Apr 10th, 2004, 04:10 PM
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So sorry King to hijack your thread. It is one of the best threads we've had here on the Africa board and I am HUGELY sorry. I really want this thread saved for posterity to top off for newcomers. So I will offer this----if anyone wants to hear "the OTHER trip report" that I didn't write, let me know. I will try to explain why I left Kenya, and why our last trip fizzled. I won't be hurt if no one wants it, but I didn't realize that by not sharing this side I would be 'cheating' the longtime serious Fodorites. If someone wants to continue in this vein, lets move it to another thread. I really want King to wrap up this wonderful dissertation for new folks. Most important. Liz
Sep 2nd, 2004, 02:02 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 250

King, your comments on Mombo reminded me of your excellent thread a while back on safari planning, so I thought I'd bring it back to the top as it's such invaluable advice for anyone planning a safari, and not just for first-timers either.

We're off on our fourth safari in a few weeks and some of the things we've asked our tour operator to arrange are based on your suggestions in this thread.
Thanks again.
RuthieC is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2004, 02:42 PM
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Hi King,
Excellent post, and now an excellent thread. Too bad there isn't a way to make this part of a "FAQ" about planning a first safari. Or a "things to think about" reference for newbies.

I like the fact that people can consider some of the issues and decide where their interests lie...there in NO SINGLE BEST answer for everyone!!

For example, I love the idea of small camps, but don't necessarily chose the smaller option--sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. There are always trade-offs...if you know what they are, you'll make a better choice for your trip.

I agree with king about trackers, and I think it doesn't reflect well on WS that they have dropped this system. During the day, it might be acceptable--and we should all be trying to spot and track, but we aren't the experts. But at night, there is simply NO WAY that a guide can pay attention to driving, answer questions and entertain guests, manipulate the spotlight (one hand off the wheel!!) and diligently spot. Yes, some amazing guides like Grant can find a mouse...but who knows WHAT they miss?
Sorry, the most amazing night drives require lots of work by a TEAM of driver/guides, trackers and guests...and if you haven't experienced this amazing teamwork in action, don't say it's not better! Most trackers now seem to sit in regular seats, not on the hood, so blocking the view isn't such an issue anymore. Personally, I think WS dropped trackers not because they didn't need them, they dropped them because (1) they could put an extra guest in the vehicle and (2) they don't have to pay an extra person. I also fear that no trackers is going to mean fewer really excellent guides down the road, because their is no apprenticeship path to prepare people for the full guiding experience.
tashak is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2004, 02:49 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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To be fair, Grant didn't just find a mouse on that night drive he found a whole host of other stuff including a genet and other cool stuff. I mentioned the mouse only to argue that a good guide can't do this well at the same time as driving and guiding.

I fully accept and agree though that most guides are not at standard where they can do this.

I really like the idea of a tracker sitting at the back instead of on the front. I too like to be able to sit towards the front - I don't like photos taken from above the animals, the lower viewpoint is preferable for me and I also find it hard to hear the guide from the back row. So that's definitely a great idea, King.
Kavey is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2004, 02:50 PM
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CAN do this not CAN'T!

I agree though that tracking is often a route into guiding. I wonder how they will offset that issue?

Kavey is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2004, 03:41 PM
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Kavey, I fear that Grant might be the exception that proves the rule! I just meant to say that WS is now asking guides to be superhuman, and it's really not fair to either the guides or the tourists. (Do guides get more tips or more pay for working without a tracker...I don't think so.

With the WS policy that there is a max of 2 people per row (really good thing!), it meant they could only put 6 tourists in a vehicle. Now they can put 7, and regularly do. Big savings here for them...But unless they can clone Grant, a diminished experience for their guests.

Will I boycott WS camps because of this? Probably not feasible...but will I give other camps a big plus for providing trackers? Emphatically yes!! To me it great trackers are right up there with great location, great guides and active support of conservation and community development for local people. (Where WS also gets high marks.)
tashak is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2004, 03:49 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
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King-- brilliant tip about the birding specialist guide. And in that case you could well get put in a group of birders, which is a great place to be. In my experience, people who love birds are very alert and are delighted by everything the environment has to offer. I absolutely loved the drives I did with birders, and I learned so much more this way. But, I didn't connect the dots about actively asking for a birding guide. Super tip--THANKS.
tashak is offline  
Sep 10th, 2004, 09:12 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Yes you could be right!

I will definitely keep this issue in mind when booking our next safari as I think I need more experience of trackers to make any fair comparison.

I think guide experience and ability is one thing I'd put almost above all others in terms of a good safari experience - it does make or break the experience for me.

Other issues are close behind but that one is so integral to what we travel to Africa for - to SEE stuff and learn about it!
Kavey is offline  

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