Eastern or Southern Africa Safari: Does it matter?

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Roadblocks have a different meaning on safari.

An African safari?  It’s a big decision for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Wildlife is everywhere, so does it matter where you go? Activities or sights other than game viewing might be a bigger factor in your decision, but when focusing on the safari experience, being in the know will help you make the right decision for you.

When talking about regions for big game safaris, East Africa includes the countries of  Kenya, Tanzania, while Southern Africa covers South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.  Grab your binoculars as we look at these two areas.

Lodge-centered safaris dominate Southern Africa safaris while safaris in Eastern Africa are centered around the safari company, ground operator or the camp.

In Southern Africa, the lodge provides all the services around your safari from the time you arrive at the airport/airstrip until the time you leave. The staff, including drivers, guides, and trackers, are all employed by the lodge where you stay. Should your trip include 2 or more lodges, your drivers, guides, and trackers change when you arrive at a new lodge.

For moderately priced safaris in East Africa, you’re transported by vehicles between parks that are far apart with lodges for accommodations.  Your driver, guide, and tracker, who may be the same person, stay with you during your entire trip.  The whole experience is arranged through a safari company or ground operator.  These drivers/guides read their clients well and a relationship often develops.

For those with less time and/or those that desire more intimate camps, fly-in safaris in East Africa allow travelers to maximize their time game viewing using smaller camps that provide a higher level of service.  These safaris more resemble the Southern Africa camp-centered safari, where the camp provides the driver/guide/tracker at each location.

Your ride in Southern Africa is more open, but you can still get great pictures from the vehicles in Eastern Africa.

All aboard your open-sided land cruiser that lets you have a clear view of the animals in Southern Africa. You will depart the lodge and loop around a route covering a 20-mile radius from your base. You will be on the reserve roads or inside the park or reserve.

Vehicles with pop-up tops shield travelers from the sun and allow for great pictures too.

In the East, you travel in vehicles with pop tops for road-based safaris. Since you are going further distances, open-sided vehicles aren’t suitable. Don’t worry because you can still get great photos thru your pop-up top. With the option to close the top, air conditioning and small refrigerators make your long-distance drives easier.   Open-sided vehicles are used for fly-in safari camps providing greater unobstructed visibility.

Wildebeast crossing the Mara River during the annual migration.

Pros and cons of fencing: Will the experience feel like a zoo?

You will likely hear about the fence debate while traveling around Africa. Some say it helps protect the wildlife and people, while others believe it’s unnatural.

In Southern Africa, you can expect areas to be fences, but you might travel for days without seeing a fence because the areas are massive – we are talking about reserves and parks the area of a small state in

America! These reserves make their own rules so you can experience night drives and your driver can follow wildlife off-road.

In Eastern Africa, there aren’t any fences giving animals more freedom to roam, making mobile camps ideal.  As the animals migrate, a mobile safari camp can follow the wildlife and set up temporary or semi-permanent tented camps.  These camps are great for observing the Great Migration, saving significant travel time reaching wildlife at its current location.

The numbers game – People and Animals

In the South, the wildlife parks and reserves limit how many safari vehicles can be near a group of animals at one time (usually up to three). In the East, there are no limits on the number of vehicles, but time limits at popular sites or around groups of animals may be observed to reduce crowding at peak times and the stress on the animals.

Limits on the number of vehicles during peak periods around popular spots limit the stress on wildlife.

Don’t worry.  The Big Five ((elephant, lion, leopard, rhino, and buffalo) live in both Eastern and Southern Africa. Larger concentrations of wildlife in East Africa allow dramatic sightings of potentially hundreds or thousands of animals as you look out over wide-open spaces like during the Great Migration.

As always pros and cons exist for the Eastern or Southern parts of Africa. Much comes down to personal preference for your adventure.  However, once having done a safari, many travelers return to Africa to experience another area and/or type of experience.  Both regions offer unique aspects and fascinating opportunities. You never know what will happen or what you will see on safari and that makes it all the more exciting!

Let’s talk more about an Eastern or Southern Africa safari and which is best for you and your travel companions. We have stories to share and more info regarding factors like seasons, the time required, specific wildlife, and more so drop us a line soon.

Pat Ogle-CollinsEastern or Southern Africa Safari: Does it matter?
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Surprises Aren’t Fun When Passports Are Involved

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Do you know when your passport expires?  Most don’t.  It’s just not one of those things we feel like needs to be top of mind and in most cases, it doesn’t   Yet, there is nothing worse than deciding or having the opportunity to take a last-minute trip and finding that you don’t have 6 months of validity on your passport.

(Note:  Many countries require 6 months of validity beyond your scheduled return and airlines can deny boarding for less than 6 months of validity on a passport.)  Staying on top of your expiration lessens the frustration, anxiety, and cost of last-minute renewals (Wizard of Odysseys does this for you once an international trip is booked).

Recommended renewal is 9-12 months before international travel.  There are several reasons in addition to the requirement for 6 months of validity for renewing at this point:

  • The State Department generally estimates renewals can take 6-8 weeks for passports eligible to renew by mail. NOTE:  During periods of heaving volumes, e..g. Jan-May each year, limited staffing, e.g. budget cuts or pandemic, or during any time when passport requirements or policies are changing, renewal times can take significantly longer.  (Average processing times are noted on travel.state.gov).  Keep in mind that this is for those that meet the following criteria:
    • Your current passport is in your possession
    • Your passport was issued within the past 15 years
    • Your passport is in good physical condition with only normal wear and tear
    • Your passport was issued when you were 16 years of age or older
    • Your passport was issued in your current name or you can document any change in name
    • For those not meeting the criteria above, renewals must be done in person. Should you need to apply in person, the average renewal time starts from the date of submission of your passport at the passport acceptance facility
  • Some tour companies/travel advisors require information from a valid passport to complete a booking. Otherwise, you must sign a waiver of responsibility for any costs associated with differences between the passport used and your new passport.  NOTE:  Your picture will be different, the passport number will change with your new passport and there is no guarantee that the passport will come back with the same information.  Errors do occur and changes in policies have resulted in changes in the past.
  • Should a country you plan to visit require a visa, some countries require the passport have up to 6 months of validity at the time of the visa application. Applying early allows for sufficient time to obtain any necessary visas.

Obtaining a passport can be done in less time with expedited service or walk-in service for eligible reasons but at considerable time and/or expense.

Wizard of Odysseys monitors your passport expiration giving you one more level of assurance that you don’t need to spend unnecessary time or money.  Isn’t that what a trusted advisor is supposed to do?  I want you to have fun and relax thru the planning and during your trip.  Give us a call about your next trip today, but first, please check your passport.

Pat Ogle-CollinsSurprises Aren’t Fun When Passports Are Involved
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The Unexpected Does Happen!

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Never in recent memory has travel insurance been such a hot topic.  Last year it was all the talk because most travel insurance policies exclude claims related to epidemics/pandemics so the policies did not cover cancellations due to covid.  Also, these policies do not cover concerns about traveling unless the policy has “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage.

This year the talk is all about coverage for covid, quarantine costs, and mandatory health insurance requirements by an increasing number of countries.  These are key questions, but there are so many other incidents that can occur that can significantly impact travelers.

I frequently hear “I am going on this trip no matter what.”  My response “I am sure you are, but it’s all the other things that can happen that may cause you to cancel or some other unfortunate event.”  Still many doubt it could happen to them.  Covid has shown that the unexpected does happen.

To illustrate, the following is a list of incidents that have occurred to clients for which there was or could have been a significant cost had they not had travel insurance.

  • Death of traveling companion/spouse before or during their trip
  • Death of an immediate family member before departing for their trip
  • Diagnosis of cancer or other serious illness of traveler after booking and before departure
  • Broken ankle with no weight-bearing movement a couple of weeks before departure
  • Rail strike (in Italy)
  • Air traffic controllers strike in France
  • Airport security incident canceling all flights for 6 hrs with flight then canceled
  • A rogue wave hit a shark watching expedition boat and cameras destroyed (others on the boat lost glasses or other possessions or broke bones)
  • Back injury requiring medical evacuation
  • A family member required emergency surgery requiring a family member to cancel their trip
  • Emergency return home because toilet leak caused ceilings in the home to fall
  • Snowstorm in the UK caused hundreds and hundreds of flights to be canceled and a backlog of passenger meant the client could not get another flight for 6 days (paid for a hotel, meals, telephone calls, incidentals)
  • Lost green card requiring a trip to the consulate, temporary documents for travel, and a replacement of the lost card
  • Emergency room/doctor/dental visits (asthma attack, suspected heart attack, infected hand, a broken tooth)
  • Volcano eruption canceling flights
  • Baggage delays (who hasn’t had a bag not arrive with them)
  • Missed connections due to customs/immigration delays
  • Stolen cell phones

Costs with these ranged from a few hundred to many thousands of dollars.  Not exactly the way most want to remember a trip. And if you trip has be cancelled and no insurance coverage is available, rescheduling is usually significantly delayed since savings were reduced to pay for the original trip.

Other insurance or credit cards may provide coverage.  Always check the details of that coverage to understand what is covered and the amount of coverage.  And call Wizard of Odysseys, I can assist by providing you options that address any particular concerns.

Give yourself the gift of a fun and relaxing vacation by reducing your risk of a financial burden caused by an unexpected event.  When bad things happen, you will be glad you did because you never know what may happen.

Pat Ogle-CollinsThe Unexpected Does Happen!
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Make trip planning easier by knowing your travel style!

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Planning a vacation can be time-consuming and frustrating. The more complex the trip, time and frustration can readily increase. Working with an advisor can mitigate some of this. However, some preparation before you work with an advisor or before you start the planning yourself will make the entire process easier.

Dates and destination(s) are just the beginning. The key questions relate to how you like to travel. Do you know the travel style of you and each of your family members or travel companions?

By understanding your travel style, you readily identify the kinds of arrangements needed and a structure for your itinerary, saving you hours in research and rework. So what do I mean by travel style? Think about how you want to feel while you are traveling.

Ask yourself some of the following:

  • What is the objective of the trip? Is it rest and relaxation, sightseeing, meeting a goal or doing an activity, or something else?
  • Do you like to be on the go or a more relaxed schedule?
  • Are you an early riser or a night owl?
  • Do you want to feel more pampered or independent?
  • What stresses you when traveling?

When planning a vacation, the travel style of each traveler requires consideration. When including children and teens, the parents’ style may rule, particularly with the budget. However, giving children options helps them feel like it is their vacation too.

For example, if the kids like the idea of not sharing a room with mom and dad, then perhaps an apartment is an option. Or if the kids insist that they have a pool, then sharing a hotel room with mom and dad is the tradeoff.

Having conversations with grandparents or friends with whom you are traveling can help mitigate misunderstandings and hurt feelings.  When traveling with parents/grandparents, discuss pace and physical capabilities. With friends, clarify budget and responsibilities for costs while traveling in addition to other travel styles. Many relationships have soured when expectations of one or more travelers are not met because they were not discussed.

The questions above are just examples. Many other factors require discussion before you start planning. As you can see, when factoring in the number of people, their travel styles, destinations, dates, and more, vacation planning can turn into a complex job.

A good travel advisor experienced in identifying travel styles will ask lots of questions to determine all aspects of your travel style as well as those traveling with you. They will then take all the information and design a vacation to meet those styles, providing recommendations and options to resolve differences.

When spending a significant amount on a trip, take the time to find out what each travel would like and expects.  This will help you and your travel advisor create the perfect trip for you.

Give me a call, so I can do this for you!

Pat Ogle-CollinsMake trip planning easier by knowing your travel style!
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Money Doesn’t Grow On Trees, So Plan In Advance!

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One of the most frequent questions received concerns money/foreign currency while traveling.  It used to be that you headed to the bank and purchased travelers checks, remember those?  These are now not recommended.  Merchants and banks in many countries do not want to accept them.  For a good portion of the world, particularly if part of your time will be in city, information in this article will pertain. Third world countries and remote areas may differ.   I recommend checking 6-8 weeks prior to departure for all destinations as situations can change.

For large sums, credit cards provide the best payment method.  In many countries, the card will never leave your sight, even in restaurants.  Even better, pay for higher priced arrangements, including hotel, rental car, rail, sightseeing and activities in advance so you have the peace of mind knowing that much of your trip is paid before you depart.  For small purchases, check to see if there is a difference in price or surcharge when using a credit card.  Remember, not all shops, restaurant, taxis, etc. will accept a credit card so always have currency on hand.

For local currency, I recommend obtaining approx. 1-2 days spending needs prior to your departure.  Most regional and nationwide banks can supply most currencies with notice of several days.  Some banks, like Bank of America, allow you to order foreign currencies thru your online account.  The currency is then sent to a local branch or directly to your home.  This can help you avoid high exchange fees found at airports in many countries and eliminate the need to stop to exchange money after a long flight.

ATMs are my recommended source for local currency during your trip.   Your ATM card will have symbols for their affiliated ATM networks on the card, including Cirrus, Maestro, Visa, Mastercard, Star and others.  As long as one of the symbols on your card is also on the ATM, your card will be accepted using your regular pin.

Know your daily withdrawal limit and plan accordingly, particularly if onward travel will take you to areas where ATMs may not be readily available. Keep in mind that if you have prepaid travel arrangements like hotel, rail, meals, etc., your spending will be much less.

Finally, become familiar with the exchange rate(s) for the destinations to which you will be traveling prior to your trip.  Devise ways that work for you to help you to be able to quickly convert from the local currency to dollars.  There is nothing worse than figuring out you paid too much for an item.

Having a strategy and plan before you depart is one more way to increase the enjoyment of your trip and may save you some money that you can use for one more little splurge before you return home.

My job is to ensure you have a wonderful trip. Call me so I can make your next trip easy and memorable!

Pat Ogle-CollinsMoney Doesn’t Grow On Trees, So Plan In Advance!
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Avoid passport panic!

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The panic of not being able to find your passport – have you felt it?  This can also occur when you realize your passport has or is about to expire.  Passport panic is one of the most jarring types of panic you can experience.  The closer to your date of departure, the more panicked you may become.

When first considering a trip, check your passport’s expiration date.  Even if you think you know, check it.  Many countries around the world require 3-6 months passport validity beyond your date of departure from their country.

While some countries require only 3 months, there have been instances where airlines have refused to board passengers with less than 6 months.  You are at the mercy of airline personnel, so check your passports expiration and the destination entry requirements when first considering a trip.

Your passport should live in only one place when you are not traveling.  As soon as you return home, your passport should be returned to that specific place.  If you take it out at any time for information, return it immediately to its storage spot.

When packing in the day or two before, place your passport with your boarding pass and both should have a specific place when you travel.  These two spots should rarely, if ever, vary.  This way you can always locate your passport.

This seems so simple, yet when arriving home from a trip, it is easy to be diverted to returning to everyday life.  Passports can be left by accident with travel documents, in a side pocket or in the bottom of a bag.  After 3, 6 or even 12 months, would you remember where you last saw it?  Storing your passport in only one place, means there will be only one place to look.

Considering a trip?  Check your passport and give me a call to discuss entry requirements for your destination(s).

Pat Ogle-CollinsAvoid passport panic!
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Are you planning a vacation or a marathon?

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Is there any time more valuable than vacation time?  We scrimp and save all year for that week or two when we escape everyday life.  When that time is used to travel and particularly when traveling overseas, it seems that the time becomes even more valuable.  In this short period of time we want to see and do as much as possible.

At the end of a busy trip, a vacation to recuperate from our vacation is often needed.  Tired is just one result.  Upon return , many report the sensation that one day blurred into the next, they are unable to recall when/where they saw or did something, and feelings of agitation and irritability.  Is that how you want to return from vacation?

When thinking about your next vacation, consider the following:

  • Plan daily activities in advance to better pace your overall vacation. This will allow you to use time more effectively because you are no longer debating activities for the day.
  • Plan each day visiting sites close to each other to maximize your time. This sounds so elementary, but is so easy to forget.
  • Acquire tickets in advance to reduce the time in line and/or waiting for entrance times.
  • Schedule no more than one sightseeing tour or activity a day. This allows you some free time and reduces stress associated with tight schedules.
  • Incorporate free time so that you can wander down an interesting street, sit in a sidewalk café and people watch or check out a recommendation from a tour guide.
  • Occasionally, you must schedule multiple activities. If possible, schedule morning and evening to allow time to relax in between.
  • When scheduling full day tours or activities, schedule a slower day for the next day. Schedule no more than 2 full day tours or activities in a row, if necessary.
  • If at all possible, allow for a good portion of the day free on the day prior to your return home to pack, shop for last minute items and perhaps do/see a must that you were unable to get in earlier.
  • For major trips across multiple time zones, try to return on a Friday or Saturday to allow you time to adjust, decompress and prepare for your return to daily life.

I know the desire to take spend as much time in destination to do as possible is hard to resist, but in the long run, you will enjoy the time away so much more.

Pat Ogle-CollinsAre you planning a vacation or a marathon?
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Never say “I’ve always wanted to go there” again

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You are talking with someone at a party when the topic turns to travel and they mention that they just got back from a trip. You anxiously ask, “Oh, where did you go?” They reply and you say out loud or think “I’ve always wanted to go there.” You eagerly hang on every word about their trip or you have heard so many others talk about their trips to your dream destination that it is just one more reminder that you have yet to get to there. Why is that?

By far, the two most common reasons why someone has not visited their dream destinations are time and money. These and potentially others are real factors that can get in the way of taking that dream vacation. The real question is where does travel fit in your priorities for your time and money.

There are no right or wrong answers because we are all different in what we value, where we are in our lives, other commitments and more. Even with other higher priorities, you can still create a plan to get you to that dream destination.

Travel is like a triangle. On one side you have budget, another side is time and the third side is your travel style. If the length of your trip increases, than budget must increase and/or the travel style decrease. If 5* hotels and budget are set, than perhaps decrease the length of the trip. If the destination is half way around the world, can you do a one week budget vacation this year to have a longer trip next year.

Case in point – a client set up a meeting to talk about their honeymoon to Costa Rica in November. During the discussion I find that she really doesn’t like heat and humidity, but tropical destinations were nearby and beach/water destinations were what most couples do. When asked if they could go anywhere, where would they go?

Their response was Greece, but they didn’t feel they had the budget to do this. By traveling in November when it is off season, shortening the length of their honeymoon by a few days and choosing to go luxury accommodations in one hotel and nice hotels otherwise, they honeymooned in Greece!

Everyone has factors they need to consider when thinking about travel – health, money, time, responsibilities, etc. If travel is important, a plan to see your dream destinations is the way to make that happen. By looking each of these from a priority perspective and with flexibility, you can make a plan to get to any of your dream destinations.

Start planning so you can say “I just got back from” rather than lamenting later in life “I always wanted to go there.”

Pat Ogle-CollinsNever say “I’ve always wanted to go there” again
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