe soap was used. 5. Location, location, location. I drove nearly 1.5 hours every morning and evening to and from my hunting grounds. I drive far less to get to my hunting grounds when I'm not on a hunting vacation. 6. Our bedsheets were never replaced.
This was far different from the accommodations we had been looking forward to relaxing in. We expected:
"a beautiful main building where you can relax in the bar and lounge or unwind in our Jacuzzi and pool overlooking the spectacular views of the mountainous terrain. Private luxury suites lie hidden in the lush bushveld which makes for a perfectly tranquil, indulgent getaway particularly after a long day of hunting. First class lodging is air-conditioned en-suite and equipped with oversized baths, luxury linens, and all the comforts of home to make your stay as comfortable and memorable as possible. Each suite has its own private balcony offering sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. Additionally, as our guest you will enjoy daily laundry service, internet, cellular, and satellite television access during your stay."
With respect to food, we looked forward to the following:
"Our culinary chef prepared meals are of impeccable standard. Savor hearty bush breakfasts, midday feasts, and evening meals prepared to your liking with an African flavor and accompanied by a fine selection of famous South African wines, aperitifs, and local beers. Evening cuisine is served in the main lodge with amazing views of the African Bush, or in the Boma beside crackling fires, where guests may experience the sounds of the African night under starlit skies."
I was offerred wine on two occasions in 10 days, despite my questionnaire stating that I would like to drink regional wines and beers.
The Hunting Grounds
I hunted with a guy named Koos. He was a 3rd PH, apparently hired by Steyn because Chico and Sampi didn't know the area. He was a nice guy, and very understanding. He owns a cattle/kudu farm. It was rather large (approx. 1000 hectares), but the only animals on it were kudu with a smattering of impala and a few gemsbok. There were warthogs, steenbok, and duiker as well (since these critters can't be fenced). Unfortunately, the first kudu I ever saw were at a trough, next to a shed/blind, eating alfalfa. When we drove up, they looked at us (from 7 or 8 feet), and went back to feeding. Aside from the horns, it was impossible to distinguish the kudu from the cattle.
The other ranch I hunted was 400 hectares. During my conversations with you, I was informed that the smallest ranch we would hunt would be 7500 acres. The size of these ranches was a huge disappointment. I saw high fences numerous times during every day, not just upon our arrival.
My guide (Koos) allowed me to spot and stalk. I shot a steenbok and a warthog. Chico and Sampi insisted that spot and stalk was "impossible" (a word I heard quite often), and refused to try it with the other guys. Although I never spent time in the blinds with Chico or Sampi, my companions report that their guides slept most of the day, and asked only to be awoken if something they wanted to shoot came in.
Chico and Sampi also decided to hunt during this trip. They spent two evenings in a blind hunting bush pigs. I feel this was inappropriate, but perhaps it is common in Africa for the hosts to abandon their guests to get some hunting of their own in.
When they were around the fire, most of the conversation was in Afrikaans, so we never really knew what they were talking about. They were quick to switch to English when talking about tips. One night Chico and Sampi went on and on about the crummy tips they have received in the past, and how they had threatened hunters to ensure that tips were paid on other occasions.
The Final Day
The form that was given to us when we purchased the hunt said "10 days of hunting for plains game species for each hunter." There is nothing that mentions this will include only 10 days of lodging. We booked our tickets in December. No one ever informed us that our last night of accommodations was not to be provided by our package. Our expectation that it would be provided was reasonable; how can you have 10 days of hunting if you must leave halfway through day 10? This misunderstanding was made worse by the fact that no one told us we were leaving on day 10 until 1 PM on that day. We got a phone call saying that we needed to be back by 3:00 so that we could pack and leave. That was the first I heard that we weren't leaving the following day. If we were to leave on day 10, why was our ride scheduled on day 11? Why didn't anyone ever ask us where we needed to be picked up? Why did no one ever suggest that we needed a place to stay on the last day?
I was astonished when Steyn attempted to charge us $400.00 per night to stay at an $80.00 per night bed and breakfast. The rationale was that we were "hunters," despite the fact that we were told our hunting was over at 1PM earlier that day. It was the false imprisonment later that day that fundamentally repulsed me. As we were trying to make arrangements, Steyn officials told Chico and Sampi that we were not to be allowed to leave the facility. We were also told that we were going to be charged $400.00 to stay at this facility we could not leave. Chico did a few hours of wrangling over the phone in Afrikaans, and eventually we all loaded in the truck and left. I rode with Sampi for 2.5 hours under cover of darkness to Chico's house.
This whole scenario could have been avoided had someone informed us that we were going to leave on day 10. We would have gotten a hotel (at a rate far less than $400.00 per night), and arranged our rides.
The Pre-Trip Communications
Prior to the trip, I sent numerous e-mails to Tracey at Steyn. She was unresponsive. I have attached the e-mail exchanges. One very important aspect of this trip for me was visiting Kruger National Park. I rented camera lenses and trekked with nearly $3,000.00 in equipment so I could take some memorable photos of Africa's animals. Instead, the only photo ops I got were of kudu over feeders. I chose not to take these photos, as I was embarrassed that this was what I had come to "hunt."
Our group's desire to make this trip to Krueger was no secret. I was greatly disappointed that I didn't get to go.
The Trip to the Airport
The Shuttle was 1.5 hours late picking us up. We spent that 1.5 hours standing in a Wimpy parking lot. When the shuttle finally arrived, we asked to be taken to a curio shop. We passed one, and they asked "like that one?" We said yes, acknowledging that a rural, roadside shop was what we were looking for. Instead, we drove all the way to OR Tambo without stopping. Once we were within sight of the terminal, the driver made a turn north, back to Pretoria, and we drove another 35 minutes to a giant, commercial gift shop.
When we got to the Airport, we were escorted to terminal A, which was where we were told our flight was departing. After waiting in line for 30 minutes, we were informed our flight departed from terminal B. We traversed the airport again, and waited another 30 minutes for checkin.
I can't express my disappointment in words. I will never return to Africa. I spent two years preparing for this trip, and was not provided with the benefit of my bargain. It was impossible to relax amid the dingy accommodations and massive disappointment. This isn't a comprehensive list of everything that went wrong. But now I must put it all behind me. I just thought you should know how we were treated on our safari.
Looking at their site the wording seems "shifty". They talk about the main lodge but then talk about being taken to "your hunting camp", inferring at least that it is a different location than the "main lodge".
Sorry to hear you had a bad experience. Far too often when I see videos of people hunting in Africa it doesn't look too much like hunting. Sounds like your experience was similar. Again, very sorry to hear.
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Bigfoot Flatliner 55@28 64" (New!) Spirit LB 55# @28" 62" Posts: 201 | From: NY - Niagara County | Registered: Oct 2011
| IP: Logged |
Wow, sorry for the bad trip. Africa is my hunting goal for this decade of life. I would lose my mind if my trip turned out that way.
-------------------- Traditional Bowhunters of Washington PBS Associate Member Jairus & Amelia's Dad "Memories before merchandise!" Posts: 2134 | From: Southwest Idaho | Registered: Dec 2007
| IP: Logged |
Sorry to hear about your bad trip. I'm reading between the lines a bit and wondering if this is your first trip to a third world country? Things that we consider intolerable at a hotel at home are standard in a lot of the world, like poor water pressure in the shower, having a long drive to get to the destination etc. I take that stuff as part of the adventure and roll with it. Other things like not enough food, no wine with supper etc. should be able to be worked out with a quiet conversation with the host.
I suppose sometimes one really has to fight to be treated the way we should as clients. Did you check references? I know there are great operators out there looking for business we really should be giving those guys our money, not sending it to outfits like this.
Posts: 1254 | From: canada | Registered: May 2007
| IP: Logged |
It was supposed to be a 3-4 hour trip from the airport. Daily laundry service, hearty bush breakfasts, midday feasts, etc. The quiet conversations netted us nothing. The guides were complaining, too. This camp wasn't owned by the outfit, so they had no control.
Bottom line is, this was a $400.00 per day hunt. It may have been a third world country, but it was not sold as a third world retreat. References checked out fine, because they all stayed at the Steyn camp seen on the website.
This is simply outrageous. Their website looks very impressive. Your unfortunate experience simply added more weights to recommendations from this site ie reports from members which ones are the go n ones that are no no...hope you will receive some form of compensation n relief of this terrible ordeal.
-------------------- Siewho Posts: 70 | From: Western Australia | Registered: Sep 2009
| IP: Logged |