Comparing Safaris

Learn more about why its good to compare the safaris and why we feel confidence that we're the best choice.

We are often asked about safaris offered by other operators – sometimes why they’re cheaper or expensive than ours. While it’s a good idea to shop around and compare quotes before you buy, it helps to make sure that you’re comparing diamond with diamond and know what you’re getting. We’ve prepared some hints and tips on what to look out for while you do your research; it’s best to be sure BEFORE the safari then find out the hard way ON safari …

For our purposes, we are going to focus mainly on Kenyan and Tanzania Safaris – since we are ground operators in Kenya, with our own guides and vehicles. However, most of these tips and pointers apply just as well to safaris anywhere in Africa. In Kenya, there is only a handful of quality, established ground operators.

What is the Quality of the Guide/s?

Ask anyone who’s been on safari – from a first-timer to a seasoned safari-goer – what is the single most important ingredient for an unforgettable safari, and you’re likely to hear, “the guide”. An experienced, enthusiastic guide with excellent people skills, great English and a wealth of wildlife knowledge commands a much higher guide fee than an inexperienced, entry-level guide with only basic bush knowledge. This price difference is reflected in the tour price. Please don’t underestimate the importance of a top-quality safari guide.

Cutting Corners

There are various ways for tour companies to reduce their costs and undercut the competition in terms
of price. One such is to offer ‘daily departures’ but not with a fixed group (as mentioned above), which can mean that new arrivals/departures are collected from/dropped off at the entrance gate daily sometimes as part of your game drive). In our experience, this seldom makes for a happy safari. Apart from the interruptions to your game viewing, day one guests have different expectations today three guests: a recipe for disappointment and frustration. For example, day one guests likely wish to stop for almost any animal, whereas day three guests aren’t that keen to stop and gaze at the more common animals that they’ve seen plenty of already, like a herd of impala, zebra or a warthog next to the road.

Another biggie is lodgings. Some budget lodges are perfectly good in every way, just more basic than luxury lodges. Some are simply too basic, too badly located, or too badly managed for us to recommend. Some use shared ablutions instead of offering a private bathroom. Do what you can to find out more about where you will be staying. Here are some pointers:

  • Is there air conditioning and/or overhead fans (most safari lodges are in hot climates)?
  • How many rooms/suites are there?
  • How many guests are there per vehicle on a game drive?
  • Are the bathrooms en-suite or shared?
  • What is the game drive traversing area like and with whom do they share it?
  • Is the lodge inside an actual reserve or park? Is it on private land, a concession area or in a national park? How big is the reserve?
  • Is there a good staff to guest ratio?
  • Has the lodge been going for some time?
  • Are the guides of a high standard? Check their reviews to find out.
  • Is it poorly located, for example near a boundary fence and perhaps close to villages where you’re
    likely to hear loud music, partying and domestic animal noises at night

Shouldn’t I Just Book Everything Myself?

Of course, you can, but you’ll be putting yourself to a whole lot of extra work. Booking with a good operator won’t cost you a penny more; in fact, we are often able to save you money on accommodation rates. We know which are the easiest, most affordable ways to get from A to B, where there are detours and poor roads. We can advise you on things like where you should allow for extra time between places, what the baggage allowances are, what you should pack and where the best places are that are most suited to what you’re looking for in a dream safari. Just as we can advise you which township tour operators, lodges, transfer companies and hotels to avoid.

Also, if you book yourself you’ll need to pay many individual suppliers separately. Some of them may be slow to respond. And you have no recourse or protection if anything goes wrong. It helps to have someone in your corner to negotiate with suppliers on your behalf.

To sum up, booking with us gives you peace of mind because:

  • You’ll get the best rates.
  • There are no hidden extras.
  • You’ll get insider, first-hand destination and safari advice from our friendly, knowledgeable, well-traveled consultants.
  • You can turn to someone if anything goes wrong and you know it’ll be followed upon.
  • You’ll get a handy, detailed travel guide to inform you about what to expect; with advice about a range of issues like tipping, safety and money; information on additional activates; what to bring; and even what to do if you need the bathroom during a game drive!
  • You’ll be able to enjoy a seamless, organized safari where all the hassles of planning and booking
    have been taken care of for you.

Best Price Guarantee

Please, if you find something cheaper, ask us about it! We are here to help. Our Best Price Guarantee ensures that you will always get the best price from us, so you’ll never pay more for the exact same lodge or safari itinerary.

Please ask our opinion about a particular tour or safari or lodge if they seem to be cheaper than something we have offered you. We take pride in offering unbiased, honest and helpful information. It’s a good idea to shop around and compare what’s on offer, but please don’t assume cheaper is better or the equivalent. If it’s cheaper, there might be a good reason why it’s cheaper, and we’ll be happy to examine the quote and comment on it, so you can make an informed decision, and compare apples with apples.

Why Are Some Safaris Cheaper?

Some safari companies seem to offer cheap Kenyan safaris – and sometimes even cheap Tanzania Safaris as with all things in life, you get what you pay for, and there is always a reason something is cheap. Here are some possible reasons:

  • First, check what exactly is included. In some cases, the price excludes things like your transfers from Nairobi or your daily conservation fee (park fees) in National Parks. We include that in our pricing. Many Kenyan safaris don't include the return transfers from Nairobi in their initial quote or website pricing.
  • Perhaps the camp/accommodation is not inside the National Park itself ... nor inside the private reserve. They save on conservation fees this way. A number of "National Park" safaris we know of are actually based outside the park, at a cheap "safari lodge" or even at cheap accommodation in a nearby town.
  • If the accommodation is situated outside National Parks, you'll be entering National Parks as a day visitor, subject to queues at the gate, or getting off to a late start (the early part of the day is the best for game viewing). We know of "National Park safaris" which are based almost an hour from the nearest park gates.
  • In the case of cheap safaris to the private reserves, some operators have an agreement with small lodges with very limited traversing rights, not shared with anyone else, which means you're unlikely to enjoy the big cat sightings that private reserves are known for. The best lodges have access to a huge traversing area with many safari vehicles in radio contact, calling in sightings so that you have unbeatable game viewing opportunities.
  • To save costs, some cheap operators tend to use entry-level, inexperienced guides on minimum wage. Highly experienced guides like ours cost more. More about that below.
  • Some operators use tented accommodation, without air-conditioning, and using shared, public ablutions instead of your own private bathroom. There are also budget huts in Kenyan Safaris which cost a lot less than the standard bungalows, but they don't have a private bathroom and use shared ablutions.
  • Others use cheaper accommodation in fenced-in, small reserves outside the parks to save costs (in some cases also with basic facilities and shared ablutions - a fair distance from your tent).
  • Conducting most of their game drives and bush walks in small, fenced-in reserves where the game is limited in numbers and variety, keeps their costs lower.
  • Third-party booking agents or resellers marketing the "Kenya & Tanzania Park Safaris" may not have any knowledge of the accommodations or tour itself, having never done an inspection or site visit, and are perhaps not familiar with the area as a whole. Be careful of safaris which are vague about what accommodation is used and where it is actually situated.
  • One way to streamline logistics and save costs is to not have scheduled departure dates and fixed groups for each safari as we do. A number of safari companies operate as most game lodges do - every day they pick up new guests and drop off departing guests. But this comes at a price. We will get back to this point below.
  • Lastly, some lodges and operators offer deals that are only available to locals. If you've seen a very good deal online, check the fine print to make sure it's available to everyone, for all dates and seasons, not just to local residents or during low season.

When To Apply?

  Application Deadline Decision
Early Decision 1 November 1 December 15
Early Decision 2 January 1 February 15
Regular Decision January 1 April 1

Where to submit necessary documents?

Documents not submitted through the online method can be mailed to:

Box 35300
1810 Campus Way NE
Bothell, WA 98011-8246 USA