I trust this email finds you well. I dont even know how to put in words what a star you have been. I recently booked a passenger through you to visit Madagascar by herself, she had a fun filled itinerary exactly as what she requested and delivered on her request. During her stay in Madagascar, she was mugged and they stole everything, her money passport and numerous other items of a personal nature. For a tour operator you have shown so much compassion for your passenger, and phoned the consulates on her behalf, fought with airlines and did everything in your power to assist her.
Thank you for keeping me in the loop, I almost felt useless seeing that you had everything under control. With a situation that warranted panic, you handled it professionally and efficiently. She was suppose to return on the 10 of April, with air Madagascar's numerous flight changes we thought they have done the last of the changes, but they rescheduled her again this time putting her on a airlink flight back to South Africa. This schedule change affected her return trip from Johannesburg to Durban. With all her possesions lost including her house keys, we both did not want her to be stuck at the airport on the evening on the 10th of April. You did not just assist her with getting her travel documents and talking to consulates, but you also opened your home to her so that she can have a place to stay and get the early morning flight back to Durban, picking her up from the airport.
As a Travel consultant it gives me great comfort to use you as an operator, you went above and beyond the call of duty. In all my years of being in the travel industry I have never seen a tour operator so committed to their passengers. My passenger is now back home safe and sound, and we are working on claiming some of her expenses back from the Travel Insurance she has taken out.
Thank you again and I look forward doing business with you again
XL Astra Travel Pietermaritzburg April 2010
Good day to you, Sabine.
Sure Lowveld Travel (Urna Stephenson) made contact with you and made all the arrangements for my wife and I to holiday in Madagascar for 10 days. We returned on Monday after an absolutely fabulous holiday on the island. We knew what we wanted – taste of Tana, forests for lemurs etc and time on a beach to relax and that’s what we got – and more.
Thank you to yourself for getting everything sorted out with Urna – everything was in place. We were met at the airport by Guy who took us to town, fetched us and took us to the forests and arranged for guides in the forests etc. He contributed greatly to the experience. He was gentle, informative, had very good contacts and relationships with people wherever we went, knows his birds extremely well and cared about us as his clients. He set the topne for our whole holiday. We thanked him but would ask that these sentiments, please, be passed on to his superiors / employers in Madagascar.
The accommodation turned out very, very well. La Varangue in Tana was stunning and a good launch pad to move around Tana by foot and vehicle. Vacona Lodge is a paradise and worth the extra travelling from the lemur park. Moving hotels to La Crique was also the right move and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there. This lodge was where Brenda and I felt at home and we were able to make contact with the local people, enjoy the food, swimming, beaches and saw the whales etc. Not knowing French did cause some interesting situations during our stay and a few good laughs. You can certainly recommend La Crique to people. Joseph manages a very good ship and relates well to his guests. The staff are gracious and friendly.
Thank you to AnimalTracks for a fabulous 40th wedding anniversary experience.
Don Williams. September 2009
SPEAR FISHING /TROPHY HUNTING IN NOSY BE
By Craig Scott from Orca Trading and Dive Store
http://www.orca..co.za/ who will be leading a set group departure in September 20 to 27 2008
for more information contact Craig at email@example.com or us at Animaltracks Islandventures. Info@animaltracks.co.za
It was awesome (as usual) with 5 days of spearing in crystal calm warm waters; pigging out on platters of crayfish, prawns, crab, fresh fish and oysters; lazing on the beach sipping ice cold 'rum-blanc' with fresh vanilla; and generally having a really stunning time....if you know what I mean? Tough. Very tough. But someone had to do it.......
We got off to a great start at OR Tambo, no one late or missing, just a delayed departure. When we arrived at 'Tana all went well...except for the fact that Glenn's bag did not arrive! With very little time to get things sorted out we had to catch our connecting flight to Nosy Be, so off we went. We finally arrived at the beautiful Sakatia Lodge nestled in it's small calm bay at 10pm that night. After a welcome drink and meal we all headed for the sack so we could be in good shape for the next days diving.
After a late start and getting all the gear sorted and prepped, we headed out to sea to a ledge known as '7 little sharks'. The Lodges new 8.5m boat was a pleasure to be out at sea on and was very comfortable getting on and off of with it's 2 'wetdecks' at the stern. The lads and lass, all on their first Mad trip with me, were all very excited to see the clear calm fish-filled waters we were going to spend so much time in. We got out to the drop-off and set up the 'mermaids line'. This is a line we set up, anchored in the deep 60m water off the drop-off with a large buoy and trailing grab line that allows one to hover over the edge for hours on end while the strong incoming current pumps past, exciting the millions of baitfish, and thereby attracting the large roving gamefish to cruise the edge of the drop. The mermaids line worked extremely well and we were able to hang above the ledge effortlessly and wait for the big boys to come cruising in. It wasn't too long before Piet had a small couta on the spear. Then Glenn, in all his loaned divegear, managed to spear a nice 17kg couta. Although we had seen small doggie's (dogtooth tuna, which is really what we were targetting), none were coming in close enough to spear. When the tide stopped coming in and the current stopped, the fish went off, so we packed up and headed back in towards the shallows. Working shallow water at dusk is a great time for finding GT's (Ignoblis kingfish) and we were not disappointed. Piet swam into the shallow water reef and plugged a beauty of 22kg's. This fish ran him into the shallow water and resulted in 'knitting' him into the shallow water rocks and gullies with all the floatline....but the fish was landed. It then became too dark to continue spearing so we headed back to the Lodge for some well deserved R&R and a few drinks to celebrate our first days successes.
The next day saw us head back to the drop-off to continue working the edge and hunt for those big elusive doggie's. The sea seemed to be different that day as there was not much around at all. The clear clean and calm water was still fantastic and the diving amongst the millions of fusiliers and unicorn surgeons was breathtaking. The fish we were waiting for arrived, about a 50/60kg doggie, that came cruising in underneath us. Stanley was first in position, with reel gun in hand, and after assessing his chances with a clear shot in hand, decided (wisely or not?) to not take the shot fearing the loss of his gun with this big powerful fish. Glenn then attempted a long shot but it was by now already out of range and the opportunity had passed! Other than 'rats & mice' that we used to chum with, we returned after a full day out at sea with nothing to show for our efforts....other than big smiles of a satisfying day out at sea and the promise that the 'big boys' were around.
We decided to give the ledge a break the next day and headed way up north to a massive 40m deep table top reef about 10 km's off shore and 32 km's north of the Lodge. This is where we have encountered schools of couta and wahoo before, as well as sailies and marlin. We had about 30 metres viz that day (normally top to bottom) so the reef was just not visible. Other than small fish and the occasional small couta and seapike, there was not much happening up there that day. We tried 2 other well-known reefs on the way back to the Lodge, unfortunately without success of anything big presenting itself. We headed back to the Lodge for a well-deserved siesta. Fish or no fish, it was still a great day out at sea.
The next morning we headed out to a very shallow coral bommie in the bay as we had time to kill before the tide was right to head back out to the ledge. There were some pretty reef to dive on and an opportunity to pick up some chum, but not much big happening there. We then headed to another ledge on the inside of our drop off and Piet successfully landed a small couta shot very deep in the crystal blue water. When we got out to our ledge around 1pm, the water was already starting to flow strongly. With the aid of the mermaid line we were able to work the ledge for hours. We picked up smaller fish which we used for chum, and sighted a few doggies that were keeping their distance, but it was only in the late afternoon that the action started hotting up. We had a school of large (bigger than I've ever seen or shot before) Rosy Jobfish come up out the deep and pay attention to our chum. After shooting a few of these, between 6 and 8kg's each, we kept sighting 30/40kg doggies working the ledge deep below the Rosy's and soon left them in hope of getting closer to the real target. They unfortunately remained elusive and out of reach, but it was a memorable hour of high activity at the end of another perfect day out at sea.
Our last and final day of diving was going to be a determined effort to lure these elusive doggies up into range. The motto for the day was 'chum', so after being let loose on a large unvisited reef we quickly loaded up about 50kg's of bottoms which were chopped up into chunk size for a concerted effort of chumming. We all had great fun filling our chum bucket and then headed out to the dropoff to start calling the 'dogs' in. We had some nice size couta come in, as well as the occasional smaller doggie, but they unfortunately remained elusive, with only 1 decent 30/40kg doggie coming in but staying deep. Yet another really “terrible” day in paradise!
With diving done for the trip we then headed into 'Hellville' which is the shopping capital of Nosy Be where a good morning was spent doing the tourist thing. After a pizza and a beer we headed for the airport to catch a flight back to 'Tana where we were overnighting before the flight back to Jozi the next morning. We went out for a great meal at one of the quaint French restaurants in 'Tana that night. After a traditional 'continental' breakfast the next morning it was off to the airport where we boarded the plane back to Jozi .
Overall it was a fantastic group that went along on this trip and I believe one that was certainly enjoyed by all. I can't wait now for September to get back there … Are you keen to join me on the next trip to Magical Madagascar? If so, please let me know soonest so we can make this upcoming trip happen. If you are spearing or scuba, hop on board and come spend a week of 'hell' in an untouched paradise....not to be missed!!
here are our comments on the trip
We chosed to go to Ile St Marie, " the vanilla island", because it seemed to be a relatively noncommercialised and not very exploited island. We noted though that there is quite a lot of construction going on so in 5 to10 years it will probably look different. So, in other words, if you are thinking of going to Madagascar/ Ile St Marie this is the right time to go!
We stayed in Masoandro Lodge in a bungalow overlooking the Indian Ocean and the Madagascar coast in the distance. The drive up to Masoandro was very enjoyable. You pass through many charming villages and everywhere you are met by friendly faces. Our first impression that the Madagascans are very friendly, warm and helpful was proven to be right over and over again. It is also a people that is very proud of their island. Suddenly the driver shouted excitedly " Il y a un baleine!". A large humpback whale just crossed the water surface less than 50 meters from the shore! We had only been at the island for 10 minutes and already seen our first whale!
One of the highlights was a daytrip by foot crossing the island from the west to the east coast. Pascal, our guide, was excellent in finding well hidden chameleons in the lush vegetation and pointing out rare orchidées. We passed rice fields and small villages and eventually after 8 km we came to an unspoilt beach on the east coast by a pirogue. The lunch consisting of seafood was delicious as was the food overall during the stay!
August and September is the best time to see the humpback whales and their babies close by. We were lucky, we saw whales very close to the shore from Masoandro Lodge and you can also go on safari by boat for a couple of hours and see them even closer.
A daytrip to Ile aux Nattes is highly recommended! You reach this beautiful " Robinson Crusoe island" by crossing a turquoise lagoon by pirogue. The island is what you imagine a tropic island to be! Palmtrees hanging over white sandy beaches, turquoise-blue clear water with coral reefs excellent for snorkelling. So start planning your holiday!
Very few people speak English so if you don´t speak French or Malagasy learn some basic phrases in either language and you will impress the "Ile St Mariians" and have some good laughs together!!
Magnus and Anna, Sweden
Sabine, thanks for all your patience with us in making flight arrangements! Attached, letter sent to Karin I include more pictures for you
CHRIS & ANNETTE HOEK
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Wednesday, July 11, 2007 3:51 PM
Subject: THANKS A MILLION
We were the very, very lucky prize winners of a trip to Madagascar sponsored by Airlink and Sakatia Lodge (Men's Health magazine, March 2007)
Sabine Bultemeier from animaltracks was a star! From our first phone call to Sabine forarrangements for flight bookings, etc Sabine was there with all the info we needed.
Our flight captain to Madagascar was Gorge Gourgiotis, first officer Tammy Vouros and flight assistant Orquidia Montes with a quick stopover in Bairo for fuel and we even could get off the plane! With our return flight our stopover was in Pemba and even then we could stretch our legs and visit the airport building. Both flights were fantastic with a very personal touch and friendliness.
Jose &Isabella Vieira, Jacques (diving instructor) and all the staff of Sakatia Lodge are wonderful people and we had a unforgettable time with them. Isabella's three course dinner every night is the best, our diving course was an experience never to forget, we went deap sea fishing and my husband Chris caught a 30kg beuatiful sailfish, our excursion to Nosy Komba and Tanikely where we snorkelled and not the least, Hell Ville was 'cooking'!
Aholiday to Nosy Be is a must and left us with unforgettable memories. We are definitely going back next year and willalso recommend Airlink to each and everyone.
Airlink will also be our airline to support from now on!
Airlink we just wanted to say THANKS A MILLION for such a once in a lifetime prize!
CHRIS & ANNETTE HOEK
Sorry its taken me almost two weeks to send this, but I just wanted to say thank you so much for arranging and booking our stay at Sakatia Lodge. It was a very special holiday and thoroughly enjoyed by the whole family.
It is a magnificent island and Isabella and Jose where wonderful hosts, and all their staff were happy, friendly and accommodating.
We will all, highly recommend Sakatia Lodge as a preferred adventure holiday destination.
Thanks for the recommendation on the Quad biking that was a huge hit!
Keep in touch if you ever have any exciting special destinations on offer.
David, Fiona, Natalie & Cara Browne
17 may 2007
We would like to thank you for the most enjoyable time you organised for us at Sakatia Lodge. We really enjoyed the break and were very well looked after and cared for by Jose, Isabella, Jacques and their staff.
The complete separation from all the complications of the"rat race"allowed us to rest properly and get in touch with nature again. Isabella's wonderful mealskept us healthy and active and the beautiful surroundings stimulated our interest. We even went snorkelling, a first for both of us!
Thank you again for a veryspecial opportunity to enjoy an exclusive holiday, we would recommend it highly to anyone else. Sakatia Lodge is undoubtedlythe most exclusive lodge of its kind in the area. True to its meaning it certainly refreshed our love life !!!
(A thank you card is on its way to you)
12 april 2007
From: Jane ORROCK - MD
Sent: 11 December 2006 02:56
To: Sabine Bultemeier
Subject: Feedback on Madagascar trip
As promised, I did undertake to give you more feedback on the Madagascar expedition, which was thoroughly enjoyed by the two of us.
Please to report that all flights were very much on time, except the flight to Ile St Marie, but we were notified in good time by local agent, which avoided a wait at an airport.
The camping in Fort Dauphine was superb. We traveled well in a 4 X4 to a Reserve, which sees perhaps 600 visitors per year. You are aware of your remoteness, but the unspoilt beauty remarkable. We were accompanied by a driver, guide and very capable cook, We had an easy walk into the campsite, luggage was carried for us, tents erected and food prepared was plentiful and very satisfying. Just a tip, good to take lots of extra water as does get quite hot up in the mountains. We camped up next to a lake, meals taken under trees with a chameleon to watch over you. Good lemur siting in the am and pm.The lake does supply more mosquitoes, but the necessary precaution taken, we have not been affected adversely! The plan was to spend the second night in the dryer region but suggestion by the guide to return to the camp in transitional zone as the other camp very dry this time of year. We did a day trip to the rain forest on the third day—beautiful trees but the wild life a bit disappointing—perhaps the time of day? Our third night was in Nohampoana Reserve—highly recommended(perhaps even more so than nearby Berenty reserve mentioned in travel books) Lovely beaches in Fort Dauphine –well worth the visit, just a lot of vendors trying to sell their wares.
The visit to Perinet lovely-we did manage accommodation in Feon y nala(?sp)—welcomed due to the rain. The guide there(he knows you, Julyan)-was great, such an enthusiastic sharer of knowledge.
Then the trip to Ile St Marie—a good relax was had, and yes we did have a seaside view, as to all the rooms. Of interest, it seemed possible that we could change hotel to Masoandro/ Napolean at Ile aux Nattes(same hotel group) if we wished(ie voucher interchangeable)
I will certainly like to return to other parts in the future, just wish a could buy more leave!
Again, thanks for the help. Seasons greetings.
11 December 2006
Hi Jose and Isabella
What a great few days we had in Madagascar and I just had to write and say thankyou for making our stay so special. I thought the Malagasy folk were terrific. They have so little but give so much of themselves and just walking around the island and the village etc made me realise how licky some of us are.
I've come back to a busy time. Very involved in our local Hospice and soon my family arrives from both the UK and New York which will be hectic but fun. We worried about you Isabella and hope now you are fully recovered from your dose of Maleria....I took the pills but stopped as soon as I got home, they can make you feel so awful so will just be aware for the next couple of months.
We loved staying at your lodge, loved the feel and realised even thou' well in our sixties we can still have fun!!. Your worked so hard in the kitchen Isabella and spoilt us with fabulous meals from morning till night.Had some folk around this last weekend and everyone admired my tablecloth.....thank goodness I remembered our shop debts and the pocket money you so kindly gave us Jose otherwise you might have lost out!!!!
Anyway just really wanted to say we had a fabulous time. Lots of happiness over the festive season, enjoy your trip in January and more than anything luck and success in your business.
23 November 2006
JUST A SHORT NOTE TO TELL YOU HOW ABSOLUTELY AMAZING THE WEEK HOLIDAY AT SAKATIA LODGE WAS.
THE TEAM OF ISABELLE JOSE AND JAUQUE WAS FANTASTIC.
THE DIVING MUST BE RATED AS THE BEST IN THE WORLD AND THE LODGE IS FULLY KITTED OUT TO CATER FOR EVERYONE.
ALL I CAN SAY IS WHAT A PLACE.
WE WILL BE GOING BACK NO DOUBT ABOUT IT !!
KEITH & HELENA HIGGINS
Sabine hi there,
Just a quick note to thank you so much for organizing our trip and stay at Sakatia…we had a fabulous time and did as much as we could as per your suggestions….even went quad biking , deb was a bit nervous..We shared a double bike and I drove like a cowboy up and down the hills and through the dongas (great way to see the interior)
Visited ‘Lokabe’ reserve – were met by not Jean Robert but his grandson Jean – Julio ( 16 years old) and very knowledgeable and a great guide , saw lots of Boa’s and Lemurs– the paddling on the pirogue( sp?) was quite and experience too ( phew!!)
The snorkeling was fantastic and we spent a lot of time in the water…and drinking (the beer is great)
Gin and Tonic standard every eve….we had a great waiter called Tina ( whom I am sure you know) and he took great care of us…and brought us coffee to our room every morning ( which I am sure was not part of his job description)
Jose and Isabelle were very kind to us and made us feel totally at home…
Our room was divine and romantic
Thank you once again…if you do ever come to the Garden route please let us know, it would be great to meet you
26 September 2006
All back now yes and into the swing of things!
Had a good time in Madagascar, too short but good. As a quick review for you:
- Our driver Guy looked after us well and was quietly considerate. Thumbs up to him.
- The first night in La varangue wasn't great, the room was a bit shabby and we couldn't get anything to eat. It may be the norm for Tana though, no big deal but not particularly hospitable. Breakfast also wasn't great.
- The Vakona was a good base, looked after us well with decent food and accomodation etc. Our guide was pretty good too. He really seemed to go a bit further afield than other guides so it was nice not to be walking in the footsteps of other tourists all the time. I was surprised at how busy the areas were though, what I would say is that going off the beaten track to get away from the crowds on some days would have been a better option. The primary forests were definitely better than the other NP areas though, really unforgettable.
- Night walk not very interesting as I didn't realise but you aren't allowed into the forest, even with a guide which is strange as there are no dangerous animals really - just walking up and down the main road with a torch. OK for insect lovers, but I guess it's too noisy for much else.
- St Marie was fun. The Soanambo was basic but friendly and a pretty good place to stay. After the initially cheesy "package tour check in" feeling, we got settled in and it was a good base. Food was good too. They were very nice, helpful and friendly. We had food at the Masoandro and Pricesse Bora which were definitley nicer but not so cosy really. I think for us the best bit was getting a motor bike and seeing the island, without it there wasn't a lot with easy walking distance. On check out I did have to wrangle with them for a while to explain we'd paid DBB, not just BB. They didn't evene seem to know what DBB was! If I hadn't checked the bill it would have been a lot over. Perhaps have a word with them about that, but I sorted it in the end.
- Whale watching was also very good, the best I've ever seen really. Highly recommended.
- Pirate cemetary, also quite cool.
All in all then very good, just a couple of rough edges to knock off but things went pretty smoothly so thanks very much for your efforts. The wife might even let me buy a motor bike now as I managed not to kill us on St. Marie!
Tim - UK
19 September 2006
As the moon rose over the bay last night and poured a golden avenue ofwonder all the way to our dinner table, I thought must send you a wordon our time here at Sakatia Lodge.
Firstly, thank you so much for recommending it to us. Not only is it in an exquisite setting, but Isabella's cuisine relfects fabulously on her Italianancestry (blended with a tropical flair) while Jose is the warmest of hosts. The accommodation is not only comfortable but charming and authentic (Jose has gone to great lengths to impart some of the Malagasy culture in a contemporary style) whilethe atmosphere of Sakatia Lodge is very much being part of the family.
Yesterday we went off to nearby Nosy Tankaliy and spent the day lazing on the beautiful beach, diving in transparent waters festooned with coral gardnes and multitutes of fish. Whilst I don't dive (my ears give in at pressure), some of our party did so at the island and were mesmerized. On our way back we passed a pod of bottlenose dolphin to complete a spectacular day.
Prior, we had spent our first two days lazing at the Lodge's beach, exploring the house reef and walkingalong the beach past the village where we bought some gorgeous Malagasy flax table-clothes, one of which is embroideredwith blue island figures.
By six we are always ready for acocktail at the bar,share some island cameraderie and watch the lemurs in nearbytreesbefore settling in for Isalbella's cullinary skills!
Today we have decided to explore the nearby town of Hellville for some gifts and tomorrow are going on a quad biking expedition into the interior of the island, through ylang ylang plantations and up into the forests which surround a mountain lake. Of course it will be too soon and we will be back on the plane having bid farewell but keeping the memories of Sakatia Lodge firmly in our minds just as the ebb and flw of the Indian Ocean brings its own special feeling of peace & wonder on this exquisite island.
Fran & Marc Le Chat
13 July 2006
Are back and had a wonderful time in Madagasca. The coastal area is really great and will definitely be back there again. I did get zapped by the sand flies, but did not get sea sick and hopefully no malaria and chikunge or whatever it is called!! Thanks again for all your organisation and will be in touch for our next trip there.
Cheers for now
17 June 2006
Here's the response that I got from Chris!!032 02 51385
I was actually meaning to drop you a line.
We had a fantastic time - Vanila was excellent - very relaxed/ rustic
but luxuriant at the same time. Prestige suite was fantastic - Very nice
to have the extra space.
We did quite a lot whilst we were there - diving, snokling, hiking etc.
The hotel offers there own tour guides/ activities groups who were good
but the better (and more reasonable) option was the guide that Sabine
mentioned in her pack. His name was Jean Robert. We mentioned this to
him and he asked if I would pass on his contact details to you to pass
to Sabine. On that advise, you/ Sabine may want to contact him directly
in order to arrange trips/ excursions. He really was very good and
His details are:
Mr Jean Robert
PO Box 97
Thanks very much for organising a great trip - we will definitely be