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African Group Safaris & Tours

Signing up to an African safari group tour is one of the most popular ways to go on safari. Having an expert plan the nitty-gritty of your safari package for you saves time and hassle. It means all you have to do is read up on African wildlife and hop on a plane. A small group tour can be a great way to see Africa. Special interest group trips, such as bird watching, conservation or big cats, are recommended. A special interest trip will put you in a group with like-minded people, and the guide will be an expert. Before jumping into a group safari though, there are a few things to consider.

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6 Questions About Group Safari Tours


6 Questions About Group Safari Tours

Answered by Stuart Butler

Why should I choose an African group safari?

“The simple answer is cost. A group safari invariably costs less than a private safari of the same quality. However, there are other reasons. If you’re the type of a traveler who likes to make new friends on holiday, a group safari is the obvious way to go. There are also many specialized or expert-led group safari trips available. These allow you to have experiences that you wouldn’t have on a private safari. For example, a safari led by a renowned elephant or big cat expert will bring knowledge and add depth to your safari. There are also group safaris based on specific activities, such as birding. A small-group safari tour can be ideal for the single traveler who’d rather not travel alone.”


How is a group safari different from a private safari?

“As you might expect on a group safari, your schedule is largely fixed. Any minor changes are made at the request of the whole group. In most cases this isn’t likely to be much of a problem. What can be more problematic though is sorting out priorities when on a game drive. For example, if you’re a keen birder but the rest of your group is only interested in the Big Five (elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino). Or the whole group might be interested in seeing an elephant, but some want to stay longer while others are happy just taking a quick snapshot. Being on a group safari doesn’t mean that you’re going to spend 24 hours a day with the same people. Most likely you’ll only be together when on safari or traveling to and from a park. In the camp, you’ll be left to your own devices. The advantage of a private safari is that you’ll make all your own decisions on schedules and safari details. However, you’re going to pay much more for the pleasure.”


What is the typical size of a group on a shared trip?

“On a budget safari there can be up to 10 people in the vehicle, which can detract from the wildlife-viewing experience. If you’ve signed up to a multicountry overland tour in a specially designed bus, you should check the max number of people they will fit into the bus. Note though, in many parks and reserves these kind of vehicles are banned. If you’re on a mid-range group safari, there will likely be between four and six people in the group. On a high-end safari, there isn’t much difference between a group safari and a private safari.”


What happens if I sign-up for a group tour but it doesn't attract enough people?

“Every company will have its own terms and conditions. You should check these carefully before signing up. Reputable companies will try and make satisfactory alternative arrangements for you. This most likely means altering the route somewhat to be able to merge two small groups into one. Otherwise you’ll be given the options of paying a bit more for the tour operator to run the safari as advertised or canceling and getting a full reimbursement. Reimbursements don’t include any flights purchased. Or, alternative travel dates might be offered. Make sure you read the fine print and ask if anything is unclear or missing. Always choose your operator carefully. Reading recent reviews can be useful.”


What type of vehicles can I expect?

“This depends on how much you pay for a safari. On a budget safari, you’ll most likely end up in a minibus with a pop-top roof. This isn’t ideal. In these vehicles, windows don’t always open fully. If the vehicle is full, not everyone will even get a window seat. This means that most of the time you’ll have to make do with standing and peering out of the open roof. This doesn’t give the best perspective of the animals, and it can still mean limited space for each safari-goer. At the opposite end, on a high-cost luxury group safari you’ll be in a long-wheel-base 4x4 customized for safaris. It will be an open-sided vehicle, and the number of people in the vehicle will be kept to a minimum. This means that whichever side of the vehicle an animal is, you will have a front-seat view. These vehicles often also have camera platforms or beanbags. They also have extra suspension, making for a generally smooth ride on the bumpy roads.”


What should I consider when choosing an African group tour?

“Does the tour visit all the parks and reserves you want to visit? This is the first thing you should look at when considering a group safari. If you have dreams of seeing the Serengeti–Mara wildebeest migration, there’s no point booking a group safari that doesn’t visit the Serengeti or Masai Mara. Also make sure you’re in the right part of the park at the right time of year. Ensure the tour doesn’t visit too many parks and reserves. If it sounds rushed on paper, then it will be hectic when you hit the ground. Many group safaris try and cram in too much in too short a time. The result is that you spend more time traveling to and from parks than on safari. Another very important point is to check the type of vehicle used and how many other people will be in your group. The smaller the overall group size the better. Consider if you have a special interest that might not be compatible with a group tour. For example, if you’re a birdwatcher or a serious photographer, look for a specialist tour dedicated to your interest.”