Let me preface this post with this fact: I have never met anyone who did not absolutely LOVE the safari they chose. Abercrombie and Kent, Thomson Family Travel, Backroads, are all companies that I have heard nothing but 100% besotted, enthusiastic, wouldn’t change a thing reviews.
With that said, I can only share what I learned from being on the safari that we chose. I cannot take one bit of credit for this once in a lifetime, bucket list experience. All that credit goes to my friend Rob. For the past 5 plus years, he took it upon himself to carefully converse with anyone he encountered who had been on safari. He looked for patterns. He gleaned price points. He made mental notes and like a leopard in the jungle, he pounced when the perfect opportunity arose: his wife and his friend’s wife had a big birthday to celebrate. By god now was the time to go on safari.
Here are some questions I posed to Rob that may be beneficial to you as you begin your planning:
How did you choose your travel agent?
I chose Pulse Africa after combining conversational research with research on the internet. They had many travel awards and the reviews were uniformly glowing. They seemed friendly, knowledgeable and not pushy. When I first reached out they steered me away from the safari as the kids at the time were too young. They said it would work, but not be optimal. They stayed in subtle contact, which I appreciated.
What appealed to you about the private safari vs. one of the larger tour operators?
I thought it would be more fun to be in smaller camps and have more control over our activities. Because we picked a smaller outfitter, the price tag associated with the trip was comparatively less than traveling with a larger outfitter.
Knowing what you know now, would you make that same decision and why?
Yes. We loved the smaller camps and enjoyed our encounters with other travelers along the way. The level of service was top notch (see Nomad guide article) and the experience across the board was 5 star. The guides were amazing and hyper focused on making sure we loved every aspect of the experience.
How did the travel agency help you determine how to spend your time?
Out of the gate I asked for small camps that were close to wildlife. Everything about our itinerary was built around these two things. I asked to see varying terrain, wildlife, and accommodations. We wanted to end the trip culminating in the ideal place to celebrate the birthdays. They could not have done a better job suggesting MKombe’s Lamai House. An unbelievable home and the perfect place to end our safari.
They identified geographically diverse locations that made sense from an efficiency perspective as well as from a crescendo perspective on the lodging front. For the birthday celebration they suggested a balloon ride over the Serengeti and surprised us with a traditional African dinner where we ate with our hands and were treated to a traditional African birthday song. The outfitter they chose, Nomad Tanzania, provided many welcome and delightful flourishes such as outdoor breakfasts, lunches, and cocktails in the bush.
What other planning services did Pulse provide?
Everything really. They helped us allocate our 13 nights of travel. They advised on how many nights to stay where and why. They hired the outfitter. They coordinated the internal African flights and verified that our international flights from the US were correct. They made sure there were drivers to meet us at the airport and provided packed lunches should there not be food available on the plane. They organized the balloon ride over the Serengeti and magically produced our favorite champagne for a toast later that night. They advised us to pick a location for some post safari R&R and found us a lovely place to relax in Zanzibar. We thought two nights would be enough and they gently suggested that four would be better. They were right about that too! They were available for any and all questions and were always so pleasant and well informed.
How did Pulse choose Nomad Tanzania?
Pulse has known and respected the owners of Nomad Tanzania since it’s inception. They trust the outfitter for it’s small camps and it’s nimble ability to get it’s customers closer to the animals. The 14 camps that Nomad has built are solar powered with LED lighting and uniformly leave a minimal footprint.
Any advice you’d give to someone planning a trip like this?
Find someone you can trust who is considerate of your budget and is able to sew together a trip that makes sense for what you want to see and what you want to spend. I would recommend beginning discussions well in advance of a year prior and booking just under a year before your voyage. This will give you first choice on the best lodging available and potentially enable early booking discounts which are always nice to receive. There was a lot of back and forth as they were building the trip and the price fluctuated based on the decisions made, often in our favor.
Would you go on another trip with Pulse?
Yes! Absolutely. At the end of the day we chose a company with decent humans who listened to what we requested and cared about our experience. They were gracious, knowledgeable, and flexible – the entire planning process was a pleasure and the trip was beyond fantastic. Thank you Pulse Africa!
Great Q&A write up for safari advice. I chose my own safari company (Rothschild) in part for its award-winning credentials. Still, judging from the photos and story, there’s nothing second-rate about your experence.