Tour Guide Africa (TGAFrica) Series #3: Exceed Expectations Tours and Safaris

Today on the Tour Guide Africa (TGAfrica) series, we have Oscar Laurence Swai, a tour guide based in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania where he leads safaris and adventure tours including mountain climbing at Exceed Expectations Tours and Safaris. In this episode, we learn about his business, explore his top destinations in Africa, the best places to visit in Tanzania, top travel tips and much more.

The Tour Guide Africa (TGAfrica) Series, is a weekly group of interviews with local tour guides and operators who are powering the African tourism industry.

Hello Oscar, tell us about you, your career, and how you started Exceed Expectation Tours and Safaris?

I love traveling and I enjoy the countryside which usually is less busy than most cities. From an early age, I always looked forward to a time of visiting a relative living far from our home which meant traveling for hours, while others dreaded it.

I love sharing knowledge of the destinations we work in with visitors who often experience something different from what they read or watched on TV (too bad sometimes media concentrates on the negative). It’s been said that people come to Africa (Tanzania) for the attractions but leave with fond memories of the people they get to interact with. In 2018 I started Exceed Expectations Tours and Safaris from a love of travel, nature and from a love for youth and community development. I’m passionate about creating opportunities for others and my desire is to incorporate travel to national parks with visits to communities so that they benefit directly from tourism income.

I and the team have been to all the destinations we share here, several times. We offer a personal touch to every trip individually tailored with detailed information and respond to your need and wishes as best as we can. We have been involved in putting together great experiences for people exploring Tanzania.

How big is the Exceed Expectations Tours and Safaris team and what’s unique about your company?

Exceed Expectations Tours and Safaris prides itself on being a small-handed and locally owned tour operator specializing in adventure tours and safari in Tanzania. Our office is based in Moshi, on the slopes of the Kilimanjaro region itself and we’re a perfect center for a tour of Kilimanjaro, but that’s only one adventure of many.

Our team is ready 24/7 a week to help you choose and make the vacation one you’ll never forget. We utilize established local companies and guides to give you the most authentic experiences available.  At Exceed Expectations Tours and Safari, we personally test drive before all our vacations begin to make sure they run smoothly and offer you the most interesting, and unique experience, at all times you’re going to stay with us.

We’ve hiked the trails, taken part, and inspected all our adventure activities to make sure that they are safe and enjoyable for you our valued clients. We will personally meet with you to design a custom adventure of your choosing or to explain our adventure tours in greater detail. From weather, terrain, cultural food we can answer your questions based on our personal experiences at these destinations.

Exceed Expectations Tours and Safaris, offers all the benefits, comfort, and safety of a group environment. Additionally, our groups are flexible enough to allow for free time and free dining options apart from your group; join a group for dinner or go on your own, either way for us it’s okay. Our tour pricing is never a surprise or a secret! We include a lot more than our competition. At Exceed Expectations Tours and Safari, we don’t want you pulling out your wallet for every entrance fee, activity, or meal. If you compare us to another competitor, you will see the difference and value you are receiving.

What destinations in Africa do you organize tours and activities to? If you are to give an estimate, how many tourists have you organized a holiday for?

Currently, we operate in Tanzania mostly Northern zone (Includes Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions). Here we offer different kinds of tours and activities such as Safari Tour, Mountain Trekking, Cultural Tours, and Days Trips to a number of famous and amazing attractions around these two regions. So far, we have organized holidays for about 100 tourists from across the world.

Some of the most popular destinations tourists can visit with us include Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park, Ngorongoro National Park, Lake Manyara National Park, Zanzibar, and many more. Find things to do in these popular national parks here.

So tell me, one of your most memorable moments since you started Exceed Expectations Tours and Safaris?

To be honest it’s always a new day and amazing moments every day in this job. But the most memorable moments for me is when my clients are satisfied with our services, the smiles on their face, the good comments or reviews that they left to us is what makes me wake up every morning wants to do more and more.

I have been to many destinations to say that regardless of the beauty of all our attractions the most amazing feeling is to see their happiness and being able to bring joy and pleasure to our client’s faces. It’s always great to share and enjoy all the magical moments with them.

As a tour guide, when is the best time to visit Tanzania?

The time will differ depends on the type of tours and the destinations. Mostly we advise the clients once they send their inquiry to us. Trekking the famous Mt.Kilimanjaro we mostly advise our clients to take their adventure from June to February as their good months to climb due to a low rate of rain in those seasons.

Safari tours can be done throughout the year depends on the client’s needs. Though we strongly recommend a better confirmation with us before making any conclusions.

For a tourist visiting Africa for the first time, where is the one place they need to visit and why?

In my experience, I will advise him/her to visit the famous Serengeti National Park apart from many beautiful and amazing destinations and attractions that are available in Tanzania.

Serengeti National Park apart from being a number one National Park attraction in the world has also proven to offers more to our clients and everyone who loves nature, animals, and culture. The Serengeti Ecosystem, which Serengeti National Park is a major part of, has been proclaimed one of the Seventh Natural Wonders of Africa, and one of the greatest natural travel wonders in the entire world. That said, it is no mystery as to why it has received such acclaim.

The park offers a diverse range of wildlife to view, and a captivating landscape that will leave any visitor breathless. Some of the most beautiful features of the park are its kopjes, which are outcrops of granite rock, which rise up and out of the tall grass in the African Savannah. Another interesting sight in the park comes from its volcanoes, the ash of which makes up the soil of the grasslands. This is an important part of the ecosystem because it is so vital to the migration of the wildebeest. The feature that most tourists come for, though, is to view the wildlife, especially the Serengeti’s migratory animal species. 

What’s your top advice for a tourist visiting Tanzania?

  • Currency – the Tanzanian Shilling is the local currency, but travelers’ checks and cash in US$ are recommended. It is possible to change foreign currency at any Bureau de Change and mostly at the banks. If you bring US $ cash or receive the US $, please make sure the bank notes are in good condition with no cuts or damage and that the bank notes are not older than 2004. Make use of the currency converter to check the exchange rate.
  • Credit Cards – they are only accepted by the major airline companies and by most of the bigger hotels and lodges. Do not rely on credit cards as a source of cash while in Tanzania. In some cases, a surcharge will be added to credit card payments. We suggest that you take sufficient cash and use the credit card as a back-up only. Travelers’ checks are accepted at most banks and some hotels, however, a surcharge normally applies to exchange travelers’ checks into cash. Please note many shops/hotels don’t accept traveler checks.
  • Immunizations – talk to your doctor about the following: Covid-19, Malaria, Yello Fever, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Typhoid, Tetanus, Polio, MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella), Meningococcal Meningitis (Africa/Asia).
  • When to Visit Tanzania – you can choose to travel to Tanzania at any time of the year, but depending on the reasons for your visit you may need to choose specific times. If you wish to go on safaris or to lay on the beaches of Zanzibar undisturbed by the rainfalls that come in March, April and May, the best time to visit Tanzania is between June and October. Lovers of wildebeest, zebra, and gazelle herds typically migrate in the Serengeti in May till July, and the wildebeest welcome their new calves into the world between January and February. 

    For the more active travelers who are traveling to Tanzania to climb and conquer Mt. Kilimanjaro, the best times to aim for this are between January and March and between June and October when it is cooler. While the Northern Circuit Parks may get crowded between July and March, you can always find fewer crowds in the Southern and Western Circuit Parks any time of the year.
  • Safety in Tanzania – when traveling to Tanzania, it is essential to stay aware of the happenings around you and always act in a way that maintains your safety. Although the general crime level is low, there are still cases of robberies and violence that come up once in a while. Tourists are always discouraged from walking about on their own and are encouraged to move about in groups, preferably with a local among them. For extra caution, travelers should always consider purchasing travel insurance before leaving their home countries so that they have adequate coverage if they fall victims of crime, an accident or illness, or any other mishap that could occur while overseas. 

Let’s talk about the pandemic, travel has been one of the biggest casualties. Personally, how has the pandemic affected Exceed Expectations and how are you coping?

Coronavirus pandemic has been a big challenge to us and our entire country in both economic and employment sectors. We have lost many of our staffs who were forced out due to lack of financial capability to pay the salaries and other remuneration. Apart from that our daily activity has decline significantly and force us to sell some of the company assets in order to survive and pay the loans that was secured to run our daily operations.

We are losing the only job that we have experience and worked there for many years, this has become a problem for us to be able to adapt and survive out there without anything else to do that can benefit us economically. What worries us more is if this problem did not get the solution for one more year we might run bankrupt. It’s a problem and very hard to start over especially considering our financial capabilities.

Do you see travel coming back stronger and how are you prepared for it?

Travel is coming back very soon since there is vaccination taking place across the world, which is going to allow people to resume travel. As a tour company, we have followed the standard procedures given by the ministry of health to handle clients while on tour, and in so doing we are now open for bookings of safaris.

Yes, I have a strong belief especially due to a number of coronavirus vaccination programs that are going on worldwide. It’s also my belief due to a strong effort that has/and it’s taken by many countries and WHO organizations this pandemic will become to an end as soon as possible. As a company, we will be ready to resume our daily activities in highly professional manners and continuing to be a number one leading organization when comes to our client’s safety.

Travel is coming back very soon since there is vaccination taking place across the world, which is going to allow people to resume travel. As a tour company, we have followed the standard procedures given by the ministry of health to handle clients while on tour, and in so doing we are now open for bookings of safaris.

Nice chatting with you. Any final words?

It’s our hope that the situation will get the solutions and soon we will be able to return to our daily activities. We will continue taking precautions for all our clients in the future and make sure their always safe when traveling with us here in Tanzania. We are ready to receive clients and provide the most distinguished service to all of them and ensure their safety as a number one priority issue to us.

Intrested in connecting with Exceed Expectations Tours and Safaris. Check them out on Afriktrip here.

In the last episode, we interviewed Confidence Aguiyi ofUceomeafrik Tours, an extraordinary tour guide from Nigeria who organizes tours and activities across West Afrifca. Do check it out here.

The Tour Guide Africa Series is powered by Afriktrip, an online travel marketplace to find and book tours and activities to do in African countries.

Ibukunoluwa Salau is the Co-Founder of Afriktrip and Editor-in-chief of The Tour Guide Africa Series.