Last week I touched base with three more safari operators. I quickly learned that going with an operator that only deals with safari in Tanzania and has a presence on the ground there gets us two things: cheaper options and real depth of experience. Tour providers who offer "Tanzanian Safari" as part of their offerings around the world tend to contract out their work, and as the contractor, need to boost prices in order to make any money at all. So I've more or less eliminated that type of provider. The three I communicated with last week were all on-the-ground there and really offered much more profound advice and detail than I expected.
I also checked references on one provider in particular and have been exchanging emails with one former safari traveler who has been immensely helpful with details and tips. I sent all the info to my prospective safari-going friends, and I think at the very least, two of us are "in". I'd like there to be four of us if possible, to cut costs and make a nice little group, but at the moment, it's really feeling like safari is in my not so distant future!
Now to struggle with airfare...no easy way about it. No direct flights for sure and it appears that United isn't going to be helpful much past getting me to Germany. Argh. KLM might be my best option...fly to Amsterdam and then Kilimanjaro. That's the quickest, most direct route. But also the most expensive.
Stay tuned....hopefully we decide and commit soon! I'm going safari crazy!