It will be impossible to plan and go on a safari by yourself without some help from a tour operator but finding a tour operator by itself can be daunting. However, the first step is to decide on a budget. This will determine whether you want an exclusive private safari or are happy with staying in group accommodations and touring with others. Once this is decided, it’s time to research tour operators.
The first step is to find a reputable tour operator:
It’s important to look into the background of a potential operator and make sure they have all the necessary permits and licenses for running safaris. You should also check their reviews and see what kind of experiences other customers have had. It is helpful to contact several operators before making a decision, as this will give you an idea of the pricing and services offered.
If you’re looking to come to Kenya on a safari, you may start your research by looking at tour operators focussed on Kenya from your home country. If you’re in the US, there are registered tour operators under the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTO). I, however, realized that most foreign-registered tour operators have significantly more expensive packages. While they provide more comfort being located in your country of origin and perhaps speak the same language as you, you may not get the best value for your money.
Which brings me to my suggestion. I recommend researching from within Kenya and finding a local tour operator that can provide me with an authentic experience at a competitive rate. For Kenyan tour operators, find one with at least one-year operational experience and registered with the Kenya Association of Tour Operators(KATO). KATO members are bonded in that they provide a certain level of service, are insured, and adhere to KATO guidelines. It is also important to look into the company’s track record in terms of customer satisfaction before making your final decision.
If you make a booking with a tour operator that is a member of KATO, your tour will be insured. This means that if the tour operator stops operating after you’ve made your booking, your booking will still be insured.
KATO membership is not enough…
Read..and read reviews;
If you want to be sure that the tour operator is reliable, read reviews from people who have previously taken a safari with them. This will give you an indication of how comfortable and safe those customers felt while on the safari.
Make sure their drivers are licensed and experienced in driving through different terrains. It is also important to make sure that the tour operator or safari company is registered with KATO, which is an association of legitimate and licensed operators.
How do I actually book the right safari package for me?
Once you have identified the right tour operator for your safari, it is time to find the right package for you. Start by determining what type of scenery and activities you’re looking for: do you want to go on a game drive or a walking safari? Would you like to stay in lodges or camp out under the stars?
You may want to be a bit more specific on what you want to see. For example, you can only see Wildebeest migration in the Mara during certain months. You may also want to consider the length of safari you want and if you would like to add other activities like hot air ballooning or a boat tour.
The activities you choose may dictate the number of days you will need to complete your safari. Be sure to communicate these preferences to the tour operator and they can provide a customized package for you that meets all of your requirements.
Tips to pick the best package to book: 5 considerations;
1. Budget: Make sure to budget for your safari and not go into debt. There are different packages that cater to all budgets so you don’t have to worry if you cannot afford an expensive one.
2. Length of stay: Decide how many days you want to be on safari; this will help determine which package is the most suitable for you.
3. Accommodation: Decide on how much comfort you need and decide between camping, lodges and hotels.
4. Activities: Select the activities you want to do and make sure they are included in your package; this could include game drives or other experiences such as hot air ballooning or boat tours.
5. Reviews: Read customer reviews of the tour operators to have an understanding of what kind of experience you should expect.
Types of safari to choose from;
If you want a safari to see wildlife, pick a game-watching or wildlife safari preferably at any of the key tourist destinations such as Masai Mara, Tsavo, Amboseli, or Lake Nakuru. As you pick a package, consider those that indicate target destinations and wildlife species. For example, some safaris specifically mention if you’ll get an opportunity to see the big cats or a certain bird species.
For those looking to explore the culture and history of Kenya, pick an ethnographic or cultural safari with visits to tribes like the Samburu, Masai, Turkana etc. You may have to specifically ask your tour operator if you want to stay in a local village, interact with the locals and sample African cuisine so that your tour operator can customize a package for you.
If you are looking for an adventure safari, then pick one of the many adventurous activities offered by some tour operators such as camel treks, mountain climbing, sandboarding or white water rafting. A family-oriented safari would involve activities suitable for the whole family such as game drives and visits to conservation parks.
I recommend beach holiday safaris for some periods of the year such as April and May for those looking to relax by the beach after a long safari in the bush.