For the last six year, Rhino Africa has won the World Travel Award winner for Africa’s Leading Safari Company (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018) This is great validation for what we already knew based on our experience planning a safari in Africa in 2014. Choosing the best African safari tour company can make or break your trip.
When we decided to take the ultimate trip – an African Safari – we researched all available options. We were traveling with friends who had taken a luxury small group tour to Kenya a few years earlier. So we looked into group tours, private tours, and even into organizing the trip by ourselves. This last option was quickly eliminated as we realized the logistics of traveling in Africa. Great for some, but not what we over-50s were up for!
Why we chose to work with a travel company for our safari
Our wish was to travel for three weeks with one week in Cape Town between the weeks of safari. And we wanted to visit the Okavango Delta, which was not included in most of the group tours. But our primary reason for choosing a tailor-made trip was our desire to do what we wanted, not what the tour group might want. We had no desire to visit diamond mines or do a lot of shopping. We wanted to concentrate our time in game reserves.
Another reason to plan your safari with an agency is the cost. The agency works directly with the lodges to provide you with the best accommodations at the best price. The luxury group tour companies add the expense of a group leader, etc., to your cost. Having a leader is not necessary on safari as each game lodge will match you with a safari guide.
There are many excellent travel agencies that will put together an itinerary for you. We knew that we wanted one based in Africa to get the best advice and service. We researched on TripAdvisor and other sites to find the best agency for our trip, and decided on Rhino Africa.
Our choice – Rhino Africa
Rhino Africa is based in Cape Town and specializes in itineraries in Southern and Eastern Africa. We read the almost universally 5 star reviews before contacting them for a quote.
Our consultant Renee Johnston was knowledgeable and remarkably patient. We gave her our budget and our wishes and she put together a luxury safari at an almost affordable price. The four of us had lots of opinions and requests that Renee cheerfully accommodated through three or four written quotes. Over the course of a month we had created an ideal itinerary at the budget we’d stipulated.
We received a beautiful brochure of our own custom tour with each quote. Photos were included of each lodging and every bit of included and excluded cost was clearly presented. The cost of the trip was much lower than packaged tours with similar luxury safari lodges – another plus for Rhino Africa!
We confirmed this recently when we began planning our second safari in Africa. We asked our agent to put together a safari identical to one of the luxury tour companies. She came back to us with a lower price for better accommodations.
Our experience on a tailor-made safari by Rhino Africa
A Glitch in the Plans!
Six weeks out from our trip, our traveling companions had to cancel due to illness! We were truly stunned and concerned about taking this complicated trip alone. Renee assured us that we could cancel if necessary (we had travel insurance), but that we needn’t worry about the logistics. Rhino Africa would be there for transfers, etc. We decided to trust her and go ahead on our own.
Journey of a Lifetime Begins with a Single Step
It is only when you take a trip that you discover the potential pitfalls, mistakes, and challenges, etc. So it was with this trip. We flew into Johannesburg and were immediately surrounded by lots of ‘helpful’ people who could guide us to our hotel. But Renee had stressed that our hotel was just across from the terminal and we were to walk to it. How relieved we were to see the Intercontinental Airport Sun as we departed the baggage area. Another passenger on our flight looked back at us enviously as she was swarmed by the ‘helpful’ crowd. Next morning we were off to Zambia – again with a short walk across the street.
There are benefits to group tours – having a designated leader to assist you, and making friends along the way. We definitely appreciated this on our Abercrombie and Kent Egypt trip. These benefits are not as important on a safari.
Connecting the dots: the logistics
We were picked up at the Livingston airport by Biswell, our ranger guide from Sanctuary Sussi and Chuma. We met other guests at mealtimes and around the boma, but spent most of the day with Biswell. He took us on sunset boat rides on the Zambezi, and game drives in the nearby park.
We spent a full day at Victoria Falls. After a tour of the Zambian side of the falls, Biswell took us across the river to Zimbabwe and handed us over to a guide from Wilderness Safaris. We were never left on our own (except at our most excellent high tea at the Victoria Falls hotel). One afternoon in Zimbabwe was too short so we hope to return again. We are keeping this information for when we plan our next trip – Zimbabwe Travel
Getting from Zambia to Botswana was more of a challenge – and an exercise of faith in Rhino Africa. Biswell drove us to the Kazungula ferry crossing, where we crossed in a small boat to Botswana. We were assured they’d be a man on the opposite shore who’d take us to the airport. Admittedly we were anxious. We had no tickets for the transfer, nor tickets for the flight to the Okavango Delta. But there was indeed a man who did indeed take us to the airport where we boarded a tiny plane to the delta. Our new guide met us at the airstrip and a chorus of singers greeted us as we arrived at Sanctuary Baines. Delightful!
Our remaining transfers went perfectly as well. We ended the trip at Londolozi which was, without question, the most luxurious of our lodges. Again, we were delighted that Renee and Rhino Africa had organized the itinerary so that we’d be there last.
Planning a safari in Africa: Small Group vs. Tailor-Made Itinerary
Pros for planning your own African Safari with the #1 Africa travel company-
- ability to chose exactly what we wanted to do,
- confidence that all transfers will go as planned,
- cost lower than packaged tours with identical accommodations,
- experienced travel experts recommended the right accommodations for us, in the best order for enjoyment.
Pros for going on a Small Group tour –
- travel made easy – no concerns about transfers, etc.
- a packaged group tour offers companionship for the trip, especially nice during transfers and travel days.
- luxury tour companies include perks- ‘free’ duffel bags or luggage tags.
Our thanks and highest praise to Rhino Africa for a most incredible adventure! We look forward to traveling again with the help of Rhino Africa – Kenya and Tanzania up next!!
Would you prefer to travel with a group, or plan your own African safari? Whatever choice you make, enjoy your safari! It is the trip of a lifetime.
For more information on how we prepare for this ultimate adventure, visit –
- Packing for Safari in a Carry-On
- Gear and Gadgets for an African Safari
- A Day on Safari in Londolozi
- Recommended Books for an African Safari
2 thoughts on “Safari Planning: How to Choose the Right African Safari Tour Company”
I enjoyed reading your post! It was very engaging and enlightening. Now am torn between a tailor-made tour and a group tour, but I think I’m leaning more toward the group tour. Thanks for the insight!
Either one will be great! Have fun planning!