After shedding light on her company’s guided trips to the great migration of Tanzania, we asked Reefs to Rockies founder and wildlife biologist Sheridan Samano to share wisdom gleaned from more than six years in the business of eco-tourism and taking people into the wilds of Africa—and the not-so-wild places, too.
WAM: What should travelers to Africa pay attention to when selecting their safari outfitter?
Sheridan: Travelers should pay attention to the following:
• Game viewing opportunities provided by the outfitter. Does the outfitter use vehicles where everyone is guaranteed a window seat? In other words, might you be stuck between people on either side of you obstructing your views? Do game viewing locations change throughout the season following the migration? Are night drives an option? What about walking safaris and/or off-road game drives? Does the outfitter try to get you away from the crowds? If so, how?
• Guides. Your guides are going to add exponentially to your game viewing experience, so look for expert guides.
• Location of the camps and/or lodges. How close are they to the wildlife-viewing sites and airports? And how much time will you spend in-transit?
• Style of accommodations. There are a wide variety of options available, from mobile tent camps to high-end luxury lodges. What are you looking for in the way of comfort, food, views, etc. when you’re not out searching for game? It’s amazing how tiring safari drives can be for clients.
• Cultural opportunities. Does the outfitter include opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in the local culture (visits to local schools, clinics, festivals, etc.)? Are the staff members from nearby communities? Are they encouraged to interact with guests?
WAM: What tips do you have for travelers to Africa to minimize their footprint on the ecosystem?
Sheridan: Pick lodges and outfitters committed to sustainability, community development, and conservation. Businesses that adhere to these practices will be happy to share it on their websites and in their promo materials. If these concepts aren’t mentioned on their websites, don’t be afraid to ask them or your travel consultant directly about their commitment. In addition, check to see if your travel planner is also committed to the same principles.
In addition to preferentially selecting local partners in Africa committed to those principles, in the case of Reefs to Rockies, we makes donations to local conservation efforts on behalf of all clients we send to a destination.
WAM: What else do you think we should know about traveling to the great migration and to Africa more generally?
Sheridan: Planning a trip to Africa can be a bit overwhelming because there are a wide variety of options out there. We recommend that travelers booking a safari consult someone familiar with travel planning to Africa, as an expert can help narrow down the choices and help design an itinerary that fits with the traveler’s “ideal Africa getaway.” For many travelers, this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and the details can make or break that experience.
Slides from Sheridan