So You Want to Go to Africa: My Frequent Traveler University Presentation

Here’s my Frequent Traveler University presentation So You Want to Go to Africa.

This is a new talk intended to make Africa accessible to those heading to the continent for the first time all the way up to advanced tips for those undertaking journeys to the most logistically difficult and expensive countries. I close with my recommendation for 10 Africa trips.

It is more visual than some talks I have posted so the images will have to speak for themselves.

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  • Gene

    impressive ET itinerary

  • Rich T.

    Thanks for posting. As I am planning a Dream Safari Trip, what was the mistake you referenced? Having unrealistic expectations of things in Africa running with Swiss timing and precision? Or not having multiple wine choices for dinner, etc.?

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  • DaveS

    @Rich, the slide references another well known blogger who went the super luxury route, had endless problems, and spent thousands more than necessary. Unless you absolutely have to have luxurious rooms and gourmet dining, don’t assume high end outfitters give you a better safari animal viewing experience than you can readily get for a fraction of the cost.

    I really liked this post. I’ve been to many countries in other parts of the world, but only a few in Africa. I definitely intend to make it a regular travel destination in the future though.

  • @Rich T – building on DaveS’s accurate comment, what I spent a chunk of time discussion with the attendees and their goals was that it can be a mistake to treat first safari as a ‘trip of a lifetime’ and spend vast sums to have the perfect trip. I likened it to the rare occasion I redeem for business class travel. When I have paid that much extra I have in my head that it better be great and then rather than enjoying it I often get critical and focus on the things going wrong that I would never notice in economy.

    I also asked the group how many regularly going camping. No hands raised. Unless people are sure they will enjoy spending many hours a day in the back of a 4WD on bumpy, dusty roads, followed by sitting quiet in the heat in the hope to spot wildlife, it also is not a great idea to sign up for a whole week of it.

    My first safari was a day trip to Chobe from Victoria Falls. Half a day on a boat, half a day on 4WD, it was a wonderful experience and just the right amount of time for around $100. Time permitting, I might have re-upped for a 2nd day. Any more than that would have been too much for my taste.

    I gave examples such as that and Etosha, one of Africa’s great safaris that is also one of the most affordable and a rare one to allow self-drive and with nice government-run lodges inside the park at comparatively low prices. Take a trip to those, get a sense of what you like and don’t like. Build on that knowledge to plan a lavish safari if that is your interest. Travel hacking upscale options that may be easy in our hobby include the Fairmont in Masai Mara and the Richard Branson lodges using Virgin Atlantic miles.

    (Note: I wasn’t specifically picking on TPG, it just happened that he had recently posted to his huge audience an extreme example of this pattern.)

  • Rich T.

    Thanks for sharing stories & perspectives. You made a great point to your FTU audience about asking about liking camping and connecting the reality of a safari vs. the dream. Great to keep the focus on the overall experience,

    In 1985 I visited a friend in the peace corps in Kenya, and we traveled all around the country for 2 weeks on public transportation and motorcycle and did a budget safari to the Masai Mara in old canvas tents in the park, with warm Tusker beer, and 2 game drives a day – probably $200 for 3 days, 2 nights all in, plus beer. It was a splurge then, and fantastic. I’m looking forward to South Africa this time, to Kruger/Sabi Sands and Capetown. I’ll investigate flights out of Joburg for possible side trips to Etosha or some of the other options- thanks!

  • Eric

    Any plans to present this again at a future FTU or other event? I’d love to hear you give the presentation.

  • john

    That TPG story was interesting. I went the ultra budget route (but still organized tour) for a 12 day Kenya and Tanzania itinerary. It was $166 per day. Kenya was great but in Tanzania I had similar problems to TPG. So its interesting for the amount he paid. It sounds like the staff was the same/same paid (dont care) and the extra money is for flights, nicer cars, nicer tents, nicer food.

    I did this after spending several weeks self driving Bots/Nam/SA; I wanted to try the organized tour for a change of pace and found that I really did not like it. I think the guide books also scared me into booking a tour in Kenya/Tanzania and I sure learned my lesson. Its a little harder to do yourself but definitely a better experience.
    No matter what tour you book in east Africa you will likely end up with shenanigans.

  • @Eric – destination talks are a hard sell to organizers of these events, if attendee surveys from the last one were good maybe I won’t have to strongarm them to let me do it again. Someday I need to figure out how to better put them online. Anything with audio or video will be a massive time investment.

  • DaveS

    Stefan, I’d think that once a presenter has a big reputation for expertise in some area, they’d be willing to give him or her leeway to talk about what he or she wants to and expect it would draw a turnout. I’ve heard and read enough about how to get miles and book awards for business class seats to Paris. I’m interested in the stuff I don’t know well yet – how to get around Africa with points and miles, for example, or simply the tricks for getting lots of destinations into a single trip the way you do. I do some of that (and I know it’s going to get harder after United’s changes in October), but you are expert on that, and those are the sessions I’d attend.

  • Rich T

    I agree with DaveS – don’t underestimate the value of your travel accomplishments and the interest that holds for travel hackers and armchair travelers alike. You could also say to FTU “I’d love to do my amazing credit card update session, but for balance of their event, suggest it is paired with a deep dive on obscure pacific islands, africa, “the other caribbean”. Remind them its ultimately about the travel, not the points. I think I actually see a fantastic book(s) in your future….

  • @Rich T, DaveS – I appreciate all your kind words.

    I don’t want to paint event organizers in a negative light. The people putting together Chicago Seminars, FTU, etc do a great job, most like us speakers are volunteers. I had tremendous latitude this past FTU which led to the Africa and Caribbean sessions as well as a fun general session back and forth with Jason Mayfield of Jason Around the World ahead of his final country.

    Butts in seats do speak, so taking the Caribbean session, I had about 10 people while the 100+ others went to credit card transferable points programs session. I thought East Coast would have more Caribbean interest. Not that audience. Africa was better attended though most attendees were listening to the American Airlines talk. It is fun to do these alternative talks, but it needs to be something the in-person audience wants. I doubt I will do Caribbean again. Africa I likely will.

  • tony manzi

    Hi Stefan,

    That was great. Thanks. I’ve only been to a few of those countries but was smiling and nodding at some of the photos.

    If you want to “better put them online” without the “massive time investment” just have someone video your presentation and post it on YouTube.

  • Rich T.

    Do you have specific recommendations for flying to or staying Kahane? or for your Chobe day trip safari? Sounds like a great combo for a side trip from Joburg

  • Rich T – Chobe is most easily accessed by the many flights to VFA and LVI, so it combines beautifully with a Victoria Falls visit. I am not familiar with Kahane and a cursory search did not turn up a match, can you provide more info?

  • Rich T.

    I just made a bad/wrong assumption that you flew into Kahane to the northern corner of Chobe. I will investigate further…

  • @Rich T – at the time SA had just started Maun service, no award space, very expensive so I did not get to the parts of Botswana. I hear great things and would go back. Safe, prosperous place, has managed diamond wealth well.

  • Lisa K

    I am curious …….in your presentation you have Victoria Falls Hotel or Royal Livingstone as a slide. Are you suggesting those are a good choice for lodging in Victoria Falls? I am planning a trip there in June and have found the lodging there to be limited and very expensive for a family of four. I thought you usually stayed at local guest houses.

  • @Lisa K – those hotels occasionally are reasonable for luxury rates if there is a good promo with LHW or maybe Amex if they list there. Not going to be cheap. I stayed at a cheap guesthouse on the Zimbabwe side which has little midrange. Zambia side has a few resorts along the road around Royal Livingstone. They might not all list on OTAs so check google maps and also Booking.com and Hotels.com. Maybe there is a local South Africa OTA or agent that has good packages, maybe even the local airlines with flight + hotel.

  • This is awesome. I’ll have to catch in person to hear the “Story time” pieces, but great to see a fellow Minnesotan on his way to crossing off the UN list! Really impressive my friend.