Since 2008, under Destined To Travel, I have escorted many groups to various parts of Africa. Though what makes the ideal traveling companion? Even though I travel with the group, having compatible travel partners, who are flexible and personable can be key to a good safari and having all the requisite ‘requirements’ makes for a GREAT safari.
I have nothing but admiration for my guests, and several whom have traveled on three or more of my trips have become not only great travel companions, but great friends as well. From time to time, I will be spotlighting them, and bringing you their stories.
I met her in South Africa. She was traveling with another agent and we were both on a Fam trip. A Fam trip is short for Familiarization and it’s the kind of trip that is offered to travel agents to familiarize them with the location and / or property. On this trip, it was to inspect areas and properties in South Africa. Some Fam trips allows companions, some do not. This trip did.
We bonded almost immediately. Her sense of humor, her personality, and personable nature, her ability to ease in with the group of travel agents made her magnetic. After that trip, we kept in touch often, she from Texas, me in California. Over the years, she frequented Africa with the same travel agent friend several times. I did not have my company then but had started taking groups,, under my then travel company for which i was working. I would ask my friend why she was still paying significantly higher rates, for a safari experience. However, I understood that she was traveling with her friend and that was the company her friend used.
Like me, she fell in love with Africa. Time and time again, when we would speak she’d say she was saving to go to Africa. I knew then that Africa had gotten into her soul; she LOVED Africa.
SAFARI DIFFERENCES – THERE ARE MANY
Perhaps this is a good time to interject some of the differences in a larger company and a smaller private company as Destined To Travel. Make no mistake, there are differences, in many areas. There are many mid-range and high-end companies offer everything from lower end to higher end safaris. The average person would not know how to compare one product with another or one company with another. Comparing apples to apples in a place that you are unfamiliar with is impossible. I hoped my friend would travel with me, as I really enjoyed our conversations. So, when her friend stopped traveling, I mentioned that I was escorting a group to Kenya, and asked her if she’d like to join us. She did! Obviously, I wanted her to know that I pride myself on a more personalized service, so the trip may be different that what she might have been used to. She was amazed as she first walked into a tented camp. She felt she’d died and went to heaven, her words, not mine.
LARGER VS SMALL
She’d never been to a tented camp. Let me point out one of the biggest differences in using a larger company; many of their trips are based on volume, though they also do customized trips. The accommodations can often be more moderate even though the safari itself may cost considerably more. This is because the moderate properties house more people. I use smaller more intimate properties, typically 9-10 tents or 10-15 rooms usually, at best. It does make for a more intimate safari. Typically, the larger companies always use the same properties on their scheduled itineraries. Most always, I switch mine on each safari.
Bigger companies depend on high volume, scheduled departures and prearranged tour itineraries. I complete my itinerary once I determine how many are traveling. The larger company could have more vehicles for their safaris. Remember their clients are coming from all over, so it would depend on how many signed up for a specific date. For most of mine I would limit my vehicles to 3. The exception would be if the trip was geared towards a higher number of travelers. Also, the larger company has a pretty rigid schedule and they keep to it. Destined To Travel has a very flexible schedule and if that means we have to stop at a store, or we want to stay and look at a specific thing we are seeing i.e., a birth, we will stay as long as everyone wants to stay.
Other trips may have any combination of a driver, tracker, escort, or naturalist; my groups have one driver-guide per vehicle, specifically in Tanzania. They must know everything, how to track, what the plants are, the flowers and the animals. And because they grew up in the area, they can relate experiences others might not be able to share. They must also know the areas throughout the country, and all the parks and their different rules and regulations.
Besides my own company, I have been on many other companies’ safaris. It’s a matter of knowing what you are getting, and how to compare what you’re getting, not that one is better than another. You can’t make that assessment until you can adequately compare the two different experiences. And what I’m outlining here are just a few to be aware of.
So is it any wonder when she walked into that first tented camp that she thought she’d died and went to heaven.
Meet Vicki! She’s become a very dear friend and travel companion. Vicki falls into the latter category, specified earlier, someome who has all the requisite ‘requirements’ to make a good safari GREAT. Vicki’s first trip probably got her hooked and the more she went the more she wanted to go. Many feel this way, many do return, others want to, but can’t go as often or at all. The point is that she’s figured out a way to make that happen. When she knows she wants to go, she allows time to save to go. So in one year, after one safari is over, she may decide to start saving for next year – for Vicki, who goes every year, it works. Though many think that everyone who travels with one of my groups is rich, I think most of the participants would disagree with that, big time. Many have saved two years or more. Others make payments, still others make sacrifices in every way they can. Going on safari is a commitment which all are willing to make and keep.
Vicki has made it a priority, and she plans for it. It’s safe to say her love for Africa equals my love and passion for Africa. She can’t get enough and I can’t get enough. Since that first trip, she’s been on several other safaris with Destined To Travel, in fact, she’s been on most of my safaris. With several more planned, in the future, it may be difficult for her to say no. I would love that.
Like me, she HAS to go every year, and, she lives to go to Africa, as she would say. As of now she will be traveling in November 2014 to Kenya, as well as in February 2015 to Tanzania. I truly look forward to traveling with her. She is realistic about travel, and the cost of travel. She also knows a bargain when she sees one. And, for that reason, she is also traveling to Costa Rica with me in April 2015. I think she would say that, in regards to Africa, in comparison with the large ticket prices she had been paying, that my trips are a bargain, so she’s been able to go on more of them. At least that’s what I’d hope she would say.
Vicki has become one of the best friends I have and she’s definitely a traveler’s best friend. Being able to recognize and assess that wherever you are, each country or destination offers something completely different, and an appreciation of that fact alone, truly makes for a great travel companion. She recognizes that, while seamless to the traveler, significant planning goes into a safari, and working out all the logistics, issues and details behind the scenes, are the things that makes for a great experience. Not only has Vicki traveled to Africa with me, but she’s joined other travel groups to Ireland, Scotland/Ireland. She never complains, she’s polite, accommodating, considerate and always aware that she is not at home and everywhere you travel in this world will not always have the conveniences available at home. More importantly, she has a sense of humor that is infectious and she fits in well with any group size, age or gender. With qualities like these, is it any wonder why I enjoy travel with her. Thank you Vicki, for your friendship and your companionship.
If you’re anxious to see Africa for yourself, join me in March 2015 and help me celebrate my seven years in business. Affordably priced, this safari is timed at the height of the migration. Or perhaps the November 2015 safari is more to your liking. Both of these safaris will operate in Tanzania. Are you a teacher? Only have the summer off? July 2016 is in the planning stages. Stay Tuned. Contact me for details, firstname.lastname@example.org • 951-898-6094 • destined-to-travel.com.