Safety is the main concern
There is considerable crime in many parts of Southern Africa. Most of this crime is not aimed at the tourist...well, unless you are stupid enough to leave your laptop or Nikon on the seat of your parked car in Johannesburg. As a rule, we do not visit areas considered dangerous. There is no crime in any of the game parks, nor in the areas of transport. If we have any road travel planned into the safari, it will be on the safest roads. Personal safety in Africa is like safety anyplace. It is best if you are a seasoned traveler if you travel on your own, but if you do, always seek out help with the best routes. I've driven hundreds of thousands of kilometers in Africa, and I've come across everything from bandits to beggars, and I won't put you in harms way. That's why I think South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, and Zambia are perfect African safari destinations.
Unlimited Wildlife on Oasis Africa Photo Safaris
If I tell you to jump out and wrestle away a meal from the lion pride, don't do it.
That is..unless I have my camera ready.
I do not conduct an African safari in certain areas such as Zimbabwe since the current political dictatorship of President Mugabe is making the safety of the tourist questionable. We might visit Victoria Falls, but we will do it from Zambia. We are also taking a moral stance. The oppressive Zimbabwe government has recently announced that they are considering opening up elephant hunting to those willing to pay upwards of $50,000 to kill an elephant. I do not organize nor conduct any African hunting safaris.
I have had considerable experience in African Travel, and I can use my knowledge to help plan every step of your adventure travel.
Lion and Elephant 1998-2002
Many of my clients opt to do some traveling on their own either before or after our African safari. I will advise you on places to go and things to see, all the time taking your safety into concern. Cape Town, for instance MIGHT be a dangerous place to visit, but let me tell you where not to go and when not to go to a certain place. Most tourist crime is a crime of opportunity, so it is best to take that opportunity away.
Lion Cub in Kruger
Elephant in Chobe, Botswana Safari
So, Are You Considering A Self-Drive Safari? Be Wise.
Once or twice a year I get some twits saying to me, “you know, we are ‘the adventurous sort of people,’ so we are wondering why we should be paying you so much money to take us on safari.” Well, I guess you might consider it a valid question, and perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word twits above, but these really were twits. I guess the easy answer is that no one likes others to view his profession as something so simple that anyone can do it. Perhaps even feeling that my skill is not valued in comparison to what others may do for a living.
I also get others saying things such as, “Safari experts on TripAdvisor say that Kruger National Park is a very safe place and one that does not need a professional guide.” They are told to rent a room, rent a car, and have at it...and save a fortune. Actually, Trip Advisor (as well as other travel sights) has been quoted for so many opinions that I’ve taken a look at it on several occasions. As we used to say, “Opinions are like a**holes. Everybody got one and they all stink.” Even mine, I’m sure. One other thing I quickly discovered on TripAdvisor was that each category seems to have “Trusted Experts” or some other designation which is supposed to indicate that they know their crap...the go to guy. All it seems to mean is that they have posted 5000 or 10000 opinions. One South Africa expert had 8,000 postings in his few years. He was an expert on everything South Africa (he might even be an expert on Paris, for all I know). I quickly scanned dozens of his postings and it seems all the guy did was sit at his computer and write 20 or 25 posts a day, leaving no time to actually travel around South Africa to be this self-proclaimed expert.
At this point, I must say that it is quite easy to rent a car and give yourself a cheaper safari in Kruger National Park. Hell, if you are “more adventurous,” you might even consider renting a car and traveling from Cape to Cairo ( I sure as hell wouldn't do that). If money is a big issue and it comes down to not having a safari, I will tell you to do it. I just think any visitor will get much more if they are guided by someone like me.
Let’s get back to these twits. The last ones decided to self drive after I planned out a great itinerary that involved a visit to Victoria Falls, Cape Town, and Kruger. If you don’t get the days and times just right, you can lose an entire day of vacation just by waiting for flights or transfer. On a 10 day vacation, that amounts 10% of your vacation. My plan had them arriving in Johannesburg and actually entering Kruger 3 hours later, doing a five night / six day safari, getting to the local airport for a direct flight to Vic Fall (only 3 flights a week) where they stayed two nights, then they caught a flight to Cape Town and then home. Had they not done it my way, they would have lost well over 1 day in travel delays.
Now, I must compare apples to apples in order to compare the cost of their safari and my super expensive guided safari: Mr. and Mrs. Twit rented a car, but I don’t know what kind of car. They could have rented a small car for $800, but if that car was too small, meaning too low to the ground, they could not see over the grass in very many places (meaning they didn’t see those lions or that leopard). So I will have them renting a taller car like the VW bus that gets you up high above most everything. That costs $1500, and I hope they got the super plus insurance excess or they might be hit up with a $1000 damage overage from the rental company because their rental had some scratches from the acacia thorns they brushed against on just about every road. Of course, no one would consider ordering a second spare tire just in case you had two flat tires....oh yes, you can get flat tires on those Kruger roads!!!! Consider how much time you might waste waiting for Avis to bring you another spare tire. Gasoline for those 6 days will be over $500.
Next, they had to reserve and rent accommodation. I hope they knew enough about Kruger so that they picked the best places to be at that time of year. Kruger is 20,000 sq. kms., much larger than the Masai Mara and Serengeti Parks combined. Yep, it is a very big place. Unfortunately, Mr. Twit has not spent my combined 1,500 days in Kruger, so they could only guess on where to go (or use the TripAdvisor experts). So five nights accommodation is about $700. There is also a conservation fee charged by South African National Parks and this would be about $350. I’m going to give the Twits something because I’m sure they were smart enough to bring along some good binoculars, and more than one wildlife book (I carry about 20 books). They were also wise enough to procure adapter plugs so that they can charge their camera gear etc. They also brought maps, of course.
As for food, there is no way that they carry both a refrigerator and a freezer, nor do they carry a complete kitchen and dining setup. That means breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the restaurant (gosh, I hope they picked camps with restaurants). Worst of all is that the restaurants are total crap. Breakfast is about $7each, lunch about $12, and dinner is $25. With tip,that is over $500 for their 6 days.
So the Twits have spent $3,550 for their 5 night safari. I would have charged them $4,990, or $1,440 more (and that includes my food and accommodation).
So, I guess the big question is if my guide services are worth $1500. Of course, my earnings are more if I have more clients on safari and if the safari is longer. But I often have only two people on safari since I often let a 2 person safari be created in hopes of getting two more clients to fill the other seats.
What do I bring to the table to earn my big bucks? First, I work just all about all of my waking hours. I get up 3h30 to 4h00 and go to bed no earlier than 20h00. I spend over 7 hours behind the wheel of the safari vehicle. I am always in a planning and preparation stage whether it be for a meal or for some other activity. I am also called upon to solve any of hundreds of small problems that arise. I try to get 2 to 3 hours midday down time.
Second, I bring my skills as a safari guide. I know the creatures quite well, and if you ask a questions that stumps me, I can probably find out the answer. At least I’ll admit I don’t know. I am a professional photographer and if you want some pointers on taking good photos, I’ll be pleased to do my best. I know how to compose a good photograph, such as not taking a shot of a giraffe with nothing but sky in the background....total crap snap, usually. I know one or two other tricks as well. I also know a lot about animal behavior, and I can tell you about what that animal is likely to do when we approach to photograph.
Some animals can also be quite dangerous. Elephants are, of course, a favorite of all visitors, but if you are not familiar with some of their habits, they can be very dangerous. I can read them quite well, and sometimes I can get you very close to a large male or to a herd with babies. It is a remarkably experience, to be sure. But it is not something you want to do without some skill level. That TripAdvisor guy is no help to you if you’ve read that bull the wrong way (are you sure you know all the behavior and physical signs given out by full grown bull in musth?). I can read animals quite well, but I also am prepared just in case I am wrong. I’ll tell you one thing, you won’t be snapping any photos when you are 10 meters from that big guy. And how good are you at driving in reverse?
Third, and probably most important of all, is that I bring my knowledge of every damn road in the Kruger. I have a strange memory that lets me recall hundreds of sightings I’ve had over recent years. Many animals are territorial, and I can return to the spot where I had a good encounter in a previous time. Most often we do not see anything, but it does happen from time to time. I also know what roads not to go on. Some areas are very thick bush and sightings are difficult at best.
So, if you are the adventurous types and want to take on a place like Kruger alone, have at it. You’ll have a good time. You’ll enjoy it. Maybe on your third or fourth safari you’ll really do it first class. But, please be safe.
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