advice on finding travel agent for south africa trip


Oct 15th, 2011, 10:40 PM
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advice on finding travel agent for south africa trip

hi, my husband and i are trying to plan a last-minute safari trip to south africa +/- botswana in december. we have been trying to research on our own and we feel totally overwhelmed with all of the options for lodges, safari areas, etc. we realize we should probably be working with a travel agent...but we don't even know how to go about finding a good one! we were hoping to ask for any advice on good travel agencies that could help us plan our trip. and, any general advice on travel to south africa and botswana during december would also be so appreciated--it is our first trip to africa and we are super excited and also super clueless!
thanks so much in advance!
mandsj is offline  
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Oct 16th, 2011, 02:10 AM
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Overland African Safaris of selected Africa Safari destinations. Our African Safaris go to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania ...

Best bet for most... also pretty good

if budget challenged check out

South African Airways packages deals on

Pretty awesome values including air... Climate guides entry safety comp cover always cheap wise for me.

Congrats and Happy Travels!
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Oct 16th, 2011, 08:51 AM
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We had a superb experience with Africa Adventure Company in Fort Lauderdale -- I admit this was a "once in a lifetime" trip, not our usual m.o. But I am afraid their seamless arrangements (South Africa/Victoria Falls/Kenya/Rwanda) made it hard to go back to DIY! Owner Mark Nolting's Book "Africa - Top Wildlife Countries" might help you sort things out.
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Oct 16th, 2011, 09:46 AM
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I can certainly recommend Sun Safaris. They are located in cape town, and all safaris done with them (3 so far) were top notch. They know their stuff!


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Oct 16th, 2011, 10:12 AM
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The first reply to your question probably just made you more confused. The second and third post are actually “spot on”. Sun Safaris in Cape Town is owned by a friend of mine Brett Thompson. I have traveled to Namibia with him in the past and he really knows his stuff. Africa Adventure Company in Ft. Lauderdale is owned by Mark and Alison Nolting. They are some of our toughest (i.e. best) competitors in the USA. Both companies are great options for booking your safari.

Part of your challenge to date is that you need to find an independent safari consultant to work with and that is the really hard part. Another name for a safari consultant would be an “agent”, “travel agent”, "safari specialist" or “tour operator”. They are all very similar but independence is key! If you get on a lodge chains web site they will likely refer you to an agent for the booking process that supports them and really knows their product. This person may not know about the many other options.

A few agents and expecially larger tour operators have subtle (i.e. undeclared) interests in the products they recommend or simply limited experience that only includes a set of products owed by one lodge chain or marketing group. They may not be able to truly look out for your interests in the process.

I am happy to tell you that both Sun Safaris and AAC are top notch independent safari operators and you will be in good hands if you contact them (but please not both). When an agent finds out the client is shopping around they get less motivated to assist and you need a rapid turn-around and good service on your plan given your timeline.

The best way to plan a safari when possible is to meet face-to-face. If you let me know where you are from I may be able to recommend an expert in your home city that is also independent. There are hundreds of ways to book a safari and lots of good agents out there. Most good safari specialists will have access to net rates at just about every lodge chain at the four star and above level so they can plan any safari you want that is also within their capabilities (knowledge base).

Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
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Oct 16th, 2011, 04:54 PM
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If you are in the NY metro area, I used Classic Africa and was happy with the service. Two trips without a hitch. We did all of our planning by e-mail and phone. We had lots if input, especially on the second trio and they were very accommodating of all of our requests. Both trips were SA and Botswana.
If you are using Wilderness Safaris camps, use their contact page and they will send you a TA they work with in your area.
Have fun planning!
christabir is offline  
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Oct 17th, 2011, 06:23 AM
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Annelle - expect to have your post removed for soliciting.

Mandsj - Using the Wilderness contact page is a good idea if you know you want to visit a Wilderness Safari lodge. But like I said in the thread above, the agency they put you in touch with may not have much expertise beyond the Wilderness circuit of camps. For example, there are eight safari lodge "chains" in Botswana and Wilderness is one of them. IMO Wilderness is excellent so don't take this the wrong way.

Classic Africa is a very reputable operator but I believe they are in Hartford, CT not NYC.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
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Oct 17th, 2011, 08:17 AM
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We recently returned from a 3-wk trip to Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe put together for us by Pam Buttner at Travel Beyond. She really made an effort to tailor the trip to our specs and was spot on with her advice. All the transfers were made like clockwork. She has personal knowledge of the area and the camps. Contact info is (I see that the agency owner, Craig Beal, has also responded to your inquiry but my response is totally unrelated. He often replies to questions on the forum with helpful info but obviously cannot solicit business for his own agency. However, my experience with them was positive and I highly recommend them).
nankar123 is offline  
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Oct 17th, 2011, 08:52 AM
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Do you do small tours to South Africa , or do you only plan tours for others.
Thank You
jmvp is offline  
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Oct 17th, 2011, 10:45 AM
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nankar123 - Thanks for the reply above. Pam is in Africa with a group of 120 lawyers right now - we were just texting each other! After that she is going to Namibia and Mozambique to check-out some new spots. If you get a chance can you email me so I can know who you are and let her know you posted this? My email address is in my profile.

JMVP - I appolgize but I am not quite sure what you are asking? I can't respond with any information on my company unless you ask a very specific question in a forum. You will note Annelle's post which was right above my earlier one has already been removed for "soliciting". Sorry I cannot be more immediately helpful.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
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Oct 17th, 2011, 11:07 AM
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The South African Tourism Board has a 'Find an Agent' feature such that you can locate agents who have completed their FUNDI training program (I haven't done that yet!). If you are looking for someone in your hometown, I'd honestly Google for your town and "Africa Travel" or African Tours, or African Safaris- but leaving out agent so that you don't get every agency possible.
JillGoAfrica is offline  
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Oct 17th, 2011, 01:07 PM
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What I am asking is , do you personally take tours to South Africa.

I know you have a travel company and you are not advertising, it is me that is asking the hopefully Fodors will not contrue this as , that you are advertising.

Many Travel Companies, besides providing help for individual travel.....also themselves do small group tour.

So do you take tours to South Africa several tims a year.

If you did , then Iwould like to be on one of these tours.

Thank You
jmvp is offline  
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Oct 17th, 2011, 02:49 PM
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We do infrequently host tours as a company. The last four trips were two safaris to the Sabi Sands and Botswana in February 2010 and February 2011. I took 11 people to Zimbabwe for eight days this year in July and August. The trips all sold-out through private networking before we ever marketed to the public so they were not on our web site. My business partner and his wife hosted the two Botswana/Sabi Sands trips. My wife and I hosted the Zimbabwe trip this summer. One of our senior safari consultants, Matt Bracken, leads a Kilimanjaro Climb and Serengeti Safari every even year in January which also sell-out through private networking.

I am hosting a trip to Zimbabwe and South Africa next September and early October which I have not announced yet but is on hold. The trip is not mentioned on our web site. The trip goes to Victoria Falls, then Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe to Ruckomechi, then Cape Town then MalaMala in the Sands Sands. If you are interested you will need reach out to me directly for more info. Sorry to sound elusive but I have never had a discussion like this on the forums before and this in on the grey edge of their rules so I probably will not mention it again.

To be honest, the demand for hosted trips is very small and I would say 95% of the 1600 people we have sent to Africa this year traveled alone with just their spouse/partner/family.

Hoep this helps.

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
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Oct 17th, 2011, 04:40 PM
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I also am book marking and saving this info.
Percy is online now  
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Oct 18th, 2011, 09:20 AM
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Thank you very much Safari_Craig.

I will keep your trip in mind for next year.
jmvp is offline  
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Oct 18th, 2011, 06:10 PM
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I went to Zambia this past summer, and Expert Africa was excellent. They were very knowledgeable about the area, and worked very hard with me on various itineraries and in getting me the best deal. They were very responsive to my e-mails and patient in answering my questions.

They should be able to direct you to an agent with extensive experience in South Africa and Botswana. Their website is excellent, as well, in providing information about the camps and locations in Africa.
lifelist is offline  
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Oct 19th, 2011, 12:44 AM
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If you're wanting to arrange everything online, try They've been in the industry since the late '90s and are extremely well-established, efficient, helpful. They will offer you a variety of options with regards to lodges, hotels operators and locations for the best safari experience. Just tell them what you're looking for and they'll tailor something to your needs. As an industry professional, I have worked with them in the past and can highly recommend them for anyone wanting to research or book a trip to Africa. I must add that I no longer have anything to do with them, in case this is interpreted as a plug from an insider....
Afrojunkie is offline  
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Oct 19th, 2011, 03:52 AM
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I give a strong recommendation to the SA agency, SOUTHERN DESTINATIONS, which arranged a terrific SA, Botswana, Vic Falls trip for me in 2007. They have an 800 number so you can call free from North America.

I wrote a trip report that you can find by clicking on my name.
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Oct 19th, 2011, 08:09 AM
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Craig - Classic Africa is in the NYC metro area. In CT, but not as far away as Hartford. I didn't say NYC. But in reality it doesn't matter - we've done all of our planning online and over the phone. They don't only work with WS. I was able to book other co's camps with them. Just setting the record straight.
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Oct 21st, 2011, 01:53 PM
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HI Christabir,

Thanks for the update. I did not think I had implied that Classic Africa worked only with Wilderness Safaris. As far as I know they are experts and completely independent.

So I appologize if it seems that way in the wording of my post above on Oct 17, 8:23am. I said if you go on the Wilderness Web site you MAY end up with an agent that is only familiar with their camps. I did not mention Classic Africa.

This statement really applies to anyone getting on a lodge owner's site. If they don't handle the business themselves, the lodge owner will be very likely to only hand the details of the inquiry off to an agent that will book the client back into their lodge/chain.

Sounds like fun!

Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond
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