Tips on choosing a safari tour operator

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With an increasing number of operators joining the Africa safari market, it's difficult to choose the right one for your client. Here are some subjects to bring up with prospective tour operators.

Obtaining a window seat in a safari vehicle ensures great close-up pictures--like that of a female giraffe.

  • 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 are more expensive and will drive up the overall package price of a trip.
  • Size of ground vehicles.
    It's wise to select an operator whose vehicles are restricted to a maximum of six clients to a car, although five is preferable (the middle seat in safari vans should be removed). This allows each client to get a window seat for best animal viewing.
  • Gazelle can be found in most of the national parks and game reserves in Kenya.

  • 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 (which was our scenario with 11 travelers). Many of the drivers also are very knowledgeable and can answer in-depth questions. However, nothing beats having an expert guide in your car.
  • Lodges vs. tented camps.
    These two accommodations provide a different safari experience. An itinerary that combines the two is highly recommended. We 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 (much needed after a dusty day of game drives). A toilet, a washing sink and an array of conditioners and shampoos completed the bathroom.
  • However, it is still a tent, so noises can be heard well into the night. Lodges are nice in that they provide a strong sound barrier between clients and the animals and clients and their (sometimes loud) human neighbors.

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