DIY (almost) Safari

It started with a picture a friend showed us years ago. I was mesmerized by her 4×6 pictures of elephants and lions from her recent safari. The idea of seeing those animals for myself stuck in the back of my brain.

When we got serious about traveling to Africa, we thought we would want to be part of a tour group. Traveling with an expert seemed the best way to handle the cultural differences and blunt the edginess of the sub-saharan world. We had friends who were veteran tour group travelers and so we looked to them to find a good tour. But as luck and circumstances would have it, their group’s tour dates didn’t match our calendar constraints. Back to the drawing boards.

Another friend had been to Africa with his family and urged us to go on our own, without a tour group, using a travel coordinator he had used. He raved about his experience — wonderful guide on safari, at every point transfers handled efficiently, and a personalized trip which reflected their priorities.

So we contacted the travel coordinator, Safaris Made Simple, spent several months emailing back and forth, planning our trip. She threw out an idea. We did a little research and reacted. We looked at the price and asked for something different for our budget. She threw out more ideas. And we settled upon an itinerary. Victoria Falls, two different safari camps in Zimbabwe to take advantage of different ecosystems, a few days on Cape Town and then a tour of the Garden Route along South Africa’s Southern coastline.

Then we started the whole process again, identifying lodging and details within that framework. And again, she asked us about preferences (price, size or amenities of lodging) and the type of adventures we wanted to have along the way. Many of activities and sites we knew about, but some we would never have found without her experience. And she told us where we would be better off making decisions once on site.

Whenever we had a question, she was quick with a response. She explained things carefully, highlighting critical pieces of information we might have missed.

And once in Africa, she checked up on us. When we had a little hiccup (a credit card left behind) she made sure all was well. The local firms she connected us with were fabulous, top, notch professionals. In a one month trip with twelve transfers, everything went smoothly.

Most of the time, whether in a Jeep on Safari, or touring the Cape of Good Hope, it was just us and our guide which allowed for a lot of spontaneity and personalization. We spent all the time we needed getting our digital shots of birds, or sipping wine in the Stellenbosch region.

And our travel consultant also founded one charity, Safari Samaritan, to provide solar powered lamps for African school children. And along with the safari company she hooked us up with, she has a strong commitment to conservation and building the local communities through the Wilderness Wildlife Trust and Children in the Wilderness. It made us feel good to give back a little bit to the communities that we enjoyed so much.

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