advice on picking a safari company

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Feb 5th, 2006, 06:15 AM
  #1
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advice on picking a safari company

Hi all!
Just to start out, I have been on safari in Kenya some years ago, and really, really, REALLY enjoyed it.
I would like to take my husband on safari, and I was thinking of Botswana. I would like a luxury safari, under tents, with a really neat ambiance. I have researched a number of companies, but the promotional info is all very, very positive and very, very similar. What companies do you have experience with, who do you recommend, and why?
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Feb 5th, 2006, 07:31 AM
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Hello Nospam,

Eyes on Africa in Chicago (www.eyesonafrica.net) has arranged my Botswana trips to the Okavango Delta and the Linyanti. EOA are Botswana specialists and the two owners, Nicky and James, are intimately familiar with the camps in Botswana. Their rates are very competitive as well.

EOA's website is also an excellent resource for learning about the various camps available in Botswana. Alternatively, if you know what sort of camp you would like to stay in or what animals you would like to see, you can call Nicky and she will suggest some camps for you to take a look at which fit your interests.

I'd recommend at least six days in the Okavango (split between water and land activities) and three or four days in the Linyanti area for a good taste of the best of Botswana. If you have the time, a few nights at Jack's or San Camp in the pans would be the icing on the cake.

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 5th, 2006, 09:21 AM
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Hi agree with julian, Jim and Nicky are very helpful and will really help u with your trip. Also they have lots of ground contacts and have sent alot of info regarding lions to me as I am very interested in lions... Sonali.
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Feb 5th, 2006, 11:00 AM
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jasher
That is really so nice that EOA are catering for the gay market. Bye the way are you South African as you always use the word "cheers" which is purely South African.
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Feb 5th, 2006, 01:05 PM
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Hey Gizzy, I use Cheers often in place of thankyou and I'm not South African, Though I have been to RSA and have relatives that live there and I cannot get Africa out of my bloody mind!

Cheers,

Matt
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Feb 5th, 2006, 01:15 PM
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???//
Bizzare thread...
Are you looking for advise on the tour operator that you are entrusting your travel arrangements? Or are you looking for lodging selections in Botswana, or are you literally looking for a luxury tented safari, which impliues "mobile" in my book?

It wouldbe helpful to know so we can assist you developing a list of criteria to judge the most suitable company to meet your needs.
"Cheers"
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Feb 5th, 2006, 02:59 PM
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I think Eyes on Africa could take care of all of those possibilities. EOA is a tour operator. It can help with lodge selections (especially if you want Wilderness camps that cannot be booked directly and require am agent. In fact, Nicky was a former Wilderness employee.). Most agents are familiar with mobile camping options.

Other companies that have been used by Fodorites for Southern Africa:

Africa Adventure
Africa Travel Resource
Destiny Africa
Eyes on Africa
Fish Eagle
Go2Africa
Taga

You can google these or type their names in the search box at the top of this site.

Please post again, Nospam as your trip falls together.

More cheers!
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Feb 5th, 2006, 03:11 PM
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Hi Gizzy,

Not sure why you think my post has anything to do with the gay market -- EOA caters for anyone who is interested in going to Southern Africa and particularly Botswana.

I'm from the UK, and as far as I know 'cheers' is British.

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 5th, 2006, 03:23 PM
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Uh oh...I better not say "Cheers" anymore. I am neither South African nor British. I kind of like the sound of it...just as I like saying "Howzit" to South Africans when I can remember!

Other Southern African terms of interest?

Sort it out

Make a plan

what else...help me here.
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Feb 5th, 2006, 04:06 PM
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EOA and the gay market? Where did that come from?

Sure there may be tour operators and travel agents who specifically cater to the gay market, but I believe most tour operators couldn't give a hoot about their client's sexual preferences (and don't ask)... whether they're gay, married, single/traveling together, twin or double beds... you want whatever and it's done to meet their client's wishes.

Give us all a break and get back on topic, please!
 
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Feb 5th, 2006, 04:54 PM
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I immediately identify people who sign off with a "cheers" as English. The more quaint (for non-English) "cheerio" is a derivative, I think.

Rocco, it is a nice word and can safely be used as "thanks" without identifying you as British (if that is what you wish) - apart from South Africans, Australians and Kiwis use it too. Americans should start and you can take the lead there.
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Feb 6th, 2006, 03:44 AM
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I'm American and I say "cheers" all the time. Perhaps Gizzy was thinking gay because of the names Nicky and Jim? This is just a guess. At any rate, if it makes you feel better about things, Gizzy, Nicky is a woman and James is a man. Not that it should matter. Sheesh!
I agree that Eyes on Africa and Destiny Africa would be good. Rocco is only just getting into areas orther than Zambia, but has his fingers on the pulse everywhere, it seems! ;-)
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Feb 6th, 2006, 03:44 AM
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Hi! I am not South African, and not British, and use Cheers ALL THE TIME!
As for more info, I am in the initial planning stages of this trip, and would like to surprise my husband with it once everything has been put into place. However, a big part of planning is, of course, budget, and we ALL know that there is no end to the amount of money that can be spent. Given that, I have researched a number of options in Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, etc. I have gone to Kenya on safari on a mid-priced tour before, and LOVED it, but this time around, I would like to have the experience of staying under canvas (albeit 5-star canvas!!!). This means $$$. I have narrowed my selection down to Botswana, as the canvas option seems to be prevalent, and I like the political situation there too! However, there is no END to the promotional abilities of each company -- all claiming to have great tents, food, experiences on offer. There is even one company that asks you how much you want to spend, and will then mail you an itinerary! This just seems to me to be testing the $$$ threshold of a prospective client. And, I have experienced trips/tours that promise one thing, and deliver far less. SO, this thread was merely to see if anyone had any experience with this type of safari, and would recommend any companies.
Thanks for all your input,
CHEERS
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Feb 6th, 2006, 05:12 AM
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I for one have had the safari experience in Botswana, both luxury camping and the luxuruious tented lodges, which you can book through a local operator or directly.

When selecting an operator there are a number of factors that you should use to evaluate their competancy.
1) Do they sell the rest of the world? If so what amount of brochure space, web site do they dedicate to Africa? If really small percentage, chances are good that they really are not passionate about the destination and likely to have limited knowledge.
2) If they are African specialists, call them and see which camps they sell. If they promote one brand over the rest, chances are good that they are getting a healthy commission and making money on that brand, you should be able to negotiate the price in your favour. Also if they only sell one company, chances are good that they aren't that aux fait with Botswana.
3) If you find a company that is able to offer myriad camps, generate interesting anecdotes and seeks to understand your personal needs, wants etc, chances are good that you have found the t/o that you could work with. Discuss your budget with them, see what the come up with and then show and tell on this sight. If you are being ripped, someone will tell you. If it's a fair deal chances are good that we'll tell you that too.

Now if you want some advice on which companies to choose from, there are some fodorite favorites that most would be happy to recommend.
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Feb 6th, 2006, 07:15 AM
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I have been on several safaris, and I prefer to use a local operator -- for Uganda I worked with Entebbe-based Volcanoes Safaris, for Namibia I worked with Windhoek-based Cardboard Box, and for Botswana/South Africa I worked with Johannesburg-based TAGA Safaris. I prefer to book locally for several reasons:

1. I prefer to support African companies instead of funding US or European businesses -- that's just my preference, but Africa is a terrific continent and its important that it develops strong local businesses.

2. In the event of an itinerary change or emergency, I like the comfort of having the ability to contact someone in the safari's time zone. I have, from time to time, made changes "on the fly" and I've been able to do so because of real-time contact with my local operator

With the ubiquity of email, the ability to communicate with an overseas operator is virtually as simple as dealing with a US operator.

I am visiting South Africa in June/July, and I am doing a self-drive safari this time, but I booked everything over the Internet directly with the lodges (no need for an operator). But, if I go on another high-end safari to Botswansa, which you mentioned, I would again contact TAGA -- they booked two excellent safaris for me (one of which was to Botswana) and also booked a great multi-country trip for an elderly relative.

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Feb 6th, 2006, 08:12 AM
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Thank you all for your advice. I was intending to book through African sources (making others' previous experiences even more important) as I too believe in developing the local economy.
I will keep you all posted!
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Feb 6th, 2006, 09:47 AM
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Folks
Thank you all so much for clarifying the word 'Cheers' for me. I really thought it was a South African saying.
Julian.
As an Aquarian I usually have about 10 different things in my mind and tend to ask them all at the same time. There are many changes going on in my country and it is always nice to get your guys perpectives on it. I just happened to read the EOS website and the particular thing that stood out was the "We cater for all" I think South Africa is great and I am, proudly part of it.
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Feb 6th, 2006, 02:56 PM
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Hello,

I would add one caveat to Mkhonzo's post.

Wilderness Safaris (www.wilderness-safaris.com) is by far the largest safari company in Botswana offering tented camps of the type you're looking for, and I don't think that offering only Wilderness properties would necessarily mean that an operator was not au fait with Botswana. However, I'd also recommend looking at camps run by CCAfrica (www.ccafrica.com) and Kwando (www.kwando.co.za).

If you are interested in supporting the local economy, you may also want to look at who owns and operates the lodges you stay at. The Orient Express hotel group owns Khwai River Lodge, Eagle Island Camp, and Savute Elephant Camp, and Sanctuary Lodges (Chief's Camp, Baines Camp, Stanley's Camp, and Chobe Chilwero) is owned by Abercrombie and Kent. Both of these are large international companies owned by American and European investors. Wilderness, CCAfrica, and Kwando are owned by Africans.

If you post a budget (per person, per day), the number of days you plan on staying, and what sort of things you want to focus on (game-viewing, birding, a mix of water and land activities), people on this forum will be happy to make suggestions.

Cheers,
Julian
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Feb 7th, 2006, 12:25 AM
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Botswana i have heard is amazing. My wife and I just returned from a safari in the Serengetti and Ngorogoro that was wonderful!
We had a great experience with Ashante Tours (listed on TATO - Tanzania Assoc of Tour Operators). Ashante has excellent NEW Land Cruisers which did not seem important at first but was _very important_ once we saw what some of the other companies were driving and based on how much time you spend driving around the Ngoro and Serengetti. For us, Lake Manyara was very dry so we opted to have an extra day in Serengetti.

Also if in Moshi, I highly recommend a cultural tour in the hills of Kilimanjaro with Oscar Basil and his family. Oscar is 25, speaks English well and runs a unique 1 or 2 day tour of his Chagga tribe's village - Materuni. We have not met more gracious, loving people and this 2 day cultural trip has been the highlight of our 6 months traveling thus far. We spent the first day hiking the kili foothills to a beautiful water fall, then joined Oscar's parents and family at the local "watering hole" for banana beer. Oscar set up a tent for us and we spent the night camping on their property. The next day we hiked some more, visitied with his 100 yr old grandmother and the whole trip enjoyed wonderful traditional Chagga meals cooked over an open fire. This is true immersion into a remote culture and was amazing! If you are interested, you should be able to reach Oscar at [email protected]

Have a great trip!
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Feb 7th, 2006, 09:02 AM
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My comment on the single minded operator pushing one line of product i believe is true. it does not consider YOUR needs and is rather the operator selling his preferred. The motive is either financial or it is all he knows. Both dangerous outcomes if its YOUR holiday.

I enjoy wilderness, however they don't deal direct with the public and some of the operators (in the US) that sell them are quite myopic in their opinions of other Bots companies.

my two cents for what it's worth.
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