Even as an independent traveler there are times when you have to go on an organized tour, and going on safari tends to be one of those times. Picking the right safari company is perhaps the most important factor in having a good safari.
Competition amongst safari operators is fierce – at both the top and bottom ends of the market. It’s worth remembering that you get what you pay for; some disreputable companies may enter parks without paying fees, or use standard minibus drivers as guides, vehicles that aren’t road-worthy, or will serve you inedible food. Here are our 8 top tips for choosing the right safari operator for your safari:
1. Do your research before arriving in Africa. Ask around friends and family for personal recommendations, or check out forums such as Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree for up to date information.
2. In some towns close to national parks – particularly in East Africa – everybody and their aunt is offering you safaris. If you’re approached on the street/bus stop/train station/bar for a safari just say no. Always speak to safari operators in their office.
3. Be wary of quotes that come in way cheaper than you think they should. If something sounds too good to be true it usually is. (Read our tips for organizing a budget safari.)
4. Shop around and don’t get rushed into anything. Take your time when assessing which company to use, and don’t feel pressured by a common tactic of being offered “the last place, leaving tomorrow”.
5. Go with a company that has its own equipment and vehicles, and ideally don’t pay your deposit until you see the vehicle you’ll be doing the safari in.
6. Be sure that your guide speaks English (or whatever your preferred language is).
7. Discuss the itinerary in detail to be sure of what you’re actually paying for. In particular, # days in national parks, standard of accommodation you’ll be staying in, # wildlife drives per day, any meals and/or drinks that are included.
8. Check to see if the country you’re planning to safari in has an official licensing organization, and if so, whether the safari company is licensed.
Once you’ve read and digested the above, check out our safari company guide which lists the most reputable safari companies by country and specialism.