Private Travel Or Group Travel
One of the first questions you need to address when arranging a safari is whether you should choose private or group travel.
In this article we discuss the various options, largely concluding that private travel is usually by far the more preferable option.
Private tailor-made trips
The world of safari is primarily geared up to cater for private tailor-made trips, this is how the vast majority of quality safaris are delivered.
If you want a proper safari, then chances are you will need to work with a specialist agency such as ours to create a tailor-made experience.
We are able to provide you with the whole range of
safari options to choose from, all of the ingredients. Our mission is simply to
help you find the best and most appropriate combination of places, carefully
blended, optimized for the time of year and efficiently connected.
In most cases a private tailor-made trip should be around the same price as joining a group trip on a similar trip. Although in tailor-made trip should be far superior in many ways.
Set departure group tours
Set departure group safari tours, where different guests are combined together on a fixed itinerary, are almost always much lower quality, more commercial and less authentic.
We are very familiar with group safaris, several of
us have guided them on the ground for years. But our considered conclusion is
that travelling in a group is usually fundamentally negative to the safari
Group tours typically offer a standard and inflexible itinerary, constructed from only the limited range of lodges which accept group bookings and often with no variance year-round to take into account the vast seasonal differences.
Most people who book onto group tours do so from printed brochures and standard travel websites. They may also be younger people who positively want to spend all their time with the same group of travelers.
We used to offer group safari tours, but they are so fundamentally poor that we found ourselves unable to continue recommending them. We now only offer private tailor-made travel.
Interestingly, since we made this decision, we have spoken to some of the key people in charge of major group safari operations in Africa and they very much agree with this sentiment. It seems that, on the whole, group safaris are not offered by the safari world out of recommendation, but simply in response to demand from the wider travel industry.
Isn't a group tour lower cost?
The main reason that group tours often appear lower cost is simply that they include lower quality components. If one were to use the same components in a private tailor-made trip, the prices should be similar.
The solo traveler exception
A major exception is for solo travelers, for whom a private trip may well work out much more expensive, since there is no one with whom to share transport and logistics costs.
For a solo traveler with a less than generous budget, there may be little choice other than to join a standard tour, in which case we are unfortunately unlikely to be the right company to help out.
Isn't a group tour more sociable?
Another common misconception is that going on a group tour is somehow more sociable. Certainly, it is true that you will share the experience with more travelers, but that leads to two main problems.
The first is that the larger the group, the more insulated you become from your guides and the local people that you meet. Although you probably think you are travelling to Africa primarily to see animals, ultimately it is the people that you meet along the way who will be just as important to the experience. Group tours tend to bulldoze or whirlwind their way through places, a lot of the subtlety, personality and warmth being lost in the process.
The second is that on a group tour you are stuck with the same set of guests for the duration of the trip, which is a real risk. This is in contrast to a private trip, where you are very much free to meet and socialize with other guests at the various lodges, but you are also free to go your own way when you wish. Couples and families often meet up at lodges and decide to jump in together and share their safari experiences. You do not have to share the whole trip to make life-long friends along the way.
Are there any occasions when a group set
departure safari is better?
The most common exceptions, where group set departures are arguably worth considering are ...
1. Where a trip is being led by a "celebrity guide", either a television presenter, filmmaker or other wildlife specialist, in which case the prospect of spending time with them may be appealing.
2. Where you are specifically looking at a longer and lower cost trip, in which case the budget overland trucks that roam the continent can be a great fun option for a younger crowd.
Otherwise we strongly recommend that you at least take a close look at a private tailor-made safari.