First things first: where are you heading?
Decide what you want to see. Are you more interested in birds or animals? Which animals are you most interested in? Once you’ve decided what it is you’re looking for, you’ll be able to narrow down your list of possibilities.
Certain animals are best seen during specific times of the year. Arrange your trip around the season that will most suit your must-see list. If you’re not sure when this is, this, and all sorts of other questions, can be answered by the tour operator of your choice, and so comes your next step:
Find a tour company that will give you what you need.
You can either choose a company based in your home country or one based in your destination. If you decide on a home-based company, it’s important to find out about their relationship with the ground operator. Ask them how well they know Africa. Do they have local staff? Have they ever been to Africa? How often do they visit? Enquire about their history. How long have they been in business? Have they received any awards? What professional organisations do they belong to? Read their reviews. Ask for a reference list and see if you’re able to contact past clients. This way you can obtain firsthand information from other people who have planned a holiday with them before. You might be able to learn some things from their experience too.
Finally, get personal with your agent. Speak to them on the phone to feel more comfortable.
Once you’re comfortable in your choice of tour operator, learn about their policies. Does your operator charge a commission fee? Ask about possible discounts, such as booking early or extended stays. Find out about their cancellation policy.
When it comes to the cost of your holiday, don’t be scared to ask for a detailed breakdown. There are many different costs when it comes to planning a holiday. Find out what is and what isn’t included in the price.
The cost of your trip will vary according to what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a holiday of luxury, be prepared to pay more. Costs may also differ according to seasons, where peak seasons will be more expensive.
Make sure you’re aware of any extra costs you might have to pay and find out how you can go about doing this, e.g. credit cards or cash only?
Now you can start to get familiar with the details of the journey. What transport will you be using and how long will it take for you to get to your destination? Start at the beginning. Once you’ve arrived at your destination’s airport, how will you get to your accommodation and if it’s organised for you, is it included in the cost?
Next is your accommodation. What does and what doesn’t it come with? Is there a fridge? Are there fans or air-conditioning? Will your valuables be safe? Will you be able to use your cell phone or access the internet? What luxuries you’ll be able to have will depend on what you’re willing to spend on accommodation.
Also to consider is food and beverages. What meals are included? Do you pay extra for drinks? Is there a variety to choose from? What kind of food will you be eating? Will it suit your diet? Can you drink the water?
Once you’ve sorted out the major aspects of your trip, you can move on to the minor, more exciting, details. Look through your itinerary. Do you have a choice of activities? Check to see what kind of wildlife viewing activities you’re going on and how many there are. Africa offers many different ways for visitors to view the wild, from game drives, guided walks and boat cruises to horse rides and canoeing. Activities can occur in the morning, during the day or at night. To get the best out of your experience, you need to be guided by the best too. Find out what the camp’s guides are like and if they have adequate knowledge or experience. Tell your guide exactly what you’re looking for, and while they cannot give Mother Nature orders, they will certainly be able to lead you in the right direction.
At some point during the day, you’ll be able to have some time to yourself. You might want to relax with a book or have a nap, or you could indulge in optional activities at your own cost, such as a relaxing massage at a spa. Ask what treatments the spa offers if there is one available. Some places may have television or a pool. They may have animal enclosures, and feeding times will be exciting to watch. If you have a passion for photography, you’ll be able to click away for hours at a go at the scenes that are lying in wait for you. Make sure there is window or roof access during drives. Africa is bursting with culture and many resorts will offer ways to experience the culture in the area.
Always feel comfortable asking about anything specific; such as toiletries, special food, extra pillows, electrical equipment or anything that concerns you. If you’re travelling with family, find out if you’re able to bring kids along and if it’s safe for them. If you want to be around as few people as possible, ask questions about the number of guests travelling on safari with you, how many are staying in the establishment and how many are going on game drives. If the environment is important to you, then find out if it’s important to them as well and if they’re eco-friendly.
Don’t leave anything behind! Find out what you need to bring with you. Think about necessities like hats, sunscreen, travel guides, mosquito repellent, binoculars, hiking boots, cameras, torches and of course all the necessary legal documents. Pack clothes that will suit the weather.
Research your destination or allow your operator to supply you with information. What are the rules and regulations? Do you need a visa? What kind of visa do you need? What taxes do you need to pay?
Find out about the country’s currency and exchange rate. Also ask about tipping – do you tip? Who do you tip? What is the right amount to tip?
Make sure all your safety needs are met and that the country is safe to visit. Obtain local emergency numbers just in case. Check on the resort’s safety measures, such as radio contact during game drives.
Don’t forget about insurance. Ask what insurance you need. Don’t neglect your health! Find out from your tour operator or your doctor (or both!) what vaccinations you will need.
Once your most important questions have been answered, you may still want more information to prepare you for the trip. Ask your tour operator where you can get this information, or try talking to past clients, reading up on books and pamphlets, and looking through the resorts’ websites or any other useful websites. As you’re learning more, you’ll most likely become more excited so that by the time you’re on Day One, you’ll probably be ready to participate in educated discussions with your guides and show off your new-found knowledge!
For more in depth information please visit Africa Bespoke Safari tours