Some of you may remember that I posted earlier about going to Tanzania and Rwanda, and you gave me some great advice. So I took that advice, and researched and dug and made spreadsheets and eventually caved and decided I needed professional help. So then I contacted a bunch of tour operators with good reviews on TripAdvisor, and then did more research and made more spreadsheets and now I'm overwhelmed.
I simultaneously love and hate planning trips. Bearddamnheroes is mostly useless in this area, and responds to pretty much any inquiry with "whatever you think is best" or "we'll have fun no matter what you decide" or "don't worry too much about the money, just do whatever will be least stressful and make for a good trip". Useless.
So here are the main decisions I need to make.
1. How committed am I to doing a gorilla trek in Rwanda? My stomach has been tying in knots trying to make this decision. So many people here and elsewhere have said that it's a once-in-a-lifetime, life-changing opportunity, and I believe it. It's also ridiculously expensive, both for the trek itself ($750 per person for a permit!) and for the extra international flight and visa when I could instead do the whole trip in Tanzania*. Additionally, bearddamnheroes sometimes has some trouble with his knees, and I'm nervous that he'll be miserable doing a potentially tough hike. On the other hand, I really don't know if we're going to have the opportunity to do this trip again anytime in the near future. We have so many other trips we want to do, and we're also talking about kids in the near future.
Cons: Less days on safari, more money, concerns for bearddamnheroes' knees
Pros: FUCKING GORILLAS LOOK AT THIS GUY
2. Trying to decide on a tour operator. This has been really tough. I've been weighing the itineraries, prices, and general ease of communication with each one, and I'm down to probably two top contenders (possibly a third who has been very friendly and communicative but has yet to give me a solid quote or itinerary because he has been waiting on confirmation of availability from his contacts). I threw out the rest who were rude, not willing to work with my dates, confusing, or otherwise difficult to deal with.
Group 1: Oddly, this group is based out of Canada, but the guy used to live in East Africa. The guy has been so helpful and quick to respond, and gave me some very professional itineraries with links to details on each site, accommodations, and explicit explanations of what is and isn't included. The accommodations are really swanky looking places, way nicer than I had planned on. But when I asked if he could offer more budget places, he looked into it and said due to the season and where his itinerary has us going, the places he quoted are the best cost-wise.
Group 2: This group has offices in Tanzania and Uganda. The itinerary was very good, and very similar to Group 1 (also includes a visit to a Maasai boma, which I hadn't planned on but would probably be cool). The accommodations are more what I was expecting, with budget type hotels and tent camps (which have beds and running water). The woman has been pleasant enough, but slow to respond, and getting information from her has started to feel like pulling teeth. "Does this quote include X?" "No, that would cost extra." "Ok, could we include X?" "Sure, we can do that." "...How much would that cost?" (each a single email, exchanging 1-2 emails per day). BUT. This quote is much cheaper than the first. Less of a difference than I thought at first, before I realized what wasn't being included, but even having (hopefully?) sorted that now, it comes to $900 cheaper overall for the two of us. But is this a "you get what you pay for" type situation?
Group 2's lack of communicativeness makes me nervous, and I'm kinda leaning towards Group 1 with his friendly helpfulness and fancy professional-looking itineraries, but then I start thinking I'm crazy for wanting to spend that extra money.
HOW DO I DO DECISIONS. HALP.
*If we instead do the whole trip in Tanzania, we would probably do an additional day on safari, and then a couple days in Zanzibar on the beach.