We did a 12 day tour organized by Akai in September that included 3 days at the World Nomad Games, 2 days trekking up to Ala Kol Lake, 3 days horse trekking through Jety-Oguz and a 2 day trek/yurt stay in Song Kul. The itinerary that Akai prepared for us was wonderful, we got to see and do a lot in a short amount of time! Akai has a good sense of humor and is knowledgeable about Kyrgyzstan and sharing about Kyrgyz culture! I thought that the accommodation that he chose for us was really nice as well as the dinners! Akai was with us for the first three days of our tour and then his colleague, Aza, was with us for the remainder of the time for all of our trekking. Aza was really friendly and served us well.
While our experience was overall positive, and we LOVED Kyrgyzstan, there are some things that I think need to be considered by potential clients and hopefully improved upon for Akai and his guide service in order to better accommodate future clients.
Professionalism in the areas of punctuality, reliability, communication with colleagues, and general preparedness are things that I think were lacking and recommend be improved upon.
For example, there were two couples in our group and Akai agreed to pick us up at the airport at arrival, which both parties confirmed a couple of days beforehand. The first group who arrived earlier than us he did not arrive at all for resulting in them taking a taxi and for us he was late. This was a poor first impression and was a stressful situation considering that when we arrived we didn't have phone service to contact him and didn't know what hotel we were staying at. We were heckled by taxi drivers and thankfully a local person did help us contact him at the airport to confirm that he was indeed coming, though over a half an hour late. Our group was rather disappointed by this situation. Also, there was another time when we confirmed a pick up time and he arrived almost an hour later. I think it is important to know that when catering to western tourist especially, that being punctual and reliable is very important.
When it came to communication with his colleague Aza and the preparedness of Aza for our tour, we found out that Aza was not thoroughly informed about our itinerary (he asked to see my print out) and he had not actually done our particular Song Kul trek before guiding us on it. I confirmed our tour six months before going on the trip, so there was more than enough time to have his colleague prepared and experienced with our itinerary. Aza had to stop and ask locals on our way to Song Kul where to go and what the path was. Aza did a great job improvising and leading us in spite of this, but I found it a bit frustrating because when I pay for a guide the expectation is that they are familiar and have experience with the itinerary. I think because of this I did not enjoy myself as fully as I could have because I didn't feel safe or comfortable enough.
Another thing is the driving. If Akai can provide vehicles with seatbelts that would be great. We found the driving in Kyrgyzstan a bit scary and at least having cars with seatbelts would help increase that sense of safety for clients.
So overall, we had an amazing time in Kyrgyzstan and everything ended up working out even though there were mishaps along the way. I think Akai's strengths are his knowledge of the country and friendliness. I think that if he improves his professionalism in the areas I mentioned then I would highly recommend him and his business would be perfect, however, from my experience at the moment I would recommend with some caution depending on what is important to you out of a guide service.