In the past, we had published an article about a negative experience we had with G Adventures on this site. It was a fine article as it was, but over the years we realized we may be doing you a disservice by only presenting one experience we've had with the company.
The truth of the matter is that we have, in fact, traveled with G Adventures on two separate trips over the years- once to Egypt and Jordan in 2009 (which I did solo) and once on an African safari in 2014 (that we did together). The Middle East trip was what I would consider to be the perfect tour, and the Africa safari, well, wasn't.
We opted to only convey the latter viewpoint in its own article, which ended up becoming quite popular, and we have since decided to expand the piece to include a summary of both trips.
The reason for this is that while we did not have an enjoyable time on our Africa safari for reasons we'll get into below (which is the bulk of the original article), we are still fans of G Adventures, their tours, and their mission. It was only after being asked several times if we would go on another G Adventures tour that we realized the answer was yes, and that our article needed updating to reflect that.
We're first going to start with the bad, our overland safari in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia.
Overland Africa with G Adventures
Our overland Africa trip was one where the situation with the guide snowballed out of control as the tour went on.
Things started innocently enough with rather small issues that we'd normally forget about in a few hours.
In one instance we were heading out to a group dinner on the first night and collectively opted to take a free “hotel shuttle” but were then asked to pay $5 each for the “taxi” that we explicitly voted against (keep in mind, a private taxi probably would've only cost $5 total and this payment was asked of nine people in the van). On another similar instance later on we were charged more for a transfer to the Dead Vlei which was not listed in the official tour itinerary at all and was assumed to be included.
As the four-week itinerary went on, so did the challenges. On several of the days where lunch was supposed to be included as per the itinerary, we were handed $3 in local currency and told to buy lunch at a store or market. $3 does nothing for an individual, but for a modest group could make a great meal. (So why not let us keep that money over charging it to begin with?)
In the end, we just paid more out of pocket and took another unexpected frustration.
Towards the end of the trip we also found that products containing nuts were purchased for breakfast, despite the tour being a nut free tour due to Angie's tree nut allergy (this was announced on the tour meeting, as was an announcement of another traveler's severe gluten allergy that also was not accommodated well at all).
When bringing this up, the guide shrugged this off and said “there is other food to eat” and ignored our concern completely. With the only other food being bread and jam, and all of the dishes being washed in a communal pot by tour participants who may or may not have cared about how well they washed dishes, this one is perhaps the most infuriating due the remoteness that is Africa.
By the end of the tour it felt like the guide stopped caring at all. We had many days where we received no information for hours on end, were only given information once even if the full group wasn't there, the guide would refuse to answer people's questions who missed it, and was being very short with all except for a few people in the group he made friends with. (And yes, they were the pretty girls, naturally.)
Couple that with the issues from the food stops above, including limited information about restroom breaks, and you have a overland vehicle full of very upset travelers.
As the group dynamic broke down, including many instances where some rude participants were all-out harassing another tour member (not us), he did nothing at all to intervene and just let it be. We complained, and G Adventures contacted us mid-tour to talk about the above issues. They did try their best, but at that point word was out that we complained against the guide, and with several days left of the tour things fell apart from there between those who still liked him and those who did not.
The kicker of it all was that our driver was also a former tour guide himself who had to leave his home country due to political issues. He was amazing, even more knowledgeable and personable than our guide, and overall the entire situation should've been flipped with our guide being the driver, and driver being the guide.
How we got there on this particular tour, I have no idea. (And in fact, our guide was actually quite personable at times on non-tour related topics, was a fantastic cook when we were given meals, and would've been a lot of fun as a driver. He was just a terrible tour leader.)
We'll be the first to admit that a four-country overland tour in Africa for nearly a month is a stressful trip in its own right. There is a lot of time in the overland vehicle, and even more time doing, well, nothing. So adding the above onto an already intense trip made us more than happy for it all to be over and leave- despite the fact that Africa was amazing to see.
It is just one of those instances where the guide can compound what is already an intense trip into something you simply do not want to experience.
Now, before you walk away from this post with an unpleasant taste, we're going to offer a look into another tour I took solo, The Egypt and Jordan Adventure, which is to this day what I'd call the perfect tour.
The Perfect G Adventures Tour – Egypt and Jordan
In 2009 I took a trip with G Adventures (which was then known as GAP Adventure or GAP Adventures) to Egypt and Jordan, and was a night and day difference from the above.
The tour had a nice balance of exploration, transit, comfort, and roughing it when camping in the desert, and our two guides did a wonderful job conveying all the information we needed for the tours and optional dinners.
Whenever something was scheduled, it happened, and they even went out of their way to ensure we were taken care of on days that were exceptionally long or out of the standard itinerary. To say that they were always one step ahead of us is an understatement, and that is truly saying something.
In fact, when I got near heat stroke one day and had to go back to the hotel from a group dinner (because I was smart and went in August), our guide put me in a taxi, paid for it himself, and really went out of his way to make sure I was getting better. Paying him back wasn't even an option, and I was getting the feeling he would've done this for anyone in the group, not just me.
The point that we had two guides was an interesting one for this tour because the Egypt and Jordan trip really was like two trips back-to-back- one in Egypt and one in Jordan. Our Egyptian guide did not cross the border with us, and instead a second guide was waiting at customs for us to start a seamless transition into the second part of our trip.
From the group dynamic here you could tell everyone liked the first tour guide a bit more, but this was mostly due to the fact that our second guide was a bit older and more formal while the Egyptian guide was younger and more personable. Neither of which are bad, just a very small difference that in all likelihood would occur in any trip of that structure.
The only downside that I noticed with the itinerary setup here was that we were given the option to do a “longer” 4×4 tour in the desert of Wadi Rum for an additional fee that was not published in the trip notes. While the time was indeed a longer amount in the desert than the official itinerary, it did make me hesitate for just a second. (We paid it, it was awesome.)
But compared to the unexpected expenses of the overland Africa safari, well, I'm quite fine with this one in retrospect.
The On the Ground Team Makes Your G Adventures Trip
At the end of the day, as much as the itineraries of a G Adventures draws you in to booking, what has the biggest impact on your trip experience is the team on the ground.
Even when factoring in that one tour (Egypt and Jordan) allowed for more exploration and the other (Africa safari) was more travel oriented, we got to take a look at two kinds of guides and how their application of the published itineraries really influences the trip dynamic.
This is why those who are looking at taking tours from companies like G Adventures should look at reviews of the tour dynamics just as much as the itineraries.
We know that this will vary from region to region as much as it does guide to guide, but as G Adventures sources some tours from 3rd parties in various destinations*, reading on the ground reviews can give you a really good feel on some of the more important dynamics that rank just as high as the itinerary itself.
For us, in southern Africa this was not so great, but in Egypt and Jordan it was perfect- so much so that even though we could just as easily do Egypt and Jordan on our own now, I'd be tempted on doing the same exact tour all over again even if the itinerary is now slightly different.
It was just that good.
*We reached out to G Adventures to clarify this and were told that select marketplaces feature tours run by 3rd parties, but we do not know specifics beyond this.
Why We Are Still Fans of G Adventures
In the end, we have to take a look at an important question that was asked of us well after we published our original piece, and that is “would you book with G Adventures again?” The answer is yes (even if that ‘yes' took quite some time for us to get to).
When it comes down to it, G Adventures is a great company that has a strong focus in promoting unique itineraries and responsible travel all over the world. We've been fortunate enough to see this first hand on tours and also through talks at conferences by the founder as the years go by.
As they source some tours from 3rd parties and brand them as G Adventures (see * note above), you can expect the bar to be a bit higher than trying out an independent 3rd party on your own. Sorting through these and creating custom itineraries to be branded as a G Adventures trip is, after all, what they do best.
But, at the end of the day that means they work with an untold number of outlets all over the world on a daily basis. Africa just seemed to be the place where it wasn't working the way we thought it should, and it broke down well beyond a level that was acceptable to us.
We stand by our thoughts on this one 100%, but it is also worth keeping in mind our tour was in 2014 as well and things can change.
Knowing G Adventures, they probably have. This is simply where our experience ends.
Now that some years have past, if someone asks us about taking an Africa safari, we emphatically say “cover shorter distances and hire a private guide if you can afford it.” But if someone asks me about Egypt and Jordan, I immediately go to the Egypt and Jordan Adventure as the gold standard in tours.
So our recommendation in the end is not to tell you to avoid G Adventures on its own right, but to take a more discerning look at the specific tour and/or and see if you can find any on the ground reports from that specific itinerary.
We believe G Adventures does try and set the bar high for all their tours, but at the end of the day each locality will produce different experiences. Your itinerary rests on the people on the ground in your destination, and in many cases is something worth considering for all tour operators– not just G Adventures.
Keep that in mind when reading reviews, even our own reviews above, and you'll be much further ahead in making an informed decision on whether or not to buy a tour. It took us many years to come to this conclusion, and it is perhaps our most important revelation yet.
As such, this is why we updated this G Adventures review into the post it is today.
Disclaimer: We were not requested, compensated, or encouraged to update our review by anyone, in any capacity. We did so after sitting on the original piece for many years, answering many questions via email, and realized that we needed to dive in deeper here. While the original is not here anymore, the southern Africa segment includes our same thoughts minus the intro and conclusion which was expanded for this piece. We do not know what ever happened to the guide in question, and hope he found gainful employment elsewhere.
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