Which is the best African safari company for my safari trip?
This is a question that comes up very frequently and it's not surprising.
There are so many safari operators in the market all promising the earth that it is very difficult to choose between them, especially when you know nothing about them.
But there is a way to improve your chances significantly of making the right choice of safari company for your dream African safari trip and avoid the ones that might turn your trip into a nightmare. And it consists of three simple steps.
Don't let this happen to you
If you leave this decision to chance and just go with the safari company that seems the best or the cheapest you might end up in a situation like Dale and Dana Russell who went on safari in Tanzania and chose their safari company by gut instinct and price.
They were the only two in the safari vehicle on this trip but things started to go downhill fast when they asked their driver and guide questions and he would only answer in monosyllabic grunts and sometimes not at all.
And then on the way to the Serengeti from Nairobi he began to visit his relatives while Dale and Dana had to sit fuming in the safari vehicle.
To make matters worse when they finally did reach the
Serengeti he would drive straight at the animals as if he was going to run them over and then stop at the last moment. And finally on the way back to Nairobi he did run over and kill a goat that was crossing the road, making no attempt to swerve or slow down.
Beware. There are a few shoestring operations like this out there but this one has fortunately since closed down.
So how do you avoid these cowboy operators when you choose a safari company for your trip? Simply apply the following three steps and you will cut out all the risky operators.
Recommendations from others
Some of the best advice you will receive about a safari company is from people who have been on a trip with them already. They can tell you exactly how the company performed and it's first hand information without any kind of marketing agenda.
This is a great way to create a shortlist of safari companies so if you know anyone who has been on safari before ask them about it. But what if you don't know someone who has been on safari before?
No problem. There are dozens of websites on the internet that list safari trip reports and travel diaries written by the people who have previously gone on the trip themselves. Find them and learn from them. The tips and recommendations you can glean there are very valuable for your own trip.
Check their credentials
The next thing you need to do is check the credentials of the safari company you are planning to use to make sure they are reputable.
To do your own research here is the process to follow...
Membership in safari associations don't guarantee that a company is reputable but it can be a pretty good indication so find out if your prospective safari guide is listed.
Here are the associations you can check: KATO - Kenya Association of Tour Operators, TATO - Tanzania Association of Tour Operators, SATSA - Southern Africa Tourism Services Association, TASA - Tours and Safari Association of Namibia, ATTA - African Travel and Tourism Association and ASTA - American Society of Travel Agents.
If they are not members it doesn't automatically mean they are not reputable but it does afford some peace of mind.
Ask the right questions
So you have a safari company in mind and you've done a little research to find out more about them and now it's time to get in touch. What questions do you need to ask to make sure you are going to get the best value for your money?
Find out how many other people there will be on your trip. Some of the companies can be guilty of trying to cram too many people into the safari vehicle and that can become unpleasant.
And ask about their payment policies. Some companies place the clients money in trust until the tour occurs so that in the unlikely event of the company going into liquidation your money will be safe.
Make sure they explain their cancellation and refund policy to you clearly and the timing of reservations and payments that need to be made.
There are dozens of other questions that you can ask but these should go a long way towards establishing if they are a fly-by-nighter just out to make a quick buck.
Follow the three steps and you can find the best safari company for your trip with unerring accuracy.
The Top Three African Safari Operators list at the African Safari Journals website is compiled by using the recommendations of previous safari travellers and covers the best companies in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.
Not sure where to go on safari? These are the Top Five Safari Destinations in Africa ranked by using trip reports from previous visitors to these areas.