Are you in the planning stages of a private vacation for you, your family, and some close friends? Perhaps you work with an organization or agency and are in the beginning phase of putting together a group vacation? Or maybe you are getting married and are looking for the perfect honeymoon getaway? Regardless of the reason, your research has led you to consider a vacation in Africa where exciting safaris, breathtaking scenery, and vibrant cultures await. Now, for the difficult part: where to begin? The truth is, many travelers do not know that much about Africa, let alone what it takes to plan a vacation in this region of the world. Faced with such a daunting task, you are probably considering other options, such as using a tour operator. But why use a tour operator to plan your Africa vacation? Here are eight reasons to consider:
1. Expertise: If you search the term “africa vacation” on Google you will see that it returns a stunning 36,900,000 results. There are thousands and thousands of different options varying by country, city, hotel, game reserve, safari, and so on. Once you whittle your list of possibilities down, how will you determine which options are the best? This is where the expertise of a tour operator is invaluable. At Lark Tours we have delved deep into Africa, we have a great deal of first-hand experience, and everybody who works for us has extensive personal knowledge, either from having lived or traveled in Africa. We know which restaurants in Cape Town are hidden gems, we know where to find the best safari experiences, and we can tell you exactly why Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve is better than Kruger National Park. We can tell you where to go, the best time to go, and why this particular destination is perfect for your group. Extensive knowledge, coupled with the ability to offer suggestions that match your groups’ preferences, is one of the major benefits of using a tour operator.
2. Connections: As a tour operator, we have a vast network of connections and relationships within Africa. This allows us to offer unique outings, activities, and events that you as an individual would have a hard time arranging on your own. For example, are you interested in visiting a family in a village in Zimbabwe? Or perhaps you like the idea of making your own wine at a vineyard outside of Cape Town? Or maybe you are looking for your own private safari excursion into the backcountry of Botswana? We have the ability to make all these experiences, and many others, a reality for you and your group.
3. Save Time: The real question is, do you have the time and energy it takes to plan a vacation in Africa? Though it may come as a cliché, time is certainly one of our most valuable commodities, since we are all so busy. As a tour operator, we have spent years compiling information about destinations and activities all across Africa. For you to gather information and then figure out the best experiences and the ideal places to stay is a daunting task that could take weeks or more to complete. Using a tour operator means you save time.
4. Details: As an experienced traveler, you probably know by now that the tiny details are what make or break a vacation. Travel in Africa is full of small, yet highly important, details. For example, depending on what safari lodge you visit or what country you are flying within the luggage weight limits vary. In much of East Africa the limit is 32lbs per person while regions in southern Africa vary from 20lbs to 44lbs per person. Moreover, some flights require that all luggage be packed in a soft-sided duffel bag. Here are some more examples: in Kenya and Tanzania you cannot use US Dollar bills printed before 2002. In Zimbabwe you must bring cash with you since you cannot withdraw money within the country and cannot use credit cards at most places. If visiting Tanzania you need a yellow fever vaccination but you do not need one for South Africa (though this can vary depending on what countries you have visited recently). Some safari camps do not have running water or flush toilets. The list goes on and on. As a tour operator, we pay special attention to the details and we provide you with all necessary information about what to expect and how to prepare.
5. Trip Operation: Whether we are creating a custom itinerary for you, or booking you on one of our existing itineraries, rest assured that we are actually the company planning and operating your vacation. We are not booking you on another company’s trip. We have our own staff on the ground and we deal directly with all hotel and safari providers. This means we have direct oversight of each and every trip in order to ensure that it operates according to our high quality standards and meets all your expectations.
6. Logistics: Africa is not like the rest of the world. For the most part, it is far behind the technology curve and often very inaccessible via phone and email. Add to this the fact that business operation hours are very short in most of Africa, there are regular electrical blackouts in many regions, and there is a significant time difference between Africa and the U.S. Calling late at night is a necessity if you want to get a hold of someone first thing in the morning in Africa. If calling at odd hours does not bother you, then the next hurdle is trying to figure out how to correctly dial the telephone numbers. Each country is different and the telephone systems are not necessarily intuitive. Using email is even more frustrating since response time is slow and email servers in Africa are often down. You will have lots and lots of questions to resolve throughout the planning process, which means you need to be able to communicate effectively. Working around the logistics of arranging a vacation in Africa is enough to make you age prematurely. As a tour operator, we take care of all of these logistics, saving you time and hassle. Furthermore, our head office is located in the US, making it very easy for you to call or email us any time.
7. Accountability: Dealing directly with companies overseas, such as safari lodges and hotels, has its own set of unique challenges. Trying to find information about a company and its credentials is often difficult. What are the standards that they are held to? Is there a Better Business Bureau of sorts in Africa? Are companies located in Africa bound by the same laws and regulations as companies in America? What happens in the event of a dispute? When you deal with a tour operator based in the U.S, you completely bypass having to worry about any of these accountability issues. With Lark Tours, we are bound by U.S. rules and regulations and we are here to resolve anything that may go wrong along the way.
8. Safety: Security and safety in Africa is a major concern. There are many countries that are in the middle of war or civil unrest. These are easy to avoid because of publicity and news. But do you know which parts of Cape Town to stay away from? Or what roads in Zimbabwe to avoid? Or what safari destinations are dangerous? These are important issues that we as a tour operator take very seriously. We know exactly which areas pose threats to your safety and we take the necessary precautions to keep you safe.
While planning a vacation is difficult to begin with, planning a vacation in Africa is even more difficult and not for the faint of heart. This part of the world offers so many unique challenges that are tough to overcome. Using a tour operator means you have full access to a wealth of expertise, you save time, you do not have to worry about any of the important details or the planning logistics, you will be traveling as safely as possible, and you are dealing with just one company that is fully accountable for your vacation. What could be better? Most agree that Africa can offer the experience of a lifetime. So call Lark Tours today and let us create this experience for you without any headaches, hassle, or worry.
This article was written by Lark Tours staff members. We reserve all rights to this article.