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First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

Old Dec 13th 2004, 7:34 am
  #61  
Liz
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

In message <[email protected]. com>
[email protected] wrote:

Eben-
I wish you would interleave your replies in normal Usenet style.
It would make it much easier for newbies to a thread to work out what on
earth you're on about.
And so that we know that you actually have thought about what I wrote.
You seem to post based on only one thing I've said in any post, and it often
looks as though you haven't read or understood the whole post.
So I'm having to repost the same things all the time.
Maybe I'm being unfair. Maybe your newsreader truncates my posts?


    > You are always promoting Kuoni, Liz. And WWJE.
I really wonder about your grip on reality.
A google.groups search will easily prove that's not true.


**You** were the one who asked who I had travelled with.
In message <[email protected] .com>
[email protected] wrote:
    > Which UK company do you use? Who is their local outfitter?
Until that point I had not named either Kuoni or WWJE.
But when you asked a question and I answered it, you malign me.
Where's the logic???


Neither of these companies are likely to be of any interest to Americans.
I clearly pointed out the advantages (bangs for bucks) and disadvantages
(the strong possibility of seven in a vehicle in peak season) of travelling
with Kuoni.


When Joel (the OP) specifically asked for companies which do
tailor-mades, I named ETG, with whom I have travelled and have had good
experiences - of which I have explained some. I also said there were
plenty other reliable companies. I wasn't prepared to name any (except EAOS,
which is very specialised and within that specialism has an excellent
reputation), since I have no personal experience of them.

I do name these companies *when asked* because I have direct experience of
them, and within their fields they are very good: two totally different
markets.


    > You are promoting packaged travel that send hordes of people on safaris
    > on suspect itineraries at inflated prices while hiding behind this
    > insurance thing.
Again, you haven't the slightest clue.
Search google for my posts over the past five or so years and you'll see I
always recommend tailor-made safaris when possible.
But I also recognise that plenty of people like to travel in a group: you
might be a misanthrope, that's your choice, but it's not everyone's.


You insist on ignoring the price advantage which comes from their group
discounts with the airlines.
Again, this may not apply in the States, I couldn't possibly say.
However, it has been suggested in the group in the past that it does.

You also haven't answered what would happen if you booked directly with a
company in e.g. Kenya then the FGO or the American equivalent advised
against travel to that country (as I said already, in the UK, that
immediately invalidates all sections your insurance should you decide to go
anyway)

    > You think it is a great thing. Fine. Just don't promote it.
You don't own this group.
Kill-file me if you like - I really don't care.
People ask for advice: if it's within my area of experience, I reply.
If it isn't, e.g. if they're asking about camping, mountaineering,
overlanding, driving in Kenya or about countries I know nothing about, I
neither post nor do I malign others who give such advice.
I'm opinionated, of course, and sometimes stroppy, and I do say when I think
wrong advice is given, or a poster hasn't thought of alternatives.
I'm open to correction and to expanding my knowledge-base: e.g. I'm grateful
for Rita's update on Kuoni's tailor-making policy. Way back when I tried
them, you could only semi-tailor-make, for example you could back-to-back
two or more of their shorter safaris if the dates articulated, and you could
get a vehicle to yourself, flollowing one or more of their itineraries, but
you couldn't send them a unique 'itinerary for quotation' to places outwith
their brochure (e.g. going to Kakamega or Ruma, which are off the 'usual'
safari circuit). I'm interested to learn that this has changed.

People can heed or ignore my advice as they see fit, according to their needs.

I keep in email contact with quite a few whom I've helped off-group too.
Obviously only those whose safari model matches approximately with mine.
No doubt you will find the same for those following your model.
I have no problems with difference: why do you?
Even if someone wants to pay mega-bucks to travel with Ker and Downey, I
don't get upset about it! It's their money, it's their choice. (You do
believe in the concept of personal freedom, I hope?)
They'll probably really enjoy the Ker and Downey 'thing'.

Here's another thought (one which bothers me):
If everyone travelled in a vehicle with only one or two visitors, the
environmental impact would be horrendous.
Kenya has a policy of accepting many visitors paying 'lower' prices.
Other countries, particularly Botswana, have a different model: many fewer
visitors paying much more (staying at 'exclusive' lodges) for a lower
impact. (They also have people doing rough camping, nothing in between.)
I suspect you don't approve of the few visitors/high price model.
But I could easily be wrong.

Liz

--
Virtual Liz now at http://www.v-liz.com
Kenya; Tanzania; Namibia; India; Seychelles; Galapagos
"I speak of Africa and golden joys"
 
Old Dec 13th 2004, 8:30 am
  #62  
Liz
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

In message <[email protected]>
[email protected] (Jim Ley) wrote:

    > On Sun, 12 Dec 2004 19:18:21 GMT, Liz <[email protected]> wrote:
    >
    > >replying to my own post:
    > >> But I can't see just now (4 pages of A4 in small print!) anywhere it tells
    > >> you you're covered by the policy if you cancel a trip to an area the FCO
    > >> advises against, so I *suppose* you don't.
    > >Here it is:
    > >Cancellation and Curtailment:
    > >You are not covered for...
    > >b. anything not included in 'You are covered' above.
    > >Which means that I'm definitely not covered if the FCO advises cancelling a
    > >trip so I do (be crazy not to: none of my travel insurance applies then
    > >anyway), or somesuch.
    >
    > Interesting, I'd shop around, whilst my annual policy only covers me
    > for 2500 in cancellation (which is about 3 months by my normal travel)
    > it does specifically include FCO advising against travel to the
    > destination.

    > The policy I've got is from Tesco...

I was very interested in what you wrote.
I just caught sight of an ad for my insurance in my Union blatt.
It specifically claims to be £56.99 cheaper than Tesco (family worldwide,
annual, including winter sports' and that 'levels of cover are comparable'

I was going to contact my Union to tell them this wasn't true (they are 'in
bed with' with this insurer) but thought I'd better check.

I trotted along to the Tesco website and found that you need to have a more
advanced JS than I have available here to access the full details of
coverage. Could you email me the pdf fo the dot-com (hahahaha) below,
please?

Thanks & slainte

Liz

--
Virtual Liz now at http://www.v-liz.com
Kenya; Tanzania; Namibia; India; Seychelles; Galapagos
"I speak of Africa and golden joys"
 
Old Dec 13th 2004, 7:00 pm
  #63  
Jan
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

<[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected] ups.com...
    > I often wondered who go on minibus safari convoys and where they come
    > from!
    > Honestly, I cannot think of a worse way to see Africa. Seven people in
    > a pop-up minibus traveling in convoys on a packaged tour. Incredible,
    > especially when I know how much they paid for that experience!
    > It's even worse when people promote these kinds of trips on these
    > boards. What are their motives? How much did they learn about Africa
    > from behind the windows of their minibuses? Who in Africa will
    > remember their nameless faces after they leave?

I did once a camping safari with a mini-bus. It was a local company in
Nairobi.
During 10 days, the number of tourists in this van was 2-5. But this was
because the embassy bombing in Nairobi was only a few
weeks before my trip. The very limited number of tourists was great for me,
but a disaster for the safari companies.

In general I go alone (in a group) on holday. In general, on these tours,
groups are split up in to fit in several vans and have their own way.
I can not affort my own car or the price of the lodges.

As you can say "how much did they learn about africa", I can say the same
about people staying in a lodge, driving aroung with a
private chauffeur, having luxurious lunches/dinners.
Everyone is entitled to have their preferences.
For me, nothing beats sitting around a camp fire with a beer (although not
cold!), in the middle of a park, no fences and heyna's walking around the
camp.....

Jan
 
Old Dec 13th 2004, 8:44 pm
  #64  
Rita Daggett
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

    > I often wondered who go on minibus safari convoys and where they come
    > from!
    > Honestly, I cannot think of a worse way to see Africa. Seven people in
    > a pop-up minibus traveling in convoys on a packaged tour. Incredible,
    > especially when I know how much they paid for that experience!
    > It's even worse when people promote these kinds of trips on these
    > boards. What are their motives? How much did they learn about Africa
    > from behind the windows of their minibuses? Who in Africa will
    > remember their nameless faces after they leave?
Well, I've done more than one 'organised tour'; the only 'convoy' driving
was from Amboseli to Tsavo when everyone had to travel in convoys (there had
been some trouble with bandits, I think). There might have been 2 minibuses
travelling together at times on the between park drives, but in the parks
themselves you are just as likely to see other vehicles if you are doing a
'tailor-made'.
For me, the first trip I did was done like that cos I had no experience to
do any other; subsequent 'tailor-mades' have been more expensive than the
organised trips, but at least I know the sort of thing I want now. The
first trip also made me want to return to Africa (and in many ways it was
the one I look back on as one of the most enjoyable, as everything was
'new').
On the whole, the people we have shared mini-buses with have been just as
keen on wildlife as we are; sometimes more knowledgeable.
In fact some of the least enjoyable experiences have been on 'tailor-mades'
(although we've also had some absolutely wonderful experiences too) - for
example, arriving in a camp in Botswana and having to share the safari
vehicle with a load of Australian 'first-timers' who didnt know anything and
just wanted to see everything quickly and drive on; having our own-driver
guide on Tanzania who knew almost nothing about birds; doing a 'fly-in'
safari in Zimbabwe where we seemed to spend more time travelling to and from
airfields and hanging around in them then we did watching animals.
I dont understand your last paragraph at all - I think I have learned quite
a lot about Africa - both by talking to drivers/guides and by watching what
goes on (and by reading books, watching TV programmes!). I admit I am more
interested in the wildlife than the people/politics and I dont really care
whether anyone in Africa remembers my face or not (as I dont in any place
I've been for a holiday).

--
Rita Daggett
 
Old Dec 14th 2004, 12:25 pm
  #65  
Joel
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

Considering I started this thread I'd like to jump in a bit and offer
my take on this.

I normally like independent travel for several reasons. I am a
semi-professional photographer and I dislike package tours. I like the
freedom of exploring an area on my own timetable and setting my own
itinerary. For the most part this works fine for a US national park
strategy or for independent city touring. There are numerous lodging
choices for every accommodation and in most cases it's quite easy to
pick up and leave should your choice prove poor. Should one choose to
camp, the logistics are easy to put together. Depending upon where you
are the most dangerous thing to contend with from a wildlife
perspective is bears. There is a wealth of material available from
public and private sources on the national parks. Renting a car is
simple, roads are well paved and marked and are not dangerous. In some
ways I understand Eben's approach because I too have a hard time
understanding why people take packaged tours to national parks in the
U.S. since it is so easy to do by yourself.

On the flip side though I am finding Africa much harder to deal with as
an independent traveler in reference to safaris. Here is why:

1. Airfares from the US are prohibitively expensive. Yes there are
consolidators that one can use but most people do not go to or
understand how to use them. Package tours do offer great arifares.
There is a company called UTG (US based) that has airfare with their
packages for $1000 no matter what the date. That is almost impossible
for the average person without bein connected.

2. Self driving is really an option for many of us. The majority of
Americans, myself included, do not drive standard shift. Furthermore I
think that a 5 hour drive from Nairobi to the Mara that requires a 4WD
vehicle is beyond the driving skills of 90% of the population. Sure we
own Jeep Cherokees, most are never taken off road. I'd be reluctant to
do so without more experience.
3. Independent camping is not an option. No need to expand on this.
4. Lodging is limited. The available choices are expensive and you may
not necessarily get a better deal once you add in extras like game
drives, etc...
5. Finding a guide company is problematic. Go on KATO's web site and
you will find many companies that offer safari. Most follow the same
itineraries. I've e-mailed several of them asking about customer
itineraries. I've received a response from one. Several of the
e-mails bounced back from the addresses that were provided on their Web
Sites. I can tell you that doesn't inspire much confidence.

I have appreciated both Eben's and Liz's input to my original inquiry.
I've found Liz's site very helpful in learning more about the areas
that I'd like to travel in. Travel is a very personal thing for
different people. Everyone's goals are different. While frustrating
for you Eben I suspect that the tourist in that mini-bus is just as
thrilled as you are to be there and isn't interested in mingling with
the locals. I'm also spending a lot of time doing research. Personally
I enjoy it, the average vacationer likes to be presented with a package
deal. I've also read many of Liz's post and while she does mention
several companies most are in direct response to someone asking (and to
be fair Eben, you did ask Liz) and she doesn't push or promote it. I
would have no problem mentioning a company I have done business and
that I was happy with their service. She is doing the same.

For myself I'm working with someone now on a quote for a private
safari. Hopefully it will fit into my budget. If not, I have no
problem joining a tour and treating it as a reconnaissance trip for a
later date. To each his own.
 
Old Dec 14th 2004, 3:12 pm
  #66  
Greg Pankhurst
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

<[email protected]> wrote:

    > I often wondered who go on minibus safari convoys and where they come
    > from!
    >
    > Honestly, I cannot think of a worse way to see Africa. Seven people in
    > a pop-up minibus traveling in convoys on a packaged tour. Incredible,
    > especially when I know how much they paid for that experience!
    >
    > It's even worse when people promote these kinds of trips on these
    > boards. What are their motives? How much did they learn about Africa
    > from behind the windows of their minibuses? Who in Africa will
    > remember their nameless faces after they leave?

Who gives are rats arse ? I'm fed up with travellers who have delusions
of grandeur about how much better the way they choose to travel is than
what everyone else is doing.

As long as they had a good time and felt they got value for money, good
for them. The fact that you don't particularly care for that sort of
travel is irrelevant.
 
Old Dec 14th 2004, 6:51 pm
  #67  
Marc Lurie
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

Hi Joel,

I think you will find that South Africa offers much the same
experience (from a driving, lodging, convenience perspective.
Obviously, the animals and environment are totally different) as you
would have in an American wildlfe reserve.

The roads are excellent, lodging is plentiful, English is widely
spoken, self-drive is definately an option, and automatic transmission
cars are readily available.

All you have to know about the ettiquette of game viewing is:
1) Drive slowly. There are speed limits in all parks,but if you stick
to the limits, you will miss ot on a lot. Travel well below the limit,
and keep your eyes open.
2) Get out early. Your best chance of seeing leopard is if you enter
the park as it opens in the morning. If you snooze, you lose!
3) When you see something interesting, stop your car on the edge of
the road, but leave enough space to allow other cars to pass.
4) If you're going to be watching something for more than a few
seconds, turn of the engine, and NEVER play the radio.
5) You shouldn't get too close to spook the animals, but most are
quite used to cars. You can usually get VERY close (within 6 feet but
often within touching distance, BUT DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT TOUCHING
THEM) to animals such as lion, baboon, wild dog, giraffe, buffalo and
most birds. Plains game, antelopes etc will spook easily so keep your
distance. You don't want to be too close to elephant, unless they
approach you. Try to stay about 60 feet or more from elephant, hippo,
rhino.
6) Unless there are signs that specifically allow it, NEVER GET OUT OF
YOUR CAR, even if you have a flat tyre. If you have car prblems, flag
somone down, and send a message to the wardens at the next camp.

Rgards,

Marc - Johannesburg.

On 14 Dec 2004 17:25:15 -0800, "Joel" <[email protected]> wrote:

    >Considering I started this thread I'd like to jump in a bit and offer
    >my take on this.
    >I normally like independent travel for several reasons. I am a
    >semi-professional photographer and I dislike package tours. I like the
    >freedom of exploring an area on my own timetable and setting my own
    >itinerary. For the most part this works fine for a US national park
    >strategy or for independent city touring. There are numerous lodging
    >choices for every accommodation and in most cases it's quite easy to
    >pick up and leave should your choice prove poor. Should one choose to
    >camp, the logistics are easy to put together. Depending upon where you
    >are the most dangerous thing to contend with from a wildlife
    >perspective is bears. There is a wealth of material available from
    >public and private sources on the national parks. Renting a car is
    >simple, roads are well paved and marked and are not dangerous. In some
    >ways I understand Eben's approach because I too have a hard time
    >understanding why people take packaged tours to national parks in the
    >U.S. since it is so easy to do by yourself.
    >On the flip side though I am finding Africa much harder to deal with as
    >an independent traveler in reference to safaris. Here is why:
    >1. Airfares from the US are prohibitively expensive. Yes there are
    >consolidators that one can use but most people do not go to or
    >understand how to use them. Package tours do offer great arifares.
    >There is a company called UTG (US based) that has airfare with their
    >packages for $1000 no matter what the date. That is almost impossible
    >for the average person without bein connected.
    >2. Self driving is really an option for many of us. The majority of
    >Americans, myself included, do not drive standard shift. Furthermore I
    >think that a 5 hour drive from Nairobi to the Mara that requires a 4WD
    >vehicle is beyond the driving skills of 90% of the population. Sure we
    >own Jeep Cherokees, most are never taken off road. I'd be reluctant to
    >do so without more experience.
    >3. Independent camping is not an option. No need to expand on this.
    >4. Lodging is limited. The available choices are expensive and you may
    >not necessarily get a better deal once you add in extras like game
    >drives, etc...
    >5. Finding a guide company is problematic. Go on KATO's web site and
    >you will find many companies that offer safari. Most follow the same
    >itineraries. I've e-mailed several of them asking about customer
    >itineraries. I've received a response from one. Several of the
    >e-mails bounced back from the addresses that were provided on their Web
    >Sites. I can tell you that doesn't inspire much confidence.
    >I have appreciated both Eben's and Liz's input to my original inquiry.
    >I've found Liz's site very helpful in learning more about the areas
    >that I'd like to travel in. Travel is a very personal thing for
    >different people. Everyone's goals are different. While frustrating
    >for you Eben I suspect that the tourist in that mini-bus is just as
    >thrilled as you are to be there and isn't interested in mingling with
    >the locals. I'm also spending a lot of time doing research. Personally
    >I enjoy it, the average vacationer likes to be presented with a package
    >deal. I've also read many of Liz's post and while she does mention
    >several companies most are in direct response to someone asking (and to
    >be fair Eben, you did ask Liz) and she doesn't push or promote it. I
    >would have no problem mentioning a company I have done business and
    >that I was happy with their service. She is doing the same.
    >For myself I'm working with someone now on a quote for a private
    >safari. Hopefully it will fit into my budget. If not, I have no
    >problem joining a tour and treating it as a reconnaissance trip for a
    >later date. To each his own.
 
Old Dec 15th 2004, 1:14 am
  #68  
Eben Schoeman
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

True. I was clearly mistaken.

Next time I see a convoy of popup minibuses rushing like taxis from
park to park, I will know better. In the past, I thought that the poor
tourists booked it by mistake. I thought they had no idea that they
would end up with 6 others in a minibus.

Thanks to this board I now know that folks booked these safaris by
choice.

I still have a problem with promoting this kind of safari, but I can
live with it since I learned also that these are eco-friendly safaris.
 
Old Dec 15th 2004, 1:47 am
  #69  
Joel
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

Considering I started this thread I'd like to jump in a bit and offer
my take on this.

I normally like independent travel for several reasons. I am a
semi-professional photographer and I dislike package tours. I like the
freedom of exploring an area on my own timetable and setting my own
itinerary. For the most part this works fine for a US national park
strategy or for independent city touring. There are numerous lodging
choices for every accommodation and in most cases it's quite easy to
pick up and leave should your choice prove poor. Should one choose to
camp, the logistics are easy to put together. Depending upon where you
are the most dangerous thing to contend with from a wildlife
perspective is bears. There is a wealth of material available from
public and private sources on the national parks. Renting a car is
simple, roads are well paved and marked and are not dangerous. In some
ways I understand Eben's approach because I too have a hard time
understanding why people take packaged tours to national parks in the
U.S. it is so easy to do by yourself.


On the other hand I am finding Africa much harder to deal with as an
independent traveler in reference to safaris. Here is why:

1. Airfares from the US are prohibitively expensive. Yes there are
consolidators that one can use but most people do not go or understand
that route. Package tours do offer great airfares. There is a company
called UTG (US based) that has airfare with their packages for $1000 no
matter what the date. That is almost impossible for the average person
to get without a tremendous amount of running around.
2. Self driving is really not an option in Kenya. The majority of
Americans, myself included, do not drive standard shift. Furthermore I
think that a 5 hour drive from Nairobi to the Mara that requires a 4WD
vehicle is beyond the driving skills of 90% of the population. Sure we
own Jeep Cherokees, most are never taken off road. I'd be reluctant to
do so without more experience. It's not like I can call someone to get
a tow.
3. Independent camping is not an option. Pretty self-explanatory.
4. Lodging is limited. The available choices are expensive and you may
not necessarily get a better deal once you add in extras like game
drives, etc... Not all lodges provide this in the price. The Serena
properties are a perfect example.
5. Finding a guide company is problematic. Go on KATO's web site and
you will find many companies that offer safari. Most follow the same
itineraries. I've e-mailed several of them asking about customer
itineraries. I've received a response from one. Several of the
e-mails bounced back from the addresses that were provided on their Web
Sites. I can tell you that doesn't inspire much confidence. It's in
these situations where relying on a tour operator to take care of
logistics is comforting.

I have appreciated both Eben's and Liz's input to my original inquiry.
I've found Liz's web site very helpful in learning more about the areas
that I'd like to travel in. Travel is a very personal thing for
different people. Everyone's goals are different. While frustrating
for you Eben, I suspect that the tourist in that mini-bus is just as
thrilled as you are to be there and may not be interested in mingling
with the locals. For that matter the locals may not be interested in
mingling with you. I'm also spending a lot of time doing research.
Personally I enjoy it, but the average vacationer likes to be presented
with a package deal. I've also read many of Liz's post and while she
does mention several companies most are in direct response to someone
asking (and to be fair Eben, you did ask Liz as did I) and she doesn't
push or promote it. I would have no problem mentioning a company I
have done business and that I was happy with their service.

I also think the minibus issue is being beaten to death. One of the
primary reasons that I'm looking into a private safari is that I'm
concerned that I will be part of a tour that will come up to a group of
lions, take a snapshot and then want to leave. I personally believe
that to have a quality experience takes patience and observation. If I
found a group of 4 individuals who were like minded I'd have no
hesitation joining a tour group. As long as I had a window and a
photographic hatch I'm happy. Hint Hint... If you were planning to go
next year drop me a line and we can all book a private safari together.

For myself I'm working with someone now on a quote for a private
safari. Hopefully it will fit into my budget. If not, I have no
problem joining a tour and treating it as a scouting trip for a later
date. To each his own.
Greg Pankhurst wrote:
    > <[email protected]> wrote:
    > > I often wondered who go on minibus safari convoys and where they
come
    > > from!
    > >
    > > Honestly, I cannot think of a worse way to see Africa. Seven people
in
    > > a pop-up minibus traveling in convoys on a packaged tour.
Incredible,
    > > especially when I know how much they paid for that experience!
    > >
    > > It's even worse when people promote these kinds of trips on these
    > > boards. What are their motives? How much did they learn about
Africa
    > > from behind the windows of their minibuses? Who in Africa will
    > > remember their nameless faces after they leave?
    > Who gives are rats arse ? I'm fed up with travellers who have
delusions
    > of grandeur about how much better the way they choose to travel is
than
    > what everyone else is doing.
    > As long as they had a good time and felt they got value for money,
good
    > for them. The fact that you don't particularly care for that sort of
    > travel is irrelevant.
 
Old Dec 15th 2004, 1:54 am
  #70  
Joel
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

Considering I started this thread I'd like to jump in a bit and offer
my take on this.

I normally like independent travel for several reasons. I am a
semi-professional photographer and I dislike package tours. I like the
freedom of exploring an area on my own timetable and setting my own
itinerary. For the most part this works fine for a US national park
strategy or for independent city touring. There are numerous lodging
choices for every accommodation and in most cases it's quite easy to
pick up and leave should your choice prove poor. Should one choose to
camp, the logistics are easy to put together. Depending upon where you
are the most dangerous thing to contend with from a wildlife
perspective is bears. There is a wealth of material available from
public and private sources on the national parks. Renting a car is
simple, roads are well paved and marked and are not dangerous. In some
ways I understand Eben's approach because I too have a hard time
understanding why people take packaged tours to national parks in the
U.S. it is so easy to do by yourself.
On the other hand I am finding Africa much harder to deal with as an
independent traveler in reference to safaris. Here is why:

1. Airfares from the US are prohibitively expensive. Yes there are
consolidators that one can use but most people do not go or understand
that route. Package tours do offer great airfares. There is a company
called UTG (US based) that has airfare with their packages for $1000 no
matter what the date. That is almost impossible for the average person
to get without a tremendous amount of running around.
2. Self driving is really not an option in Kenya. The majority of
Americans, myself included, do not drive standard shift. Furthermore I
think that a 5 hour drive from Nairobi to the Mara that requires a 4WD
vehicle is beyond the driving skills of 90% of the population. Sure we
own Jeep Cherokees, most are never taken off road. I'd be reluctant to
do so without more experience. It's not like I can call someone to get
a tow.
3. Independent camping is not an option. Pretty self-explanatory.
4. Lodging is limited. The available choices are expensive and you may
not necessarily get a better deal once you add in extras like game
drives, etc... Not all lodges provide this in the price. The Serena
properties are a perfect example.
5. Finding a guide company is problematic. Go on KATO's web site and
you will find many companies that offer safari. Most follow the same
itineraries. I've e-mailed several of them asking about customer
itineraries. I've received a response from one. Several of the
e-mails bounced back from the addresses that were provided on their Web
Sites. I can tell you that doesn't inspire much confidence. It's in
these situations where relying on a tour operator to take care of
logistics is comforting.

I have appreciated both Eben's and Liz's input to my original inquiry.
I've found Liz's sight very helpful in learning more about the areas
that I'd like to travel in. Travel is a very personal thing for
different people. Everyone's goals are different. While frustrating
for you Eben, I suspect that the tourist in that mini-bus is just as
thrilled as you are to be there and may not be interested in mingling
with the locals. For that matter the locals may not be interested in
mingling with you. I'm also spending a lot of time doing research.
Personally I enjoy it, but the average vacationer likes to be presented
with a package deal. I've also read many of Liz's post and while she
does mention several companies most are in direct response to someone
asking (and to be fair Eben, you did ask Liz as did I) and she doesn't
push or promote it. I would have no problem mentioning a company I
have done business and that I was happy with their service.

I also think the minibus issue is being beaten to death. One of the
primary reasons that I'm looking into a private safari is that I'm
concerned that I will be part of a tour that will come up to a group of
lions, take a snapshot and then want to leave. I personally believe
that to have a quality experience takes patience and observation. If I
found a group of 4 individuals who were like minded I'd have no
hesitation joining a tour group. As long as I had a window and a
photographic hatch I'm happy. Hint Hint... If you were planning to go
next year drop me a line and we can all book a private safari together.

For myself I'm working with someone now on a quote for a private
safari. Hopefully it will fit into my budget. If not, I have no
problem joining a tour and treating it as a scouting trip for a later
date. To each his own.
 
Old Dec 15th 2004, 2:17 am
  #71  
Joel
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

Considering I started this thread I'd like to jump in a bit and offer
my take on this.

I normally like independent travel for several reasons. I am a
semi-professional photographer and I dislike package tours. I like the
freedom of exploring an area on my own timetable and setting my own
itinerary. For the most part this works fine for a US national park
strategy or for independent city touring. First there are numerous
lodging choices for every accommodation and in most cases it's quite
easy to pick up and leave should your choice prove poor. Should one
choose to camp, the logistics are easy to put together. Depending upon
where you are the most dangerous thing to contend with from a wildlife
perspective is bears. There is a wealth of material available from
public and private sources on the national parks. Renting a car is
simple, roads are well paved and marked and are not dangerous. In some
ways I understand Eben's approach because I too have a hard time
understanding why people take packaged tours to national parks in the
U.S. since it is so easy to do by yourself.
On the other hand I am finding Africa much harder to deal with as an
independent traveler in reference to safaris. Here is why:

1. Airfares from the US are prohibitively expensive. Yes there are
consolidators that one can use but most people do not go or understand
that route. Package tours do offer great airfares. There is a company
called UTG (US based) that has airfare with their packages for $1000 no
matter what the date. That is almost impossible for the average person
to get without a tremendous amount of running around.
2. Self driving is really not an option in Kenya. The majority of
Americans, myself included, do not drive standard shift. Furthermore I
think that a 5 hour drive from Nairobi to the Mara that requires a 4WD
vehicle is beyond the driving skills of 90% of the population. Sure we
own Jeep Cherokees, most are never taken off road. I'd be reluctant to
do so without more experience. It's not like I can call someone to get
a tow.
3. Independent camping is not an option. Pretty self-explanatory.
4. Lodging is limited. The available choices are expensive and you may
not necessarily get a better deal once you add in extras like game
drives, etc... Not all lodges provide this in the price. The Serena
properties are a perfect example.
5. Finding a guide company is problematic. Go on KATO's web site and
you will find many companies that offer safari. Most follow the same
itineraries. I've e-mailed several of them asking about customer
itineraries. I've received a response from one. Several of the
e-mails bounced back from the addresses that were provided on their Web
Sites. I can tell you that doesn't inspire much confidence. It's in
these situations where relying on a tour operator to take care of
logistics is comforting.

I have appreciated both Eben's and Liz's input to my original inquiry.
I've found Liz's sight very helpful in learning more about the areas
that I'd like to travel in. Travel is a very personal thing for
different people. Everyone's goals are different. While frustrating
for you Eben, I suspect that the tourist in that mini-bus is just as
thrilled as you are to be there and may not be interested in mingling
with the locals. For that matter the locals may not be interested in
mingling with you. I'm also spending a lot of time doing research.
Personally I enjoy it, but the average vacationer likes to be presented
with a package deal. I've also read many of Liz's post and while she
does mention several companies most are in direct response to someone
asking (and to be fair Eben, you did ask Liz as did I) and she doesn't
push or promote it. I would have no problem mentioning a company I
have done business and that I was happy with their service.

I also think the minibus issue is being beaten to death. One of the
primary reasons that I'm looking into a private safari is that I'm
concerned that I will be part of a tour that will come up to a group of
lions, take a snapshot and then want to leave. I personally believe
that to have a quality experience takes patience and observation. If I
found a group of 4 individuals who were like minded I'd have no
hesitation joining a tour group. As long as I had a window and a
photographic hatch I'm happy. Hint Hint... If you were planning to go
next year drop me a line and we can all book a private safari together.

For myself I'm working with someone now on a quote for a private
safari. Hopefully it will fit into my budget. If not, I have no
problem joining a tour and treating it as a scouting trip for a later
date. To each his own.
 
Old Dec 15th 2004, 6:07 am
  #72  
Hans-Georg Michna
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

On 14 Dec 2004 17:25:15 -0800, "Joel" <[email protected]>
wrote:

    >Considering I started this thread I'd like to jump in a bit and offer
    >my take on this.

Joel,

let me add some more comments.

    >I normally like independent travel for several reasons. I am a
    >semi-professional photographer and I dislike package tours.

As soon as you are into photography, you cannot have other
travellers in your car. Taking just one photo can take hours (in
some cases days, weeks, months, or years).

There simply is no other choice than to do it alone or with a
hired driver. But the driver is usually more hindrance than
help, unless he is a photographer himself. I once tried to
explain sunlight angles to a driver, but it didn't work.

    >2. Self driving is really an option for many of us. The majority of
    >Americans, myself included, do not drive standard shift. Furthermore I
    >think that a 5 hour drive from Nairobi to the Mara that requires a 4WD
    >vehicle is beyond the driving skills of 90% of the population. Sure we
    >own Jeep Cherokees, most are never taken off road. I'd be reluctant to
    >do so without more experience.

True, but if you are intelligent and can learn, read the Jeep
chapter in http://www.michna.com/kenya.htm and learn how to use
a jeep properly. Then buy and learn how to use a suitable GPS,
download the routes from http://www.michna.com/gps.htm and
upload them into the GPS.

Actually the driving itself poses not many problems to
newcomers. Obstacles are a bigger problem, but there are no
difficult ones on the way to Masai Mara.

I agree entirely that self-driving is not a reasonable option
for many. But there are quite a few who believe they cannot do
it for the wrong reasons, and these persons can, in fact, do it,
once they are given the missing information. In my experience
the real problems are in the following areas:

1. Typical third world country traps, i.e. misunderstandings and
wrong assumptions about the country and particularly its people.
Avoiding crime is one major topic here. This is mainly a matter
of having the information.

2. Driving. Taking a jeep over obstacles. Driving on the left
side of the road. Navigating (though the GPS makes that quite
easy nowadays). This is mainly a matter of learning.

3. Knowing the few species of animals that potentially attack
cars and behaving accordingly. Knowing minimum distances and
understanding how these animals signal their irritation.

Just one rule, to give a simple example. As long as an animal
keeps feeding as before, while having you in sight, you are not
too close.

    >3. Independent camping is not an option. No need to expand on this.

Oh yes, there is a need to expand on this, because most people
start with completely false assumptions. I'm sure that some
travellers would change their minds on this, once they have all
the information. Not everybody, obviously, but some.

Some say that they cannot do it, but when you insist, you find
that they could do it very well, once they are given the
necessary information. They often just don't want to do it
because they prefer the comfort and luxury of a wildlife lodge.
I often prefer that too, but a visit to Kenya wouldn't be quite
complete for me if I didn't spend a few nights out in the bush.

    >4. Lodging is limited. The available choices are expensive and you may
    >not necessarily get a better deal once you add in extras like game
    >drives, etc...

That depends a lot on the season. I usually visit Kenya in June
for this reason. Rarely is a lodge completely full, and in the
places I usually visit, there are several other lodges nearby.

I never book anything in Kenya, except the occasional
accommodation in Nairobi, and I remember one case when I arrived
at Fig Tree Tented Camp in Masai Mara, only to find the lodge
shut down and empty. It took me a while to find somebody, and
then they literally switched the lodge on for us. Take the hint
and go in June, if you have no overriding reason to choose
another month.

By the way, I'm planning a self-drive safari in June 2006
(originally planned for 2005, but recently put off for another
year). If anybody would be interested to join in, that could
probably be arranged. I don't earn any money from this, I only
do it for fun. On the other hand, everybody is free to do what
he wants, and I act only as a voluntary guide and source of
information. I do try to get the participants to drive in a
convoy though. Participants have to hire their jeeps, bring
along one GPS and one printed copy of
http://www.michna.com/kenya.htm per jeep. (:-) One of the
vehicles will probably be a four seater aircraft for added joy
and security.

Hans-Georg

--
No mail, please.
 
Old Dec 15th 2004, 6:35 am
  #73  
Liz
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

In message <[email protected] .com>
"Joel" <[email protected]> wrote:

    > In some ways I understand Eben's approach because I too have a hard time
    > understanding why people take packaged tours to national parks in the
    > U.S. it is so easy to do by yourself.
I agree 98% with you, but my issue on travelling on my own might make me
more flexible even on that. We had a great four weeks doing the SW
deserts/Yellowstone in our own car in '01, no problems.


    > 2. Self driving is really not an option in Kenya. The majority of
    > Americans, myself included, do not drive standard shift.
[OT] Something I always wondered:
When you do your driving test, do you do it using manual gears?
In the UK, if you do your test in an automatic car, you get a restricted
licence only to drive automatic cars (or at least that was the case when I
did my test).

    > Furthermore I
    > think that a 5 hour drive from Nairobi to the Mara that requires a 4WD
    > vehicle is beyond the driving skills of 90% of the population. Sure we
    > own Jeep Cherokees, most are never taken off road. I'd be reluctant to
    > do so without more experience. It's not like I can call someone to get
    > a tow.
Even worse than that is the driving in Nairobi: it's absolutely crazy!
Last time we were there ('02), we were told proudly that they were putting
in roundabouts 'just like in the UK' - well, yes, but they didn't use themn
like we do: everyone just barged in regardless. Even D. who'd been driving
since he was 17 and drives on the 'wrong side of the road' in Europe and US,
wouldn't dream of doing it - even though it's on the 'right' side!


    > 3. Independent camping is not an option. Pretty self-explanatory.
    > 4. Lodging is limited. The available choices are expensive and you may
    > not necessarily get a better deal once you add in extras like game
    > drives, etc... Not all lodges provide this in the price. The Serena
    > properties are a perfect example.
    > 5. Finding a guide company is problematic. Go on KATO's web site and
    > you will find many companies that offer safari. Most follow the same
    > itineraries. I've e-mailed several of them asking about customer
    > itineraries. I've received a response from one. Several of the
    > e-mails bounced back from the addresses that were provided on their Web
    > Sites. I can tell you that doesn't inspire much confidence. It's in
    > these situations where relying on a tour operator to take care of
    > logistics is comforting.
    >
    > I would have no problem mentioning a company I
    > have done business and that I was happy with their service.
In the past, I used to mention companies I understood to be reliable
although I hadn't used them, to be seen to be fair. However, I contacted one
of them last year to enquire about going to Madagascar and got a very, very
strange series or responses, then they just didn't reply to three emails in
a row.
To be honest, even recommending a company I've used is risky: a lot depends
on just how well you gel with your driver/guide. One year we had a guide who
we'd never have become really friendly with, but he knew his job and we
still had a great trip. Last year we spend the first few days with a guide
while our 'usual' guide was dealing with a family funeral: he was very
quiet, hardly any chit-chat, but again he knew his job.


    > I also think the minibus issue is being beaten to death. One of the
    > primary reasons that I'm looking into a private safari is that I'm
    > concerned that I will be part of a tour that will come up to a group of
    > lions, take a snapshot and then want to leave.
That's a risk.
Another risk is the opposite: you're with a group that wants to see nothing
but cats and you charge from one 'vehicle ring' to the next (lions sleep or
are dozy for much of the day, which doesn't make for great photos). Maybe
your fellow-travellers wouldn't be interested in e.g. dikdiks or
klipspringers etc. and if you wanted to spend time with them, it would be a
constant compromise.
Worst possible scenario: they'd have bored, noisy kids (or be noisy
themselves: it happens!) but to be honest, I've seen *very* few kids on
safari, and some of them are really interested.

    > I personally believe
    > that to have a quality experience takes patience and observation. If I
    > found a group of 4 individuals who were like minded I'd have no
    > hesitation joining a tour group. As long as I had a window and a
    > photographic hatch I'm happy. Hint Hint... If you were planning to go
    > next year drop me a line and we can all book a private safari together.
Hahahahahahahahaha
<fx> sparks flying </fx>
(I'm limited to travel in early-mid July.)

    > For myself I'm working with someone now on a quote for a private
    > safari. Hopefully it will fit into my budget.
I hadn't heard of the Elephant Watch camp either until you mentioned it.
I'm sure as you say it will be a fantastic experience.
If it does turn out to be too expensive, you could ask for another quote
with less expensive lodges - as Hans-Georg says, Samburu Lodge and Samburu
Serena are perfectly nice, but obviously much bigger than the camp and are
almost certain to be much cheaper. Like him, I haven't been to Intrepids, I
think they're a bit more expensive, and not in the 'heart' of the main game
area, but I believe it's high quality.
To be honest, even the Block and Serena lodges are 'plusher' than I need,
but there isn't really anything price/facility-wise between them and
'serviced camping'.

Anyway, I'm sure you'll have a really great time whatever you decide.
Even if you don't post back before you go, please post after you come back
to tell us how you enjoyed it!

Safari njema

Liz


--
Virtual Liz now at http://www.v-liz.com
Kenya; Tanzania; Namibia; India; Seychelles; Galapagos
"I speak of Africa and golden joys"
 
Old Dec 15th 2004, 7:22 am
  #74  
Liz
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

In message <[email protected]>
Hans-Georg Michna <[email protected]> wrote:


    > There simply is no other choice than to do it alone or with a
    > hired driver. But the driver is usually more hindrance than
    > help, unless he is a photographer himself. I once tried to
    > explain sunlight angles to a driver, but it didn't work.

I've always been very lucky with my drivers in Kenya/Tanzania, then.
Even on my first trip when we had a learner driver he had the angles sussed
out. Though travelling with others is always a compromise: lots of times D.
wants to draw something he can see through a telescope: too far to
photograph. That's when I chat to the driver!

Our driver in Namibia didn't seem to have the angles for photography sussed
at all, but it was only an issue in Etosha, because everywhere else we were
out of his vehicle for photography.

Slainte

Liz

--
Virtual Liz now at http://www.v-liz.com
Kenya; Tanzania; Namibia; India; Seychelles; Galapagos
"I speak of Africa and golden joys"
 
Old Dec 15th 2004, 8:17 am
  #75  
Eben Schoeman
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Default Re: First Time on Safari to Africa Questions

PLEASE IGNORE MY PREVIOUS POST (74) ! That was written a while ago and
popped up today - out of context. My apologies.

I am raising the white flag.

I grew up in Africa, I spent most of my time here, I have businesses in
East and South Africa. I spend most of my time between East & Southern
Africa. As a result I see many strange things on safari and even
stranger advice on these boards and I wanted to get the following
points across. I think I did and now will go away happily.

1. The private safari option is more affordable than most want to
believe. In Arusha, Nairobi and other cities one can hire a very
dependable vehicle (with driver/guide) for not much more than the
prices you pay on minibus group tours. This is fact and not fiction. If
you're a single traveler (like me), your driver/guide is great dinner
company and you will have a lifelong friend for future visits.

2. It is easy nowadays to do business from overseas with East and
Southern Africa safari companies. They do it all the time and you will
be in good hands.

3. Compare shop, and do some research before hopping on a packaged
tour. Most of these tours visit the wrong places at the wrong time
while staying in the wrong places.

I admire how Hans is doing it but I simply don't have that confidence!
So I stick with a local driver/guide.
Good luck, Joel. You are doing it the right way!
 

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