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An expert's advice on packaging an African experience for your client

Africa is a far cry from a 'flop and drop' holiday, actually it’s a far cry from just about everything because of the varied experiences that the different locations in the continent offer.

Africa is a far cry from a ‘flop and drop’ holiday, actually it’s a far cry from just about everything because of the varied experiences that the different locations in the continent offer.

Jan Lyons from Platinum Travel and an African expert says before any trip to Africa, travellers need to have a “good idea of where they’re going and why”.

“I’ve heard stories of people going and thinking that Africa will be an experience of a lifetime. They’ve gone out on their first game drive and entirely freaked out and said I’m not going out again. The whole idea of being confronted by wild animals was too much for them.”

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“People don’t wake up one day saying ‘I’m going to go to Africa’, it’s something they think about for a couple of years. People often start off with an idea, investigate further, go to the zoo, have a desire to see the animals in the wild.

“You need to go a minimum of two weeks to get a feel for a part of Africa, but the different parts of Africa have an entirely different feel. If you go to East Africa you might follow the annual migration and experience the vastness of the open African Savannahs but there are many different safari experiences.

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“If you’re going to Africa for the variety of animals and seeing the Big 5 you need to go to the Delta in Botswana. Botswana is relatively safe, the camps and wildlife are fabulous and you will see everything you need to see and some extras.

“Then there is Rwanda or Uganda for the mountain gorilla experience. So really depends on exactly what you want to see and combine but for the first time visitor my recommendation personally is always southern Africa.

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“It gives people a really good feeling of what Africa is like, it ensures they get a great experience and then they can combine that with a beach stay in South Africa, visit Table Mountain. Cape Town is great to get a feeling of what a big city is like in South Africa.

“Victoria Falls is pretty impressive, let me tell you. But with that it’s important to consider the time of year to go to Africa. Anything between December through March can be the rainy season. When it is rainy, the animals disappear.

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“I’ve been out of the game drive while it’s raining and it’s really hard to see the animals.

“But if you go after the rainy season in late March/early April, everything is greener, the Victoria Falls flying after the rain is just amazing. It’s great to go into Africa across our winter months, even though it’s cold in the morning and night, you still get beautiful days but it’s generally dry.

“It’s also really important Africa know that the place is you’re going have good backup and infrastructure and that the people you are dealing with can cope in case something does go wrong. There are parts of the world that, whilst it rarely happens, things can  go wrong, you need to know that there is the backup to get you out of a bind.”

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On this Jan recounts an amazing tale of the strings she pulled to keep the holiday of a lifetime going for one of her clients.

Could a website do this? I’d hate to be on my own without a Travel Agent in this case.

“I had clients travelling through to a private game concession in Southern Botswana, they were flying from Jo’burg to Polokwane by road into southern Botswana. Polokwane was fogged in and the flight was turned back to Jo’burg about half way into the flight,” she said.

“On arrival back in Jo’burg the airline was not being very helpful, so my client contacted me to see what I could possibly do. In the meantime, the flight was rescheduled and my clients were not going to arrive in time to make the border crossing, thus they would miss one day and night of their safari experience.

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“I contacted the wholesale company here in Melbourne (African Travel Specialists) through the MD whose mobile number I have! They are a great wholesaler. They arrange day car and driver to drive my clients up to the border crossing, held open the border for an additional 30 mins or so and my clients made it to their safari camp on the day they should have!

“I am now booking the 5th trip for these  particular clients to Africa.”

And that’s the advice you from a travel agent, and not from a website.

Have you ever travelled somewhere without getting a good idea of the destination first?