What our clients say about us
We had a fabulous trip. Everything went perfectly. Loved both Safaris. Saw the big 5 in the first hour in Lukimbi. We loved the people in Kambaku. Both facilities were beyond our expectations. We saw more wildlife in Lukimbi but liked our lodging better in Kambaku. We highly recommend both facilities. We wished we had more time in Castello di Monte in Pretoria. A lovely facility. Best accommodation we ever have enjoyed.
The Blue Train was also delightful as well as the More Quarters. We appreciate having all our transportation arranged. A stress free trip. We thank you so much. We will definitely recommend your services. The only negative we had was Air France which we arranged on our on. They were connecting through Delta from Cape Town to Pairs.
Please use us for a reference anytime. Thank you for a wonderful trip.
Patti M, Indiana
I don’t know if you’re home from your trip yet, but I just wanted to let you know that we had a super time, as usual, on the trip you put together for us! As expected most people we met in the camps thought we were crazy doing the stuff we were doing – hiking and canoeing – but we still raved about you and the trip all the way.
We especially liked Jozi, which it appears is actually spelled with a “v” not a “b” as it said in all of our printed stuff. We were the only ones there and just loved the trip out and back and being able to hike every morning and spend the evenings in the hide. One of my favorite moments of the whole trip was when a very young (Dean said less than 2 weeks) elephant tried to stick his trunk into the hide to check me out!
Several people asked us why we chose to go to Jozi, and all I could say was that “Bert told us to, so we did” and of course it was one of the highlights of our trip.
We loved the walking trail at Mashatu, and had some great ellie moments there too. One afternoon they came down to the water right by the “lounge”area.
Also one night when we went to the bathroom during the night there was an ellie only about 75 ft from our tent.Of course the canoeing was a real favorite of ours, even though they really didn’t want to let us paddle together. We talked them into giving us a trial run and after that it was not ever discussed again. At the end of the trip I asked Simeon if he would tell Darrell that we could, indeed paddle; and he said, “I’m going to tell EVERYONE!” which made us feel awfully good.
There was one little hitch when it was time to leave Bomani- they said that the transfer as it was set up was screwy and had Wilderness Air pick us up right at their airstrip. I did notice that the varioius copies of our trip itinerary showed different ways to handle that transfer. The nice folks at Bomani took care of everything for us, so it wasn’t any bother to us at all.We were incredibly impressed by the amount of wildlife and the ability of the staff at Mashatu. I think that if someone asked me what camp we recommend they go to in all of our adventures, that would be the one. It was also really nice that they had jerry-rigged headphones so that only the driver could hear what was being said on the radio.(Maybe you could suggest this at some of the other places) after that it was always seemed so blaring and obtrusive when someone started talking on the radio, especially if we were sitting and watching a cat.Of course we planned this as our last trip to end all overseas trips, but don’t be surprised if we end up calling you again in a few years. If we think we can still handle the long plane ride, we may be back!
Betsy and Steve M.
Before I fly off again, let me give you some feedback. We had a great time! Fabulous! As you know, we hiked to see the gorillas two days in a row. Each of these two days, one person was touched by the gorillas, and it was me! The first day, an adult female touched my shoulder, but the second day, a four-month-old wobbly baby crawled over and touched my knee. Incredible and exactly what I was wishing for.
Everything else was perfect too. We were afraid that we wouldn’t see the tree-climbing lions because we missed them at Ishasha. However, we did see a male in a cactus tree on our last-minute private safari that our driver arranged for us just after the cruise.
My constructive criticism is that I really did not like the vehicle. Why? Unless you were sitting in the front seat by the driver or standing up with the roof raised, you could not see what was happening in front or on the opposite side of the vehicle. Fortunately for us, it was a private tour with only two people. I sat in front, and my husband stood. Standing is okay for a little while, but it soon gets tiring. At least, it was not raining. I suggest a different type of vehicle.
The food was great. The best food was in Bwindi. The chef was great. The second best was our second stop.
The people were great. Our driver was great. The chip experience at the zoo was phenomenal, and the tracking was great.
Thank you for organizing everything for us!
Just wanted to let you know that our trip was amazing! Certainly exceeding my expectations for sure! Each camp and location was unique offering us different experiences. We even had 5 Rhino visit the water hole at Ongava while we watched from the deck. The services provided by Wilderness were beyond compare from meeting us upon arrival in Windhoek and moving us directly thru the dignitary line at customs to their lounge to every flight right thru the entire trip. Brad was very pleased with the VF Safari Lodge and did get together with Kari from The Gorges for a few hours one evening which they both really enjoyed.
We’re back in Montana after a great trip. The walking trails, Mashatu, Mala Mala sequence was perfect. We saw progressively more and more game as the trip developed but had a good background on tracks, behavior, ecology from the earlier time. The kids had a super time and Josie is enthusiastic about a return trip sometime in the not too distant future.
Stuart Quinn was not our guide on the walking trails. His operation is growing and he is apparently bringing in guides to help him. Our guide was Craig Beaton and he was excellent. He was the developer of the Serolo Camp and sold it to Stuart some 10 or so years ago. Craig has 25 years of experience in the bush and together with his tracker, Gilbert, did a first rate job. Absolutely no complaints on our part but you need to be aware that Stuart may not be the guide.
Incidentally, all the logistics went smooth as can be. The combined efforts of Fish Eagle and Wilderness were very impressive. Thanks for a great job.
I think I told you that the kids keep a daily journal and then we integrate their story of the trip with the photos. It’ll be a while in production, but I’ll see that you get a copy.
I just had to write as well and say it was the most AWESOME trip EVER. Africa is amazing and You planned it perfectly. We are so appreciative of your ideas and help. I caught a big tiger fish on the Zambezi river and we canoed with the hippos and saw a pride of 22 lions and 3 different packs of wild dogs, just to highlight a few huge memories. I can’t believe how AWESOME it was. We felt safe and everything went perfectly. YOU ARE THE BEST and I am recommending you to several people in my office.
Thank you so much and I want to save for another African adventure.
We just got back from our trip to Africa. I have to say that it was probably the best trip I have ever – or will ever – go on. We had the most wonderful time. And thanks to you, everything we dreamed of happened plus much more. The camps were exceptional, and the people were like family. I admit I left a little part of my heart there.
Thanks for arranging this incredible adventure for us.
Cannot believe that I have been back from my trip for 3 weeks – first week I was quite sick with sinusitis – possibly a result of 22 hrs in a plane?! And since then have been trying to catch upon my tax return, so apologize for the long delay before writing to thank you for recommending and arranging such a terrific trip.
The three camps that I visited – Kalahari Plains, Tubu Tree and Toka Leya were all great. Each one very different from the others and I also liked the order in which I visited them. Each of the locations had something special about them. The Kalahari location reminded me a lot of the desert area between Phoenix and Tucson – except for the cactus – we lived in that area for a number of uears and I always enjoyed the desert. At this location we had the besta guide nd driver (Rogers). Rogers had an incredible way of driving at quite high speed on the very rough tracks while at the same time avoiding the bumps – giving us a very smooth ride. I would also single him out for keeping a careful watch on his people. On the “Bushman Walk” which we took in the desert there was a bad dust storm that day and the dust was causing my asthma to act up. When we finished our walk to the furthest point where they demonstrated a bushman hut and how to make fire without matches, there was a long walk back to the camp. Rogers pulled me aside and told me that he had arranged a ride back to camp for me (unasked) and there – out of sight – was a land rover parked and which gave me a ride back.
At Tubu Tree I was amazed at the size of the baobab trees – they certainly give our redwoods a competition for largest trees – at least for girth! Saw a lot of animals there also – too many to mention but I did see all of the “big five” during my trip and scores more. The Tubu Tree camp was certainly well run by Michele and her husband – she even came out to rescue us when our land rover broke down on the last stretch home one evening – and was there extremely quickly.
Toka Leya – This is an incredible location. Took my breath away when first walked in and onto the patio over looking the Zambezi. The service here was also excellent – arrived at the camp about 4:00 pm and by 5:00 pm was out on a boat on the river for an evening ride. They also arranged for me to see the Falls from the Zimbabwe side and my guide took me to the border and met me there on my way back. Saw that side of the falls with another tour company that they had arranged.
The peninsula tour in Cape Town was excellent. Had a very good guide and saw a lot – however the small tour bus broke down while climbing a steep hill about three hours into the tour and it took them nearly two hours to get another to us.
The only negative thing that I would note on the whole trip was the journey from Cape Town to Maun. Leaving Cape Town at 7:00 am we were in Jo’burg by 9:30 am but the direct flight to Maun was not operating that day and we had to go via Kasane. So did not get into Maun until 5:00 pm. I learned at the camp that this happened every week or so. So next time I would opt for a direct flight from Cape town to Maun – even if it meant choosing a different day. I should add that the pilot of the Cesna 506 was waiting for me at Maun and we then got to the camp very quickly.
Have not had time to organize my photos yet – but here is one of that tree that impressed me so much!
Very best regards,
I won’t be able to do justice to our fantastic adventure in S. Africa & Botswana, but I’ll share a few details.
Our first camp, Tanda Tula was delightful. We enjoyed the opportunity to meet and spend time with the other guests as well as the staff. The chef there was amazing – the gourmet meals we enjoyed there were spectacular! Our wonderful guide, Scotch, was very knowledgeable – he continually amazed us when he would point out a bird and announce the guide book page number by memory. We were quite excited to have two sightings of a herd of wild dogs, a leopard with a kill, as well as lots of lovely birds and of course, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, zebra, and water buffalo.
Our stay at Mala Mala was wonderful. I really appreciated the wheelchair accommodations: they gave me an easier few days during this rigorous trip. Our accommodations were comfortable and our guide Jonathan was impressive. The variety and abundance of wildlife was amazing and we enjoyed the beautiful surroundings. Some of the highlights included the pair of young male giraffes fighting, a pair of mating leopards, a bachelor herd of 7 rhinos cooling off in a mud pool, following the Styx lion pride, and a beautiful pair of cheetah. On our last afternoon drive, we found ourselves in the midst of a large herd of elephants that just enchanted us. Each game drive afforded us another very memorable experience!
Janet and the staff at Nxai Pan went out of their way to make us comfortable. Before we arrived they built a ramp to make it easier to get my wheelchair on the boardwalk and a set of steps to ease my climb into the Range Rover. I was really touched by their efforts! . The accommodations were not as luxurious as the other camps and we were the only guests in camp for part of the visit. The animal sightings were not as plentiful and frequent as the other camps, but it was interesting to see a different environment (We missed the migration by a couple of weeks). We did have 2 different cheetah sightings, several ostrich sightings, a lion sighting and herds of springbok, zebra, and blue wildebeest.
Unfortunately, we did have one bad experience on this trip. The Moremi Air flight that was scheduled to transfer us from Nxai Pan to Chitabe showed up 3 hours late and never notified the camp. So we sat at the airstrip for over 3 hours in the noon heat with nothing to protect us from the sun. Every time the camp contacted Moremi they were told that the plane would be coming shortly, so we never could return to camp to wait. Although we were drinking plenty of water, I got dehydrated and nearly passed out. After we arrived at Chitabe, it took me several hours to recover and I missed the afternoon game drive.
We really loved our stay at Chitabe. The accommodations were very luxurious and the staff very nurturing. Every game drive was more amazing than the one before. We had several sightings of a pride of lions with 3 females, 3 sub-adults and a small cub. We had two different opportunities to watch them feeding on kills and to observe their behaviors. It was fascinating! We observed a leopard hunting and feeding on a squirrel and huge community of baboons settling in for the night. On our last game drive on our way to the airstrip, we came across a herd of wild dogs!
I’ve included a few highlights but as I said there is no way to do justice to the amazing sights we enjoyed. The impalas, the zebras, the giraffes, the elephants, THE BIRDS! So much to see and to learn. It was a delight!
Bert, we really appreciate the care that went into the planning of this trip for us. Each of the camps you selected worked well with the wheelchair and the staffs were all very helpful. Your careful planning made this adventure possible for us.
Yes, we had a FANTASTIC time. As usual, none of us was ready to come back when it was time to return home. We were joking with the guide in Jo-burg that because it was April 1st, we’d hoped he’d say it was all an April Fools joke and we really didn’t have to go home!!! Unfortunately it wasn’t.
Tubu Tree is an amazing camp – our favorite by far on this trip. Tim and I put it up there with Sausage Tree camp in Zambia as one of our top 2 favorites from our 5 visits to Africa . Lisa said it is definitely her favorite of her 2 African safaris. Someone at that camp told us we had started with the best of the ones we were to visit and they were so right. Saw LOTS of leopard there – at least one on every game drive – sometimes 2. We were totally amazed as we’d expected to see less animals on this trip just because it was the green season and therefore more food and water for them to find. We were pleasantly surprised. Jackey and Justin were great hosts and the staff was above par for sure!!! Our guide told us of some of his friends at Chitabe and we lucked out and got one as our guide there.
Chitabe was excellent as well. We had one of the best guides ever… he was absolutely amazing!!! We lucked out and had the truck to ourselves and he was very happy to hear that we didn’t care what we saw, we just wanted to see it all – including trees, birds, insects, etc. We had an absolute blast with him… While there, we saw wild dog which was unexpected… it’s just the luck of the draw I guess and we were lucky enough to see them.
Lagoon was nice — they’d just updated their tents and they were large and spacious. The hippo right outside in the river was wonderful of course. Much less animal sightings there due to the high grasses, but still a nice place to visit. The staff was amazing.
Toka Leya — have to say this was a great way to end the trip. I think we were ready for A/C and being catered to. We had actually said ½ way through Chitabe that we should have stayed at a hotel in Vic Falls. Little did we know but the Toka Leya was better than a hotel. And of course Vic Falls was amazing. Tim and I were there in the late 90s in Oct and it was a very different experience.
All 3 of us really enjoyed out trip…. Thank you so much for all of your planning, coordinating and dealing with our constant questions and changes. We’re talking about doing another one in 4 years – TBD on location – as we seem to be doing them every 4 yrs recently…. This one was for my 50th bday and in 4 yrs Lisa will be 50, so what a better way to spend it… We’ll definitely be in contact with you as you’ve always provided us with the greatest service and made sure our trips were just perfect.
Hope you had a great time in Namibia, Botswana and So Africa. Hope you got to see lots of animals as well as time to visit family. Sorry we missed you by just a few days. Would have loved to met the man who makes our vacation memorable!!!
Mary – Washington D.C.
I just walked in the door. Yes we had a great time and would use you and Wilderness again in a minute. They were always on time always pleasant and made everything a pleasurable experience. The camps were the best along with the employees. The food was great at Okavango (Tubu Tree) and our guide was the best. We had a bull elephant walk right into the jeep with us in it. The food Savuti was good but not as high end as the other. You could tell the chef at Savuti was cooking in her local fare, while Okavango he was really experimenting and doing a good job. They also got much higher quality ingredients than Savuti. Warren and Cheri gave Karter and I a private dinner on the terrace with our own waiter our last night. They said we were part of the family and they wanted to do something nice for us. It was very special.
Both Karter and I would love to go back and would really like a life style change so keep us in mind if you need help over there with anything. My restaurant is on the market, my house in Mexico is on the market and I am working towards putting my home here on the market when the time is right.
Victoria Falls were beautiful but one night there would be enough. It was soooo poor there and the people never stopped begging and trying to sell us stuff. It really brought home the difference in life style and culture we have with the rest of the world. I could tell how segregated it still is all over Africa. I can’t imagine how bad it was 50 years ago. The Victoria Falls Hotel has such a black and white seperation. The staff there was very timid or outright bitter towards us. The penthouse on Loader was off the charts great and a great location. We took a tour of the peninsula and both said we could live there in a second.
Our guide from Wilderness was great also he was Muslim and we enjoyed talking with him and getting his views on life, Cape Town and the world.
Thank You for all you did and if you can get word to Mia and Rynhart and Warren and Cheri please tell them we loved being with them at both camps.
P.S. I am now a total birder…. I think I enjoyed them more than the animals. We also saw the Channel Boys. 5 Male lion brothers that know how to kill elephants. Their fathers are famous for killing elephants and I have seen the show documenting them so was really thrilled when we came upon them sitting by the channel. An elephant, very large crossed the channel and they all looked, got up then thought better of it. Being there makes you realize how unimportant cell phones, computers, TV etc. is.
David and Karter, AZ
Our trip was just wonderful! Thanks so much for helping to set things up. Gayle took over 1500 pictures. The logistics, including the luggage weight issues, all worked out just fine. Just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed it all. I am getting lots of queries from other people interested in similar trips, so I will fwd them your email address.
To follow up on George’s email and thanks, here is a summary account of our trip:
Our Botswana trip was a very intense experience, which we are still absorbing. As requested, the three-week itinerary you put together let us sample a wide diversity of wildlife, scenery, and lodging. I think the most unique aspects were being able to get up-close and see natural interactions between the animals (and the equally interesting way the animals almost totally ignored the guests and vehicles, apart from a rare glare or contemptuous glance) with occasional incidents to remind us as to how scary some of the larger animals and predators could really be. The quality of light could be extraordinary, which made for great pictures. At night, the stars were spectacular, so now we’re good at recognizing the Southern Cross and spotting the Large Magellenic Cloud. The guides were generally terrific and with a couple of notable (but fortunately brief overlap) exceptions, so were our fellow guests. Food and drinks were omnipresent and quite good, although I thought later we should have arranged a few in-room dinners to expand our rest time.
Your recommendation of Mashatu was spot on. We really enjoyed the different experience, terrain, and fall colors of the vegetation, although of course we didn’t know how different it would be from the rest of the trip at the time. It was there we saw larger groups of impala, zebra, elephant, giraffe, warthogs, ostrich, wildebeest, kudu (a favorite), and both rock and yellow-bellied dassies. Watching a pied kingfisher dive-bomb the water at high speed was enthralling – later in Jao, I eventually caught pictures of one hovering in place like a hummingbird. A demonstration of “off-road racing” by our guide to see a cheetah was particularly memorable followed by locating a hyena trying to nap under a bush. I should have reviewed your email more carefully – we saw eland several times there (the only place!) and I missed my chance to get a photo. This was also the best night spotting place for us – a spotted leopard, an African wildcat, civets and genets (and of course hundreds of impala eyes). The local lion pride seems to have sort of broken down, but there were females with cubs and a young male (apparently his brother was killed after wandering into South Africa although the hunter is now in jail). The bushwalk was one of the best and longest we went on, covering the grassland and the mostly dry Majele River bed. The guides, staff, and researchers were all extremely friendly and informative. George was taught the appropriate guide tipping methodology there…
Although Toka Leya was really about Victoria Falls, we did manage to see all of the white rhinocerous in Zambia (a total of five, although four were South Africa transplants) + their armed guard vehicle, as well as hippos, birds, and a selection of other wildlife in Mosi O Tunya park and on the river. The camp on the Zambezi has a great setting and view of the river. We took a very worthwhile helicopter flight over the falls – the only vantage point from which we could really see most of it as the mist was so great that you couldn’t get good views on the walk, although as the guide put it you could certainly “feel it” like a drenching rainstorm. This year supposedly was the highest water level since the 1950s.
The smaller camps like Savuti were particularly enjoyable for us, because they felt more intimate and we generally got to know many of the staff better. Although when we originally booked, this was supposed to be the “dry camp”, the Savuti Channel is filled almost up to the Savuti Marsh now. Our tent had a great view of the water with elephants crossing and impala grazing during the day and hippos, hyenas, and rutting impalas calling at night. On drives we enjoyed seeing giraffe gingerly deciding to cross the water, Cape buffalo, tssesbe, elephants, zebra, saddle-billed storks, hippos, a pregnant giraffe and elephant, and many young calves, cubs, etc. Highlights were catching three female hyenas loping across the water in the channel one day and running into 10 members of the Selinda Pride early one morning and tracking them for a couple of hours. We also experienced a number of mock elephant charges. Our guide “Goodman” was particular entertaining with a great sense of humor. George really enjoyed being temporary “Chief of Savuti” during traditional night and the dancing performed by our guide and others.
We met Wilderness Safari’s CEO Malcolm (McCullagh) at dinner in Savuti. We realized he must be a big-wig due to the extremely deferential behavior of the staff, although we didn’t know exactly what his role was until we searched the Internet later. We had a very interesting conversation with him about South African and US politics as well as the economics of running the camps. He recognized you and taught us how to correctly pronounce your last name!
Although Duma Tau was more similar in environment to Savuti than anticipated, we benefited from the two additional days in Linyanti by getting to track two cheetah as well as see a wild dog pack. We also got to watch the other two male lions of the Selinda Pride plus a mother and two cubs with a wildbeest kill. The father lion “Silver Eye” snarled and chased the cubs off from chewing on the carcass, so the mother let them nurse as a consolation.
Jao was extremely luxurious and the water was quite high although the levels were slowly dropping. Highlights were a male and two female lions crossing the Jao floodplains (back and forth on different days) to hunt. The male lion got into a hunting crouch halfway across and started tracking a couple of makoros until the polers sat down for awhile. He came over the bridge into the camp and left giant footprints on the dirt road that night! We watched red lechwe run through the water to escape the lions. One or both of Beauty (a female leopard) and her son were spotted each day resting, hunting and game spotting from trees. We also got our one glimpse of a sitatunga in Jao camp itself, George saw a hippo directly under our “tent”, a genet was up in the tree just outside the main lodge, and an African wildcat was on our walkway one AM. The makoro, boat rides, and game walk broke up the game-drive activities and let us get close up views of night and day lilies, a painted reed frog, malachite kingfishers, and a praying mantis (we then found a much bigger one hunting by using the light right outside the door of our tent). We’re still carrying a couple of lucky berries picked by our guide.
Duba Plains of course was primarily about the buffalo and lion interaction, but we also got to see aardwolf, lechwe leaping through the water (spectacular!), young male elephant sparring, baboons mating / feeding on sausage tree pods / watching their babies a side-striped jackal, and a mother and baby civet; experienced getting stuck in the water/mud; and viewed some of our best sunrises / sunsets. The water was extremely deep on the roads with a semi-decrepit “Golden Gate Bridge” leading (we enjoyed the name) into the airstrip camp. The first day the Tsora Lion pride was primarily comatose and lying about, the second day five females were stalking the herd (followed by the male lion and a female with a cub), and on our final morning we witnessed an attack by six female lionesses, the takedown of a cow and calf, and the buffalos fighting off the lions – mesmerizing and hard to follow with the action going on all around us. The repeated cycle of buffalos chasing the lions and lions chasing buffalo that followed was extremely entertaining. Our guide “Lets” obviously had a great knowledge of the lion-buffalo hunting cycle and did an amazing job getting us close to the action. We found the camp staff to be particularly outgoing and friendly.
It was kind of a shock coming to Maun and running into people, cars, and fences (not to mention donkeys and cattle). The drive to Central Kalahari Game Reserve was a little long (it will be nice when a closer airstrip is open), but for the first time in twenty years water was reaching the Boteti River from the Delta. Deception Valley Lodge was very comfortable. We did an interesting San walk there and enjoyed listening to their language and sampling the raisin berries! The almost white grass fields and dry mud pans of Deception Valley and Sunday / Leopard pans were quite startling after the Okavango. Our guide tracked down and found a black-maned lion and three females by noticing the only shade tree cluster without springbok or oryx sheltering under it (the only other group of guests spotted them mating later in the day!). We also ran into wildebeest, meerkats, bat-eared foxes, secretary birds, crimson-breasted shrikes, and other small wildlife.
The only downside was the excrutiating plane trips (34 hours on the way back) only made somewhat better by the Red Carpet Clubs and business class to/from London. They were so long that the jet lag was never obvious, since we were so exhausted.
George and Gayle, CA
We had a wonderful vacation in Africa, all of the arrangements for travel, accomodations and transfers were perfect. Wilderness Safaris is a great professional organisation and the camps were fabulous.Our favorite camp was Dumatau,the accomodations, the wide variety of game, great food and a superb experienced guide (Mr. T or Theba) who had over 20 yrs in that area. He made our stay there a special experience, trying to meet our every need and expectation for game viewing and photography.
We got back to the US on the day of the storm, so could not return to Houston from DC, i found a flight to San Antonio,stayed overnight and drove home on Sunday.
I have recommended your services and Wilderness Safaris to a close friend and colleague who may be calling you.
Thanks again. Hope you were safe during the hurricane. We will be back in touch for our next safari to Africa!!
Ranjit and Danuta C., TX
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We have decades of experience
I’d suggest that if you get a ‘NO’ answer on any of the following three questions, you should think twice before dealing with a particular operator or his/her local agent:
Is the departure guaranteed? There is nothing as frustrating as booking for a trip, spending months in keen anticipation only to be given back your deposit with a lame excuse that the tour was not fully supported or whatever. It happens, so make sure.
Does the company legally operate an office within the country where the tour is going to take place and does it own the vehicles & equipment and employ the guides? It is essential to go with a group which has in-country back-up, IN CASE THINGS GO WRONG. I cannot adequately stress this point: having a broken down vehicle replaced or an ill guide substituted by someone equally capable – or not – can make either of these a minor inconvenience or a major disaster.
Will there be 10 or less persons in the group? As an avid bird-watcher, I am perhaps over-sensitive about this, but believe me, a nature tour or safari with more than 10 or so people is not really a good idea. Things like space in the vehicle, positioning for photographs, enjoying nature peacefully and quietly and so on can become an issue.
We have been an agent for Wilderness Safaris (head office in Johannesburg where they operate a full-service travel agency, with affiliates in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Malawi) since 1990 and recommend them highly. We have also established a very good working relationship with Kwando Safaris, who likewise have a long record of running a small collection of superb camps in Botswana. In Tanzania, we work with Nomad-Tanzania as well as Safari Legacy, and our long-time Kenya associates are Origins Safaris, based in Nairobi.
On an African safari, the quality of the guide is a make-or-break factor, so don’t compromise on this: a good guide will make a safari interesting – even excellent – no matter the weather or how much game you see. Wilderness Safaris’ guides on the overland safaris are all top-notch, going through rigorous interviews before even being hired. Most of their guides have been with them for many years and their evaluation sheets are proof of the excellent service and standard of safari they run. Kwando Safaris in Botswana, Nomad Tanzania and Origins Safaris (Kenya) employ equally top-notch guides, which I know from first-hand experience.
It depends. Generally speaking, game-viewing peaks from July through September, but it is good year-round. October through February can get very hot in northern Botswana and Zimbabwe, especially in the Zambezi Valley. For bird-watching, the summer months are better, i.e. October through February/March. Victoria Falls is at its best in April/May, while Cape Town’s nicest weather is February, March & April. Namibia and other arid areas (such as the Kalahari) are at their best in March, April & May, just after the ‘rainy’ season (what there is of it). Low or shoulder season safari prices are available from November through June. The lowest prices (in Botswana & Zimbabwe) are for the ‘Green Season’ from December through March.
Zambia is best visited from June through September, as the national parks are prone to heavy rainfall and impassable roads in the ‘high summer’ season from December through April/May. Some of the camps in the Mfuwe area do remain open however, and there are some very popular trips which operate in the area at that time. Fantastic birding, best chance of any time of the year for wild dogs, and lots of young animals to be seen.
In East Africa, it rarely gets unbearably hot, although some people prefer to avoid the ‘long rains’ which fall in April & May. The dry season from July to September is considered the optimum time for the western & northern Serengeti & Kenya’s Maasai Mara, while December, January and February are arguably the best three months for the southern shortgrass plains of the Serengeti. The months of March through May and June are low season in East Africa, and offer good value for money.
Obviously, there is a certain degree of danger when you are in the bush with wild animals. However, you will always be accompanied by an experienced guide. Accidents are very rare and the camps have excellent safety records. Provided you use common sense you should be perfectly safe.
Victoria Falls is to Zimbabwe & Zambia what the Grand Canyon is to Arizona: a definitive travel destination, but one night is probably sufficient, unless you’re interested in some of the adventure-type activities. Some people in the business actually go as far as saying that if you haven’t seen the Falls, you haven’t really seen southern Africa… The area immediately surrounding the Falls has so far been spared from development. For sheer spectacle, nothing can touch the Falls at peak flood in April or May/June. Nice weather at that time of the year, too. The white-water rafting experience in the Zambezi down from Victoria Falls is awesome, especially when conditions are ideal (September/October). Not for the faint at heart!