Even if you have done your homework on the outfitter, if a charge occurs late in the process, don't rely on a booking agent's recommendation. Check it out! Talk to new references - whatever it takes to make sure you feel good about the change.
From Mark Audino of Henley and Delamere:
Thank you for your notification. I am truly sorry that Mr. Smith experienced the problem that he did.
The circumstances were not so typical in the normal context of an agent's full representation and recommendation of an outfitter. The attached letter is one that I personally addressed to Mr. Gary Furman, who essentially acted as the coordinator for the group involving Mr. Smith. You will see that the date of the letter is October 5, 2008. Upon receiving a letter of complaint from Mr. Furman one day prior, I acted immediately to do what I could to help offset their disappointment. I refunded the group 100% of the commission that I was paid on this transaction. I am certainly not shunning my responsibility from this, but you'll note the relatively indirect nature of my role in the letter.
The Smith/Furman group had originally booked a safari with Dingwall Safaris, who later lost their Selous area. Dingwall Safaris had been associated with Malagarasi in the past. The PH working for Dingwall had actually hunted for Malagarasi in the past, and, moreover, Dingwall had operated under Malagarasi's membership in TAHOA. Upon hearing the news that Dingwall had lost its area, the PH offered a refund to the group. He also suggested an alternative to transfer the hunt to Malagarasi. Because 1) the group has booked their airline tickets and were scheduled to hunt back-to-back in South Africa, and 2) the two safari companies had been associated with each other in the past, and 3) the PH had been a solid citizen in all other dealings I experienced with him, I performed the administration of re-booking them to Malagarasi Safari's area in the Selous. Before doing so, I spent several hours and hundreds of dollars discussing the capabilities of Malagarasi Safaris directly with Licky Abdullah. All of those discussions implied that the hunters would experience good hunting and care. Even the camp photos that I received from Malagarasi represented an upgrade to the hunt they were likely to have experienced compared to their original booking. Where it apparently fell down was in the execution of the hunt, most particularly involving the PHs who were selected. I had previously been told by Malagarasi that they liked to use Zimbabwe PHs, and upon hearing the names of those that they worked with in the past, all checked out.
I will be happy to address any further concerns, so please feel free to advise.
Mark Audino Henley & Delamere Adventuring
Refund Letter to Gary Furman:
October 5, 2008
Mr. Gary Furman 655 Monte Vista Drive Reno, NV 89511
Dear Gary, I returned home this weekend from an extended international check-out trip wondering how your hunt had gone. I found a couple of scathing e-mails from Ken and your letter. I immediately tried to reach Licky, but have been unsuccessful in reaching him. I contacted Gary, but did not get any real joy as he stated that he is not affiliated with Malagarasi Safaris. I felt let down by that. I want to establish one thing. I was asked to be a US-based coordinator for your hunt that you that you were in process of booking with Gary Hopkins. Knowing that Gary was a good person, as underscored by some past clients, I felt he would execute a safari well on your behalf, and agreed with him and you to help you get to the Selous and back. When Gary informed us that he and Don Bower had lost their area - a surprise to me and you - Gary was willing to make a refund. However, in light of the last minute notice and with all of your flight plans booked, it seemed logical and prudent to consider the alternative arrangements he had made with Malagarasi Safaris. The alternative arrangements Gary made represented an endorsement Malagarasi Safaris.
"I need to let you know that Don Bower of Dingwall Safaris of which whom I was working with in Tanzania has lost his block in the Selous. It has been a total nightmare and will affect were I had planned to take the Furman group, however I have managed to secure hunting for these guys with a Mr. Leaky Abdullah owner of Malagarasi Safaris in the Selous for them at exactly the same price and also the same dates, they will also have the opportunity of being able to hunt 3 different blocks at the same time as he owns rights to all the blocks which border each other. The blocks are M1,R1,K4".
In my follow-up call with Gary, I had the sense that Malagarasi was a decent option for you, especially when I was forwarded the camp photos later on. I also liked the 3 blocks being connected. There did not appear to be a risk. In fact, you will recall Gary stating that he had been operating under the umbrella of Malagarasi Safaris when you asked whether he was a member of the Tanzania Tour Operators Association.
I acted in your behalf to contact Licky and make sure this was a viable option as best as I could tell short of being there myself. As I understood it, Gary had hunted for him previously. In fact, when I spoke with Licky on several occasions, he repeatedly stated that he liked Gary and was doing him a favor. He appeared most willing to help, and seemed to check out well with other sources that I knew in Tanzania. I spent considerable time with Licky on the phone and feel surprised by the outcome of your safari. What you experienced was a mis-match from all that I was told and assured by Licky. I was paid an original commission by Gary for the entire group totaling $1,936, well below the normal industry average. I am refunding my commission and ask you to distribute it to the group as appropriate. Please note that I was commissioned only on the hunters, not any of the non-hunters. I was never compensated by Licky Abdullah. I am sorry that it ended up this way and feel as disappointed as all of you. Regards,
Rebuttal from Licky Abdallah of Malagrasi:
I do appreciate Mr. Smith's position and let me put it very clear that neither me nor any other Tanzanian safari operator would condone actions by the PH to extort money from any of the clients coming to our country. However, for me to respond to the allegations I also had to involve the Officer in charge of the Selous western sector, who had assigned the Game Scout implicated in the "extortions". Please let it be known to all parties that under the Tanzania Hunting Regulations the only authority with powers to declare the animal wounded or not is the Game Scout assigned to supervise the safari. In short, and to put it on record, the Game Scout insists there was clear blood drops to indicate the buffalo were wounded, now whether he asked to be paid so that the animal wouldn't be registered is something neither me nor you would be able to prove. I only have to take his decisions and abide by it. I would hasten to add that it is the first time in my 17 years of hunting operations that I hear of a client complaining that the PH and Game Scout colluded to extort money from him on forcing the client to accept that the animal is wounded. If it were me I would have gone back to camp and called the company staff and other clients to go and verify the incident, instead of accepting that the animal be entered on the hunting license as this would require the trophy to be paid for. Thanks, Licky Abdallah Managing Director
Letter From Clayton Smith and Jerry Alexander To Mark Audino of Henley & Delamere
I trust you have received an email from Mr. Bell regarding his issues with our recent safari in Tanzania and Gary Furman's letter. My comments and concerns will be addressing Jerry Alexander's and my hunting experiences only.
I'll begin with my expectations. First, I still don't know why the change from Gary Hopkins was made, and based on our experience, feel cheated. Thinking back to our conversations and emails with you regarding the change from Dingwall Safaris and Gary Hopkins to Malagarasi Safaris, I was clearly under the wrong impression that this change would be a significant upgrade in both location and Outfitter. The location change may have been an upgrade, but this Outfitter change could not possibly have been viewed as an upgrade if you had any personal knowledge of their operation; which is a significant issue.
Our first opportunity to shoot a buffalo came with Jerry Alexander being the shooter with Albert our PH. We stalked a herd of buffalo for a few miles, finally closing the gap to where a final stalk resulted in Jerry setting up on the sticks within 100 yards of the bull he was told to shoot. Mr. Bell and I, along with the government Game Scout, were some 50 yards away observing the action. When the shot rang out, all of the buffalo moved quickly forward up a small hill. I could not tell whether the bull was hit or not. However, Jerry and Albert repositioned themselves for another shot. Jerry missed completely. Albert pursued and appeared to have a clear shot on the bull but didn't shoot. We then gathered together and Albert said he found a small amount of blood on the ground. Albert, Edward and the helper then lost track of the bull and said it looked like the bull had rejoined the herd. As little as 30 minutes passed before Albert stated, "the bull went into the tall grass and we can't track him". We came back the next day for a short time and drove around looking for sign. Jerry and I both believe there was no real effort made to find the bull and there was no additional staff to help in a search.
Our second opportunity to shoot a buffalo came the next day with me as the shooter. After stalking a small herd for a few miles we closed to within 70 yards of a bull that was lying down and facing directly at us. Albert positioned the shooting stick a few inches off the ground and said, "Shoot him between the eyes". I questioned Albert if there was a problem with the small twigs and grass that was in my shooting lane.
Albert said, "No problem, just shoot". I shot, the bull jumped up. I reloaded and started to shoot and Albert said, "No, No, you got him". All of the buffalo ran off at an angle to my right, including the one I shot at. After several minutes of looking for the buffalo and any sign, I was convinced that my bullet must have hit a twig or branch and deflected over the buffalo. I told Albert this and he said "impossible". The Game Scout then appeared with a small leaf that had a small drop of blood on it. She said I must have shot the bull in the stomach.
Mr. Bell joined the discussion by pointing out that the Game Scout's position, where she said she found the leaf with blood on it, was in the opposite direction of where the herd ran and not where any of the buffalo had been standing. We continued the discussion/debate for sometime and then Albert and Edward began to track the herd again. I stopped them after a while and asked what are we doing? Albert said, "We are tracking the bull you shot in the stomach". I once again said I did not shoot the buffalo in the stomach. I then said, after some time, "the hunt is over, let's go back to camp". The Game Scout said, "Clay, go ahead and hunt the herd". I asked; "are you saying the buffalo I shot at is a miss?" She said, "Its ok, just go ahead and hunt". My misunderstanding was that she was agreeing with me. We continued to hunt the herd and I shot a very mature bull. However, after we returned to camp, Albert approached me and said, "Clay it is customary that the Game Scout gets $500.00 for preparing the proper paperwork". I told Albert; "have the Game Scout come and see me." He said he would and later said the Game Scout wouldn't talk to me. Later that day I had an opportunity to talk to the Scout and she said she did not want any money. At this point I didn't know where I stood with the issue of the first buffalo. I did however, have an uneasy feeling that through innuendos, off hand comments made throughout the day by Albert and the Scout, that there was a message being sent to me that I had better go along or I wouldn't see any trophy. We then began the hunt for Jerry's second buffalo. Jerry had decided that they were not going to try to find the buffalo he shot at and we were running out of time. We hunted all day and finally found a herd that we could track. After several miles Jerry and Albert made a final stalk and Jerry killed a fine bull. Once again, after we returned to camp, Albert approached Jerry and asked him if he wanted his buffalo for $500.00. Jerry said no! I will pay the fee that is charged. Albert is a fine tracker but an unscrupulous crook.
At dinner that night, Jerry and I discussed the day and the extortion attempt by Albert. We both felt that there was an unstated inference, manifested throughout all of the conversations with Albert and the Scout, that our trophies were or might be, at risk, if we didn't go along. Our joint position was that we were not going to be corrupted.
On our final day in camp we met with Albert and the game scout to fill out paperwork. Both Jerry and I were given forms that showed us "Wounding one buffalo and Killing another. I questioned the Scout and Albert about the postings and they said that was their conclusion. Obviously, this is all about money and nothing else.
With little or very questionable sign of a wounded animal, and in Jerry's case, little or no effort made to find his first bull, we are both extremely upset and disappointed with our experience. Add to this, the extortion efforts by a PH that you Mark, recommended and we feel we have definitely been cheated.
The camp was completely acceptable and the personnel were courteous and helpful. However the food was the worst I have ever experienced in an outfitters base camp. The only redeeming part of the menu was their soup.
In my past experience I have used booking agents a few times and with reasonable success. They have always been very knowledgeable about the outfitters they booked and coordinated all of the arrangements in a professional manner. Your participation in this effort was clearly lacking. Mark, we agreed to this change in outfitters because of your strong recommendation and because we had little or no time to make an informed decision otherwise. We relied on your character and honesty. Obviously, we should have followed our first impulse; which was to not to go.
Please contact me when and if you receive any request for additional funds for trophies or handling fees. However, even though we signed the forms given us, if there is a process to dispute or deny the Game Scout's postings, we would like to pursue that process.
Clayton Smith Jerry Alexander
E-mail from Mark Audino of Henley and Delamere to Clayton Smith:
Clayton, I responded collectively to the issues raised by the group immediately upon hearing about it through a note received by Gary Furman. You are aware that I refunded the group 100% of the commission I had received for this hunt, and trust that Gary Furman has in turn refunded all of you on my behalf. I simultaneously contacted Licky about the issues your raised on your behalf, and because I cannot directly effect the processing of your trophies, I trust that he will help expedite them. Often, safari companies are at the mercy of the government's timetable for processing the season's worth of trophies by dozens of outfitters and hundreds of hunters. Regards, Mark
E-mail from Clayton Smith to Licky of Malagrasi:
I appreciate your professional response to my complaint sent to The Hunting Report. To further clarify my position, I have attached a copy of the letter I wrote to Mark Audino and Gary Hopkins in the event that you haven't seen it.
In reading your response I am somewhat concerned and/or skeptical when you say, "he" is the Game Scout, "insists there were clear, blood drops to indicate the buffalo were wounded, now, whether, he asked to be paid", etc. etc. The Game Scout was a woman. If in your investigation you got the impression that the scout was a man, someone was not being truthful.
I can appreciate your position in this matter but would ask you to keep in mind that the primary reason I and the Furmans, would spend the time and energy to complain, is because this was our first buffalo hunt and we would not want other hunters to experience what we went through. Also, if we did not inform you of what occurred, you would not be in a position to make the necessary corrective actions. Having said what I had to say, it is time to move on. What all of us would greatly appreciate from you, our outfitter, is your help in ensuring that our trophies get properly forwarded to us as soon as possible. We have not heard anything from your organization or Mark Audino. So any information you have on the status of our trophies would be greatly appreciated.
E-mail from Licky of Malagrasi to Clayton Smith:
Dear Clayton, Thanks for the letter to Mark and Gary as I hadn't seen it. When discussing the issue with the Sector Warden of Selous I never asked if the scout was a female or male - would actually never do so, as it would be disrespectful to ask about the sexuality of the person when discussing an issue questioning the performance of a person on duty. Also it's unfortunate that in Swahili language there's no third person form to indicate whether the person being talked about is female or male unless it's mentioned during the discussion, and which wasn't the case when we discussed it with the Sector Warden. I had also assumed the scout was a male out of our cultural inclination that our women wouldn't try to extort money from visitors, it was my fault and for sure it's an eye opener. The complaint hasn't been taken lightly and I am personally unhappy and with lots of doubts on Albert and after discussing the issue with the Sector Warden we agreed that he should never be employed again, and I've already informed him of that decision, we would never employ him in the future. In all our 17 years of safari operation we never had an allegation against any of our PHs trying to extort money from our client. On the other hand the Selous Management has taken the allegations very seriously, and even though it couldn't be proven, issued a stern warning to the scout involved and will be closely monitored in the future. On the trophies all I've been waiting for is for the fees to be paid for as per animals entered on the hunting licenses, and if it would make you feel satisfied I am willing to take your case to the Director of Wildlife and try to argue the case for you, as he's the only authority with powers to annul what has been filled on the hunting license. Please take note it may take some time to sort it out though. Thanks, Licky