It is highly recommended going through a tour operator as for many journeys it just makes more sense to go with a Tour Operator Company that specializes in travel to Africa. The same could be said if you're visiting Cape Town for a week. You might miss out on some insider tips or discounts as specialized Tour Operator that can offer and handle all your requests.
Some people think they'll save money by booking a trip independently, but that's not true for many African itineraries. Yes, Tour Operator Companies get a percentage of what you pay for the trip. But the discounts they can pass along to their clients through their relationships with their preferred portfolio of lodges and hotels as well as ground operators, often more than makes up for it. Booking your itinerary to Africa with Tour Operator that utilize local transport, will save all travellers, tourist both time, less stress and money. The key is to find a Tour Operator that specializes in the region you wish to visit according to your interest, needs and pocket.
Reasons as why you should use a Tour Operator:
1. If you are planning to go on safari . It's almost impossible to plan a good safari itinerary without help from an expert, especially if it's your first time in Africa . There are an overwhelming amount of safaris to choose from, let alone destinations . There are many different types of accommodation, ranging from simple campsites to luxury cottages, safari tent complete with plunge pool and personal butler. You can enjoy a safari with a guided 4 x 4 trails self-drive expedition, hot air balloon and boat. You can spot wildlife from the back of a horse. You can walk amongst the big 5 in some of the most remote and wilderness ares, or spend an afternoon interacting with wildlife such as Elephants and cheetah. There are rainy seasons and dry seasons that affect the quality of roads, wildlife patterns and camp locations.
There's a lot to planning a safari, and it is very time consuming to figure it out on your own. So it is best to book through a local Tour Operators in Africa to ensure you get the best possible rates with updated information. <snip>
2. If you are travelling to more than one country, or have less than a month to travel. Africa is massive and the infrastructure is not so great in many countries. This means that getting from A to B can be difficult unless you are familiar with the transport options available. Even if you discover you can get from Okavango Delta, Khwai to Kasane on Mack Air, chances are the schedule may change at the last minute and you could miss going on that Chobe Sunset Boat Crusie. If you have several months to cover a region, then obviously time is not so much of an issue and waiting a few extra days to catch a ferry or bus is not a problem. But if you have just 1-4 weeks to spend in Africa, it's worth using a Tour Operator.
Airline schedules within Africa remain somewhat flexible, are not always easy to book independently, and charter services can also be sporadic. Booking all your transport within your safari/vacation with one Tour Company will help if plans change. Renting a car/minbus with a local driver from a reputable company is paramount, since you will be very dependent on them for their driving, navigating, guiding and language skills and making sure you do not get lost in the wrong places and ensuring clients are able to relax and see all the beautiful surrounding of landscapes. Even if you are planning to see a number of different places within the same country, using a tour operator will help you plan your time and in certain regions and national parks. You need the expert knowledge or you'll end up spending the whole time travelling between places and not enjoying them.
3. If you have specific needs and interests. If you are vegetarian, pregnant, diabetic, travelling with small children, unable to walk up steps, terrified of catching malaria, or have any special desires to see specific animals, people, cultural activities - use a tour operator. If you'd like your kids to eat at 6pm, need a fridge to store your medication, or would love to shop at a local market - a knowledgeable travel consultant can make it happen for you. It's your journey, let someone else do the worrying and planning for you with the expertise and knowledge. Using a tour operator also means that you have someone who is accountable to you if things do not go according to what you have planned and paid for and the Tour Operator is on standby 24/7 to answer any of you calls should any problems arise.
4. If you wish to travel responsibly. It's not always easy to figure out if a Lodge or Hotel is locally owned, if their staff is treated well, or if they are truly environmentally conscious. Since "eco-friendly" is almost a marketing term at this point, the best way to ensure your itinerary is truly responsible is to use a tour operator that vets each lodge or hotel and ground operator that you are paying for. African Safari Guru could be just that tour operator that I am familiar with.
5. If you are concerned about safety and security. Most countries in Africa are stable and safe, but politics and natural disasters happen. A good tour operator stays up to date with elections, weather hazards and high crime areas. A small skirmish in South Africa may not make headline news, but a specialized tour operator will know about it, and can redirect your safari to keep you safe. If the rainy season is looking very heavy in southern Africa - then perhaps switching your itinerary around to include more internal flights rather than road transfers would be a good idea. This would be very difficult to accommodate on your own. Many local lodges and hotels cannot accept foreign credit cards, so making reservations can lead to arduous bank transfers that also feel less than safe.
Moral of the story is to rather use a Tour Operator and ask around <snip>
[Edited: 2014 Aug 15 01:18 - Roosta:95057 - No commercial promotion in the forums, please. See TOS.]