Guide vs self travel


Jun 2nd, 2003, 10:49 AM
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Guide vs self travel

Hello Group. In October I plan to travel to Botswana and Namibia, and the posts here have been very useful. My local travel agency books Wilderness, and they sure look polished, but I'm concerned about the structure of these tours. In 1997 I travelled to Kenya and remember the tour busses driving up to the lions, taking a picture, and moving on, while I tracked the pride in my VW bug for 4-5 hours. Any comments on the merits of these guided tours vs "on your own"?
jackk is offline  
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Jun 2nd, 2003, 12:15 PM
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You have two options when booking a Wilderness Safaris trip (if that's who you are referring to when you mention Wilderness).

1) One of their group itineraries - set departure dates, travelling from camp to camp with a small group and a tour manager/ guide throughout.

2) A private tailored itinerary designed to include the camps you have selected from the Wilderness Safari brochure (or website) in the order that you prefer and for your specified durations.

Choosing the former tends to be slightly less expensive, but you are in a group and "stuck" with any characters that grate. But do remember that these groups are small and all the feedback I've read here, in newspaper and magazines and elsewhere on the net has been absolutely positive.

Choosing the latter is more expensive, (unless you're travelling in a group of 3 or 4) because the private charter flight transfers from camp to camp are often booked just for your party. The advantage is that this approach feels less like a "tour" because you don't (unless you pay extra to do so) have one guide who accompanies you throughout - instead you are looked after by a different team in each camp you visit. It feels very independent. You can interact with other travellers over dinner and over pre and post dinner drinks - you may be with them for only one night or your stays may coincide for a few nights - but it's also easy to have a quieter evening and retire without chatting, without also worrying about the rest of the group thinking you're sulking or such.

We happened to take the second route because we had a strong idea of what we wanted to see but, based on feedback, as I've said above, I'd feel more than happy to take one of WS's group trips too.

Kavey is offline  
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Jun 2nd, 2003, 12:18 PM
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PS At the Wilderness Safari camps that we visited there were never more than a total of 10 guests (5 tents) and we only once had more than 2 other guests in the landrover with us.

Once out on the drive we seldom encountered another vehicle - occasionally we came across one other vehicule from the same camp.

Particularly in Mombo we were able to spend hours and hours following closely behind a leopard and a cheetah (two occasions) without interruption or sight of another vehicule.

That said, this is not exclusive to WS - many very fine camps in these two countries run by a number of operators.
Kavey is offline  
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Jun 2nd, 2003, 12:27 PM
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Hi Jack-
First of all, East Africa and Botswana are very different in their approach. In East Africa you have a guide and vehicle stay with you the whole trip and drive from place to place or fly and have him meet you.
In Botswana, each camp has their own vehicles. You fly to a camp, they pick you up at the airstrip and then you go on game drives with other guests in the camps vehicles. The camp manager checks with you each evening to see what you want to do the next day., i.e., boat, mokoro, walking safari, or game drive. Then you go with people doing that activity or by yourself with the local guide. Each camp also has guides.
Even with Wilderness they book you into their camps, but you use their air service from camp to camp. Or they will book you into other camps of your choice and you still use their air service.
In East Africa, camps are set up in or near the game parks. All tourists game drive in the same park areas.
In Botswana, each camp leases land and builds their camp on that land, then uses that leased land for their activities. No one else game drives on it and you don't game drive on others leased land. So you set the pace for the guide to follow. They will ask you what you want to do for that drive. If you get hooked up with some other guest who runs the show and insists on doing it his way, simply tell the Camp Manager to not put you with those people again. There is usually a choice of activities to choose from. You also set how long you want to stay at a place beforehand. Most trips in Botswana are booked individually. They set up safaris for suggestions but most of them add that it is just a guide. They will modify and charge accordingly.
Hope this is kinda what you needed, but if not just ask away. Others will also post with good information. Liz
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Jun 2nd, 2003, 12:32 PM
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Gee Kavey- How did you get two posts in while I was composing one? I wouldn't have gone into such detail if I had known.
Anyways lotsa good info there. Liz
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Jun 2nd, 2003, 01:04 PM
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I'm glad you did - you described the camp set up with the guides much better than I did...

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