Bushbuck Safaris operates from here in the North East, and has been leading the way among UK safari companies since the early 1980s. The business has built a reputation with clients from around the world, who benefit from Boo Chrisp’s 35 years of experience in the safari industry.
Here, Boo explains what you should consider when planning the safari of a lifetime, and offers some advice on how to turn your dream safari into a reality.
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Planning the safari of a lifetime may sound at first like a wonderful flight of imagination, but when you actually start to plan it, the reality can be daunting. That is because, while the opportunities and options are virtually endless, knowing how to combine them in a way that will turn your dreams into a reality, while also working for your budget, the needs of your travelling companions and the time available, can turn it into a logistical challenge. That need not be the case.
It may be tempting to put your safari plans into the hands of a large-scale safari operator. These companies will have a selection of branded lodges in a variety of locations, promising a unique experience. Although you will certainly have a pleasant trip, it will not be unique. If you want to avoid busy lodges, crowded game drives and the feeling that you are part of an upmarket package holiday, you may want to look at doing things differently. Because a safari itinerary can be created that is unique to you without costing any more.
Choosing your destinations
You might imagine this is the most important element when planning your safari. Of course, in some cases, it is. If you have visited a number of African countries before or if you have one particular dream in mind – meeting gorillas in the mist, seeing the wildebeest migration, experiencing the watery wilderness of the Okavango Delta or the hauntingly beautiful Skeleton Coast - then these are country-specific.
But if you are not an experienced safari aficionado, then you may find yourself spoiled for choice and unsure which country can deliver the type of trip you had envisaged. Within each country, there are different regions, offering different opportunities for game viewing, types of accommodation and specialist activities. Your choice will need to take into account any number of considerations like the season, the location of best wildlife viewing areas, the quality of the guides, the amount of time you have available and the level of comfort you require.
There is, however, no need to be limited to one country or area.
Flights and transfers between camps, regions and countries are much easier and more cost-effective than you might think, and can help you easily link several destinations in one safari. For example, you can spend time game viewing in one location and then take a short flight to another for some luxury and relaxation or some time on the beach. Or combine a classic safari with a few days doing something more adventurous, like a walking or boating safari with a mobile camp. The main thing is to open up your imagination and think what you really want from your safari, and sometimes it is better to think in terms of several destinations, not just one.
Consider the feel of the safari
When we discuss a proposed safari with a client, we take all these things into consideration. However, and perhaps more importantly, we also discuss how the client wants the safari to feel.
Whether it’s a fortnight of action-packed adventure or a more leisurely pace; an opportunity for shared experiences for a large family group with different interests or a romantic safari for two. You may like the idea of spending a few nights in a fully staffed traditional mobile camp in a remote part of the bush, but would also relish some time spent in a luxurious camp being pampered. You may want the safari to be exclusive to your group or, if you are travelling alone, you may want to have the opportunity to meet like-minded travellers along the way. Only you know how you want your safari to feel, and a good safari agent will spend time listening and discussing this with you before creating an itinerary.
The criteria for the perfect safari will be different for every client but we pride ourselves on the fact that every client goes home with a sense of well-being and calm, at ease with the world and perhaps even with a new outlook on life. Africa, at its best, changes you forever – and we want every client to experience that.
‘Who’ not ‘where’
There is a myriad of options when choosing where to stay. The ‘where’ is only part of the selection process. The ‘who’ is of equal importance. By selecting the best owner-operated, independently-managed camps, guests’ experience can be enhanced significantly. The camps and lodges we select are expertly hosted by highly experienced individuals with fantastic support teams. The guides are knowledgeable and engaging, keen to share their love of the bush, but sensitive to the needs of each party. Because they do not cater for large numbers, they can tailor the experience to you with a mix of game drives, adventures, stories round the camp fire, private down time, sun downers with stunning views; all matching the wishes of the guests.
These operators are highly responsible, working with conservation and communities, respectful of the wildlife and the environment.
Private guided safaris
The ultimate safari is one that is exclusive to your party and which is hosted by your own private guide. They often have their own comfortable mobile camps to access the more remote areas, but also use some of the most stylish and perfectly-located small camps and lodges.
Private guided safaris are a specialism of Bushbuck and we are able to give unbiased recommendations, matching a guide and destinations to a client’s expectations, but still at the same price as you would pay booking direct. We have built strong relationships with the very best private guides across Africa over many years and we engage the services of guides who are rarely available through other channels. Carefully selected for their knowledge, experience, professional excellence and ethical values, these guides are proud members of the Safari Guides Company, which was originally formed in the early 1980s by my father, Mike Shirley-Beavan.
Ideal for larger groups, particularly where there is a mix of generations, the private guide will ensure that everyone’s interests are catered for and needs met. Not only can they offer a range of activities, like boating, walking, riding or bird watching, but they are also fascinating company, sharing their deep knowledge of the bush and passion for conservation. Matching the personalities of private guides to the specific party is a skill in itself and it can transform the experience completely. We have more experience than anyone with private guided safaris.
As one client put it: ‘Our safari was so enriched by the warm and captivating presence of our private guide that we simply couldn’t imagine it could have been better in any way. Each and every one of us thought of him as our friend and mentor.’
Use a specialist agency
Few people return from a safari, of any type or description, without having enjoyed themselves. That is the wonder of Africa. But how much better could a safari be if it were personally designed for you? An agency with many years of experience will work with you to create something unique and tailored to you, providing impartial recommendations and advice on all aspects of the trip.
From advice on choosing destinations to seamless transfers and logistics, from personal knowledge of camps, lodges and hosts (including a network of private guides), a good safari agent will work with each client to meet their brief. They do not have their own lodges to fill, nor do they limit their recommendations to one operator. There are no hitches or glitches; no square pegs and round hole packages, just perfectly put together safaris which surpass expectations.
Yet, using a specialist agency need cost no more than a package safari and costs the same price, and sometimes less, as if you had mastered the logistical challenge, finding and booking the camps, lodges, guides and transfers and put the whole safari together yourself.