Botswana! Yip, you’ve heard about it. Lonely Planet named it the place to visit in 2016. So what is it about the country that has safari enthusiasts starry eyed when they mention it? It might be the wetland wonders of the Okavango Delta, teeming with wildlife, or the Kalahari desert with its expanses of empty space stretching out as far as the eye can see, or the magnificent Chobe River – an elephant lover’s paradise or even the last wilderness areas of the famous national parks such as Moremi Game Reserve.
Images of Botswana lure you in from your TV or iPad and colour supplements tumble from your favourite weekend paper, extolling the virtues of visiting Botswana. And so, brimming with excitement and anticipation, you decide to make that special trip to Botswana.
For those coming in from across the globe, it is going to be a sizeable investment. The flight to Africa, the safari itself, the insurance, the new clothes in neutral shades of stone and khaki – they all add up.
So you decide to work with a reputable agent to help you make this dream safari a reality. There are many out there. Some near you and some in Botswana. Some with variable experiences of the country. So what can you do to make sure that your investment is secure and that you are getting the best, impartial advice and getting the best value for your buck?
We at Liquid Giraffe share some tips on choosing your travel agent:
1. Is your agent credible?
Find out how long your agent has been in the business. Often those who have been at it longer, have more experience and credibility. And they are probably financially more afloat. If you go local, find out if they are registered and are licensed to operate. See a list at Botswana Tourism, and ask if they belong to any official regulatory bodies such as HATAB (Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana).
2. Do your homework
Do some background research. Look at your agent’s website and Facebook page. Are these updated regularly? Is the agent listed on different forums? Have your friends heard of your agent? Very often, an agent suggested by a friend is the best form of recommendation.
3. Does your agent know his stuff?
Check that your agent has been to the areas you want to visit and has knowledge of the country. The best agents are those with an insider’s view of a lodge or a camp and those who keep up to date with changes and developments such as when the water levels are good. We have heard stories. Our favourite was one where guests in the Makgadikgadi Pans asked to see the tigers, as it was in their agent’s itinerary. Tigers in the wild in Botswana? Really?
4. Is your agent insured?
As a traveller, you will need to be covered by adequate medical and travel insurance. But your agent will need to be covered for those ‘whoops’ moments too. Have they got adequate liability cover? Are they financially stable and is your payment secure? In nearly all cases, you will be asked to pay a 20% deposit for your safari. This is often a non-refundable deposit. Your final payment will be required six weeks to two months before you travel. Be confident your agent will not disappear into the ether before your safari. It does happen.
5. Ask for your agent’s Ts and Cs
It is advisable to get the terms and conditions from your agent regarding payment schedules. And make sure your agent tells you what is included and what’s not! You do not want to confirm an expensive safari only to find out at the last minute your agent charges additional fees for a credit card payment, or that road transfers are not included!
6. Cheapest is not best
Agents represent lodges, airlines, mobile safari operators, hotels and transfer companies. They are not responsible at the end of the day for a lack of a service. A good agent though will work on your behalf if an airline changes its schedules or a vehicle has a breakdown. One of the advantages of a local agent is that he or she can intervene on your behalf at the eleventh hour if something goes wrong. Agents with the best service may not be the cheapest. Make sure you are getting the service you want and expect.
Give us a shout to chat and consider some of our Botswana itineraries. See you in Botswana soon! Happy planning.
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