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The Eiffel Tower got a one star review on TripAdvisor from someone who felt disgruntled because he or she couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower from their vantage point. The reviewer in question was unable to see the tower because, well, they were looking at the view from the Eiffel Tower. It sounds ridiculous, but in the world of travel and online reviews, things like this happen all the time.

There is something comforting about appealing to the wisdom of crowds, and checking out every piece of your travel using online travel review sites before you go. However, as the one-star review of the view from the Eiffel Tower highlights, you need to consider the source.

As you are perusing camps, lodges, hotels and destinations online, here are some things to keep in mind and some pitfalls you can avoid by cross-checking your own research with our well-traveled safari specialists.

  • The traveler with low expectations. True story – I was a Peace Corps volunteer, and with our limited budget we would cram 6 people to one bed (or the bed and a floor) and considered anything moderately clean, with only a few cockroaches, and with a fan to be the epitome of luxury. While my tastes have changed since then (don’t worry, I won’t send you to any places like that!) there are certainly people who travel similarly who are going to give unduly high reviews to places that aren’t exactly what you are expecting.
  • The traveler who isn’t that smart. This is exactly the case with the Eiffel Tower reviewer. Usually you can tell this by reading the review, but not always.
  • The traveler who wants money back. Anyone who has worked in customer service can tell you that there are some people who will stop at nothing to try to get something for free, and will write a scathing review to punish anyone who doesn’t comply. Don’t trust any reviewer with an ax to grind.
  • The traveler in the right (or wrong) place at the right time. Traveling is inherently a seasonal endeavor. So if you see glowing reviews of fabulous game sightings or even just splendid weather, be aware that you may not be traveling at the same time, so it might not be as incredible for you. Likewise, if someone reviews that there is “nothing there,” it may be amazing for the time of year that you are traveling. When it comes to game and the best time to be somewhere, it is best to talk to someone intimately knowledgeable about the places you will be visiting.