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Sharing the details on how we decided to spend our honeymoon sleeping in tents with lions prowling around!
Spoiler alert: We loved it and can’t wait to go back someday!
Why a safari?
Travel is a big part of Brian and I’s life together. We try to make it to the ocean (we live in Indiana) four times a year, and we try to work in at least one “big trip” a year. I don’t think it surprised anyone in our family when we chose a destination wedding in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The wedding week could easily have doubled for a honeymoon, but one of our reasons for having a destination wedding was so that we could limit the guest list (and therefore the cost) and go on a super exciting honeymoon.
We toyed with several ideas. Our short list included:
- A sailing vacation in the Caribbean
- A safari
- French Polynesia
The process of elimination was employed to whittle it down to a winner.
First, neither of us have ever done a long sailing trip or slept on a sailboat, so we eliminated the sailing vacation idea pretty quickly. We were worried one of us would end up being horribly seasick and the whole trip would be uncomfortable.
The next idea to get knocked out was the European vacay. We’ve both spent a lot of time in Europe, though never together. His dream destinations were places I’d already spent a lot of time in and vice-versa. We decided we wanted to do something that was new for both of us.
Next up, next out, Fiji. While Fiji looked amazing, the experience of beautiful landscape and beaches was one we were very familiar with, so while it wasn’t a specific destination either of us had been to before, we decided we wanted to step even further outside of our comfort zone.
The final destination to get knocked out of the running – French Polynesia. I still think we’ll go there someday. Maybe a big anniversary trip? Once we really started looking at the differences between a French Polynesian vacation and a safari, we realized that there were some amazing and exotic beach locales in Africa that would meet our needs for beach time, so essentially we could have the best of both worlds if we went that direction. The downside, I’ve still never slept in one of those overwater bungalows. I know, I know, cry me a river.
It took us a long time to make it to this point but – the decision was made – we were going on a safari!
Choosing Our Safari.
One of the first clarifications I want to make here is that you don’t HAVE to work with a safari outfitter. These companies are essentially middlemen, or travel agencies, to book with other smaller tour groups and camps in Africa. If we were seasoned veterans who had been to Africa lots of times, we might skip this step but for our purposes I would say that it was absolutely essential. They know the guides and tours and have been to the camps and countries. It’s so important. I highly recommend working with a travel company to help you plan and organize your book.
The number of companies organizing safaris is daunting. I googled and came up with list of over 40 in less than an hour! I knew a handful of people who had traveled in Africa so I scrapped the internet for a while and reached out directly to them.
I asked my friends who they selected, but also asked which companies they had spoken with and not chosen, gotten quotes from, etc. I wanted to know why they did and didn’t choose each company they interacted with.
Once we had this list of names from friends, we hit the internet and start researching. How long had they been around? What kind of reviews were available on-line? What countries did they operate in?
We used this research to narrow the list down even further:
Mahlatini – An acquaintance of mine used this company for her honeymoon and highly recommended.
Yellow Zebra – One of my friends got a quote from them but ultimately worked with another company, but they stayed on the list because their reviews were stellar.
Go2Africa – One of my very best friends used this company for her safari and had nothing but positive things to say (and beautiful photos!)
Micato – This was a google find. They are very highly rated.
I wish I could tell you that there was a super simple formula to decide between these. We reached out to each of the four and started working through the process with each to get a quote.
We ended up working with an absolutely wonderful company – Yellow Zebra safaris. Shout out to James Shortt for being such an excellent guide through the process. If you’re looking for excellent guidance – he’s your man!
Some of the reasons we picked James and Yellow Zebra:
- He made recommendations of country, time of year, and even camps and lodges based on our desire to keep it more “adults only” (not in a creepy way) and not be there with lots of families taking their kids on safari.
- He had personally been to every camp we talked about at different times of year. He told us the pros and cons in advance.
- He helped us select a list of parks that we wanted to visit, then provided us with High-Medium-Low price accommodations for each location. He explained the differences and trade-offs.
- He helped us decide whether to fly or drive between destinations, and which destinations it made the most sense to pick a lodge vs. camp. He even gave us advise on which flight routes to take, and the implications on vaccinations and Visas.
I’m not going to tell you that price wasn’t a factor in deciding which company to use, it was. Yellow Zebra was middle of the road out of the four companies we received quotes from (keep reading, I’m going to tell you prices). Micato looked great – but cost a bit more than Yellow Zebra for what seemed like a comparable trip. Go2Africa was the most reasonably priced but they just didn’t offer the level of expertise and guidance that we got from James. The customer service from Yellow Zebra was exceptional during the safari – and we ended up having to call for some help on a flight issue while we were there and amazingly, we had results within MINUTES from a remote beach in Zanzibar. But – more on that in my next post. Simply can’t say enough how wonderful they were.
What we chose.
We chose, what is and will likely remain, they very best trip of our lives.
Seven days of safari around the “northern safari circuit” of Tanzania, including Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Serengeti (Oh, my heart, the Serengeti) followed by five nights at THE most exquisite boutique hotel – Hotel Matlai – on the beach in Zanzibar.
Again, James, wherever you are in the world, THANK YOU for your recommendations because it truly was perfection.
Every decision we made in planning impacted the price.
You can choose camps or lodges at every destination. Camps are typically cheaper. We chose to start out at a camp at Tarangire, then on to the absolutely breathtaking Plantation Lodge for Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater, followed by another camp at the Serengeti. We chose to fly between destinations which increased the price. We chose not to book private jeeps and to share jeeps with other travelers which lowered the price.
Now, you don’t know me very well, but I’m telling you that I constantly weigh options and decisions and love to talk about what I would do differently. I wouldn’t do ANYTHING differently about our itinerary. Truly nothing.
So – drumroll please…..
We ended up spending about $8,000 per person. That includes alcohol and meals and transports, everything. It’s a shocking number, I know but we had a small wedding and built this into our wedding budget. It was absolutely worth it to us but I have no doubt that had we gone with one of the less expensive trips, it would have been well worth it too.
Prices we were quoted ranged from $3,500 per person way up to over $20,000 per person.
So now that I’ve dropped the biggest most awkward piece of info EVER…..that’s it for today!
Next week I am going to share more information about the actual trip, including details about the camps, the hotels, the flights, a full round-up. I’m also going to provide a post of how we prepared and packed for the trip from Visas, to bug protection. Please hit subscribe to get those posts delivered to your inbox and follow and share on Pinterest and Instagram.