Pre-packaged safaris?

Old Apr 23rd, 2006, 06:34 AM
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Pre-packaged safaris?

My husband and I, fairly experienced travelers, have always taken independent trips. (Last year we traveled to China on our own.) We want to go to East Africa this summer and I'm overwhelmed with all of the different options available. Connections between places also seem like they would be difficult to arrange on our own. I've started looking at some pre-packed options, like the Abercrombie trips to East Africa. What are the serious disadvantages of going this route for an Africa trip?
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Old Apr 23rd, 2006, 06:50 AM
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First the disadvantage of A&K. It was far more expensive than other options.

Then for the disadvantage of any packaged trip. Unlike many places, in East Africa you can do a private safari for just the two of you for about the same price as a package. You can do it for less than the A&K package.

With a private trip, you customize the itinerary exactly as you wish. The agent does all of those connections that you have correctly concluded can be difficult to do by yourself.

To take advantage of what the packages have to offer, check out their itineraries to see what you'd like to do or omit. Then with an agent, craft your own. That plan has provided me with many outstanding safaris.

This summer, as in June-Sept, is cutting it close for availability. This would be the advantage of a packaged trip. They have already booked and held spots in hard to get locations. You may not be able to cobble together a quality itinerary at this stage. But you can certainly try.

Here are some East Africa agents that have been used with success on the board recently:

Africa Adventure
Africa Dream Safaris
Africa Serendipty
Eastern & Southern Safaris
Go2Africa
Good Earth
Green Footprint Adventures
Roys
Sunny Safaris
Southern Cross Safaris

Other small group travel options with prepackaged trips are:

Geographic Expeditions
International Expeditions
Mountain Sobek
Natural Habitat
Overseas Adventure Travel
Wilderness Travel (in California, not Botswana)



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Old Apr 23rd, 2006, 07:31 AM
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Thanks!
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Old Apr 23rd, 2006, 10:41 AM
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Is Ker & Downy a good booking agent in South Africa?
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Old Apr 23rd, 2006, 11:42 AM
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Marija, safari decision making can be very confusing and even requesting a private tour package with the operators coordinating logistics and availability takes more time than I'd imagined. Since you do have a short time to plan, would seriously think about a securing a spot in a package trip.

Some of the packages that caught my attention (Tanzania focused):
a) Mountain Travel Sobek Ultimate Tanzania Safari.
http://www.mtsobek.com/cgi-bin/trip.py?tripID=UTS
MT Sobek offered some trips for families (Ultimate Tanzania Safari was noted for "family" trip) and also some more active, like Mt. Kili climb + safari. MT Sobek can also work a private style itinerary if requested.
b) Ker and Downey trip that caught my attention were: a) Tanzania under Canvas; b) Classic Tanzania; c) Shadows of Kilimanjaro, http://www.kerdowney.com/ui/dynamicpage.php?id=Mzkw.
Their response was slow for a safari quote for end of 2006 - start of 2007. In the end they advised they would know rates until end of year 2006 for start of 2007, and there was no way I'd book a safari without knowing the costs. They do have many options to choose from, though.

c) Africa Travel Resource is also an option and is the company we selected based on overall support, pricing, and accommodating my requests. http://www.africatravelresource.com/

d) Another company who provided feedback and itinerary to review (not inexpensive) was Wildlife Explorer in UK. http://www.wildlife-explorer.co.uk/wexp/index.html

e) If you want high-end safari, CC Africa is another option besides Abercrombie and Kent. Also heard of Thomson's. They were very professional and great support, with high-end accommodations. They have standard packages and they will build personal itineraries. If you want a flying safari rather than combo-drive/fly, then this may be very good option. http://www.ccafricasafaris.com/destinations/tanzania/

Since this was my first safari, hesitated work directly with local company and risk wiring funds into a bank in Africa. Just wasn't too comfortable with that idea. If Africa gets it's hooks in me, I may be more comfortable coordinating with local operators directly.
It's a lot of money to spend on a safari. Make sure you get what you want to see to the extent that is possible. August seems like great time for Northern circuit in Tanzania.

f) Overseas Adventure Travel is a consideration for overall package deal. Looks like they cater to a more mature customer. The Best of Kenya and Tanzania caught my attention: http://www.oattravel.com/gcc/general...&country=97268.

Took me ~ 5 weeks working on itineraries and corresponding in evenings and weekends with operators. Some of that time was spent reviewing choices and making the trade-offs.

Wish you success and let us know what you decide.

Love to Discover
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Old Apr 23rd, 2006, 12:28 PM
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To answer your question about disadvantages to group vs. private:

From what I could gather, the costs may be very similar and in some cases the group costs exceed the private, depending on operator.

Group:
* Shared vehicles and may not offer the flexibility to the schedule.
* Perceived safety in larger group sizes.
* Itinerary completed, so you don't have to spend 5 weeks like I did!

Private:
* With private cars offer opportunity for you to decide when to stop and how long to watch lions, elephants, etc, without compromise.
* My hope is that will give us a chance to get to know the culture better and make a new friend (our driver / guide).
* Space in vehicle to carry luggage and sit comfortably - lay down if needed.
* Itinerary "our-choice" and going to camps / parks we selected at a pace we dictated.
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 06:45 PM
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Marija,
I recently took a pre-packed safari with Thomson's. My expectations were high and I was not disappointed. Once met at the airport by my guide I didn't worry about anything for the next 10 days. I haven't been that relaxed in years. It was fabulous! I can't say enough about Thomson's or Africa, neither will disappoint.
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 11:14 PM
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If you really like travelling independently do a private safari just for the two of you - my wife and I found no need to make major changes to our usual traveling style to visit Africa (once we understood - like you are trying to do - what was possible). Having been once, on our next trip the only thing we will do in Africa that we don't do elsewhere is to book nearly everything through the same ground agent in Nairobi in advance - we (especially my wife) like the assurance of a permanent local contact to help resolve any problems we might face or organise anything extra we might decide to do at short notice.

Only drawback for some of the companies on atravelynn's list is that if they are Africa-based generally you could expect to lose your deposit if they went out of business. It's not likely and we use just such a company, but I thought I should play devil's advocate ;-)
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Old Apr 24th, 2006, 11:32 PM
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santharamhari
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I know tons of ppl have given their recommendations of agents to travel with. Here is one to avoid......Ranger safaris in Tanzania. Awful, awful, awful!!! They are the main reason, i hv stayed away from East Africa after my trip in 2002. I had a guide called Ahmedi Sakala......the worst ever!!! He was a mere driver at best...which he wasnt good at either!!! He also had the audacity to tell me that, they had allotted him to me as i was from India. Whatever!!! enuf said....
 
Old Apr 25th, 2006, 03:46 AM
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Kimburu

I will disagree with you (slightly)!

Over the last 5 years more overseas agents went out of business than established licensed African-based ground operators! The true operators (who own their cars) have lots of business and don't depend on just one agent or one country for their survival. Just about all of them survived even the events from Sep 2001.

Far-and-Wide, University Travel are two recent overseas failures and I can come with at least six more if I think about it longer.

There are 6 ground operators on Lynn's list and at least 4 have long track records and 2 are up-and-coming.

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Old Apr 25th, 2006, 12:38 PM
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Marija...you may also want to check out Deeper Africa out of Boulder, Colorado.
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Old Apr 27th, 2006, 06:57 PM
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Eben
Good point. As I said I use a local operator and would never think of doing (or advising others to do)otherwise. You are quite right that what I wrote could be misinterpreted as suggesting reputable African companies were more likely to bite the dust than reputable western ones...

Actually I just meant that I thought (and I apologise because I am speaking from a position of great ignorance here because I don't live in the west) that British or US companies have to put your deposits in escrow or similar and therefore in the very unlikely event they were to go out of business your funds will be refunded to you rather than going to pay off the bank... and even here I am probably being naive - there's bound to be a catch
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Old Apr 27th, 2006, 07:21 PM
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I think you'd be surprised to learn how low or non-existent the bond requirements are for tour operators/cruise lines/travel agents/etc in the US. IIRC Far & Wide had something like a $1 million bond but $10 million in customer deposits when they went under. Renaissance Cruises wasn't even required to post a bond with the federal maritime commission since they didn't board any passengers from US ports. Payment with a credit card is still your best recourse when booking with a US entity. Travel insurance is another possible back up but one has to make sure that the particular operator is covered and not excluded for financial default.
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Old Apr 27th, 2006, 07:26 PM
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Hmmm.. welcome to the real world Paul. Thanks Patty. And good night for you I guess as I start my day here at work?
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Old Apr 29th, 2006, 07:31 PM
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atravelynn:
Do you have a list of agents for Southern Africa (Botswana and Namibia)?
Thanks!!
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Old Apr 30th, 2006, 06:01 PM
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These have been used with success by Fodorites in Southern Africa:

Africa Adventure
Destiny Africa
Eyes on Africa
Fish Eagle
Masson (camping)
Go2Africa
Taga

Not an all inclusive list.

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Old Apr 30th, 2006, 08:24 PM
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Thanks a lot. Have already emailed Taga and go2africa. I feel validated so far (because of info from the boards). I really appreciate input as we have infinite availability as to the best months to go but my husband imposes a three week time limit usually!!
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 07:23 PM
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Taga was expensive...don't know quite what I was expecting...I am getting more together I think. I guess we don't want the deluxe de la deluxe so will hunt around for more quotes. Celeste, however, has been more than helpful.
What can we expect to pay for 12 days safari in Botswana and Namibia and either/or the Falls and Capetown??????? Please don't laugh at the question...there are experienced travellers who don't know much about
Africa who post on these boards!!!!
Thanks a lot!!
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 07:53 PM
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You can do some checking on prices with
http://www.e-gnu.com/

This site, hosted by the agent Greenlife, provides pricing for a variety of accommodations. I have usually found that I can get lower prices through an agent, but it gives you an idea of what some of the properties cost.

Here are two sites with published prices for various itineraries in Namibia and Botswana to give you more of a feel for pricing.

http://www.africa-adventure.com/prog...namibia00.html

http://www.africa-adventure.com/prog...otswana00.html

The links from lovetodiscover would also provide some guidance for group departures.

The price also depends a lot on what time of year you go.
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 08:30 PM
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Thanks a lot atravelynn..I really appreciate any input..I will follow through.
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