How to chose a safari tour company?


Feb 26th, 2015, 08:24 AM
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How to chose a safari tour company?

We are looking for tours in several different countries.

I know that some lodges include safaris as part of the daily rate. But what if you are staying in a lodge that doesn't offer this - how do you choose a good/reliable safari tour?

For example - if we stayed here: we would need to find tours into Kruger NP. Googling finds many of them, but how to choose "the best"??

Is there a website that reviews them that is reliable? I have looked on Trip Advisor and while there are listings, there seem to be few reveiws for most, with the #1 having only 124 reviews.

This is a general question; I realize if I use the search function here for specific parks, I will find threads.
DebitNM is offline  
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Feb 26th, 2015, 10:21 AM
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Our safari was only to Tanzania, so my answers may only be partially helpful to you. I had read that, if I could put together a group of 4 people, a private safari would be cheaper than a group one. We were lucky enough to find another couple.
We did some basic research about safaris and determined that, for this trip, we were interested in the National Parks of the Tanzanian Northern Circuit, and that we wanted to go in the dry season of July-Aug.
We started reading about Tour Operators on Trip Advisor and came up with a list of ~10 that sounded like possibilities to us.
We emailed them with our very rough, basic ideas of an itinerary and a description of the kind of trip we wanted to take. Immediately, we eliminated two that were thousands of dollars more expensive than all the others, one that was significantly cheaper, and one that was unpleasantly argumentative in our interaction.
As we kept communicating, we narrowed our choices to 3 TOs; and we suspect that any of them would have been just fine.
The one we selected didn't own any camps, but really helped us select what lodging would meet our needs.
They weren't the cheapest, but we felt like we got a very good value.
Every interaction with the general manager was wonderful, and we can't imagine a better guide than the one he selected for us.
abram is offline  
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Feb 26th, 2015, 10:55 AM
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Thanks abram, very helpful.
DebitNM is offline  
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Feb 26th, 2015, 11:48 AM
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Deb this is an excellent website/forum devoted to safaris - lots of info there
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Feb 26th, 2015, 01:14 PM
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Please don't stay in the lodges outside the parks in S Africa (I know nothing about East Africa).They might look like a good value, but you miss the best times of day for viewing wildlife - sunrise and sunset. The park gates open/close so people aren't driving around in the dark for the safety of everyone, especially the wildlife. Stay in the private reserves around Kruger - there are very affordable options - or rent a car and drive yourself around Kruger. It's easy and tons of fun. If you don't want to self drive, contact Wild Wings - they can arrange to stay in the park and they will take you out with a guide. Private reserves - private property so they can follow a leopard or rhino off road and drive around in the dark. No off road in the national parks. Are you looking for private tours or group tours? Any good outfitter can arrange the exact trip you want, and in any price range. If you are going to do most of the research and then have an outfitter make the arrangements/transport, I would wait until I had a basic plan put together. They deny it, but they will try to talk you into higher end accomodations - mostly because that's what they know. I wanted to use three camps that my outfitter had never visited and they were apprehensive, but they ultimately arranged it all flawlessly. We happened to be at Mashatu when a tour group was there. The guests had no idea that we could arrange a safari without going on a group tour.

I used for my first two safaris. They lean toward the high end - almost all US based outfitters do. Now we do our own because we don't do complicated fly in/fly out and we now self drive so don't need transfers. Almost all lodges can/will arrange transportation for you. They do it all the time. They will even help with going from one lodge to another. So getting an outfitter is not necessary - but I think it's a good idea on your first just so you have someone to talk to if anything goes awry, if that will give you peace of mind.

Contact Wild Wings and Sun Safaris. Check their websites to make sure that's what you are looking for.

Have fun planning. I always have at least one safari in the planning stages.
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Feb 26th, 2015, 08:42 PM
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As far as getting outfitter/tour operator recommendations, I would look on Safaritalk, here and Tripadvisor. I would then contact several and exchange a few emails. I find communicating with a few really gives me a feel for which one I'm most comfortable working with. I prefer working with a TO based in whatever country I'm visiting.

I believe you're looking at Southern Africa, right? My only experience with safaris there is in Namibia and we opted for self drive and direct booking with the lodges/camps as Namibia is well set up for that. We did not use a TO there but do when we travel to East Africa.
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Feb 26th, 2015, 08:49 PM
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Great advice from Christabir, completely agree. Stay in the park if you are going to Kruger, it's all part of the experience that you wouldn't want to miss.
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Feb 28th, 2015, 04:39 AM
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Hello DebitNM!

There are many options to consider (inside and outside Kruger) but I would also highly recommend that you consider taking a closer look at some of the best priced options in the private reserves. While your initial reaction is that they are priced more than lodges you might be currently considering, you get a lot of value out of staying in the private reserves. Logistically, you won't be piecing together your trip with different operators (lodging, transfers, game drives etc) and their food (all inclusive - and drink) and service are excellent. Their rangers have solid knowledge and communicate with other rangers to secure sightings for you. This isn't necessarily the way it is in public parks. Private reserves also give you more time in the bush and you can drive off road to stay on an animal's track which is great for watching animal behavior. So I would definitely recommend to you that you consider the private reserve lodges that are as close to your budget and then compare. Elephant Plains would be a good one to start with (popular with our clients and gets solid reviews). There are others too, for sure.

As far as selecting a tour operator, here's my advice. you need to talk to a good number. How many really listen to what you want? How many want to deliver a canned itinerary because that's easier for them? Do they have representation such as a team or an office in South Africa or do they just re-sell another operator's plan? Have they visited the places you are considering because what you see online isn't what it always looks like? Those are just a few tips.

The planning is so much fun. The trip will be even better!

Happy to help.
Africa Direct USA
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Mar 1st, 2015, 07:50 PM
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This sight is helpful:

This is the tour we took:

I posted a trip report. It was a magical 9 days!!!
deladeb is offline  
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Mar 3rd, 2015, 01:38 AM
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As most people have suggested, let a tour operator organise your trip because it doesn’t usually work out cheaper to do it yourself and you haven’t got the expertise of a specialist safari tour operator. It takes years to gain all the knowledge needed to put a great itinerary together, like knowing how long it takes to get from A to B, what is a safe route, what activities to include, the logical order of things. And what happens if something goes wrong? You want to be able to call someone and say “help”!

So my advice is, select a tour operator who seems to understand want you want and let them come up with an itinerary within your budget that will blow your mind!

From Fair Trade Safaris non-profit organisation
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