Dianne Newcomer(Photo: courtesy)
In Swahili, the word safari means “long journey,” and I think it is a perfect way to describe such a unique vacation experience in Africa. Unlike a trip to Paris, New York, or the beaches of the Caribbean, it is difficult to have a preconceived “must see and do” list that you wish to follow.
A safari is not like being at a zoo where you are on the outside looking in. Rather, the really cool thing is you are on the inside of the journey, a place where everything can change quickly and there is no such thing as a typical day. Immersive, interactive and oh so very intriguing is how most of our clients at Monroe Travel Service describe a safari!
When you think about it, you are not just catching a glimpse of wildlife, you are 360 degrees enveloped in their untamed world. You don’t just have front row seats to the drama and charm of an all star cast, you are on the stage, and the stage is huge because these parks are vast.
Do you realize that many of the safari parks we sell at Monroe Travel Service are actually larger than the United States in size? Choosing the right safari in the right park with the right animals can be a little overwhelming, so, let me just say that it is probably smart to clear your mind of all the negativity you have been hearing in the press lately and let’s talk about travel to Africa.
First of all, there will not be lions on the airport runways or elephants to take you to the terminal doors. Yes, Africa can be a wild place where animals roam freely, but not all of Africa is one big savannah, nor are all the cities and countries poverty riddled. In most of the countries (South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, and Tanzania) where we send our safari guests, the roads are tarred, the hotels are modern, the smiles are friendly, and there is a sense of progress, not despair.
Safety concerns and just the anxiety of being in such a different place quickly disappear upon your arrival. There is a mindset shift: it’s more like eye-opening disbelief and surprise than anything else, and, very easily, you slip into the rhythm of this strange land –where anything can happen. This is how Meghan Lindsey described her mother/daughter safari to Kenya:
“We saw 2 kills by a pack of wild dogs in the first few hours we were there, which is extremely lucky! On our transfer from the airport to the lodge, our guide, who was entertaining us with stories that left us with our jaws on the ground, managed to drive us by a pride of lions feasting in the bushes a few feet off the road. The lodge was absolutely gorgeous, and you really should have warned me about the delicious food!”
“Every day brought a thousand new scenes, each one we thought was the best one yet until they simultaneously blended into our wonderful memory. There is a closeness that I find hard to describe. Turn a corner and a dozen giraffes cover the track, wake each morning to grazing ungulates (the grazers, like antelope, etc) beside your lodge, and stay quiet as a buffalo herd marches off into the distance. There are no barriers. Such a thrill!
“The thing you learn very quickly is wild animals are far more expressive than tamed ones. You see mothers gently protecting their calves, young males battling for supremacy and mating rights, babies carefully becoming accustomed to their new world, and animals warning you to stay away. These are the moments you treasure; they are what define the safari experience, and you see them over and over again . I loved the intimacy, the exclusivity–just the animals and me–in the wild. I felt every moment was delivered in kaleidoscopic high definition just for me!”
Moments of “kaleidoscopic high definition”don’t you love that description? If one of the greatest travel experiences on the planet is on your bucket list for 2018, let’s talk for a minute. I know you might think choosing where to go should be your first consideration when planning an African safari, but here are some other questions you need to consider before you come meet with one of the professionals at Monroe Travel Service. It will help us meet your trip expectations:
1.How long do you want to go for? Africa is very big, so immense that it will probably be necessary to limit or extend the range of activities available to you. For instance, a short trip means we must focus on a destination with a high density of attractions and good transportation. Give me more time, and you can enjoy a combination of destinations that are further apart and maybe have a slower paced tour!
2. When do you want to go? This question usually determines what clothes you need to pack in most areas of the world, but, in Africa, it determines what you are able to see and do. Wildlife populations migrate, congregate and mate according to the seasons. Parks can burst with animals at certain times of the year or be strangely empty at others. During the seasonal rains, parks can also be totally inaccessible. Yet, the thing to remember is there is always great wildlife somewhere! Deciding whether it is the destination (Botswana or Kenya, for example) or the wildlife that is more important to you is key, because, in some times of the year, you just can’t have both.
3. What is your budget? The size of your budget will not keep you from visiting most areas of Africa, but, let’s be honest, it will probably affect how you experience them, especially when it comes to accommodations, transportation, and activities. Money buys more than just a soft bed on safari; it also means top-notch guides and a comfortable open-topped 4WD instead of a converted minibus. A good wildlife guide not only increases your chances of seeing a wide range of wildlife, but their knowledge always adds to your enjoyment. Compromise elsewhere, but I would encourage you to get the best safari tour you can afford to be be guaranteed a top guide. It matters!
4. What do you want to see and do? Is it to see the Big Five, experience the culture, hit the beaches, learn about the history, go to Capetown, visit Victoria Falls, experience gorilla trekking, tour the wine country, check out the Great Migration, etc? Knowing what you might want to see and do will determine the safari right for you. There is no way you can see everything–even if we are talking the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo)! Africa‘s safari parks have too many places to hide, but that is part of the fun. You stay vigilant so as not to miss a moment.
There is always something wild going on in Africa. Give us a call at Monroe Travel Service and ask for a free brochure on this amazing country. Life is too short to miss such “kaleidoscopic high definition” moments!
Dianne Newcomer is a travel agent at Monroe Travel Service, 1908 Glenmar Street, just off N. 19th Street. For your next trip, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 318 323 3465 for an appointment.