An African safari could be your ‘once in a lifetime experience’ so it’s important that you make the right choices to ensure that the experience is unforgettable for good and not bad reasons!Read more about uk49s
We promote self-drive safaris but if self-drive doesn’t appeal to you or you want to first get a feel for this ‘safari thing’ before embarking on a self drive safari, or If your time is limited and you want to go on safari for just a day or two, then we have ten tips for you if you need to choose an African safari operator.
1) Get to know the real people in the organization. We do not trust companies that do not have an ‘about us’ page and who do not provide telephone numbers and a physical address. If a safari operator is reluctant to reveal themselves why would anyone want to deal with them?!
2) Find out if they are the people actually operating the safari and not simply the booking agents. Then find out if they have first-hand experience of the parks and lodges that interest you. Some African safari operators specialize only in the Kruger Park but will take you to the Kgalagadi or Etosha as they don’t want to lose your business. You don’t want to be their guinea pig! Stick with the safari operator that does your park on a regular basis and knows the roads and camp staff.
3) Start wide and then narrow down your search. Don’t just limit yourself to budget operators for example, as some of the expensive reserves also have their budget camps. Make your list of the ‘good’ operators and then whittle it down. The lodges also tend to give big discounts in out-of-season periods.
4) Find out how long the safari operator has been in business as there are ‘fly-by-nights’ in all businesses! However, just because a company is new doesn’t mean they are not good – if the company does not have a history then check out their staff resumes.
5) Does the safari operator have the expertise for your specific needs? If you want an African photo safari ask what type of vehicle you will be in, how many people will be in the vehicle and what type of guide you will have. The vehicle should have very big windows that can open, or no windows (if it’s an open safari vehicle) and even a sunroof to shoot from. You don’t want to be crammed into a vehicle like sardines – you want to be able to have space to place your photo bag and be able to turn to photograph. The guide should be knowledgeable in terms of animal behavior and photography so that he stops in the best position for you to photograph and he should switch his engine off.
6) What do travel sites such as Trip-Advisor or Lonely Planet say about them? Also do a Google search on the safari operator and see what comes up – if previous clients are unhappy they will be posting trip reports on forums. Find out if you are able to contact one or two of their former clients to get it ‘from the horse’s mouth’.
7) Find out exactly what the operator will take care of – is it just the accommodation or will they do flight bookings and car hire as well.
8) Get a clear explanation of their cancellation / refund policy and find out what their payment policies are. Some operators place your deposit and final payment into a trust fund, which should protect your money should they go into liquidation.