660 messages
active 1 min ago

Susan Deslaurier

My joy is creating authentic and enriching experiences that go beyond “viewing” a faraway land, providing a cultural bridge with local people that leads to life-changing experiences for travelers. I offer extensive consultation and planning services to help you shape an escorted or independent journey of your dreams. With my personal introductions to local people and handling of every logistical detail, you can relax and immerse in the experience. Donations to local projects are part of every trip, providing a sense of purpose in every journey as you explore rich cultures and make new discoveries about yourself.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"East Africa Wildlife safari, conservation, cultural and spiritual adventures, biking and trekking trips, family tours, off the beaten path and custom-made trips. Mixing driving, walking, boating and cycling to vary the perspective. "

How did you get involved in travel?

"My lifelong curiosity about the world, how people live in different ways, and generally soaking up the beauty of the Earth in any way possible, established a theme of travel throughout my life. It became a basic need through the years of raising my two daughters, alternating domestic and international trips each year to round out their education in a real-world classroom. I traveled to more than a dozen countries before my heart was captured by East Africa during a visit as a board member of an education Foundation. I then lived and worked alongside the people of Kenya and Tanzania during yearly visit, where I learned about local culture, challenges faced by the community, and their vision of the future. My relationships deepened within the Maasai community and exploration of the spiritual, cultural, and natural surroundings. Eventually, I left my American corporate job in executive coaching and communications, and established a travel business to share the experience with others. "

Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.

"In my early days living within a Maasai village, I woke in the middle of the night and roamed out to the compound fence, and perched on the small ladder that crosses it, dreamily ecstatic about being in such a beautiful place. In my little bubble of joy disregarded the ruckus of goat cries in the pen next to me, and the scurrying of the puppies as I finally returned to my mud hut to sleep. Some hours later, I hear commotion of people outside, and come out to see that a leopard has come and killed several goats, and dragged one off to eat elsewhere. I ask “How did he get in here?” I’m told “Over that fence ladder”. I caught my breath as I realized that it was all unfolding in the sounds I heard while sitting there, with a leopard likely waiting for me to get the heck off of his exit door. I learned to be more respectful of real-deal Africa after that. "

Recent trip reviews for Susan

Affordable comfortable authentic masai mara safari not luxury, Kenya - Sep 16 - Sep 27, 2018

Traveler: Cheryl C. - Local specialist: Susan Deslaurier

Hi Susan and Kimkim,
Re: star ratings above: Susan was very nice (five stars) and booking on your site is excellent (five stars). I put three stars because of value of trip to us.

My computer has been in repair but I’m up and running so here is our review.

Accommodations and Sites on Each Stop:
NAIROBI
Fairview Hotel: Wonderful. We would love to have rested up here for first day as you know.
Sites: Baby elephants and giraffe fun to see. Suspect in hindsight that a drive through the... read more

Hi Susan and Kimkim,
Re: star ratings above: Susan was very nice (five stars) and booking on your site is excellent (five stars). I put three stars because of value of trip to us.

My computer has been in repair but I’m up and running so here is our review.

Accommodations and Sites on Each Stop:
NAIROBI
Fairview Hotel: Wonderful. We would love to have rested up here for first day as you know.
Sites: Baby elephants and giraffe fun to see. Suspect in hindsight that a drive through the Nairobi National Park would have been a more robust and exciting day…more of an “A” than a “B” site.
LAKE NAVAISHA
Camp Carnalley: Cheryl enjoyed the environment (birds, lake, trees). William was very uncomfortable with the rustic cabin with no windows. William was only warm by the fire in the restaurant…everything else open air and cold. Food very bad except pizza and cocktails. Cheryl and William both feel the camp does not meet with the “comfortable” standard we purchased.
Hells Gate: Hike good exercise but views not “A” rated. Walking with animals lovely (prefer hiking with animals on a hiking trail..but it was nice nevertheless). William not at all excited about Hells Gate. Cheryl was engaged and interested with walk and the gorge hike. She would have preferred arriving early in the morning for pink cliff and more animals. Hindsight.
LAKE NAKURU
Maili Saba Camp: Wonderful. We both enjoyed the view, cottage, food, environment, service, pool. Best accommodation of the trip.
Nakuru National Park: Wonderful. We both really enjoyed the scenery an animals of Nakuru.
MARA, MATIRA BUSH CAMP S IDE
Matira Bush Camp: Could have been perfect. Wonderful setting in the bush, good service and food. Problem upon arrival after dark: they took us to a tent surrounded by bush, no view, very dark and claustrophobic. I told them it did not match what I saw online in pictures. They said pictures can be misleading. They said platform tent might be better but was booked. So we tried to sleep in the dark tent but gave up early am and I got some pads from the reception area and put them on ground around the fire. Got some rest there but it required “going rogue” and it woke up some of the staff. At dawn I found the platform tent with lovely view and no one was in it. We moved into that tent the second night and I really think it was unfair that they did not eagerly change our tent the night before. Lost almost a whole night sleep after a long drive. Did not meet with the comfort standard purchased for the first night. We were able to relax and very much enjoy the platform tent the second night
Game Drive out of Matira
Beginning to be concerned we were not seeing many animals in the Mara. A Swedish couple seriously advised us to go to two places to see cheetah, leopard, and a touch of the remaining migration. Duncan was extremely defensive when I suggested this itinerary. Swedes had warned me this might happen and advised me how to handle driver with gentle persuasion and offer of larger tip. So I did this and he did as requested and we saw the wonderful animals. His attitude cast a pall. We managed to keep things cordial with humor. Did not like having to “manage” driver.
KEEKOROK SIDE OF MARA
Keekorok Lodge: Did not know that there are two sides of the Mara and that Keekorok is located on a side of the park that has fewer animals and a lot of wide open repetitious views (maybe not so empty when there is a migration or on different roads?). Cheryl really enjoyed the hippo pool and wandering the grounds of Keekorok. William was ok with the lodge but felt it was poor value for cost of trip. Food was quite good. Loved presence of monkeys but missed the bush emersion of Matira .
Game drive out of Keekorok: Did not see many animals. Resorted to visiting high end camp which was intereting. Sand River views lovely for Cheryl, but William missed seeing animals. Not good value game driving day. A lot of driving on not very intereting roads.
BACK TO NAIROBI
Hilton Garden Inn: Very comfortable. Nice rooftop pool. We were considering staying in the Fairview Hotel instead of Hilton since Duncan insisted on leaving early from Keekorok. We were headed for Fairview when William asked to go to the stores at the lunch place you recommended after giraffe visit. Without letting us know how long it was going to take (we had no idea where it was), Duncan drove to the store which added so much driving time (and in heavy traffic) to the day that we no longer had time to enjoy Fairview. Arrived late to Hilton and enjoyed it very much for the two hours left in a looooong day of driving, some which could have been avoided. We were having a hard time communicating with Duncan…felt “cut off” from information about what was going on and how his decisions would impact our day. We would not have gone to the store if were knew it would eliminate ability to enjoy Fairview again. He acted quite unconcerned and was very self absorbed (except when we could make him laugh…William was good at that and luckily Duncan was receptive to a laugh once and a while).
OVERVIEW OF ITINERARY
This is a tough one to analyze as I do not know what the rest of Kenya is like. Overall less exciting and I expected for cost of trip. Too much “work” for a tour. Trusted that all destinations would be “A” rated, but this was not the case for us. Did not know I should have worked harder myself on the itinerary. My primary disappointment was the lack of scenery for a majority of the driving. We back tracked over long stretches which were not particularly interesting. The bumpy roads were very hard on William; he would have preferred a shorter trip with flights. I accept bumpy roads as part of safari experience but do expect good scenery as an important part of an itinerary. I’m very careful in California to “stay scenic”. I undertand you cannot predict client response to bumpy roads.
TRIP VALUE
I have recalculated the cost of trip before Kimkim fees as best I can and I come up with cost of driver and accommodation to be about $4,700. (I did not assess hotel nights as “per person” as they are not billed that way online…rates are for two people. The only time I see per person rates is when you are using the lodges safari services). Duncan said his rate is $300 per day. There is a chart below.
We paid $8000. Duncan said he is paid $300 per day ($2,700 for our days). I estimate the lodging at $2,000 for two. Hotels based on prices for two not each searched online or at sites: Fairview $175 one night (I did not include the one night tobe refunded; Camp Carnalleys (generous estimate $150/night); Maili Saba $400 for two nights meals included two people; Matira Bush Camp rate not listed so I estmate about $250 per night max for two; Keekorok two nights $500 for two; Hilton Garden Hotel generous upward estimate $200 for two).
I thought that since we were not receiving the kind of full blown attention and services of a Roads Scholar type tour that using Kimkim would be a good value way to go…more like a travel agent than a tour company. I thought that we would enjoy consistent comfort, that the driver would be congenial and trustworthy and while not a guide would convey an eagerness to please, that we would have comfortable lodging, and that the itinerary would be full of “A” rated experiences.. I thought that without steep middle man fees and additional fees for a professional guide that cost would be much lower than a standard tour like Roads Scholar. Unfortunately, little of this turned out to be true for us.
I did not have a bad trip…I was quite happy most of the time. William suffered more…he kind of “gave up” and used a lot of humor to cope. We are both glad we went, but feel like we way overpaid for what we got.
I am of course open to your response to my concerns and you are free to call me 415 7305305. If there is a way to address these concerns and continue working with you that would be great.
Sincerely,
Cheryl Chester (and William Baker)

Susan Deslaurier, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Cheryl and William,
Thanks for your sharing your thoughts on your recent Kenya trip. I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed our working together and the use of the KimKim app, though of course I am sorry to hear that the value of the trip fell short of your expectations. Though it seems you overall had a good adventure and that you liked many of the lodgings and excursions, I appreciate your feedback on where things were not so good for you. Although you and William and I exchanged many... read more

Hi Cheryl and William,
Thanks for your sharing your thoughts on your recent Kenya trip. I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed our working together and the use of the KimKim app, though of course I am sorry to hear that the value of the trip fell short of your expectations. Though it seems you overall had a good adventure and that you liked many of the lodgings and excursions, I appreciate your feedback on where things were not so good for you. Although you and William and I exchanged many communications on options and iterations on our way to creating the final idea to fit your time and budget, it seems we missed the mark on the right balance of managing budget and each element of location, accommodation, transportation, and activities.

We definitely take all of your input to heart, and will work even harder in the future to be sure travelers feel better about the selections made along the planning process. Without getting into the complicated pricing approach for a package trip like this, we tried our best on our price for a private 2 person 12 day safari with 7+ days in parks, lakes, or other touring, and regret that the value wasn’t there for you.

Thanks again for sharing your feedback, I appreciate your traveling with us, and wish you all the best in your memories of Africa and your future travel adventures.

Warm regards,
Susan

Masai mara safari and zanzibar beach vacation, Kenya - Aug 31 - Sep 13, 2018

Traveler: David B. - Local specialist: Susan Deslaurier

So my wife and I decided to spend our honeymoon/1st year anniversary on an African safari in Kenya, then to Seychelles, and Dubai on the way back home (Los Angeles).
I could not have asked for a better travel agent. Communication was very simple using the kimkim chat room, even though she was on Kenya time and I was at home. She guided me through everything and made the whole experience very simple and enjoyable.
She arranged our driver, Richard to pick us up from the airport and took... read more

So my wife and I decided to spend our honeymoon/1st year anniversary on an African safari in Kenya, then to Seychelles, and Dubai on the way back home (Los Angeles).
I could not have asked for a better travel agent. Communication was very simple using the kimkim chat room, even though she was on Kenya time and I was at home. She guided me through everything and made the whole experience very simple and enjoyable.
She arranged our driver, Richard to pick us up from the airport and took us to all the places we wanted to go including the Giraffe Center, David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and also do some volunteering at a local primary school to help give back to those schools in need. Richard is very kind and professional. He made us feel very welcome and comfortable throughout our stay in Nairobi.
The safari camps that Susan had me choose from were all very nice. I am happy we chose to go with the Tawi Lodge at the Amboseli National Park (our favorite part of our entire trip). The service was better than we could have asked for and it felt very serene and intimate. The Serena lodge at Masai Mara was more of a hotel resort but had the most spectacular views of the bush.
After our stay in Kenya, we went to Seychelles and stayed at the beautiful Hilton Northolme Resort and had a lovely time. The views of the Indian Ocean were beyond amazing. Susan also had set up an airport pick up and drop off service there.
We headed to Dubai after our tropical island getaway. Although Susan's services stopped at the Seychelles part of our trip, she recommended me to another travel agent who booked my international flight from home to Dubai and Seychelles to Dubai and back.
Overall, I am so very glad we decided to use kimkim as our travel agency and got lucky that we were able to work with Susan. She exceeded our expectations and allowed us to have the best vacation of a lifetime. Thank you

Susan Deslaurier, local specialist, responded to this review:

It was such a pleasure to plan this special trip with you David. With your first thoughts on where you wanted to go and what you wanted to experience, we really worked well together to create each day of this great adventure. I wish for many more beautiful travel experiences for you and your wife.
Ashe oleng, asante sana, many thanks.
Susan

Wildlife and adventure, Kenya - Aug 5 - Aug 17, 2018

Traveler: Yuruani O. - Local specialist: Susan Deslaurier

Susan was wonderful with helping us plan our trip. She really listened to what type of experience we were looking for and made it possible. I’ve traveled to over 20 countries, but Kenya was by far one of the best experiences I’ve had. If you are going to Kenya, follow Susan’s recommendation, and go to Maji Moto! That was an experience of a lifetime. I will gladly recommend Susan for anyone looking to travel to Kenya.

Susan Deslaurier, local specialist, responded to this review:

So happy to know you had a great experience with us Yuruani. We had so much fun showing you the beauty of Kenya and especially sharing our Maasai community in Maji Moto. I hope you're all practicing your campfire singing and spear throwing skills! Hoping we'll see you back another day. Ashe oleng (many thanks)