How/where do I start my planning?

Dec 1st, 2005, 07:32 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 218
How/where do I start my planning?

I am in the VERY beginning stages of planning an Africa trip and, after perusing the board, am more confused than ever as to where to start! I am female, moderately fit, will be traveling solo, will have about 3 weeks to travel and speak English and some "travel" French. From past experience in Europe, I know I don't like the "if it's Tuesday this must be Belgium" type tours, but have worries about being able to negotiate travel in Africa by myself.

Several questions: What books and/or guidebooks did you use to begin your search of areas to visit?

If this might be the only time you could go to Africa in your life, what would you see/do? There are so many companies offering so much, I don't even know the right questions to ask to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Thanks in advance for your advice.

merrittm is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 07:51 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Its all wheat.

I would suggest, at least in the first instance, perusing the Lonely Planet Africa guide, which gives an overview of all the countries and their respective highlights.

You should be able to decide what interests you so that you can ask more specific questions.

This board mostly attracts safari-related posts, but West Africa and North Africa are also fascinating, but not safari destinations. For example, I will visit Tunisia in December, but I haven't asked any questions about it on this forum.

Its an amazing continent, and offers much, much more than safaris.
thit_cho is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 08:45 AM
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As thit cho suggests, you might want to start with something very basic, like Lonely Planet's "Africa: Read This First." If I could find my copy, I'd mail it to you.

Your second question: I think I'd have to pick going on a safari--any country--if I were only to visit "Africa" once. But most people want to return again and again. It's expensive, but worth every single penny (or hundred dollar bill). I have a good friend who has only been to North and West Africa; her favorite country is Burkina Faso. Me, I'm sold on East Africa, but I'm open to all of it.

Enjoy all the wheat.
Leely is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 08:56 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Yes, Lonely Planet is a good place to start - they try they're best to remain unobjective and seem to give a good overview. Google african safaris and you'll come up with many safari co. that will give you great information, news letters and links about the various regions, weather, cultures, safari types and costs etc. It's rather overwhelming at first, but it will help you decide which country/s and type of trip you want to hone in on - I choose Tanzania N. circuit. Lastly, use this forum as many of these posters are very knowledgable and willing to share.
cybor is offline  
Dec 1st, 2005, 02:35 PM
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In addition to picking a country, alot can depend on when you wish to travel.

Egypt - in Africa, though many forget - not ideal in the heat of the summer, likewise for Morocco or Tunisia or Algeria.

For safari countries, whether Eastern or Southern, can be season dependent. While the "wet" seasons are often avoided, there is no guarantee of rain constantly, and the rates are lower. The high season also varies depending on whether you're truly in the Southern Hemisphere - South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana which are opposite of Northern. June, July, August into Sept tend to be cold or colder, but also depending on where in any of these countries can differ. And the wet seasons in the South are different than in the East.

In East Africa, prime travel in Kenya is July - October for the Migration in the Masai Mara... yet, the rest of the country is a year-round destination; Tanzania also has Migration seasons - mid-Jan to March for the "calving" season in southeast; in mid-June thru July in the west; November thru December the north, northeast to central Serengeti. The animals move all year so the "migration" is a moving target.

You've probably read all of this over the months - no wonder the confusion. So a good guidebook will help you at least pinpoint a country/ies, then the season, then your budget, then with a group as a single, or completely solo.

I believe everyone who posts here regularly and those who soon become regulars, have their favorite destination - but this is your holiday.

Your "travel" French, no worry - unless you're in West Africa, it's not used much in East or Southern Africa, just about everyone speaks English.

Where here to help once you pick the country!

Dec 2nd, 2005, 02:10 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 3
I think a good way to approach planning a safari is to break it down into several catagories
1. What is your budget (excluding the international flights)
2. When are you looking to travel (the best time of year to travel to Africa depends on the areas you are looking at visiting)
3. What activities are you initerested in (walking, drives,mekoros etc)
4. Level of comfort (overlands or luxury camps)
5. Attractions you want to see (Kilimanjaro, Table Mountain, Okavango Delta etc)

Then once you have an idea on what your expectations are, look up on the internet the different African travel destinations and see what they have to offer. A few tips, Botswana is the leading African travel destination right now. Botswana offers a great variety of activities. It is safe and a reliable destination. There are some wonderful accomodations too. From ultra luxury to comfortable. The wildlife is incredible. (I just got back from a trip two days ago). There are African travel specialists who would be very helpful to answer questions. Feel free to call around!
ualorna is offline  
Dec 5th, 2005, 11:32 AM
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Posts: 22,100
One way I sometimes start to plan the very rough framework of an independent (non-tour) trip is to first check out major and specialized tour companies - not because you will be taking a packaged tour, but because they will help you get some context over routes, times, major things to visit in each destination. I usually find that I want to spend more time at each stop - but the tour companies at least can set up some geographical logic.

Then move on from there and plan it yourself.
gail is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 04:24 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 64
I agree with the above posts sentiments about doing some general research using tour operators' brochures.

However specialist tour operators have to make a living and they do this by earning commission from taking bookings. To use their resources but then not book through them seems unfair.

African specialists will tailor a trip to you desires (if they won't find one who will) and should charge you the same as if you book direct. Their commission comes off underneath the public rates (again if they charge over public rates find someone who won't)

Their knowledge should help make the trip work in terms of logistics and choice of camps etc. If you work alongside them you should get a better trip for the same money.

I will declare an interest here since I am within the industry, but genuinely believe what I have written with regards to African specialists

Best of luck with your planning, Richard
Richard_Smith is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 04:53 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 33
Now, I have yet to go on my first trip, but we did all our planning on our own. It is not a crazy running around everywhere trip, but we are pretty confident that everything is accounted for. Heck, we will know on the 25th as we start out on our trip to Zambia.

We first planned the timeframe we had available, and then started to look at costs. We bought about 3 travel books and skimmed through another couple of books before hitting the internet for information. Once we found something we were interested in, we simply emailed the camps and they were more than happy to provide information and answer questions (Robin Pope's people were great - I must have asked 50 questions before we finalized with them).

IMHO, and this may come back to bite us on the trip, I prefer to make my own planning - it seems more "personal" to me. However if you are uncomfortable then go with a operator that specializes in this since you probably will not get a discount going direct. IMHO, if you are planning something on short notice, use a tour operator. If you have plenty of time (we finalized our low-season Dec 25th trip in Feb.), then maybe have a go at trying to plan it yourself ...
drehburg is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 06:00 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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To Richard and other tour operators;
Thanks for giving us your opinion in this thread. I don't think anyone including myself was rec. asking for expensive brocures from tour operators, rather than suggesting that one may want to peruse safari company and related websites after looking thru books. This, I feel, cost the operator the same whether 1 person goes to their site or 500.

As a self employed business owner (not travel) I welcome anyone who wants a complimentary consult, my brocures or wants to visit my website. It, of course, is always in the hope that anyone who sees my information will think that I am offering something better than the rest.

I actually turned away from companys who asked if I was getting quotes elsewhere or seemed reluctant to send out literature when I was planning my upcoming trip - I figured that they weren't confident that their company would measure up.
Just my 2 cents.
cybor is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 06:46 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 391
I like the Rough Guides. Some good tips and suggestions.

I guess you start with what kind of holiday you want. I think of US Tourists that "do Europe" on a 7 day coach trip.. they see lots and miss everything... like you mentioned!

My best trips to Africa have been when I've been meeting people and making friends. I would choose one coutry and try to get a good understandling of life, community, customs and people. You can still do some travelling.. but if you try. I reckon for a contrast you could do Kenya (touristy but with a whole range of people cultures and things to do) and then for a country that's close but has a different feel Uganda! You may even be able to do road travel by coach or train journeys (not that comfortable but a great experience.)

Asking "where do I start?" is like asking me to choose for you from a 250 page menu.

Pumbavu is offline  
Dec 7th, 2005, 11:41 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 218
Thanks, all, for your suggestions. The confusion started when I hit the internet search with "safaris" and came up with too many hits to countand no clear method to evaluate the offers. After reading through many posts on this board, I've learned at least how to look at a site's itinerary to see what questions it brings up! I will peruse the suggested guide books and return with definate questions. Again, thank you.
merrittm is offline  

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