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By Dan Austin /

Picking the Right Partner (Your Travel Professional)

The best investment you will ever make is picking the right partner.  You have two choices here: #1. Go direct to the adventure travel companies specializing in Africa or #2. Go through a licensed travel agent with African tour operator contacts (and insight).  I just wouldn’t suggest going in on your own.  There are just too many options and too many variables. Work with a travel professional that has firsthand experience (been there done that).  Check them out thoroughly (what did we do before the internet and sites like Trip Advisor?)  If you don’t know where to start, pick up a few trusted magazines like Travel and Leisure or National Geographic Traveler (or visit their websites). They all have some sort of “trip of the year” or “operator of the year” awards list recognizing the top operators in the world. Conde Nast Magazine has a similar equivalent for the agent community.  Pick up a couple magazines and make a few calls.  See how you “connect” with the tour operator or travel agent.  After all, how often do you really think you will get to go to Africa?

Questions and Answers (You Can Never Ask a Dumb Question)

Before you set out to find a tour operator or travel agent, start by asking yourself a few questions. Think carefully about your answers. Here are a few to get you thinking…

1)      How long do you think you can dedicate to the trip?

2)      Do you have a total budget in mind?

3)      Are there certain animals that are a must-see?

4)      Are there any native tribes in particular you are interested in?

5)     Are there iconic destinations you want to see (Victoria Falls, Cape Town, Dunes in

         Namibia)?

6)     How many countries do you want to visit? (Did you know there is at least one place

         where you can visit four in one day?)

7)     How many nights at each place do you prefer?

8)     What kind of accommodations are you expecting/ do you prefer? (Luxury tents, small

         lodges, large lodges, hotels, etc.)

9)     Are you prepared to fly in a small bush plane?

10)   What time of year are you hoping to travel?

You get the idea…now armed with this information, set out to find the perfect “travel partner” – either tour/safari operator direct or a travel professional specializing in Africa.

Here is a short list of questions to help get you started – add to the list what is important to you.  Keep track of who you talk with and who says what. Search for that “feeling” you get when you just know you are talking to the right person.

In no particular order (and assuming you are talking direct to the tour operator):

1)      How long have you been operating tours in Africa?

2)      What regions of Africa do you have programs?

3)      Have you been and if so where?

4)      What is your personal favorite destination within Africa?

5)      Where do you feel the best place to see the Big Five is?

6)      What is your favorite “camp”?

7)      Where should I go to interact with the real people of Africa and why?

8)      How do you choose who you work with in Africa? 

9)      Can I speak with someone that has been to Africa with you?

10)   What do I need for shots or medication? (Malaria Pills, Yellow Fever? Etc.)

Now armed with the insight and the tasks listed above, you are ready.  Make the planning every bit as fun as the entire process should be.  Build the anticipation until you eventually get on that jet to your dream vacation of a lifetime.

And when you get back, give me a call and tell me all about it. I love hearing about travels to Africa almost as much as I do heading out on my own! (By the way, in case you are wondering where I’m heading next on the African front?  Kenya and the gorillas of Uganda is my plan!!!)

Dan Austin

Visiting Africa 101: Part 1 & Part 2

Don't forget I am always here to help you plan the perfect African Safari

Oe leave a comment below with any questions you have!

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