Booking a Kenyan safari was relatively easy when safari travel market was dominated by a few wholesale safari operators.
All you had to do was visit your preferred travel agent’s office or ask for a brochure by post. You booked your safari in deep trust that your travel agent had carefully vetted the African operator who will handle you on the ground.
The whole safari travel supply chain had in-built checks and balances which in most cases were legally bidding. The traveler came out the winner except in the area of safari prices, which were astronomical as each level had to add their profit margins.
There are many local Africa safari operators in the internet making the price of safaris to be much better than what you’d pay to an agent in your country.
The disadvantage is that the responsibility of vetting the operator rests on you and should you fail to do due diligence, you suffer the consequences.
Many websites will promise you the best African safari but consider that a website can’t guarantee credibility. It would be a mistake if you made your booking decision just on how a website looks.
Don’t take comfort that if things go wrong you can seek legal recourse. The truth is, if your African safari doesn’t go right you can’t get a fair compensation for the time lost, emotions ruined and the shear frustration that comes with it.
Though your African travel will possibly last 10 -13 days, its effect is going to be long term. Therefore do your research as you would for other long term and important issues such as buying a house or choosing your child’s school. Ask all relevant questions and then make informed decisions. This has to be before paying for your safari travel and not after.
These easy to follow 7 tips are a sure way of determining if your African safari operator is up to scratch:
1) Get to know the real people in the organization. Don’t deal with “About Us”, which is too vague. Assuming the operator is a small local company, why should he not reveal his identity?
2) Do your research as though money is not a problem. This widens the pool of the operators whose resumes you’d want to consider and you avoid being locked-up with African safari operators with doubtful reputations. Then narrow down the candidates to suit your budget.
3) Check how long the African travel operator has been in operation – this will help you avoid the here-today-gone-tomorrow operators. While there is no rule that the new operators are doubtful, you must see that you don’t become the safari company’s experimental client.
4) Does the African safari operator have the expertise for your specific needs? If he can’t directly supply your needs, this should be a red flag.
5) What do the safari travel reviews say about him? Trust the grapevine – if your African safari operator is up to scratch you will hear it in forums and trip advisory portals. Watch out for out-dated, self-authored trip reports and unverifiable client comments. Insist on calling a past client, which is a more credible verification method.
6) Membership in fee-paying tourism associations. While these bodies have noble ideas, there must be reasons why they have a disclaimer in their members list. Read and respect the disclaimer. Don’t let your guard down just because African safari operator appears in every fee-paying body.
Finally and very crucial, place a call to the safari operator. Switch on your detective radar, listen carefully between his words and try to match them with info in his web site and from emails.
By the end of the call, it will be very clear if you should book with that African safari operator.
Now that you know how to vet your African travel operator, hit the keyboard for the right African safari and the security of knowing that no nasty surprises await you when you land in Africa.