We really wanted to share this email (100% un-edited). We love all feedback and to be honest, this particular email made our day! And for the record… YES we are hoping to give you all a new Active Adventures destination by 2016!
I am an Active Alum (Tortuga 2010, Jaguar 2012, Annapurna 2013, Tui/Kauri 2014) and just recently returned from a trip to South Africa using a tour operator other than Active (gasp). I booked the trip with some apprehension as I have never used an active/adventure tour operator other than Active. Were my apprehensions justified? YES! I thought of Active the WHOLE time. Why?
CLIENT SERVICES, CLIENT SERVICES, CLIENT SERVICES!
1. The tour operator, based in England, contracts out to local tour guides for all their trips. While the tour operator offers a wide range of tours, those responding to enquiries may/may not have experience with the actual trip– itinerary or country. When asking specific questions about the country or the itinerary, I was often met with vague or incorrect information. I would often consult my old Active gear list or tips when preparing for this trip!
2. The local tour guides were far less ‘professional’ or accommodating than any of the tour guides I encountered through Active– whether it be in South America, Nepal, or New Zealand. My dietary requirements were often forgotten or ignored (and sometimes met with rolling eyes). We were often fed very little or with such little thought in meal preparation. I and other tour members often bought our own food to supplement the food provided to us– not as a snack but as part of the meal! The local guides catered to their own tastes first and left it to us to eat what they liked or buy our own food. Many times, the local guides would eat most of the food!
3. There was no sense of this being “our” holiday. While I enjoyed the notion of participation camping, in which each tour member participated in setting up camp or cleaning up, I often felt that it was the tour guides holiday more than anything else! They certainly had more fun with many of the activities than their clients and did not guide in the true sense of the word. We were expected to be independent in activities like snorkeling, where we didn’t know where all the fish were, and the waters were rough and cold. At times we were left sitting in gale force winds with beach sand whipping our face (I suppose it did exfoliate my skin…). I felt that the guides were excited to be on this trip for their own enjoyment and couldn’t wait to drop us off at the airport at the end of the trip.
4. Safety. I will not detail the erratic driving of our guide but not once, did I feel scared during an Active trip. I could NOT say the same about my experience in South Africa!
Overall, my experience in South Africa was phenomenal. However, I could not help but think of how Active would handle the tour and make it so much better (even with participation camping). While I hope Active expands to cover the world, I recognize how the high quality of Active tours requires expansion to be a slow but steady process. I appreciate all the work Active has done in cultivating local relationships and finding exceptional local guides that LOVE sharing their native country to others.
So thank you for all your work and raising the bar so HIGH!