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Impressions from my First African Safari

A visit to Africa is a must-do for each Bushtracks expert safari planner. Lauren, a Bushtracks associate program coordinator and a very seasoned international traveler, just returned from her first African safari, visiting reserves in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia. Her first African safari was a wonderful experience, changing her perspective and dispelling some myths she’d had before her adventure.

At Mashatu with new friends from South Africa who have been enjoying the reserve for 25 years.

MYTH #1: I thought I would be on my own traveling on a custom safari

From the moment I was greeted off my plane, I was surrounded by some of the most warm, wonderful people I have ever met, including camp staff, guides and other travelers I met along the way. At the camps, management and guides ate dinner with me, and wouldn’t go to bed until I did, even escorting me to my room. In the morning, I was offered a cup of coffee before I even left my tent. It exceeded any high-end travel experience I’ve ever had in Europe, and I was struck by a sense that the staff genuinely cared that the guest is well looked after. I was also embraced by my fellow travelers, one South African couple even went as far as to invite me to share their special anniversary dinner with them!

At MalaMala, a special place with the very best guides and game-viewing

MYTH #2: Africa is a daunting place to visit

As soon as you arrive in the gleaming Johannesburg airport, you appreciate that you are in a very sophisticated place, which combines genuine African warmth with a dash of British courtesy and efficiency. Every transfer was handled seamlessly, and my inter-Africa flights were on-time, and offered stunning aerial views of a pristine landscape. On the ground my camp experiences were magnificent, and the camps, particularly in Botswana, do a great job of managing tourism in an environmentally aware manner, while providing a living for people. Rather than being a challenging place to visit, my African safari allowed me access to the natural world in a way reserved only for hard-core backpackers in the United States. I was blown away by the amount of education that goes into guide-training, and it showed in the way our guides interpreted the natural world for us.

At Mashatu on an afternoon game drive. The photo says it all: beautiful lions in a stunning setting. 

MYTH #3: Every African safari is like a Bushtracks safari

I really enjoyed getting to know the other travelers in my camps, and hearing their stories. I couldn’t help but compare their other camp experiences to my own, and got a real appreciation for how Bushtracks’ 25 years of experience really shows in every safari we create. It’s the difference between touring a city, like San Francisco for example, and hitting only the guidebook sites, versus having a long-time resident hand pick their favorite places for you. It makes all the difference. Beyond choosing camps which are proven winners for game viewing and the overall experience, we really prepare our travelers well: I was amazed at other guests whose footwear failed them, or who dressed in bright colors and startled the monkeys and birds they’d come so far to see. This was the rare trip where I would not have changed a thing – except to have stayed longer!

It’s not too late to book a 2015 safari featuring MalaMala (one of Lauren’s favorites) and more on The Best of Southern Africa


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