For those that don’t know me, I’m kind of obsessed with animals. I have been dreaming of visiting Africa since childhood, but I really didn’t think it was in the cards for me anytime soon. I was told it was expensive. I was told it was dangerous. I was told lots of things. Well, I decided to ignore everyone’s unfounded warnings and began to plan a safari in Tanzania. Through months of planning and saving, I made my dream trip happen. The following is everything you need to know about booking an African safari:
Choosing a Tour Operator
Upon beginning my search for a safari tour operator, I had a lot of questions and I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for. I knew I wanted to go Tanzania and I had a rough idea of how many days I wanted to go, but that was it. I started by searching through reviews on Trip Advisor and Safari Bookings. I preceded to email about ten different safari operators. I started off by asking for itineraries for a four, five and six day safari and quotes for each one. At this point, I had no idea what a safari even cost.
I received a timely reply from about two-thirds of those that I had emailed. Some of these were very brief, generic responses and others were a lot more detailed. I took a closer look at those that took the time and effort to write a personalized reply. The first thing I looked at was the quotes I received. I quickly found out that there is a wide range when it comes to the price of a safari. I was able to immediately eliminate those that were out of my budget. This narrowed it down to three and after some back and forth via email, I decided to go with Gosheni Safaris.
I had a budget of $2,000-2,500. Obviously, I would have preferred to save as much money as possible, but I knew this was likely going to be a once in a lifetime experience and I wanted it to be special. It was a large amount of money to send to the other side of the world and to someone that I have never met, so it was important to me that I felt I could completely trust my chosen safari operator.
Peter and his team at Gosheni Safaris were terrific. They replied to each and every one of my emails (there were a lot) within a day and were eager to create a personalized experience for me. I immediately felt comfortable with them. Peter’s sales consultant, Shelley was extremely patient and spent a lot of time tailoring a safari to my wants and was able to give me the perfect itinerary for my budget. I put down my deposit and began to countdown the days!
Every safari is going to be somewhat different. There is a wide range from budget to luxury and varying degrees of in between. Most safari operators can work with you to find something that fits your personal budget, so don’t be discouraged by some of high price tags that you may see online. I went with a friend and we chose a five day/ four night private safari with mid-luxury lodges from Gosheni. This is what worked for me, but choose a safari that suits your personal style and budget. This is what my particular safari included:
Each one of the lodges I stayed at was lovely. The majority were four stars. They were all clean, comfortable and had an extremely welcoming staff. Some were a slightly nicer than others, complete with pools and spa services. Upon booking my safari, I was under the impression that I would be roughing it a bit. That was definitely not the case and everything I needed was readily available. We chose to stay at the Bougainville 2, Ndutu Lodge, Serengeti Serena Lodge, and Ngorongoro Serena Camp. Both of the Serena lodges were absolutely beautiful and probably my favorites. I would definitely recommend booking your safari as soon as possible in order to give your operator sufficient time to secure your lodging. I found that the lodges start booking up months in advance.
All meals were included in my safari package. Drinks, for the most part, were not. I received breakfast and dinner at the lodge each day, as well as a pre-packaged box lunch to take on our game drives. Many of the lodges I stayed at were buffet style. Others had a pre-fixed menu with a few options. If you have dietary restrictions, just let your tour operator know in advance. I’m pescatarian, but ate vegetarian on this trip, and did not have any issues when it came to meals.
My safari with Gosheni included a knowledgeable guide each day and unlimited mileage on our game drives. We ended up driving pretty much the entire day from sun up to sun down with the exception of a break for lunch. We had a fully stocked cooler of bottled water available each day. We went through a lot of water and having it readily available was great. All the park fees (roughly $45 per person/ per park) and transportation to and from the airport were also included.
The price of a safari initially seemed somewhat high to me, but after actually experiencing it and learning what was included, I found the price to be incredibly reasonable. If you think about all the costs associated with it, such as lodging, park fees, and vehicle usage, it is actually an amazing deal. I got a great price for a top quality safari experience with Gosheni Safaris. I can’t recommend them enough. Stay tuned for my next post detailing what you can expect on safari!