An Open Suggestion for Safari Operators

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Jun 16th, 2007, 03:37 PM
  #1
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An Open Suggestion for Safari Operators

This is about what I hope is a concept for business opportunity for safari camps and also (more importantly) helping me enjoy safaris.

I’ve been on several safaris, although not nearly as many as a lot of folk. Eight different camps and around 80 game drives. (Yes, about 10 game drives, or five nights at each camp. The math checks). I also have a very keen interest in photography. What I started finding after about 20 game drives was that I was spending a lot of the game drives hearing and seeing the same things over and over. Why? Mostly because of the “first timers” on game drives. Yes, I admit it, I too was once a “first timer”. But after a while it is sort of like learning and hearing the multiplication number table repeated over and over after you already know it.

So, easy way around this right, simply hire a private game vehicle at the camps. Well, first problem with this is cost, an additional around $300 per day. Second thing is I’d prefer not to be alone on the vehicle. Like minded, like interested, safari companions are fun to be with. So here is my answer and your business opportunity. Provide safaris tailored to the experienced safari goer with an interest in photography. Your previous guests, your “alumni”, invite them back for a safari tailored for “graduate studies” in game drives. (Would not have to be strictly your alumni, any one with sufficient safari experience qualifies). Four alumni to a vehicle, this is important no more than four (photography). Leave earlier in the morning (with maybe a box breakfast) and leave earlier in the afternoon. Simple as that. The guests do not have to be friends or know each other. Just four from anywhere who want to safari in this way. And, all for only another $80 per day (over regular rates). I for one would love it. Just what I want now on safari.

Yes, I know there are safaris operated especially for photographers that do pretty much exactly this. Plus are conducted/instructed by professional photographers. But they are very expensive, most make having my own private vehicle seem cheap.

How exactly you would promote and market this is beyond my understanding of your business. It seems to me it could be a simple extension of your current capabilities. Offer it, I’ll buy it. I invite comments here from any safari operators visiting this forum.

Regards - tom
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Jun 16th, 2007, 07:43 PM
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I'll buy it too! Great idea, Tom.
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Jun 16th, 2007, 11:33 PM
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Here, here Tom.
My sentiments exactly, couldn't agree more! ;-)
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Jun 17th, 2007, 01:36 AM
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Or.. Consider going to the unique camps. Not the just the name ones.
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Jun 17th, 2007, 03:31 AM
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I'd consider it, if you tell me who they are??
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Jun 17th, 2007, 03:32 AM
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Tom,
You have a fantastic idea. We have just returned from safari (Bots) and are getting ready for another (Tanz) in March. Both with private vehicles. I really wish tour operators would recognize the niche you have identified (i.e., safaris designed for experienced clients with a photographic interest). We like to spend time with certain animals so that we can follow and photograph their behavior. Also, waiting for ideal light is something only a photographer can appreciate. Your thoughts are exactly ours. Perhaps we can keep this thread alive and stimulate some discussion and even interest one of the reputable, well known agents or property concessions (Wilderness, Kwando, CC Africa etc.) into offering such a program. Now, off to the over 10,000 images I brought back from Bots, Zam, and Zim.
Best wishes and thanks for a well timed suggestion.
Chuck
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Jun 17th, 2007, 03:42 AM
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Whereabouts in Zam?
Any reports coming up,or pics posted?
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Jun 17th, 2007, 03:53 AM
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Not sure how this should work. We have first-timers, advanced, more experienced, old hands - all with their own preferences. Some still want to see big cats, others small mammals, even others birds or reptiles.

Why a breakfast box? Two hours after dawn light isn't suitable anymore for good photos. From a photographer's view I also regard the time between 16:00-17:00 as a waste, although I enjoy the time just driving around.

$80 extra for a vehicle with only four clients is a good idea, but it doesn't solve the problem of different interests.

I have good experiences with solving such problems in camp. Find other like-minded travellers and tell management to re-group vehicle occupancy. Also tell your guides about your special interests -- most guides are more than happy to show you something different than the "standard program".
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Jun 17th, 2007, 04:21 AM
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Serian Camp at the Masai Mara puts emphasis on photography... whether advanced or newbies. They have a special tent set for all kinds of things related to the subject, lessons to get the best photos, making your own CD/DVD, other... and can provide private vehicles for visitors. Believe they provide the same private vehicles per tent for those who, like you, may have other interests than the first timers to Africa.

Their per/day prices and park fees are a tad higher than other similar camps, but can be the answer to your particular interest.

Like you after years of many game drives in many areas of Africa, I have been out with newbies and experiences safari goers. Good guides do their utmost to ascertain the expertise of those in their vehicles, whether first-timers or repeat, their particular interests... and accommodate accordingly. While I've seen plenty of everything, I still find some repeat viewings of say lions, a kill, elephants, etc. as if it was my first time, as they're all different. However, I may not want to hang at a sighting as long as those who have never... I just go with the flow.

It will come down for you as the visitor to be specific as to what your seeking when booking a particular camp and see what they have to offer. But as you say, there are private vehicles for some, or other activities other than game viewing being offered at different camps/lodges. The smaller camps will likely be the ones who may better be able to consider special services.

Hopefully, some of these camps do read this board. Good idea, Cary!


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Jun 17th, 2007, 12:52 PM
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Over the past year I have read so many helpful tips from the seasoned travelers to Africa on this forum; it was truly amazing to see so many people come together and help each other out with their suggestions, itinerary ideas, pros and cons, etc. But when I read this posting I felt like I was reading an invitation to an elitist "members (or "alumni") only club. I never expected this from the Africa fordites. I thought it a joke when I read it; and then when everyone jumped on the bandwagon, I was truly amazed. Why not just start your own little Africa and only invite those to visit who have been before. What have you learned from traveling to such a giving, spiritual country - the only reason to go is to get the best shot?? Perhaps instead of bragging about how many times you've gone, go less and pay for the private vehicle. That way those of us who quietly enjoy the safari don't have to make room for all the equipment hoarding the space in the vehicles. I know this is going to start something, but this is all I am saying on the subject and I don't even want to come back. I really expected more out of you folks. Privatizing Safaris? Unbelievable
 
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Jun 17th, 2007, 01:16 PM
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I guess luangwablondes gave a good advice to avoid all this.
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Jun 17th, 2007, 01:20 PM
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Great idea Tom. There should hopefully be a way to make it work... I for one would love that option to the more expensive private vehicle one... though Serian sounds nice.

Ignore the negative person. Most here understand where you are coming from.

Richard
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Jun 17th, 2007, 02:06 PM
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It sounds good on paper, but so many variables come into play, how would the operators accommodate everyone's wishes? You'd have your birders, cat people, elephant lovers etc. Those with the monster camera rigs and me with the canon s3. So a seperate vehicle for each group? Yeah, charge a premium but if all 12-16-? paid the premium and had different goals I don't think there's enough vehicles and guides to go around. Park me amongst a herd of elephants and I'd be happy, but waiting hours for the right light at a lion sighting and I'd go bonkers. Different strokes. The camps could market it as an alumni photo safari, but with space so limited at many camps, would they risk not filling up the camp for specialized safaris when knowing they'll be full without it? Like I said, sounds good on paper but...
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Jun 17th, 2007, 02:45 PM
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Perhaps we could simplify this a bit. Why not simpky group safari veterans into vehicles that spend less time viewing zebra and impala (I'm sure this will also offend someone) and more time with the more unusual species. Watching and photographing sleeping lions is not exciting but watching a feeding leopard in a tree and the hyenas gather below (trying to collect scraps) is facinating to me. Likewise, watching cheetah defend their kill agains jackels and vultures is equally interesting. Good photographic oportunities depend not just on light but on animal interaction. In my humble opinion, Tom has a very good point, certainly worth discussing; certainly it wasn't meant to create an elite safari clique. Come on folks, keep it light.
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Jun 17th, 2007, 03:14 PM
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I agree with Tom, it is a good idea, just how the operators put it together (if they do) would be interesting. With everyone wanting something different on a safari, how to please everyone. Since seeing a cheetah with a kill or a leopard in a tree would be exciting for almost everyone, those sighting are rare, (at least for me as I've never seen either), so what to do in the meantime?
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Jun 17th, 2007, 03:20 PM
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How do operators perfectly accommodate everyones wishes/goals now? Well, I guess we could have game drives that specialize in mongoose, or eagles or what ever. But even with that the problem of different interests will never be 100 percent solved. (Until there is only one guest of the drive). I'm trying to go from guests with 10 percent same interests to 50 percent same interests.

Have you ever belonged to a tennis or golf club that divided players by ability? Or a chess club that does that? Or a soccer club that does that? Yikes !!! Ms AlmostThere - do you play a sport or game or hobby? If you are advanced at it, do you enjoy playing all the time with rank beginners. You don't have to answer, I'm sure you do.

I'm simply trying to make it EASIER/BETTER for everyone. Wouldn't the guide/ranger have an easier time of it if they could narrow the guests interests down some? Would the camp manager feel better knowing his guests are being well taken care of? (Or, if not, what is the manager's job anyway?) Would you/me have an easier/better time knowing that the strategy of our safaris had better definition. Even if the tactics to accomplish it were changing by the minute.

And I agree that although it sounds good on paper, it may not be feasible for safari camps. Yet, I know many camps are flexible about the number of vehicles they send out. You arrange/pay for a private vehicle and they come up with one for you. So it is a matter of organizing such. But if the camps are 90 percent occupied now without doing this then they have no incentive to do it. But again, I say, they would very likely get my repeat business if I could buy this from them.

Sandi actually knows about a camp that has seen some interest along these lines, Serian camp in the Mara. Now that's close to what I'm looking for. Any others like this?

regards - tom
ps - I'm happy to see many folks having the same feelings and discussing this.






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Jun 17th, 2007, 04:07 PM
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Tom,My answer to the sports, chess or game question is this: They would be LOCAL - daily, weekly, or on a regular basis type of interaction. Certainly comparing them to a very expensive safari is not comparing apples to apples. Rather dung to gold in my humble opinion. I am not negative either Mr. Richardfh; I am being realistic....if you cannot accept another one's opinion I would call that rather negative. I just felt the original intent of the posting presented itself in a more "we are better than they" kind of light and I never thought these posts represented that sort of view. A misunderstanding perhaps and if the multi-safari photo travelers do not want a "mix" that is their perogitive. This is a FORUM afterall, and I was giving my OPINION. Seeing the wild in Africa is a once in a lifetime opportunity for so many that I would hate it to become a "us against them" kind of experience. Not good for the lodges I would think. So if you are advanced in the study of game drives, go to an area that is undiscovered and discover the "first time joy" all over again. Don't become jaded is all I have to say. On the other hand, start a club and invite whomever you want, rent out an entire lodge and go for it. Its your choice.
I enjoy a tennis game with a youngster starting out as much as one who has been playing years longer than I could ever believe. It brings a new perspective.
I only responded to this because if anything I am not a negative person; I would cheerfully give up my seat to someone who had never had the opportunity to see a lion/leopard/hyena up close and personal just to see the joy on their face. That is called humanity. Have fun, go for it and perhaps you won't get me in your vehicle.
 
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Jun 17th, 2007, 04:51 PM
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"...and personal just to see the joy on their face."

That's something what makes game drives in a non-private vehicle very enjoyable to me.
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Jun 17th, 2007, 05:56 PM
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Thank you nyama; I was beginning to think I was the only one who did not only think of the photo shot while on safari. With sadness I feel the "realness" of an African Safari Experience is now trying to be regulated. So with that I sign off...On to other life's goals. But I do thank everyone who gives their all to help with the trip of a lifetime. I learned a lot from these posts and I am now making plans for the next adventure in Africa, just two days return our unbelievable trip. It was a life altering trip and I hope one day my little ones will understand. Best to all.
 
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Jun 17th, 2007, 05:57 PM
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"...and personal just to see the joy on their face."

That's something what makes game drives in a non-private vehicle very enjoyable to me
- nyama.

Ditto.

I almost routinely now organise my safaris so that I'm sharing a vehicle with friends (almost as good as having a vehicle to myself). However, I have to say that there is a lot of enjoyment in seeing the pleasure of 'newbies'. This is a story I've told before: we were watching cheetah when a trails guide radioed to ask if we could do him and his clients a favour. They hadn't seen cheetah and their safari was in its last moments. So we interrupted our watching to pick his clients up and gave them half an hour with the cheetahs. My pleasure matched theirs. And as for seeing and hearing the "same things over and over"? Every sighting reveals something different, without exception. Just depends how closely you observe.

John





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