Official: Safari-goers younger, more demanding

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NEW YORK -- The profile of the safari traveler is changing, according to Dennis Pinto, director of New York-based Micato Safaris.

"While previously our travelers were generally in the 55-to-70-plus age bracket, we are now finding that our safaris appeal to the younger traveler, in the 40-to-70-plus bracket."

Contributing to this younger demographic is the strength of the economy and baby boomers looking for diverse vacations. These baby boomers demand more than just an animal safari.

"Fueled by success in their professional and personal lives, baby boomers require more from their vacation than merely two weeks in an exotic location," Pinto said.

"They desire education on the culture and history of the countries they visit, greater interaction with local people and emphasis on outdoor activity."

Micato has met this demand by offering nature walks, interaction with the Masai tribe and lectures by Philip Leakey, a member of the renowned Leakey family of paleontologists.

Another interesting trend Micato is witnessing is an increased number of single travelers. This is seen especially during the months of April, May and June, when the single supplement fee is waived.

How to choose safari operators

NEW YORK -- Here are some subjects to address with prospective tour operators.

  • Driving vs. charter flights.
  • The roads in East Africa will not win any international awards. Flying between national parks is a nice luxury and allows for more time to embark on game drives in the parks. Of course, charter flights will drive up the overall package price of a trip.

  • Size of ground vehicles.
  • It is wise to select an operator whose vehicles are restricted to a maximum of six clients to a car, although five is preferable. This enables each client to get a window seat.

  • The ratio of passengers to guides.
  • Some tours have a maximum of 24 passengers with one guide. That means four cars with six people each with the one guide playing musical chairs. A better scenario is one guide between two vans.

  • Lodges vs. tented camps.
  • An itinerary that combines the two is recommended.

    I stayed in tented camps in the Masai Mara. Yes, we were in dark-green canvas tents, but I didn't expect the comfortable twin bed, the good-size desk, a lantern that goes on with the flick of a switch, and endless hot water in the shower. The bathroom featured a toilet, a washing sink and shower amenities. However, it is a tent, so noises can be heard well into the night.

    Lodges are nice in that they provide a sound barrier between clients and the animals as well as clients and their human neighbors.

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