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GAP Adventures - experiences?

Various stories positive and negative regarding GAP adventures - there is no general consensus. All comments reflect the opinions and experiences of the individual posters.
16 years ago, June 16th 2007 No: 1 Msg: #15305  
2nd April 2008 - GAP Adventures have contacted us informing that the complaints detailed in this post have been dealt with to the satisfaction of all parties. To maintain the integrity of the discussion we have not altered the original message - upon reading any complaints on forum - remember that there are always two sides to a story - detailed in the responses below.

I participated in GAP's "Dunes, Delta, & Falls Explorer" trip traveling from Cape Town, South Africa to Livingstone, Zambia during April 24, 2007 to May 15, 2007. It turned out to be one of the worst planned and executed tours I have ever been on, and after spending a lifetime traveling around the world through 75 countries and 7 continents and working for a time in the adventure travel industry, this is not an allegation I am making flippantly.

The tour was originally advertised as having a maximum of 12 participants; however three months before the departure date, GAP announced that the group size was being increased to 16. They eventually booked 18 people on the trip - 50%!m(MISSING)ore people than originally planned. One person missed the departure, so we ended up traveling with 17 participants, a guide and a driver for a total of 19 people.

The tour leader had never been on this trip before, and in fact had never been to many of the areas we visited. This completely limited his ability to function - he wasn't able to anticipate and respond to the many problems we had with lodging and the itinerary, and he wasn't able to provide much information about the areas visited. He attempted several times to assist the group with some of these problems but didn't have the resources to affect any changes and received little support from GAP. This was his first trip for GAP and vowed it would be his last. Indeed we later found out that GAP has a hard time getting and keeping trip leaders because of their maladroit business practices outlined below.

The travel time was seriously underestimated in the itinerary. It appears that someone extrapolated the travel time by pulling the distances from a map, which failed to allow for the fact that 70%!o(MISSING)f the roads were unpaved, and also didn't account for fuel, lunch and restroom breaks. Because the itinerary schedule was aggressive to begin with, underestimating the travel time greatly impacted the trip causing us to often leave early in the morning in the dark and arrive at our final destination at sun down or after dark. At many of our stops, we were supposed to be able to engage in optional activities; however, this was often disallowed because there was no time. Thus the trip evolved into an extended bus ride. At the few places where we had time to do optional activities, it was usually too late to make arrangements – the activities should have been planned ahead. However when we tried to plan something ahead, the tour guide was of little assistance as he had never been to any of these places before and didn't know who to contact or how to make the arrangements. We can only reminisce about all the interesting things we could have done.

Another impact of the poorly planned itinerary was that several times we didn't get lunch until 3 - 4 pm. After a week of that, the group loudly complained and the guide starting getting some lunches made and packed in the morning for us to take on the road. Even though we usually arrived late in the day, at some of the places we stayed the accommodations were not ready when we arrived. One hotel was even closed and locked when we arrived and we had to search around town for someone to open it and let us in. Once we had to stand around for 1 1/2 hours while maids made up the rooms. We also had to wait for three hours in the Maun airport while our Okavango Delta camp worked out its payment problem with the charter plane company. By the time we arrived at the camp, we had missed that morning's activities.

Poor planning and a poorly thought out itinerary might be the hallmarks of an amateurish organization. But omitting items from the itinerary due to an oversight on their part and refusing to compensate the customers for this are characteristics of a completely incompetent and abominable travel company.

According to some authorities, two of the top ten things to do in Africa are to visit Etosha's lighted water hole at night and do a night game drive in Etosha (one of the few game parks in Africa that allow it). To do both of these things, you need to stay inside the park since it is closed from sunset to sunrise. Our GAP itinerary included staying inside the park with a nighttime visit to the lighted water hole and allowed the option of a night game drive. These two activities formed the primary reason I chose to participate in this trip. Unfortunately, GAP failed to secure lodging inside the park and we ended up having to stay outside the park approximately 1.5 hours away. This precluded any night activities in the park. We were notified of this itinerary change two days before we were to arrive at Etosha. I was certainly upset by this news and immediately contacted Andrew at GAP headquarters in Toronto who referred me to Ben, the Director of African Field Operations in Nairobi. In my conversations with him, Ben made it clear that GAP was not interested in customer satisfaction and was not interested in GAP's reputation in the travel industry. He said that GAP could alter the itinerary without notice for whatever reason they chose even if it was due to an oversight or error on GAP's part. He further said that GAP felt no obligation to fulfill the promised itinerary and felt no obligation to compensate their customers for anything omitted in the itinerary. (Given that line of reasoning we can surmise that GAP could have told us in Cape Town that a bus wasn't available for the trip, we would have to stay in Cape Town for the entire 21 days, and that they didn't feel obligated to compensate us in any way.) The excuse that Ben gave was that Etosha was undergoing renovations and lodging wasn't available. After we arrived in the park, we investigated that assertion and discovered that the renovations had been going on for well over a year, most were complete and that only a few rooms were unavailable because of the renovation. There were many people staying in the park and several camps even had vacant accommodations available. What we discovered is that GAP waited to late to book the lodging and couldn't accommodate the increased number of travelers in our group. The fact that they wouldn’t admit to that or offer their customers any recompense is irreprehensible.

Because of the poor planning and the lack of preparation on this itinerary, omitting items from the itinerary because of an oversight on their part, and the complete unwillingness to work with their customers to resolve problems, I would certainly recommend that fellow travelers not book any trip of any kind with GAP. I know that GAP trips are sometimes less expensive than other operators, but as you can see there are definite reasons for that. Like most things in life: You get what you pay for. Spend your money with a more reputable travel company. GAP is not worth the hassle.
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16 years ago, June 21st 2007 No: 2 Msg: #15487  
Too bad for GAP. Bad reputation begets bankruptcy. Unless they try to improve, they need to expect a decline in their profits. Reply to this

16 years ago, August 18th 2007 No: 3 Msg: #18150  
Rcon you are right on that one. Fun thing, I found this link below about this experience and I think the gap people did a good job with it.
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16 years ago, October 6th 2007 No: 4 Msg: #20532  
Unsure about this. Africa is Africa, and yes, tour companies may run into problems from time to time, but that is what traveling is about. Running into tough situations, getting over it and laughing at them later. I've traveled on my own and with G.A.P Adventures and had amazing experiences both times. I think 'Boatnicks' should relax and enjoy life instead of spending it writing long ass blogs, bad mouthing a great organization because of his so called 'rough experience'. I WILL travel with G.A.P Adventures again and so should others.

~Follow Your Path. Reply to this

16 years ago, October 11th 2007 No: 5 Msg: #20766  
I just finished a GAP tour and I would agree with everything that Boatniks said. I felt as though I had an amazing experience in India despite GAP - instead of because of or with GAP. I still had a great experience but would say that GAP completely oversold our tour on everything... I won't be using them again. Reply to this

16 years ago, October 11th 2007 No: 6 Msg: #20775  
My experience with GAP's "Jewels of India" tour matched Boatniks to a "T". So much so that I have just cancelled the Thailand trip I had booked with GAP for November. In my case, the dossier we were provided turned out to be a work of fiction. Portions of the itinerary were skipped entirely, lunches (as Boatniks stated) were 3:00 or later, and GAP was completely unwilling to deal with the discrepencies between what we had listed and what the tour guide had. I've taken 15 tours in the last 3 years, and my GAP experience was the absolute worst of the lot. I'll never use this company again. Reply to this

16 years ago, November 4th 2007 No: 7 Msg: #21945  
N Posts: 2
Here's something I just posted to GAP's Watering Hole forum. Quite honestly, it scares me that this info is missing and I would never travel with them again because of this HUGE oversight...

Dear Perspective Kili Klimbers,

Having guided for over half a decade and having watched GAP clients shell out significant amounts of additional money at the base of the mountain, I feel it it is my duty to every other person who goes up that hill with GAP to be as informed as possible; even if GAP chooses not to do so.

As you begin to wonder if "you can really do it" or you make that final click to submit your information (and first of many payments to GAP), please be aware of something that GAP shockingly (and possibly criminally) does not emphasize enough about this trip: it's cold up there.

Duh, right? Of course it's cold up there - 5,895 metres (19,341 ft), tallest free standing mountain in the world, highest point in Africa, etc etc. Snow generally begins to fall well below 8,000 ft so one should certainly expect it to be cold, right?

Then why is it that GAP doesn't recommend a *single* piece of warm clothing in their Marangu trip dossier? In fact, the word "cold" is only used ONCE in the ENTIRE dossier and that single instance describes the silly huts you sleep in.

How can it be that GAP would be so careless? Is GAP *assuming* its clients are going to know it's cold up there? It doesn't appear so because they certainly don't *assume* you're going to bring your kite! (You're reminded to bring this in the gear checklist). The fact of the matter is whoever wrote the gear checklist has never climbed Kili, which says VOLUMES of what type of organization this is.

I watched other GAP Adventurers have to pay more than just their "local payment" because they strictly adhered to the GAP equipment list and were caught at the base of the mountain COMPLETELY unprepared for the weather ahead of them.

So here it is, the list that GAP has failed to provide for you. You're going to need:
- a WARM, SYNTHETIC THREAD hat. It can be wool if you like, or a blend, but it must be warm and you should like wearing it while hiking because at 1 a.m. when your heart is pounding out of your chest and you are "pole poleing" your way up the summit, you are going to need a hat that will keep you warm

- warm GLOVES OR MITTENS. This one REALLY shocked me! How could you not put this on an equipment list? Women should especially be mindful of this due to the reduced profusion in the fingers. Bring little chemical HAND WARMERS if you like those.

- WATERPROOF BOOTS. Yes, they MUST be waterproof (it's not just a "recommendation" as GAP would have you believe). And they must be BOOTS. I don't know what moron thought "Sturdy, comfortable walking shoes" would work when during day 1 you're in a rain forest (wet) and by day 3 you're in a high altitude tundra (frozen). It's probably the same guy who recommends you bring a "rain racket" (see checklist). The fact is, if your shoes get wet they will certainly freeze (not dry) and your trip will be over. And even if your shoes don't freeze, waterproof boots will help keep your feet warm.

- a WARM JACKET and PANTS. Imagine you need to hike for 4 hours, in the dark, in the wind, on frozen skree - that's the summit hike from 12 a.m. to 4 a.m....until the sun comes out and you see the snow and ice fields. I'd recommend you wear something you'd have a snowball fight in.

Finally, be comfortable in wearing all this gear AT THE SAME TIME. Personally, I wore every piece of clothing I brought (which included all the above that were *not* on the GAP list) and I was *still* cold. One could say it's all personal preference, but YOU be the judge because YOU know your body best! I find it truly shocking that GAP makes the assumption you won't be cold up there.

Having guided for other outfitters before, this is a clear sign of unnecessary risk which quite honestly scares me about this organization. I would never guide for them, nor would I recommend anyone do this climb with them. This trip has clearly never been vetted by their senior guiding staff who would have CERTAINLY caught this omission. This is a pretty glaring oversight that I've never seen an outdoor company make. Reply to this

16 years ago, November 4th 2007 No: 8 Msg: #21954  
N Posts: 2
The posting above was later censored by the GAP Adventures moderator: http://wateringhole.gapadventures.com/viewtopic.php?t=3328
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16 years ago, November 13th 2007 No: 9 Msg: #22482  
N Posts: 1
Hey all,

Interesting thread. I have previously had many, many fantastic experiences with GAP so it was certainly a shock for me to read this. I have checked out the same discussion on their message board, where there are many replies to the concerns raised from GAP customer service and other travelers on the same trip (link below).


Seems like there were some issues on this tour, but as the saying goes, there are two sides to every story.

Tony. Reply to this

16 years ago, January 22nd 2008 No: 10 Msg: #25857  
I was looking for yet another adventure with Gap when this blog popped up and I felt compelled to read it. It prompted me to register and share a story of my own, something I wasn't planning to do. Having just completed one GAP trip and busily planning the next one, I found myself fascinated with comments from dissatisfied patrons. In reading through the comments I can see the value in sharing stories, good and bad with prospective clients. It goes further than bad mouthing a travel company - it may be the only opportunity for interested parties to make intelligent decisions based on unsolicited comments from those who have experienced difficulties, on where to spend their time and money as well as to avoid a potentially bad experience.

I have a personal comment about what could have been a tragic experience for me because of an oversight or possibly disinterest from our naturalist guide. I will relate this instance because perhaps it will alert someone else before tragedy strikes them or a loved one. My trip was in the Galapagos, the first leg of a 2 week trip to Ecuador, Peru and the Amazon jungle. The water was rough and very cold, even in wet suits that were provided for us. I was reluctant to try the water even though my fellow passengers were encouraging and seemed to be having a great time themselves. I had snorkeled in the ocean before so it wasn't a new experience for me, but never in water that was this cold. To make a long story short, I got a cramp in my thigh and got into serious trouble almost instantly, couldn't even tred water. The water was rough, as I said and I panicked when I realized how far from shore I was. Our guide was sitting on the beach chatting with someone, and the two little boats were quite a way from me and had their backs to me, weren't paying any attention to the group of us. Luckily two of our group, two men were standing at water's edge talking but facing my way. I tried to signal them, found out later they thought I was just waving, then somehow one of them realized I was in trouble and came in to pull me out. I couldn't have done it on my own. It took me 30 minutes or so to catch my breath. There was an MD close by who came right over, but not our guide. The next day I talked to him explaining how close to drowning I had come - he told me that he was watching me the whole time, determined that I wasn't in trouble and decided not to intervene. I was appalled at his attitude, mentioned it several times to Gap people and received no satisfaction or support al all. I realize he wasn't there to be a nursemaid but watching someone in obvious distress and doing nothing to help is not acceptable. The whole event really shook me up but the rest of the trip went as planned, very adventurous, which is what I was promised when I signed up

It made me realize just how careful one has to be, and very vigilant, at all times. I don't do foolhardy things, but I will be more careful in the future. I don't know if this is representative of GAP employees or not, but it shouldn't have happened.

Otherwise this was a trip I had long wanted to take that was well within my budget. My feeling is that at this time I plan to travel with GAP again. I am looking into Africa and have pretty much decided not to climb Kil. based on the reports of extreme temperatures and lack of warm clothing. Thanks for submitting that information.
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16 years ago, January 24th 2008 No: 11 Msg: #25990  
My husband and I just returned from a 15 day adventure in Egypt with GAP. I have been travelling internationally since 1969. I have traveled for business, pleasure and with the military, so I have had a wide range of travel experiences.

Our trip was THE BEST TRIP EVER!!! Even better than our honeymoon! I give a lot of credit to our guide, Adel. He was WONDERFUL!

I am sorry your trip wasn't as good as ours. Experience matters, When something came up, our guide knew what to do. Good support from the local office is essential.

I hope everyone doesn't judge GAP as a poor provider due to one bad trip.

May your next adventure be one that brings you fun and joy!!

MomfromRockledge Reply to this

16 years ago, January 27th 2008 No: 12 Msg: #26188  
My wife and I have traveled with GAP through Central America and Peru. As with any travel, there were a few bumps. Overall the experiences were very positive.

It is important to note that GAP tour leaders are facilitators and not guides. If you want a guided tour from start to finish, then you need to select another company.

Sorry to here that your entire experience with GAP in Africa was so horrible. Maybe an African based travel company would be a better choice the next time you go there. We used 2Africa when we went in 2006.

I know that I will continue to use GAP. And more importantly, I will continue to recommend them as an adventure travel provider.

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16 years ago, January 30th 2008 No: 13 Msg: #26384  
B Posts: 73
I also have taken GAP tours in the past and I also will continue to use them. I have travelled a lot over the years (with many more trips to come) and, if nothing else, I've learned that any trip is BOUND to have a few wrinkles - some may be things the company has to sort out, and some may be entirely my own fault, but you can pretty much bet on something not going exactly according to plan.

I think it's therefore unfortunate that anyone would read Boatnik's piece and, based on that, write-off GAP as an option entirely. Keep in mind that GAP is a huge company and therefore an experience on one trip would not (and should not) be indicative of experiences on ALL trips. This is evidenced by the others on this thread who have indicated that they had excellent trips, myself included.

That said, everyone can of course make their own judgements, but I for one would not be swayed by someone else's negative experience (which, by the way, I think GAP handled masterfully). So I echo Herbaceous's comment:

I know that I will continue to use GAP. And more importantly, I will continue to recommend them as an adventure travel provider.


Happy travels everyone! 😊
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16 years ago, February 10th 2008 No: 14 Msg: #27188  
N Posts: 3
I read this with interest. I have taken 4 GAP trips before - Costa Rica, Egypt, Thailand, and Peru. I agree that it is difficult to judge the company based on just one trip. The first three trips were excellent and then the Peru trip was really awful. I think when a company offers that many trips, some are bound to have problems. My wallet and passport were stolen the first day in Lima (obviously not the fault of GAP), but the tour leader was completely out to lunch and had no idea what to do (surely this wasn't the first time this happened to someone on a GAP trip?), so I was pretty much on my own to navigate the police station, the embassy, the banking and telephone systems, (and I don't speak Spanish) which kind of started the trip on a bad note and was really stressful especially since I was travelling alone.

But that wasn't even the biggest problem. It's funny how every time I booked a trip through GAP, when I initially phoned to enquire I was told "there are only a couple of spots left so you had better book soon!" and every time that turned out to be a lie, as generally I found the other people on the various trips booked after I did! It didn't really matter with the trips to Costa Rica, Thailand, and Egypt because the trips all filled up, but when I went to Peru I was travelling alone. I specifically asked if the trek I was taking, the Lares trek, had other people on it, because I was concerned that it wasn't a popular trek (the Inca trail is closed in February so fewer people go then) and I certainly didn't want to do a three day hike all by myself!!! I was assured "the trip was full". Imagine my surprise when there were only four other people on the trip, NONE of whom was actually on the exact same tour, and none of whom had signed up for the hike! Luckily I managed to convince one of the other travellers to do the hike with me so it wasn't a complete disaster. But I was definitely lied to by GAP in order to "make the sale". I sent them an e-mail when I got home outlining (politely) the problems I encountered. I would have at least appreciated an acknowledgement of my letter, but I never even got the courtesy of a response. Which is terrible business practice.

I am a seasoned traveller, and I am very easy going and able to deal with unfortunate circumstances, and I understand that unexpected things happen when travelling, and the unexpected is what makes travelling so interesting. But with the trip to Peru I do feel that I had been lied to, and that GAP was really unprepared (also the Lares Guide complained to me that GAP didn't call him until the night before the hike started to tell him I was coming!)

So would I recommend GAP? No. I think the lack of response to my concerns really ended it for me. Even up to that point I would have considered that sometimes mistakes are made, but not owning up to any deficiencies is really inexcusable. I did not request a refund or anything like that, all I wanted was an apology! Reply to this

16 years ago, February 13th 2008 No: 15 Msg: #27380  
N Posts: 1
It's really interesting to see that my own experience with GAP's organisational skills (or more accurately, lack thereof) isn't isolated. I did the Greek Islands Sailing Adventure in July 2006, and it was my first trip through GAP (I'd booked through Intrepid, which then was in partnership with GAP for some of their trips - not sure if this is still the case as the trip is no longer available through Intrepid).

When I arrived at the marina at Mykonos to meet the boat, it turned out that I was on the list of passengers for that boat, but it was already full. They'd allowed 16 passengers to book for a boat that is for a maximum of 8 people! After a bit of scrambling, the captain of that boat arranged for another boat to be chartered and sent to Mykonos, and then told us all initially that we would be put up in a hotel at GAP's expense, and the local payment of 100 euros would be refunded in full. He also said this had happened before and the same arrangements had been made then. About an hour later, he told me that we would have to pay for the hotel (arranged by somebody at the restaurant where we had dinner) out of the local payment, rather than GAP paying for it. This would have been fine - although if we had to pay for a hotel it would have been good to have some choice of location - but the problem was he did not tell all the other passengers who were in the same position that this would be the arrangement. So there was mass confusion, and some understandable resentment as a result.

A lesser issue was that I ended up with three couples and one other single traveller, who was male. The trip information stated at the time that the policy is that single travellers bunk in with another traveller of the same sex, however it did not occur to them to swap one of us so that we could share with a same-sex roommate. I had absolutely no problem with sharing with the male passenger, but they should organise things better - there are people for whom that would be a big problem.

Once the new boat arrived, the trip was mostly fine - I was really lucky with my fellow travellers, who were lovely people, and we were fortunate that our captain was a local and could give us plenty of suggestions re things to do, which was important as for four days we were stuck on an island due to gale force winds. The captain of the other boat seemed to have no idea, according to that group, and they all jumped ship on day 4.

I forwarded my feedback via my travel agent, and received a pretty off-hand response, although to their credit I was offered $100 off my next GAP trip. Would I travel with them again, though? Probably not. It could have been much worse, but having read the other experiences on here, I don't think I will risk my money on one of their trips again. Reply to this

16 years ago, February 13th 2008 No: 16 Msg: #27395  
5 posts moved to this new topic: Gap Adventures MV Explorer Sinks Reply to this

16 years ago, February 18th 2008 No: 17 Msg: #27783  
I have never used GAP and so am unable to comment. However there are a lot of pro's and con's with all stories and some of these deffinatly make for interseting reading. The only way to find out is first hand and in this case I for one would unfortunatley shy away from this company.
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16 years ago, April 13th 2008 No: 18 Msg: #32442  
N Posts: 2
We were on a trip to Brazil on the Tacorime and Igassu Falls and our experieces were similar to Boatniks. The guide annouced the very first day that this was her first trip and she did not speak Portuguese. Many times, the guide came out with us at night and split before paying her bill and the rest of us ended up footing her bill. She cried a lot and told us how aweful the travellers were on her other trips. Paraguay was not on the itiniery but she asked us if we wanted to go there as a side trip. Everyone declined but we were told later by the local guide that if we had gone, they would bribe the immigration officers to let us into Paraguay since we did not have VISAs. I don't think GAP should put their passengers in this kind of situations. The guide quite often made fun of the local guides and how they talked. Since GAP prides itself on giving its clients a cultural experience we found this behaviour from their guide as very surprising. All fellow GAP adventurers were upset with the guide for these reasons. She was also insensitive to a fellow adventurer with a slight disability.

Boatnik's comments regarding the organization of the GAP tour and the occurrences on our trip are similar and I am not sure if we will travel with them in future.
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16 years ago, April 29th 2008 No: 19 Msg: #33879  
N Posts: 1
I went on a 2 week tour to Chile, Argentina & Brazil with GAP tours, and agree with much that has been said here. I've done a considerable amount of traveling, and consider myself a fairly seasoned traveler. But this was the first (and last) trip with GAP.
GAP did not provide what was promised in the trip dossier. The itinerary promises the Lakes Crossing between Chile & Argentina during certain months, but GAP did not provide us with it. Instead, they provided us a bus ticket. I wrote in a complaint about this after my trip, but no one responded.
The whole thing was very disorganized. We had tickets for a 1 day boat excursion which was included in the trip, but our guide did everything to try to convince the group not to go. Everyone except 1 person decided to go on the excursion nevertheless (why wouldn't we, it was one of the few things that was actually included in our trip). So then our guide sent us on our own because he said he didn't want to spend the day on the boat (he has done this trip 22 times, he said).
It was called a 'comfort level' trip, but the hotels in Chile & Argentina were quite dingy. No wonder they wouldn't tell us what hotels we were staying in until we got there! One person in our group said these hotels were worse than any of the hotels on the 4 GAP budget level trips she had been on before. For the price of the trip, I certainly don't think I got my money's worth.
The guide took us to expensive places for dinner where he was always getting free meals. There was a lot of pressure to eat dinners as a group (presumably so he brought in enough people to ensure his freebies). Some people in the group were ordering very light meals because of the expensive prices, and there was the guide eating his (free) steak and flambee dessert!
Every optional activity listed in the trip dossier was more expensive than they said, some activities as much as double the price listed in the 2008 dossier.
GAP also changed the itinerary of the second week. One extra day in Buenos Aires, and one less day at the end in Rio. It didnt affect me, but some others on the trip were really messed up by it. When they complained, GAP's attitude was that this was an adventure trip, so you should be flexible. Also, they lied and said the change had been made a month in advance, but I had downloaded the trip dossier a week before the trip and that change had not been made yet.
They seem to think that they don't have to be accountable for anything, as long as they say it's an adventure trip. Then everything becomes the customers fault because you are not flexible!
Maybe GAP tours built their reputation on their budget trips, but I certainly don't think they are going to cut it with their supposed 'comfort level' trips.
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16 years ago, May 3rd 2008 No: 20 Msg: #34180  
N Posts: 1
I had a very positive experience with GAP going through Africa three years ago. I really didn't know there was such a controversy over their reputation. Although I'm not saying that I won't use GAP again, what are some other adventure travel companies people might recommend, and what were your experiences with them? I'm particularly looking at Asia. Reply to this

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