1 May 2024

Lindsay visited not only South Africa but Lesotho and Eswatini - Simply put, Alan Tours goes above and beyond the call to ensure client satisfaction is met

— original message —

5 star Tripadvisor review

Reviewed 1 May 2024


One of the most exceptional tour companies I have ever had the pleasure to travel with!

I had an exceptional tour with Alan Tours!

Itinerary: I had asked Alan Tours to put together a very unique and out of the box itinerary based on the countries I wished to visit and the sights I wished to see within those countries. This itinerary was very far removed from the typical tourist offerings, and in fact, I couldn’t easily locate a tour operator that would agree to execute the specific itinerary I had wanted.

 Until I contacted Alan Tours, that is. Alan Tours was able to design and execute the itinerary to perfection. Here is the itinerary I had requested: I began my journey in Bloemfontein, where driver/guide Graeme collected me from the airport. Flying into Bloemfontein was the suggestion of Alan Tours, and I am happy with this suggestion, as it shaved a day off of my commute time and spared me from a 20 plus hour bus journey on Intercape from Cape Town (where I was originating). 

From Bloemfontein, we crossed the border into Lesotho (via the border crossing that heads towards Maseru) to visit the extraordinary Maletsunyane Falls, which was a non-negotiable for me on my itinerary. Graeme and I visited the top of the Falls from the viewpoint, and also descended by foot to the base of the Falls for an all encompassing view! Graeme was such a good sport about the hiking component, and as an outdoor enthusiast, he was absolutely the right fit for this itinerary! The Falls were truly spectacular and without a doubt the highlight of my time in Lesotho. Be cautioned that the trail down was extremely steep, with a lot of loose gravel sections where you could easily fall (we both slipped here and there on descent). In truth, I found the ascent to be much easier to get one’s footing. We stopped for photos periodically on the ascent which served as a scenic rest/break! The scenery was simply unbelievable, and I was surprised to learn that most tourists don’t pay a visit to these magnificent Falls! For me, it was the most scenic, beautiful location in all of Lesotho. [Side note: If I remember correctly, the entrance fee was 130 R per person, and this cost was included in my tour]. In fact, the Waterfall was the highlight of my entire journey/itinerary with Alan Tours! 

After a wonderful visit and two overnight stays in the beautiful Semonkong Lodge, we traveled along the scenic mountainous passes towards Mokhotlong. The scenery was breathtaking, but be prepared for bad roads and steep mountain passes! The drive was also very long – over 8 hours – but this was made better in Graeme’s company! Graeme expertly navigated these passes and I always felt in safe hands! He always used extreme caution and took due diligence on each route.

 Next, my itinerary included the scenic Sani Pass (also a non-negotiable for me!) and was it ever beautiful! After passing border control, we made the descent down from Lesotho into South Africa. We were blessed with gorgeous clear skies, minimal haze and little vehicle traffic. The views from the scenic pass are incredible and well worth the while! 

We then made our way to Dundee to rest for the night (at a fabulous bed and breakfast!) before making our way to Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) the next morning. In Eswatini, it was my desire and priority to go to Sibebe Rock. When we arrived at Sibebe Rock in the early afternoon, we parked our vehicle at the main hiking post/base, and engaged the services of a local guide who operates purely on a tip/satisfaction basis. Together with the guide, we made the ascent to Sibebe Lodge, paid the entrance fee of 30 R per person, parked our vehicle and then proceeded 1 hour on foot to visit the caves and a spectacular side view of the rock (which looks like an elephant). It was really beautiful there and I was incredibly happy that Alan Tours was able to incorporate this into my itinerary!

 Onwards from Eswatini, we drove back towards Johannesburg, crossing the border quite early, where I was due to catch a flight out that evening! At my request, Graeme rearranged the itinerary and departure time to arrange for the delivery of a new/replacement camera lens for me to the airport area from a camera shop in the CBD (I had arranged with the camera shop to have a courier deliver the lens to a hotel of my choice nearby to the airport). I detail the process and reasoning behind this a bit further below, as I owe tremendous thanks to Graeme, especially, but also Angelika and Alan. Finally, after a quick lunch, Graeme dropped me off at OR Tambo airport departures level and we said our goodbyes, marking the end of the tour!

First of all, I owe a massive thank you to Marizan, Angelika, Alan and Graeme who all worked extremely hard to plan and execute this rather unique and never done before itinerary. I know that Angelika, Alan and Marizan (who I corresponded with most frequently) were all pivotal in making this itinerary a reality and I have all 3 to dearly thank! I thank Graeme for executing this itinerary to perfection, and making changes as needed to accommodate emergencies and changing priorities (i.e. shattered camera lens). Not only was Alan Tours able to customize this itinerary in a unique way, they were also able to do so within my budget, which was essential. Several months ago, I explained that I was traveling in Africa for a period of 6 months and could only afford to put so much money towards this itinerary. After much planning, Alan, Angelika and Marizan proposed this itinerary, which fit perfectly within my budget and included all of the sights I couldn’t have, in good conscience, missed out on!

Communication: I was in regular communication with Marizan from Alan Tours. I rate communication extremely high (10/10) – Marizan was very professional, friendly, and was very responsive via email, which I most appreciated. I gave Alan Tours an impossible task of planning a never done before itinerary within a specific and limited budget, and not only was Alan Tours able to deliver on this, but all communication was done with a high degree of professionalism and client satisfaction in mind. I was left most impressed with the level of service offered by this company! If I could rate Alan Tours higher than the allowed 5 stars, I absolutely would.

In addition, Alan and Angelika were in constant communication with driver/guide Graeme throughout the tour to make sure everything was going to plan, and that we arrived at our intended destinations safely and as planned (particularly in the sections where the roads weren’t ideal!). I really appreciated the level of effort and client care that Alan Tours has inserted into its operations. In all my years of travel, I have to admit that this level of effort is truly rare.

Payment of this tour was done online, in full, via credit card, providing me ease of bill settlement and peace of mind! This was of particular importance to me, since I was already needing to carry a large amount of USD and Euro on my person to navigate 6 months of travel in the primarily cash economies of West Africa.

Driver/guide: My driver/guide, as you well know, was Graeme, who was just an excellent individual all around! Graeme is a local from Port Elizabeth, a nature enthusiast and has extensive expertise in plant and wildlife. Graeme was extremely knowledgeable about South Africa, and the regions of South Africa through which we were transiting! Although this was Graeme’s first time visiting Lesotho and Eswatini, he navigated all aspects of the journey expertly! (In fact, my itinerary was a first for the company on a whole, which was also an exciting venture!). Graeme took additional care to plan to route and conducted daily checks to ensure the vehicle was in good condition before undertaking long drive days and especially treacherous mountainous passes. Graeme was calculated in his approach, and this was very much appreciated, as I felt in safe hands at every turn! Not only was Graeme a terrific guide and driver, Graeme was a true pleasure to get to know and communicate with on the day-to-day. I really enjoyed our conversations on long drive days! Graeme was very inquisitive, keen to learn and was was equally keen to share! I very much appreciated his sense of humour, knowledge of birds and wildlife, sense of adventure (needed for this hiking itinerary!) and overall friendly demeanour. Graeme executed this itinerary perfectly to plan, and was checking in regularly with the office throughout. I was given ample information the night before about the plans for the next day, and often, we would make the plan in conjunction with what my wishes were. I really appreciated the flexibility in itinerary and the emphasis on client satisfaction! Graeme’s communication was timely, informative and mirrored the professionalism that Alan Tours embodies as a whole. It was an absolute pleasure to travel with Graeme over the course of my itinerary; I simply could not have received a better guide/driver for this itinerary!

Simply put, Alan Tours goes above and beyond the call to ensure client satisfaction is met (in my case, far exceeded!). To demonstrate, the morning of my flight to Bloemfontein, I most unfortunately shattered my telephoto lens, resulting in the complete loss/destruction of a $2500 lens. Devastated and emotional about what had transpired, I sent a WhatsApp message to Graeme as I was about to board my flight, and let him know the situation. As photography is my primary expression in travel, I inquired whether there was any solution to this rather urgent problem in the city of Bloemfontein or beyond. Upon receiving my message, the entire office got to work on finding a suitable solution, conducting google searches and making telephone calls to stores in Bloemfontein that might carry a suitable replacement lens for me! Even Graeme was busy on the phone, making inquiries about products on the shelf. Upon arrival at the airport, Graeme assured me we would go and take a look at the nearby stores, trying all possibilities to rectify the situation. Although we were unable to find a suitable replacement (Bloemfontein is simply too small of a town), it really brought a tear to my eye that Alan Tours was forefront in trying to problem-solve my personal dilemma, putting in all resources possible to help me in any and all ways possible. In the end, I was able to conduct a series of google searches from Semonkong, and I located a replacement lens in Johannesburg CBD (the exact lens I had shattered, in fact, previously owned/used, but in mint condition, for a fraction of the cost). I sent a WhatsApp message to the camera shop, which was located in the CBD, and asked if they could 1) hold the lens for me and 2) deliver it to the airport area in time for my flight out of Johannesburg on the day of my departure.

 They agreed, and let me know I could pay the courier in cash upon receiving the lens. Graeme made rather major changes to the itinerary (in particular, we moved the visit to Sibebe Rock to the afternoon prior) to ensure we would have time for this priority process, accompanied me to a bank so I could withdraw more money (I hadn’t budgeted on shattering an expensive lens!) and also waited with me at the designated meeting spot nearby to the airport to ensure that the courier from the camera shop arrived (as agreed upon) and that the handover of money and camera went as planned. Graeme also made the phone calls frequently to the courier to ensure this process went smoothly for me (helping the courier navigate when he lost his way!). Graeme truly took my problem (because this was indeed my problem exclusively) on as his own, and was very much concerned about finding a solution for me! Alan and Angelika as well. I came to learn that they also were running google searches, trying to figure out alternative solutions should this original plan fail. Graeme as well; the night prior, Graeme had already calculated the distance to travel, border wait times, as well as carefully backup plans should my initial plan to have a replacement lens delivered to the airport fail. 

Graeme maintained a sense of optimism throughout, which was reassuring for me, since I have been failed by human beings many a time and thus have a rather grim view on people following through on their word. His optimism about the situation really helped to take my mind off the situation. At every turn, Graeme, Alan and Angelika factored in my personal safety first and foremost, and also the safety of the company vehicle (rightfully so!). This level of effort from their end was all completely unexpected and very much appreciated! Here, I reiterate that Alan Tours goes above and beyond the usual call of service/operations. I think that this truly speaks to the ethos of the company, and the level to which the company staff are willing to go to ensure the needs of clients are met (and then some)!

 I’ve never before experienced this level of empathy, compassion and care from a tour company, and for that, I am ever grateful. So much so that it brings a tear to my eyes as I sit here in the airport typing out this review of Alan Tours. You will be happy to know that everything worked out for me in the end, I received a replacement lens in mint condition, and I really do have Graeme to thank for his important part in that process! Finally, because everything had gone to plan with the delivery of the replacement lens in a timely fashion, Graeme suggested we grab lunch at a nearby restaurant prior to dropping me off at the airport! His suggestion was made primarily so I wouldn’t be made to wait at the airport for so many hours. Also very much appreciated! Keep in mind, Graeme had another 2.5 hours to drive that afternoon/evening, and another 10 or so hours the following day to return the company vehicle to Port Elizabeth. All in all, Graeme is of such tremendous character that he considers the needs and happiness of his clients first and foremost. This, I can tell you, first hand, is an incredible rarity in customer service.

This also reminds me that I also had the most unfortunate luck of becoming mildly ill during my tour, and Graeme took great care and attention to ensure that I was feeling fine/better, day to day. If Graeme is a reflection of Alan Tours, then it is very clear to me that the operations of Alan Tours are human-centric and unbelievably compassion and accommodating.

Accommodation: I was truly blown away by the quality of accommodation chosen for my tour. All of the accommodation (guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, lodges) were exceptional and far exceeded expectations. I’ve reviewed all of the accommodation separately, on TripAdvisor. It is clear that Alan Tours puts much emphasis and care into researching and selecting accommodation for guests. In summary, I was pleasantly surprised with the chosen accommodation particularly via-a-vis budgetary constraints!

Included meals: All breakfasts were included as per my itinerary, and all were excellent! If sitting down for breakfast wasn’t a possibility with our early departure time, Graeme arranged with the accommodation for an earlier breakfast time or a packed breakfast, if necessary. Lunches and dinners were on own account, and I knew this going into the tour, subsequently budgeting for this. Alan Tours included suggestions on where to eat, and all of the suggested restaurants were excellent! I tried many delicious delicacies, such as fresh trout in Lesotho, steak and eggs in Himeville (a specialty!), biltong etc. Again, Alan Tours went above and beyond to ensure that water and snacks were provided on long drive days! Graeme and Marizan worked together to ensure that there were high protein snacks available such as boiled eggs, nuts, various cheeses, biltong, jerky, sausages, etc. Graeme always took great care to ensure I had enough water and snacks! I had mentioned to Marizan in earlier emails that I prefer to follow a high protein diet, but I did not at all expect to have all of these extra snacks provided! These snacks and treats were all very unexpected but very much appreciated – I was blown away by the generosity of the company in providing these, frankly. To have these extras included, again, speaks to the great effort this tour company/operator goes to in order to ensure client satisfaction. Even better, Graeme kept a cooler box in the trunk to keep water and snacks chilled at all times!

Truck: The truck was a massive 9-seat 4×4, which meant there was ample room in the vehicle. I travelled alone, so there was no shortage of seats or space in the vehicle! The truck was in excellent condition, well equipped for the roads this journey/itinerary demanded and Graeme took great care to inspect and service the vehicle daily. Graeme always made sure the truck was topped up with oil, diesel and other fluids required for the road conditions. He inspected the tires and under the vehicle diligently! Graeme was extremely careful to avoid potholes and any scrapes or damage to the vehicle. Graeme also made sure to get a good night’s rest prior to long travel days, so as not to drive tired/fatigued. All of this had the combined effect of making me feel assured that both Graeme and the vehicle were prepared for the road conditions and long travel days ahead!

Execution of itinerary: In large thanks to Graeme, together with all of the staff at the office, the itinerary was executed beautifully! I was able to see all of intended/desired destinations, including extra scenic passes (Graeme would always offer to stop, when safe to do so, of course, at scenic lookouts etc.). Departure times were on time, and arrival times were precisely as communicated, even on long drive days where road conditions were difficult to anticipate. I can’t thank Alan Tours enough for putting together this itinerary for me within the requested budget range. As a solo traveler, I have to say, it was really difficult to find a tour operator who would consider putting together and execute this itinerary for me, and I’m so incredibly happy that Alan Tours was able to successfully do just that! had just an incredible tour!

Overall: As I have said before, if I could offer Alan Tours more than 5 stars, I absolutely would. The level of professionalism, detail, care and emphasis on client satisfaction that goes into the planning and execution of tours is beyond belief. I wouldn’t hesitate to travel with Alan Tours again, and recommend to my fellow travellers that they engage the excellent services of Alan Tours. I am confident that Alan Tours can expertly execute any itinerary, no matter how unique, within your intended budget! Alan Tours is an exceptional tour company/operator, all around!

I would like to end this review by saying that I owe a tremendous, heartfelt thank you to each and every one of the staff of Alan Tours – Alan, Marizan, Angelika, Graeme, and others I may have missed – for expertly designing and executing my intended itinerary. I really am appreciative and cognizant of every effort that went into every aspect of this journey, and I am forever grateful for the compassion you’ve shown me when it was revealed I was with broken/shattered camera lens. I am truly thankful for everything and I look forward to connecting with you again for preparation of future itineraries! Thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart! There are no words I can put to screen that can appropriately capture the depth of gratitude I feel.

P.S. Please do not feel obligated in any way to respond to this monstrosity of a review. Simply, I am acknowledging your tremendous professionalism, organization and execution in the only way I know how (a detailed, glowing review). It was my pleasure alone to have traveled with your company and I do hope to travel with you again in future! Certainly, the next time I have an oddball itinerary to propose, I will know just who to contact in order to make it happen!

Extending my most sincere regards and thanks.

Sani Pass, Lesotho