How do you assess risk?

Jan 16th, 2008, 11:27 AM
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I would leave for Kenya tonight if anyone would chip in to send me. But of course I would find out the places that should be avoided.
waynehazle is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 12:30 PM
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Katie - It would be a business expense!!! Tax write off!!!! Fodor's should send all of their editors to the forum countries they work with!!!!! Get creative!!!!

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 12:38 PM
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My personal response to assessing risk -

When it's your time, and God calls you, he doesn't care where you are.

Carpe diem.

LyndaS is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 01:52 PM
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Maybe God doesn't like stupid, idiotic people so He removes them from the gene pool sooner?

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2008, 03:53 PM
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Katie H asked, “Who else has traveled to Africa solo?”

I stayed on alone in Tanzania after two weeks with friends for an additional week and private safari in the Serengeti. Then I went on my own to Rwanda to see the gorillas, the golden monkeys, and the people!

I would do it again and I would go to Kenya at this time as well, with caution as others have stated.

Denbasking is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 06:15 AM
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Denbasking--- were there any other guests on the private safari at all? When you were traveling alone, like in Rwanda, do you strike up friendships with others or is it more of a solitary experience?

Katie_H is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 06:24 AM
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Travelling on safari solo is very easy and you never feel alone. Meet lots of great people, make friends etc etc.,

You can also choose where you want to sit at dinner.

HariS is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 06:50 AM
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I am late jumping into this thread, but to respond to your original question Katie, about assessing risk, it is pretty simple. I do research to see what the real level of risk is, and then I identify a long-term, well-regarded land operator in the area. I then assume that such an operator would not endanger its reputation by taking tourists into real danger, so I plan my trip with an operator like that. When I follow those steps, I feel very comfortable with my travel plans.

We would tend to avoid any destination where there is an active conflict going on or recent history of tourists being targeted by criminals or kidnappers. So, for example, we won't be going to Colombia anytime soon, nor the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. But we traveled to Rwanda and Uganda last year with no worries, as well as to north-central Ethiopia during the time the Ethiopians were fighting in Somalia. The key is just staying current with the situation and working with a responsible tour operator.

Regarding the question about meeting people on safari, we have had varied experiences. In some instances we have really enjoyed the company of the people we met. In other instances, we have encountered people who don't take the safari experience as seriously as we do, and seem to be motivated to do it simply because it is a way to show off how much money they can spend. We have had experiences where the dinner table conversation becomes a "boasting contest" in which people talk about all of the high-priced camps they have stayed in, while all we want to talk about are game-viewing experiences. It's like anything else, you will run into all kinds of people, but our Africa travel agent now knows to try to keep us away from lodges that cater to travelers with that sort of mentality.

Chris_GA_Atl is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 10:04 AM
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Extremely well said. Of course you get the folks from all different perspectives of life. Thats what its all about, to choose where one really fits in.
Now, back to the serious question. Who is prepared to sponsor Katie_H
safarichat is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 10:59 AM
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Chris.. thanks for sharing (and safarichat for your persistence)..

Chris...your final paragraph made me chuckle as it has turned this thread a bit on its head: one of the "risks" of travel is that you can't say for sure who else will be traveling with you! That's definitely one plus to working closely with an agent that knows the sort of vibe/atmosphere you're after (as well as the real risks you're willing and not willing to take).
Katie_H is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 11:05 AM
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My experience on solo safari has been what Chris said.

regards - tom
cary999 is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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Right, Katie, it is a risk, because having to spend time with people who have different priorities can really put a damper on your trip. We have never had a trip significantly impaired by issues like that, fortunately.

But my wife and I are both heavy photographers who take a lot of pictures. This means we have to take our time and we are interested in things like light quality and other things that non-photographers wouldn't care about. It also means we need to move around the vehicle swinging big lenses to and fro. It is for this reason that our next Africa trip (June-July 2009) will predominantly be a private one where we have our own vehicle.

Our Africa travel agent is really great about knowing our preferences and designing an itinerary that suits our priorities -- which is why we have used her for both our prior trips and the one coming up in 2009.

To get back to the original kinds of "risks" that started this thread off, the bottom line for me is that those risks are almost always more imaginary than real, and result from many Americans' attitude that traveling to any developing country must be dangerous. The truth is quite the opposite, of course, and each country must be judged by itself rather than on the basis of uninformed assumptions. Our friends and relatives think we are crazy for going to places like Rwanda or Ethiopia, but to be fair, I think they are crazy for not considering those as places to be visited and explored. In the end, I think it is more about having an open mind and being open to new experiences than any risk that harm will befall you when you go to any of the popular African tourist destinations.

Chris_GA_Atl is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 11:23 AM
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Hi Katie,
I travel solo on safari. As Hari mentioned, it's an easy trip to do solo. I take the standard precautions Chris mentioned: do my homework, book through a reputable agent, and stay at reputable camps.

With respect to assessing risk regarding travel in general, I'm probably more likely to get mugged while traveling for business, walking to my rental car late one night after dinner in a strange city. That's when I take more serious precautions. During the everyday life events that we take for granted, and when most people let their guards down. And Lynn is absolutely correct. On safari you are not only accompanied by a guide practically everywhere you go, but in most camps you are even escorted to your tent.

Yes, my family sometimes think's I'm nuts for traveling by myself to what they consider such off-the-beaten-track places, but that is because they have never done it. If they did, they would realize how liberating (and how safe) it can actually be.

Regarding more risk for repeat visitors on subsequent trips, I'm not sure. I do know when planning my first safari I had some trepidation about sleeping in a tent at a camp that wasn't enclosed by fences. I also remember being concerned about my first walk in the bush. By the end of the first week of that first safari I didn't have any safety concerns at all. I don't think I take any bigger risks now, but I am open to other ideas, such as a mobile safari, which I personally would probably not have done on my first trip.

And to answer your question about "boldly traveling where...", not only does it come naturally for me, but it is actually a large part of what defines me. I think alot of people on this forum would probably feel the same way. If I didn't have to work for a living and had an endless amount of resources (both time and money) I'd be traveling all the time. And of course I'd be traveling solo.
Dana_M is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:16 PM
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Regardless of what travel agent you book through, you are always bound to meet one or two people on safari that you don't connect with ..... regardless of what lodges or camps you go to!

My strategy is - generally safe to sit at dinner with guides and fellow safari travellers that you connect with!!!
HariS is offline  
Jan 17th, 2008, 08:26 PM
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If you get to read this ..... love your different analogy comparisons RE lone risk taker subject.
HariS is offline  
Jan 18th, 2008, 02:31 AM
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When I can't sleep at night! Been up since 4am wondering if we're being really stupid to go to Kenya in a week when trouble can erupt anywhere at anytime. Just read that the Massai's have attacked and killed a Kikuyu near the Masa Marai. This has become a license to rob/loot/kill under the pretext of opposition. Also, seems crazy to have to carry so much cash for tips on your body...locals have to know tourists are a goldmine.
barefootbeach is offline  
Jan 18th, 2008, 07:27 PM
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Katie these are really good overlapping topics and questions as I read them all from the top and that are woven throughout the post. While all information gathered here needs to be just part of ones research in making their travel decisions. At this particular moment I am thinking it is a serious thing to slap up a post and say it is safe to travel solo etc. I am feeling compelled to back that sass up and qualify my earlier post and answer more of your questions than I did the first round!

Here are some of your tags: How do you personally assess risk when it comes to travel? Are those that are close to you as eager to embrace the risks associated with adventure travel? Are you considered the lone risk-taker in your family or group of friends? Or does "boldly traveling where..." just come naturally due to how you were raised? For instance, while I would consider doing a solo safari, I'm fairly certain my entire family would balk at the idea--and would try to talk me out of it. I imagine to a large extent your life experiences pave the way. For your repeat visitors to Africa: do you find that you are comfortable taking bigger risks on the return because you know what to expect? Or does the opposite happen? Who else has traveled to Africa solo? I'm sure there's many people out there that have "seeing Africa" on their list of must-do's---and wondering if they'd ever go there alone. Personally, the only major challenge for me would be actually getting there---the flying is what makes me nervous. Of all the trips people take, it just seems to me that planning safaris are among the most daunting---partly due to the number of details that must be considered.

Katie_H: “Denbasking--- were there any other guests on the private safari at all? When you were traveling alone, do you strike up friendships with others or is it more of a solitary experience?”
Semi-Luxury Mobile Fly-Camping Safari in the Serengeti: No other guests, just myself, solo female, who has been on this earth for one half of a century (but hey! that IS the new 30!) with a Host/Guide/Driver and Host/Chef. We were self-contained for all our needs so it was just the three of us always when traveling to each campsite, eating and sleeping. For the Game Drives from each base camp it was just me and the Guide/Driver with the Host/Chef manning the camp and preparing meals.
Katie , for me this was the ideal situation, the Guides were ‘my others’ with which to strike up a friendship. This was not a solitary experience, but this is when I enjoyed my time in nature the most. Being with like-minded souls who enjoy, respect, and have a reverence for nature at the same pace as me along with taking pleasure in human quiet as well - was FABUOLUS. Now we had a grand ole time and really laughed and chatted much – we even went out into civilization one night and had a blast with other people (but not tourists). What I mean here is socializing with other tourists never entered into my mind once, what is important to me is enjoying the local folks wherever I am a visitor and in this situation with all humans practicing basic nature etiquette.
Rwanda: This again was private, just myself and Guide/Driver who drove me everywhere and knew about all things Rwandan and since he was Ugandan and lived there that was a bonus country and culture I enjoyed learning about! We ate all meals together at the lodge but he was not the Guide for either of the treks as they are led by Parc employees. He did arrange for us at my request (he participated and enjoyed the chance as well) to spend some time with local folks in a casual setting (not guest like) since otherwise I would not have had an opportunity to interact with any Rwandans in a meaningful way other than just visiting the Parc and museum etc. We, Guide and I, were going to socialize with one of the couples I met on the gorilla trek that evening back at the lodge for dinner but after my shower I bailed as I was not hungry and wanted to sleep! I was not worried about Guide because he was cool with it and went on to dinner and then took couple to socialize with the many other Guides and local lodge staffers that were his friends with whom we had spent our first evening at the lodge watching World Cup football.
Will you feel lonely Solo or as a Duo traveling privately? GOOD LUCK!
Loneliness and Solitude: I am rather nomadic, easily adjust to new surroundings and do not have the tendency to feel homesickness or lonely and I hang out and work by myself often although am very social as well, but as I said, my socializing goals never once included (not that I was excluding) other tourists. From MY three-week experience as a guest/tourist in Tanzania it was impossible to be lonely and I might add ALONE! And just forget about trying to skip a meal, although I did get very creative a couple of times BUT these were seriously major and elaborate but subtle maneuvers and cleverly woven excuses with double and triple possible meanings on my part (which I must say, left others in awe & envy at times)! When in East Africa…
I had many conversations with my different Tanzanian friends about this and not one had a need or comprehension for my very American sense of personal space or to be alone or to spread out and sit in the back so-to-speak or go and hibernate in a tent etc. In fact, the concept of spending time alone on purpose is inconceivable and a great dread for them and something to be avoided if at all possible and these sentiments (expressed in dead pan fashion) were from women and men! Well, I take them at their word because there somehow was always room for one more butt in a church pew (not really, I tell ya) with 15 empty ones behind us or another chair at a table, or you must come out that tent and be with us etc. After a little exposure to new experiences, my tendency is to embrace them, so it did not take me long to get in the spirit of their ThisClose togetherness custom because I ended up LOVING it! I believe this is the custom in many other African countries as well.
From my experience, I do not think one or two people would be lonely on a private safari or have need to worry about opportunities to meet other folks. In truth, I could have done anything I wanted at anytime with the blessings from everyone; they will go out of their way to accommodate your every whim. I am not sure how to articulate this but for me, my interactions, and experiences were less about me and was more about them. My interest was to catch their wave with them, as a student if you will, with them having the liberty to share their culture, customs, and traditions as they do to their satisfaction. This was part of what went into my trip research and preparation; I’m sure I made many faux pas but I did try and still am!
Private Safari or not?
Technically, my first two weeks were private - with four vehicles worth of people! Mostly locals, seasoned visitors and a few new to TZ and I was a warmly welcomed guest joining an old friend and her group but had my own personal agenda which they all were immensely supportive of and helpful connecting me with folks alongside of their activities. Our activities were unrelated to safaris although we did go to Tarangire and the Ngorongoro caldera.
So in this situation for Fodor’s folks, I was a SOLO traveler joining a group with a canned package and I did not need to agonize over decisions nor could I have deviated from the schedule (well, that is, for the sake of this quandary). I felt this was a blessing to me at the time, only because I knew I had additional options ahead.

My time in Rwanda and safari in the Serengeti was where on my own I had to do my homework like Chris said. Honestly, I was so unfamiliar and confused by the various traveling scenarios that it took an emotionally exhaustive dedication and a ginormous amount of research to figure out what I for sure did not want (which was easier to discover) before I could even begin to articulate what I did want. This was all on pretty short notice by the way so it can be done!

So here’s the scoop as I think it relates to most folks who hop onto to Fodor’s looking for reasons to travel privately or not.

I absolutely loved and enjoyed my entire trip and all the people I met and spent time with, however, as a nature lover and all that encompasses to me, without that private safari in the Serengeti I would have not had the dream in my head or the special nature moments on the continent of Africa realized if I relied on the other scenarios as incredible as they were.

Wow, I have blathered on and still did not share some solution ideas for some of the problems I ran into or hmmm, what I would do if I had a dinner with folks like Chris, nor did I hit all your questions which are worthy of their own threads and input from all. Hopefully this is what you were after from me Katie and maybe something here will have a smidge of value for someone planning a trip.

New Subject real quick:

“I would go to Kenya at this time as well, with caution as others have stated.”

Not that I seriously think any one is relying on this statement I made earlier above, but just in case it is accumulatively influencing someone’s decision to go Kenya at this time I do wish to clarify a bit.

I’m too close through my personal involvement with people and projects on the ground in Kenya and Tanzania, my own interest, passion, and care for the region and I have absolutely no expertise, reference, or desire to sway anyone else that it is safe to go on a safari in Kenya at this time, very personal decision. Through various non-traditional safari sources and methods of communication I have from the onset of the post election violence been able to learn much about folks I am involved with blow by blow, road by road, etc - all with their own skewed perceptions of how things are going of course; but this means, only for me, that I myself am comfortable and would go into Kenya if I was scheduled at this time with what I personally have mapped out in my mind, but even then, this would not be a safari agenda.

End unnecessary clarification, I’m sure, but I feel better.

Katies other tags worthy of new threads, further discussion and action: I should clarify that I'm not a traditional editor here; my job is to manage the forums, communicate with members and general site users, communicate with the editors about trends here, and more generally "think big" about improvements/upgrades that members would welcome here.

Asante, Sana! Den

Denbasking is offline  
Jan 19th, 2008, 12:30 PM
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Thanks, Hari. I've revisited!

With all this advice, you'll have to let us know if/when you plan to go to Africa, Katie.

Certainly the Fodor's folks would foot some of that bill, maybe even send a Fodor's entourage, then you wouldn't be alone.

If not, Divewop, some other Fodorites and I are planning several gorilla visits for Aug of 2009. Then I'd like to include some time in Kenya. I hope peace comes soon for the Kenyans.
atravelynn is offline  

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