Frustrated at the options available, Sam Sellers started her own travel company to Africa. Here she reveals the pitfalls to avoid when booking your once in a lifetime group trip to this amazing continent
Travelling with a group of like-minded people, at a similar age, at a similar stage in life is essential to enjoying your trip to Africa. Some groups are too young. Others offer too wide an age range (18-70). A lot are simply too big, made up of 30 people or more.
It’s something I experienced myself on an overland trip through Southern Africa. At 30, I was the oldest person on the trip and I felt really out of place. That’s why at Take Me To Africa we divide our groups into ages 30-50 and 50+, and limit the group size of 8-12 people. The result is that you get experience Africa with people you really get along with. Sitting around a campfire with a nice glass of wine, and just chatting, is one of life’s real joys.
Choose the right group and you’ll enjoy a fabulous trip and make friends for life. Get it wrong and it could be the loneliest, most frustrating travel experience you’ve ever had.
Finding the right ‘style’ of African trip is just as vital. Choose one that’s too budget and you won’t have anyone to do those once-in-a-lifetime activities with – like that helicopter flight over Victoria Falls you’ve always dreamed of. Choose one that’s too expensive and you’ll be paying over the odds for experiences that can be enjoyed for a fraction of the cost.
Look instead for companies that offer great itineraries, good food and terrific accommodation at a price that won’t completely break the bank. There are plenty of authentic, boutique places to stay in Africa that don’t cost the earth but will be an undoubted highlight of your trip. Like the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, where your room overlook an amazing waterhole where elephants come down to drink. Or the Sausage Tree tented camp in the Greater Kruger, where you’ll enjoy four star luxury pretty much to yourself.
In an attempt to keep their brochure / website prices low to look attractive, a lot of companies hide the true cost of their trips under added extras, meal contributions, travel kitties and optional activities. So check the itinerary carefully. Note what is included and what isn’t. Add in the cost of any extra activities you want to do and scour the fine print for any compulsory charges that aren’t immediately apparent.
I saw one trip recently that featured three days in Kruger Park but didn’t include the compulsory safari package add-on you needed in the price. That was an extra $250 you had to come up with or be left at the gate for three days.
What seems like a budget trip can work out a lot more expensive when you get there.
Don’t pick a trip that is short on time or that only focuses on one element of Africa like a safari. Find an itinerary with variety and tickets off several bucket list experiences in one trip so you get to experience all that Africa has to offer.
It’s something we keep in mind when designing our itineraries at Take Me To Africa. Our Ultimate African Taster tour, for example starts in the awesome Victoria Falls and Chobe National Park, before heading to the Greater Kruger where we stay in a private reserve and experience open vehicle safaris with a ranger and a tracker. Then it’s onto Stellenbosch for fantastic wines and Cape Town for a bit of big city luxury. Our guests get a fantastic balance of scenery, bush and city life in one trip.
Also maximise your time. A trip of at least two weeks will ensure that you get the best value from your international flights as well.
A lot of people don’t realise that the 21-day trip from Nairobi to Jo'burg trip they are booking is really a combination of multiple smaller trips, with people going and leaving the trip at several points along the way.
The upside is that you get to meet more new people. The downside is that it can get exhausting, re-telling your story over and over again, trying to make friends with people who have already formed strong bonds, or having to say goodbye to people you would very much have liked to spend more time with.
There’s something to be said for being part of a group who start and end a journey together. Bonds are formed and lifelong friendships are made. The last group I took to Africa got on so well they are already talking about doing a reunion trip next year!