A Traveler’s Perspective on Planning a Vacation to Africa

Africa. Is it on your bucket list? It’s been on mine and my husband’s since we met in 2002. I’m excited to say our kids are finally old enough (ages 11 and 12) to take a family vacation to Africa in 2017!

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Source: Abercrombie and Kent

If you are thinking about planning a vacation to Africa, you’ll find it’s hard to navigate through the vast amount of information available. There are so many choices of areas to visit, price ranges, activities in which to participate, lodging and the multitude of travel companies to put your trip together. It’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed.

Planning a Vacation to Africa

In this post I will outline

  1. Budget range necessary for safari vacation
  2. How I narrowed down our travel options
  3. Why I chose African Safari Consultants to book our vacation
  4. Our itinerary

Hopefully, it will save you a ton of time when you are ready to plan YOUR trip to Africa!

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pic source: African Safari Consultants

Budget for African Safari

The cost to go on a safari at mid to luxury level ranges from $7,000-$15000 per person, excluding airfare to Africa.  There may be a slight discount for kids, but generally not much.

Our 12 day, 11 night trip cost an average of $8750 per person. A lot of money, but likely we won’t be back again for a very long time, if ever. As a once in a lifetime trip, we believe it’s best to invest in a comfortable and well planned vacation. We’ve done several trips through travel companies and several where we planned everything on our own. Africa is definitely a destination where a travel company is necessary.

How I Narrowed Down Our Travel Options

My first step in planning was to reach out to all my friends who have been to Africa.

My experience with travel is that referrals from like-minded people are the best sources to rely on. You may read a glowing review on Trip Advisor, but what that reviewer thinks is 5 star may not agree with your standards.

I spoke to 5 different friends who went on Safari to get their opinions. In doing so, the following companies were recommended.

These companies are first-rate when it comes to African Vacations. After researching them, we chose African Safari Consultants to book our vacation.

Reasons for Not Choosing the Others

We passed on Cottars because we wanted more variety than just the location they offered in Masai Mara. Also, they specialize in a vintage setting and we felt we would enjoy a bit more of modern day during our trip. Ulusaba was booked during the dates of travel we wanted, so we didn’t do much research on this location. Both Cottars and Ulusaba seemed to be high end luxury safaris with prices beginning at $3500/night for a family of 4.

Abercrombie & Kent is a company well known for its first class travel planning. But their prices were out of our budget (starting at about $10k per person excluding air) and that was pricing for group (total 18 people) travel.

So this left And Beyond and Africa Safari Consultants as our final two options. My reason for choosing Africa Safari Consultants – read on!

My Experience with African Safari Consultants

The first thing I noticed was their responsiveness. Consultant, Camille Rowe, emailed me to introduce herself and ask some initial questions on what we were looking for. She came highly recommended by my friend who had booked through African Safari Consultants for her family safari trip just last summer. I felt at ease, knowing Camille would be efficient with our planning.

I had received my friend’s itinerary and pricing already, so it was a good starting point to ask questions and make modifications. I told Camille I was a blogger and sent her a link to my site, asking her to take a look at a few of my travel posts to get a sense of my family and how we vacation.

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From my discussions with friends, I heard Tanzania was the place to go for a first rate safari experience. My friends told me the best way to do a safari is to move with the animal migration. We were also told it’s best to stay in tents as there is so much action early in the morning and late at night. So I informed Camille we wanted to do “tent camping” at different locations vs staying at one lodge the whole time.

It was her response I found impressive. This is when I knew I would be booking with her company.

Why I chose African Safari Consultants

Although I had given her some criteria on what we wanted, she took into account her experience with Africa and safaris, having children, and information she gathered through reading a few of my travel posts.

Not only did she create a Tanzania itinerary as I requested, but she also put together a Kenya itinerary which had more opportunity for cultural interactions. She knew that kids need more diversity in activities between game drives and that they may get bored with too much sitting in one place (even related to waiting for wild life).

“The second itinerary I have put together is a Kenyan itinerary. I know it isn’t what you asked for but I have been thinking about your trip a lot and I think that Kenya may be a really great option for you. It offers so many different activities as well as wonderfully informative conservation projects. This adds to the variety of experiences for your children. I hope that I don’t confuse matters but I just wanted to give you the options. It is a lot of money to spend so I’d prefer to ensure that we get it 100% right.”

When I reviewed the Tanzania and Kenya itineraries, I saw that Kenya was indeed a better fit for our family. I appreciated Camille. She took the liberty in creating an alternative itinerary for us, understanding that based on her experience with Africa, she knows more than we do.

Our Itinerary

picture source for itinerary: African Safari Consultants

2 nights in Nairobi

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Visit The Karen Blixen Museum, Giraffe Centre and an Elephant Orphanage

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The Karen Blixen Museum was once the center piece of a farm at the foot of the Ngong Hill. The farm house gained international fame with the release of the movie ‘Out of Africa,’ an Oscar winning film. The main attraction for visitors is feeding giraffes from a raised observation platform. The center is also home to several warthogs which freely roam the area along with the giraffes.

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Elephant Orphanage: In an effort to save the baby elephants that are orphaned due to poacher’s attacks, the Sheldrick Trust takes charge of being their “adoptive mother” and taking care of them 24/7.

2 nights Ol Pejeta Conservancy

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In addition to game drives, we will visit the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Over the last decade, the Sanctuary has been accepting chimpanzees rescued from traumatic situations.  The total number of chimpanzees at the Sanctuary is now 42. Many are confiscated from cramped and unnatural living conditions, and many arrive with horrific injuries sustained from abuse by humans.

3 nights Lewa Conservancy

Beautiful area of Kenya where we will have an extremely high chance of seeing rhinos.

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4 nights Masai Mara safari in a private conservancy- Richards River Camp

The expansive Olare Orok Conservancy borders the Maasai Mara National Reserve and is home to an abundance of animals including all the big cats for which the Masai Mara is famous.

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Staying in a conservancy, we will have the benefit of avoiding the crowds that are in the National Park. We will also do activities such as night drives which are not permitted in the National Park.

The River Camp offers day and night game drives, birding and scenic bush walks, sundowners (happy hours), bush meals and cultural visits to a local Masai Village nearby. We will also have a chance to choose additional excursions like hot air balloon flights and day trips to Lake Victoria.

Closing Information on African Safari Consultants

After I booked our 11 night Africa Trip with Camille, I asked her company if they would like to sponsor me on a blog post related to their travel services. Since I had an independent travel planning experience I was able to rate highly, I was interested in sharing the information I gathered with my readers. I was happy when they accepted.

A few other points about African Safari Consultants I thought was noteworthy in picking a travel company (info provided by owners of the company based on my questions):

  • You’ll never pay more than the rate published by a property.  Their fees are built into the trip costs. But the total price charged to the customer still does not exceed published rates if they were to book directly with the hotel or service. This is because the company receives whole rates for the activities and lodging. I liked this point a lot!
  • The office is in New York but the consultants and operations side is on the ground in Africa. Clients deal directly with the consultant during the planning process but travelers are also able to reach the New York office if need be during US hours. Most importantly, once we are traveling, the operations team is able to provide full back up in the time zone (Africa) we are traveling in.
  • The company prides itself in matching places with people and not “cookie cutting.” Each consultant has their favorites depending on factors such as: their own experience, gut feel and feedback they get from clients. They feel they listen carefully to client’s needs and respond with options that meet their criteria.
  • Read Trust Pilot reviews for African Safari Consultants here https://www.trustpilot.com/review/africansafaris.com. Trip Advisor does not have reviews on travel companies.
  • Social Outreach the Co participates in: Home from Home – the co makes a monthly donation via Uthando. They also have a long standing relationship with the founder of Hoops for Hope.

Is Africa On Your Bucket List?

Doesn’t a safari sound like an amazing experience? Have you thought about going? It’s the New Year. Why not make the decision to plan a big trip?

When you do, you’ll see it’s time consuming to filter through all the information out there on the internet. How nice when the work has been done for you! The key is knowing which people and companies to trust.

If you follow my blog and have a sense of my family’s traveling spirit, you know we take our vacations seriously! I hope this post will help you in planning a vacation to Africa.

Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt. A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak.