Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Choosing the Right Tour for Africa

After a five year hiatus to care for my parents in their final years and subsequently deal with the estate, I find myself back to writing my blog. The difficult times have highlighted the importance of appreciating the people I love and living life to its fullest.

With an impending empty nest adjustment looming this fall, my husband and I want to have an extended period of quality time with our sons. Africa seems like the perfect place to go for a seven week, once in a lifetime adventure.

We actually secured our tours before booking our flights.

We decided to start in Cape Town, South Africa for three days on our own before starting the tour with Nomad African Adventure Tours which travels through South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and ends in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. We’ll spend a few days exploring Victoria Falls on our own before flying to Nairobi. Our safari company, It Started in Africa, will pick us up from the airport and take us directly to Arusha,Tanzania where we begin our one week safari. Most of what we are doing in Africa is with tour companies.

Finding the right tour is not as easy as you may think. There are hundreds of them out there, all with different styles of travel and in a large range of prices. Our family decided on doing a fairly basic tour; camping in tents and bringing our own sleeping bags with Nomad Tours. The company provides the tents, mattresses on the ground and most meals. Washrooms are mostly shared.

We also searched through many Tanzanian safari companies before deciding on a private one week jeep safari with "It Started in Africa". They customized our tour with a mix of camping, hotels and lodges. They supply all the linens and tents.

One of the first places we look when searching for a tour company is on Trip Advisor. We check out the approval ratings and read all the comments from travelers. Since these comments come from real people and are often detailed, it gives a good idea of what you are buying into.

Next we choose our top companies and send them inquiries for detailed itineraries and request a quote. This also gives us an idea of what the tour companies consider "must see" sights are for the area.

Now that we have a better idea of what we want to see, we contact our three or four favourites, give them an outline of exactly what we want and have all of them quote with the same specifications. This allows us to compare apples with apples when the quotes come in.

I always make a point to speak to our top tour operator choices. There is a feeling that you can get from a voice that just can't be replaced by an email. I feel that how they answer the questions in person also gives a deeper reading into how I would be treated as a client.

If there is something that concerns me about what I hear, or the itinerary, now is the time to bring it up. They are more likely to offer you extras or bend the rules a bit, before they have your money. For example, Nomad Tours allows you to bring one duffel bag and one day pack and a sleeping bag. I had back surgery a few years ago, so I want to bring an extra self inflating sleeping mattress with me but with seven weeks of supplies in my duffel bag, it won’t fit. I brought this up with Nomad Tours before we booked and they agreed to let me bring it as well as my duffel bag for no extra charge.

Finally, we go back to trip advisor to check out the ratings for all the accommodations and sites that are suggested by the tour companies...even campgrounds are rated on trip advisor.

Our next step, was to book our flights. But that’s a topic for my next blog post.

If you have any questions, comments or tips, I would love to hear from you.

1 comment:

  1. thanks for the great info kimberly. looking forward to your next post :)