Joanna Booth tracks down the right holidays for different clients
You probably know what safari means. Every so often a helpful journalist in a publication such as this will remind you that it comes from the Swahili word for journey.
But while tracing its etymology gives you a fast fact to drop into conversation, it won’t help you with a much more complicated definition. And that’s what safari means to your client.
The dictionary won’t prove much use in this case, but you should have a definitive list of questions at the ready. Have they been on safari before? When do they want to travel, and who with? Do they have a destination in mind? And what is their budget?Once you know the answer to these, the challenge is to find the holiday that fits perfectly.
Here we’ve suggested budget, family and luxury options.
A safari is never going to be a bargain basement affair, but there are ways to keep the costs to a manageable level, whether it be by camping for a fortnight or staying in luxury for a shorter break.
Old favourite Kenya, with its established infrastructure and direct flights, can offer good value for money, with a £1,500 budget giving clients a range of options.
Many cheap Kenyan safaris go to Tsavo East near Mombasa, and this can prove the most affordable option – Virgin Holidays offers one-night safari breaks at Ngutuni Safari Lodge from £179, which can be bolted on to a week-long beach holiday.
However, this would only really suit a client who is more interested in getting up close and personal with the Mombasa sand than with African wildlife.
2by2 Holidays offers a more safari-weighted twin-centre, with a nine-night holiday starting from £1,378 including Kenya Airways flights from Heathrow. Instead of heading to Tsavo, this affordable escorted option travels overland – in a safari minibus with a pop-up roof for game viewing – to the more desirable Masai Mara Game Reserve, and gives clients four game drives over three days staying at Mara Sopa before heading to the Indian Ocean coast to stay at Severin Sea Lodge.
For those who don’t want beach time and are happy to trade days away for greater luxury, Somak Holidays has a short safari break that packs a right royal punch.
The four-star, four-night, full-board Thorn Tree Safari gives a real variety of terrain, visiting the mountainous Aberdares – where they stay at Treetops, which has hosted the Queen – Lake Nakuru National Park, which has one of the country’s largest populations of rhino, and the game-rich plains of the Masai Mara.
Even during the popular August to October period, the time of the Great Migration, the price comes in at £1,489, including Kenya Airways flights from Heathrow.
Clients aren’t restricted to Kenya. South Africa can be very affordable too, and its diversity makes it particularly suited to clients who want a safari to provide part of a wider holiday.
2by2 Holidays has a two-week self-drive itinerary at a reasonable £1,695, including South Africa Airways flights.
The safari element is in the Kruger National Park, where they stay in national park rest camps within the park itself. South African roads are really good, so it’s easy for them to head off to see more of the Rainbow Nation, including Cape Town, the winelands and the Garden Route.
Those who don’t want to drive themselves but still crave adventure could try On The Go Tours’ new 15-day Wildlife, Beach & Falls trip. It not only visits South Africa, for safari in the Kruger, but also heads to Mozambique, for its beautiful Indian Ocean beaches, and Zimbabwe for more game viewing, before finishing at the iconic Victoria Falls.
This full-board overland camping trip starts from £1,319, with a local payment of $410. The land element of the trip (£595) is on a buy-one-get-one-free special offer until the end of the month.
For many years seen as an adult-only holiday, safari is growing in popularity in the family market. It’s little wonder – what child wouldn’t clamour to see lions and elephants in their natural habitat? However, some lodges have age limits so make sure you check they are child-friendly.
Most parents opt to take smaller children to malaria-free areas – try the Western or Eastern Cape or Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa. Twinning one of these with Cape Town gives kids variety by throwing in city adventures, but also means the family only needs to unpack twice, rather than a safari circuit where they’re moving on every couple of nights.
Kwandwe Game Reserves, which has four small properties in the Eastern Cape, has launched a Horns & Stripes adventure, which is a one-hour game drive for kids, taking even the very youngest out to spot giraffe, zebra and warthogs.
2by2 Holidays makes its Cape Town & East Cape Safari option affordable with family rooms, with the nine-night trip starting from £4,595 for a family of four, including flights with South African Airways from Heathrow. Clients will stay in the Garden Court De Waal in Cape Town, and Kuzuko Lodge in the Eastern Cape.
Gold Medal offers a similar twin-centre itinerary, with six nights including flights for a family of four from £6,196.
In Cape Town the operator suggests the four-star Commodore Hotel, which has family rooms, a swimming pool and a quiet location on the waterfront, and for safari the Shiduli Private Game Lodge in the Edeni Private Game Reserve near Hoedspruit.
There are family rooms, plus children’s activities including a mini tracker course, bush adventures, face painting and hair braiding.
Virgin Holidays offers a short Kenyan option designed with kids in mind. The six-day Mara Intrepids Family Safari starts from £1,999 per adult and £789 per child, with accommodation in two-bedroom family tents with a shared living space.
Families get their own safari vehicle for each game drive and the kids’ club will introduce the youngsters to the culture, animals and traditions of the country, with a range of activities.
The flight from Nairobi is short, only about an hour, and the camp is five minutes from the landing strip, so transfers aren’t long enough for the kids to start saying: “Are we nearly there yet?”.
A safari is one of the most aspirational of holiday types, with many clients choosing it for their honeymoon, so even those who wouldn’t usually splash the cash can be persuaded to up their budgets.
Luxury options range from the higher quality versions of the mainstream to mind-blowingly exclusive experiences with price tags to match.
Botswana is famous for its luxurious safari lodges. Orient-Express’s Savute Elephant Camp and Khwai River Lodge now even have sliding glass doors on their thatched residences so guests get the clearest possible views of the wildlife from their beds.
Many safari areas are private concessions – rather than government owned – which keeps numbers down. But this exclusivity pushes prices up, as does the fact most clients fly between lodges.
The Okavango Delta – a unique wetland environment rich in game – is Botswana’s biggest highlight, and Africa Odyssey offers a short six-night twin-centre there from £6,450, including all flights.
Accommodation is at two stunning Wilderness Safaris camps; the six-room Little Vumbura, which is set on an island, has its own swimming pool and offers safari by jeep, boat and on foot, and Chitabe, another boutique camp with some of the best dry game viewing in the country.
2by2 Holidays has a slightly more manageable option, with 11 nights from £3,995 including flights and stays in the Okavango, the Savuti Plains for land-based game and haunt-of-the-elephants Chobe River before heading over to Zimbabwe for Victoria Falls.
Tanzania is a great choice for high-end safaris, with many operators flying clients around the northern circuit of Arusha, Tarangire, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti to give them the maximum time to enjoy the lodges and superlative game viewing. Somak’s eight-night Elewana Safari by Air starts from £4,540 for travel in April and May.
For clients who like to live like the rich and famous, suggest Ulusaba, Sir Richard Branson’s private game reserve in the Kruger, part of the Virgin Limited Edition Collection.
Virgin Holidays offers six nights’ all-inclusive at Ulusaba’s Rock Lodge with Virgin Atlantic flights to Johannesburg in October from £4,125. Keep an eye out for the opening of Mahali Mzuri next year, a new Virgin Limited Edition retreat in Kenya’s Masai Mara ecosystem.
For well-off families, Rainbow Tours has a Cedarburg, Kalahari and Cape Town itinerary that totals a whopping £21,350 for a family of four.
It’s a 14-night trip that visits some of South Africa’s premier properties, including Cape Town’s Cape Grace, Bushman’s Kloof, with private house accommodation and activities including trips to see Bushman rock art, canoeing, archery and croquet, and Tswalu Private Reserve, where there’s a junior ranger programme and the chance to see black-maned lions, wild dog and meerkats.
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