Practical Steps to Avoid Being Scammed Booking a Safari in Uganda

Posted by on February 5, 2019

Use a Member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators

Practical Steps to Avoid Being Scammed Booking a Safari in Uganda

Search for the Right Tour Operator for you in Uganda – the Pearl of Africa

 Practical Steps to Avoid Being Scammed Booking a Safari in Uganda – Use a Member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators.  There are close to 1,000 Tour Operators in Uganda, you can find them on Facebook Pages, Websites, Blogs, Travel Forums, Instagram, Twitter, Safari Booking Sites of one kind or another. 

Most Tour Operators in Uganda have no intention of scamming you whether they are members of Auto or not. However, as anywhere in the world, there are a few bad, rotten apples to be found.  Just this week, one of those bad apples was arrested by the Uganda Tourism Police after leaving Tourist stranded in Queen Elizabeth Park. 

Today Micheal Ahabwe Mugerwa, the owner and director of Mushra Travel Agency is in Police Custody. He has left a trail of broken Promises ranging from not paying for lodges and things like Gorilla Permits. His Behavior and Con-Artist Scamming techniques stain all of us that are Tour Operators in Uganda.

A Facebook Posting triggered the arrest by  Gladys Nakunda, a Ugandan Women Activist that is part of Girls and not Brides.  The Uganda Tourism Board went into Action along with the Association of Uganda Tour Operators and the Uganda Tourism, and the Culprit was arrested and faced criminal charges.  Hopefully, the others that have posted their complaints on Safari Bookings, TripAdvisor, and other places.

Uganda’s Tourism Police on Friday arrested a quack tour operator who had fleeced a family of American tourists that had paid for a 15-day safari in Uganda.

According to Uganda Tourism Board Public Relations Manager, Sandra Natukunda, this followed a plea on Facebook by a friend of the American family named Hope Nankunda, who posted their predicament that went viral.

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‘It’s with great anger that I choose to express my disappointment in this Tour Company. They received thousands of dollars from a kind family that came from Boston to tour Uganda the ‘Pearl of Africa.’

‘The case has been reported at Rubirizi police station under Reference No. 08/24/01/2019 and is also following up with the Tourism Police, but I would appreciate it so much if the Tourism fraternity can stand and speak against this kind of act. My friends are stuck in Queen Elizabeth National Park At Enganzi Lodge’ said Hope a Kampala based social worker.’

After receiving the funds, efforts to follow up on the reservations for the safari were futile as the fraudsters stopped responding to mail and switched off their phones.

 Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) quickly set up a committee after calling an emergency meeting of stakeholders.
The team then conducted an operation led by Commandant Tourism Police Frank Mwesigwa, UTB Quality Assurance Manager Semakula Samora together with Gloria Tumwesigye, CEO of (AUTO)Association of Uganda Tour Operators, leading to the arrest of suspect Micheal Ahabwe – the so-called Director of Mushra Travel Agency. He was arrested near his home in Lubowa and detained at Lubowa Police station located along Entebbe road.

This comes at a time when the Ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities is reviewing the ‘Tourism Act’ of 2008 with Cyber fraud crime rising high on the agenda. The vice had increasingly dogged the tourism sector with several cases received by AUTO secretariat in the recent past including a couple that was taken to see baboons instead of gorillas, only to realize later that they had been duped when they shared their photos with friends.

It was a happy ending as Hope eventually confirmed on her FaceBook wall that the tourists were able to continue with their safari.

’I would like to thank

The Uganda Tourism Board and the Tourism Police for their significant commitment to ensuring that the Fraud case raised gets the attention it rightfully deserves. They have been very supportive and dedicated to clearing the name of the Tourism Industry. The Tourists were also provided with Gorilla permits to access Bwindi Impenetrable National Park without paying more money. That’s a credit, and I must say you have done well and promoted justice. ‘

Tourists are advised to always do due diligence with the UTB or Uganda Tourists Association and its trade associations, eg. AUTO before they book.

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What will happen – What Should Happen to Mushrah Travel Agency’s Director Micheal Ahabwe Mugerwa

At this time he is locked up, and a trial will be set.  Pretrial investigations are underway – the victims of his crimes need to be contacted, restitution should be made if at all possible and if any assets and funds remain including the accused personal properties should be used to make partially rights the wrong.

Authorities should demand and remove the Website, Facebook, Twitter, Safari Bookings – all traces of the man and his business on the internet.  The Rushaga Office closed, employees who were part of the deceptive schemes arrested and brought to trial.

The sentence should be and firm setting an example for others not to follow his ways.  Will it happen? Time will tell.  He stained the Tourism Image of the Pearl of Africa and put doubts into the minds of potential visitors and Tourists to Uganda. That must be rectified.

How do you Avoid Being Scammed Booking a Safari in Uganda?

An Insiders Perspective on how to avoid being conned out of your Money booking a Gorilla, Chimpanzee, Wildlife Safari in Uganda, and it begins by using Google Search.

Consider this. You live in the US, the UK,, Europe, Canada, Australia, India, how the heck do you know that you are choosing the right tour company when they all look pretty much the same on the Internet and for the most part offer similar tours?

That is a great question! And a crucial one too since making the wrong choice can cost you time, money and bring you a lot of grief as you are on your Dream African Holiday in Uganda. You want to Avoid Being Scammed Booking a Safari in Uganda, and we have put together a few things that we think are worth considering when choosing a Tour Operator in Uganda.

There are a few Bad Apples among Tour Operators -Mushrah Travel Agency’s Director Micheal Ahabwe Mugerwa is one of them. A flashy, meteor-like rise in the Tour Operator Business which is one of the most robust and most competitive fields where success is measured by consistency, history, durability, trust, delivery of services promised. He broke all the rules, selectively delivered, manipulated, defrauded, stole. He had a fancy, impressive office, all part of an empty shell designed to impress, but it was a house of cards due to fall, and it did.

Due to an increase of Tourism in Uganda some Criminals are trying to Cash in on it – Most Tour Operators are dedicated men and women who will make your time in Uganda a most wonderful Experience

 1. Use a Member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators:

Mushra Travel claimed on their Website to be a member of AUTO.  However, when you go to the Association of Uganda Tour Operators Membership Page will find no Mushra Travel Agency listed.

This is not uncommon; many tour operators in Uganda claim to be part of AUTO where the Uganda Tourism Board approves them.  There are 1,000 Tour Operators according to a recent article in the Daily Monitor, many of them are Briefcase Tour Operators.  Mushra Travel had a new Fancy Office in Kampala.

They had a fancy, if not somewhat pushy website, they offered tours across a large portion of the African Continent, were not a member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators but pretended to be on their site.

The question his arrest brings is what about any of their clients arriving this week or next in Uganda.  What will happen to them?

The Reality for most – You want to know that you are choosing a company who will not only do what they say they’ll do, but do it as well and implement the safari as per the Itinerary agreed upon using the vehicle, lodges, activities as indicated, no substitutions without informing you so that they are no surprises for you.

The Best Advice we can give – use a Member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators.

 2.  Trust but Verify

At rare times a request for a Safari will come in with the negative tone of distrust in it. It is not a good start to plan one of the most exciting trips in one’s life. We strongly encourage to use what Ronald Reagan quoted an old Russian proverb, “Trust but Verify.”

Take this Statement taken from their Website – “Mushra Travel Agency is Certified and Regulated by Tourism Boards in all countries where we operate, is a Member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators and the Uganda Tourism Association, is Registered and Incorporated under the Laws of Uganda and, is Tax Compliant Company.”

Just because you read it on a Uganda Tour Operator Website does not mean it is true. It is certified and Regulated by the Tourism Boards in all countries where they operate? All you have to do is do a bit of research on Google, and you find complaints regarding what would be considered Criminal Activities that are not certified and regulated by any Country in East Africa or beyond.

You can check the history of a company by seeing when website was established, read the About Us Page if there is one, read the Terms of Service Page for the Site if there is one – Trust but Verify – reviews Google Business, Facebook, TripAdvisor, Safari Booking if the Tour Operator used that service.  You will see, that Safari Booking has suspended Sales by Mushra Travel Agency through them due to complaints received – Trust but Verify.

Find a Tour Operator that is accountable to you – lets you know the progress of booking your Safari in regards to Lodging, Permits and any changes that might have to be made so that there are no surprises. You have that right since you are in many cases investing thousands of Dollars.

 3. What Other People Say – Reviews are helpful but can be and are manipulated:

These days, there are many ways to find out what other people think of their first-hand experiences with that particular Tour Operator, social media being one.

Check out their Google Business Listing, Facebook Page, the reviews on Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor, etc.

You need to be smart about this, some reviews do need to be taken with a grain of salt,  but it is easy to spot the genuine ones.

If you find that there are bad reviews, how many compared to the good ones?

Reviews are a helpful tool in picking a tour operator.  They can be manipulated. You can even hire a reputable company to make yourself look better just as you can buy Facebook page likes.

Reviews can be unfair at times where a tour operator is blamed if the Gorillas scampered off into the Forest not realizing that such an encounter is not stage-managed.  The same applies lodges. One is not in control over the friendliness of the staff at a lodge; at times, they might be having a bad day.

But when as in the Case of Mushra Travel Agency you read reviews where permits were not bought even though you paid for them six months earlier or a lodge had not been paid, than all the other positive reviews become meaningless diatribe, mere words.

What one finds even more impressive in the case of the aforementioned Tour Operator is their response to a client’s reviews such as this. There is a possibility that this is a fake and malicious review by people who send us requests for payment failure of which we are threatened with negative reviews.”  This was posted on Safari Bookings. They no longer offer tours for the company. The tone of the response by the Tour Operator is most telling and not part of the image that the tour operator portraits on their website.

Reputation is as important if not more so than Price of the Safari

 4.  Do not pick a Tour Operator who is the Jack of All Trades but the Master of None:

Most Tour Operators in Uganda are what we called inbound Tour Operators.  The standard approach is to throw out as wide a net as possible to catch as many fish (clients) as possible.

You will find them promoting themselves as the Jack of all Trades extending their safaris way beyond Uganda.  Some companies are successful at that. The Mushra Travel Agency tried to be that offering Budget, mid-range, upmarket, luxury Safaris not only in Uganda but a wide swath of what one could call Safari Africa.

On top of that, they offered Vehicle Rentals, Self-Drive Options, Volunteer Opportunities competing with anyone and everyone in the Tour Business far an wide with promises that seemed too good to be true.

The reality is in the 21st Century as it has been in the past that even as a Tour Operator, you find what you do best and excel in that.  We use the phrase “There is only one thing we do Create Memorable Safaris in Uganda, and there we go even further by focusing on Primate Safaris and incorporate the other natural wonders of Uganda.  In our Case we know Uganda, we live and work here, we do not offer Safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, DR Congo, Burundi, only Uganda with Rwanda being included.  We are not a Jack of All Trades, we know our limitations, and that has been to our Advantage.  We also know that we are not the tour operator for everyone, and at times we let a potential Client know just that.

A Specialist rather than a Generalist might be the right Tour Operator.

 5. Beware of Pushy in your Face High-Pressure Tour Operators:

If you go through Owino Market in Kampala, you will find yourself being pulled, tugged, pressured to enter someone’s stall to buy, and you wind up with things that you never wanted and did not need.

A few Ugandan Tour Operators try to sell you safaris in that manner.  Most will be low-key and use a relational selling approach.

The only time a Tour Operator might tell you that you need to act on time if there are Permits involved, especially Gorilla Habituation Permits and there only two left.

It is not pleasant for you to have to deal with a high-pressure Tour Agent, you have a choice, you can ignore them or tell them that their sales pressure tactics are offensive to you.

 6.  Choose a Ugandan Tour Operator that is entirely transparent:

There’s nothing worse than showing up in Uganda for your safari only to discover that you are not getting what you thought you paid for.  This happens with less reputable Tour Operators where the itinerary has a mid-range, and you wind up staying in a budget Camp with pit latrines.  When you book your safari, you need to 100% clear of what is included and what is not. Be sure that Permits, Activities listed, lodging is confirmed, vehicle type, lunches on the road are included.

Some companies have hidden costs, hidden extras, some may only offer Lodging on a Bed and Breakfast Basis and not lunch or dinner, and you missed the fine print, others have no bottled water Know before you Go.  Get it in writing and put on the actual itinerary – You do not want a stripped-down Safari but an inclusive one where you get what you expect without hidden extras that could take the focus off of the Safari and onto the logistical issues

 7. Do not pay for your Safari via Western Union nor to a Private Individual:

Paying for your Safari begins with a down payment.  Legitimate Tour Operators will have a Company Bank Account where you can transfer the money to.  They will also notify you when it arrives and what has been done with it.  Where you have doubts, ask for receipts.

Credit Card Payments have a fee attached to them, but you have more of recourse to dispute the transaction. Many companies use secure Merchant Services offered by PesaPal.

If you are asked to send money via Western Union or send money to an individual’s bank account reconsider doing business with them

A Tour Operator must keep diligent records of down payments since profits for the company are not realized until final payment is made.

 8.  If you receive a quote that is drastically lower than others-too good to be true-It might be a Scam:

A Scam Tour Operator will use the lowest priced technique to get your money.  Most Safari quotes will be similar. There will be differences since tour operators may offer the same safari with different activities, meal plans, and the like.

The Mushra Travel Agency in Uganda advertised Gorilla Safaris on Facebook at 30% off – that tour operator had to use the same lodges, same permits, same transport costs as other tour operators. How then?

A fraudulent Tour Operator who has no intent on delivering services want to get at your money.  They will offer a price that is ridiculously low in price.  You think you are getting a bargain, but when you arrive for your Safari in Entebbe, there is nothing that awaits you.  You have been scammed.

It is rare, very rare, but it occurs in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania.  Uganda has become what one would say locally, very serious about Tour Operator Scams and has arrested two of them within one week.

Ugandan Tour Operators can legitimately claim that their Gorilla Safaris are half the price compared to Rwanda and that is presently a fact of Gorilla Tourism.  A tour operator cannot offer a 30% off gorilla Safari since there are no discounted gorilla

Fraudulent Tour Operators are a rarity – they do exist, but the Uganda Tourism Board along with Association of Uganda Tour Operators is doing all they can to identify and remove them.

 Getting scammed on a Safari is Rare in Uganda:

Avoid Getting scammed booking a safari in Uganda – it is a rare occurrence.  It is not the norm.  99% of Tour Operators are honest and want the best for you during the time in the Pearl of Africa.

We suggest using a Member of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators.  This always gives you a recourse when a tour operator violates the Code of Conduct that they promised to abide by and uphold when they joined  AUTO.

The Uganda Tourism Act is in the process of being revised to build in more protection for Visitors and Tourists to Uganda.

One rotten apple can stain those of us in Tourism but not destroy it.  Tourism in Uganda is thriving because dedicated Tour Operators give their best to make your time in Uganda memorable.