Frequently Asked Questions
Many travelers have misconceptions about traveling to, and within, Africa. We hope that the answers below, to some of the most frequently asked safari questions, will paint a clearer picture for you.
What are the accommodations like? Up market safari lodges, tented camps and hotels in Africa provide world class accommodations (a number of the world’s highest rated and most awarded hotels are located in east and southern Africa – the Cape Grace Hotel in South Africa was voted the world’s best hotel in the year 2000. Singita, also in South Africa, was voted the world’s best hotel in 2001 and 2002). Rooms have proper beds with mattresses and duvets, en suite (attached, in room) flush toilets, basins and showers with hot and cold running water. Other amenities include mosquito netting, lamps, purified water, insect repellent, flashlights, wardrobes, and ethnic furnishings. For those looking for the ultimate in luxury there are numerous properties where each presidential sized suite has its own swimming pool.
Adventurous travelers may partake in a walking, canoeing or camping safari where facilities are more limited. In some cases guests sleep on cots in dome tents and the camp toilet and shower are shared by group members. In other cases, guests may overnight under the stars.
Will we be "roughing it" if we stay at a luxury tented camp? Absolutely not! While staying at a luxury tented camp you will enjoy the comfort of a proper room with the sights and sounds of camping - the best of both worlds. Most tented camp rooms consist of very large walk in tents with entry doors. Walls are canvas with large roll up viewing sections. Inside you will enjoy a bed (usually 2 twin beds or a king) with pillows and duvets, bed side tables, dressing table, mirror, wardrobe, throw rugs or full carpeting, battery powered (solar) lighting, en suite (attached, in room) shower with hot and cold running water, flush toilet, and basin. Some tents include baths, air conditioning and private plunge pools.
Are children allowed on safari? The majority of safari lodges and camps in southern Africa have a minimum age limit of 12 years of age. There are however a number of great lodges and camps that allow children under the age of 12. Please contact our office for further details.
In east Africa traveling with children is easier as child policies are more liberal.
Are there many children on safari? Children under the age of 12 are not allowed at most safari lodges and camps. At properties where children are allowed they must pre-book private activities.
Who is "Ultimate Africa Safaris"? We are safari consultants; travel agents who specialize in Africa – only Africa. Our focus is on high quality, high end, safaris for discerning clients. We are not a big company nor do we want to be. We offer a number of scheduled group trips (up to 8 guests per scheduled group departure) or if you prefer (and most travelers do) we would be happy to arrange a personalized safari to fit your needs – this is our real passion! If we feel that you are looking for something we do not offer we will happily suggest a company more suited to handle your request.
We know Africa intimately. Each of our professional safari consultants has lived and worked in Africa. Managing director Ian Proctor has personally stayed at over 250 hotel / lodge / camp properties in east and southern Africa and inspected hundreds more! Our consultants spend a quarter of each and every year in Africa; not only to insure that each property meets the high standards we demand for our clients (it is our policy to regularly, and personally, visit every property we recommend, and many others besides), but also because we love Africa and its wild areas.
Ultimate Africa has been featured in National Geographic Adventurer Magazine, Outside Magazine, United Airlines in-flight magazine ”Hemispheres”, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Frommer's Travel, and other publications. In October 2005 Ultimate Africa was featured on the “Wheel of Fortune” on CBS. In April 2009 PBS featured Ultimate Africa.
Ultimate Africa is a licensed travel consultancy, incorporated in Washington state, USA since 1996 as Ultimate Adventures Inc. (Washington State registered Seller of Travel #601730459). The Washington State Department of Revenue offers a State Business Records database for use by the general public as a consumer protection program. Simply visit their website and search names that start with "Ultimate Adventures". Alternatively you may phone the Washington Department of Revenue toll free 1 800 647 7706.
Ultimate Africa Safaris is a member of the American Society of Travel Agents (Ultimate Adventures Inc. member #900139738). The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is recognized as a symbol of professionalism and integrity; the professional affiliation most often endorsed by the media when recommending how to find a reliable travel agent. ASTA has a long-standing record of fighting for consumer rights and ASTA member travel agents, such as ourselves, are required to adhere to a strict Code of Ethics. ASTA's code of ethics may be viewed on their website at ASTA Code of Ethics.
Ultimate Africa Safaris is also endorsed by the International Airlines Travel Agent Network (IATAN).
What are your contact details? Our address is 13032 SE 204th Place SE., Issaquah, Washington, 98027, USA. We can be reached toll free by phone within the USA on 1 800 461 0682 between 10AM and 6PM weekdays. International callers should phone on 425 793 8877. Our fax line is 425 793 8878. Our email address is email@example.com . Our website address is http://www.ultimateafrica.com
Do you provide references from people who have booked their safaris with you? Requests for references are welcome - please inquire with one of our consultants by email or by phone toll free on 1 800 461 0682.
Who runs / guides the safaris? We are safari consultants (travel agents who specialize in Africa travel) and offer a comprehensive travel service which includes air ticket bookings, trip insurance, and land arrangements. We do not run or guide safaris.
We offer a wide variety of African travel packages - some are group trips with set departure dates however the majority of our trips are tailor-made to suit our client’s specific needs. We work very closely with several of Africa’s top tour operators such as Wilderness Safaris, Orient Express Safaris, and Conservation Corporation Africa to ensure that all of your needs are met before, during and after your travel!
How do we know you are going to recommend properties or safaris that we like? We are here to work with you to design the best trip possible. If you have special destinations or properties you would like to visit we would be happy to incorporate these into your itinerary adjusting the number of nights in each area to suit other areas you may be visiting and local conditions (such as activities on offer, wildlife movements or other seasonal changes). Our ability to provide you with truly amazing safaris is noted in the comments received by past Ultimate Africa clients…We are here for you.
Who looks after us while on safari? A very important element of traveling to a largely unknown destination is the peace of mind to know that you will be properly taken care before, during and after your trip. At Ultimate Africa we take a conservative stance in deciding which tour operators we will work with – they must have a lengthy and consistent record of truly exceptional service, be fully licensed and insured. While in Africa you will be met at each location and transferred from airports, to hotels to lodges and camps; your in-country representatives are on call 24 hours a day to answer any questions you may have or to handle any eventuality - from medical emergencies to retrieving a bag that may have been left behind and having it delivered to your next destination. In this way it is possible to travel with all the security of a packaged tour, but all the flexibility and privacy of an individual traveler.
Don't we pay more booking through your office? No, you do not…As one of the leading American companies handling high end African travel arrangements we have very strong relationships with Africa’s leading tour operators. As a result of the volume of business we send them we receive some of the most competitive rates in the industry. As an example Orient Express Safaris takes direct bookings however you actually pay more for booking direct…
Can’t we save money by booking direct with companies in Africa? Many people think they can save money if they book direct with a tour operator or travel agency in Africa. This is not typically the case, especially when you factor in the extra time, effort and risk involved…If you book direct with individual lodges and camps in Africa they may offer you a discount but then you are stuck trying to figure out who is meeting you at the airport and who is flying you into the bush and so on…You also lose the security of having one company overseeing all of your arrangements with the ability to make changes if they are necessary due to flight delays or other unforeseen problems.
Travel agencies in Africa don’t have to abide by the strict consumer protections that are standard in the USA. As an Ultimate Africa client if you have a problem we are here to help you resolve it. We are your advocate. The strong relationships we have forged over many years with Africa’s leading tour operators are integral in getting problems resolved. We are often able to achieve positive results in seemingly impossible situations. As an example we recently had a group of 4 clients cancel their travel arrangements due to a one of the group becoming injured in a motorcycle accident. Based on the strength of the relationship between Ultimate Africa and our African supplier we were able to have our client’s arrangements cancelled and their deposit fully refunded. This is not typical, especially for individuals who try to cancel direct bookings with African companies. Our preferred tour operators in Africa understand that for over 10 years we have consistently arranged high quality tours for our American clients and they want to ensure this continues… In short if you go it on your own and a problem arises you have no one to assist you (or complain to for that matter). By booking with an American based company you have recourse when you return home. Without Ultimate Africa you’re on your own.
What should we look for when choosing a travel agent to handle our Africa travel plans? Here are the 10 most important things to look for when choosing a travel agency to handle your trip to Africa. Whether you book with Ultimate Africa Safaris or another travel agency make sure you work with a company that:
1) has hands on knowledge. Make sure that whoever you book with has extensive personal travel experience in Africa. We know Africa intimately. Each of our professional safari consultants has lived and worked in Africa. Managing director Ian Proctor has personally stayed at over 250 hotel / lodge / camp properties in east and southern Africa and inspected hundreds more! Our consultants spend 6 to 8 weeks each and every year in Africa; not only to insure that each property meets the high standards we demand for our clients (it is our policy to regularly, and personally, visit every property we recommend, and many others besides), but also because we love Africa and its wild areas.
2) is prompt and reliable. Are calls answered? Are emails and phone messages replied to in a timely manner? Does the company offer toll free number? We are best known for our attentive service, attention to detail, and honesty. Our Seattle office is open between 10 AM and 6 PM weekdays and we look forward to discussing the various travel options with you.
3) can handle all of your travel arrangements including accommodations, air tickets and travel insurance. We can and it pays to have one agency watching over your entire trip from start to finish.
4) does not charge a booking fee or a fee for changes to your itinerary (and these can be numerous). Ultimate Africa does not require an upfront deposit and we do not charge any booking or change fees. We do charge a US $30 person air ticket ticketing fee when issuing air tickets.
5) accepts credit cards for payment. Charge cards provide better consumer protection than payments made by check or wire transfer. They also make payments simple. Ultimate Africa Safaris accepts payment by American Express, Master Card and Visa. Please note that we add 2.5% to all credit card transactions to cover merchant fees. Payments made by check are not subject to the 2.5% surcharge.
6) is USA based / licensed / registered. Only 14 states license or regulate travel agents Of these states, there are currently only six states which require registration. Washington is one of these states. Ultimate Africa is licensed and registered in Washington State.
7) carries liability insurance. The world is not a perfect place. Therefore Ultimate Africa carries a US $1 million dollar “Errors and Omission” insurance policy.
8) is a member of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) which is recognized as the leading symbol of travel professionalism and integrity. This is the affiliation most often endorsed by the media when recommending how to find a reliable travel agent. All ASTA member agents must abide by ASTA’s consumer oriented ethics. Ultimate Africa is an ASTA member.
9) is endorsed by the International Airlines Travel Agent Network (IATAN). To be endorsed by IATAN a company must show a multiyear record of annual sales exceeding US $250,000, must have approval letters from industry leaders, and must carry an US $1 million liability insurance policy. Fly by night companies cannot meet these requirements. Ultimate Africa is endorsed by IATAN.
10) is friendly! Planning a trip to Africa is an exciting process, made even more so when you are working with a travel agent who is both friendly and passionate about what they do! Call Ultimate Africa toll free 1 800 461 0682 (we are in between 10 AM and 6 PM weekdays in Seattle) and start planning your dream safari today!
Are their opportunities to meet with local people or visit real African villages? There are many opportunities for cultural interaction. We can arrange tours to local schools, markets, and villages. Village visits may last a few hours or an overnight with your guide may be arranged. In some cases guests may participate in daily chores such as planting crops, brewing beer, or carrying water. From carrying firewood to sitting for hours around a smoky fire listening to stories many people feel that their lives are forever changed by this experience. Please note many safari camps and lodges are located in wildlife rich areas far from human settlement and offer no cultural interaction with locals.
ELECTRICITY / INTERNET / PHONES
Is there electricity? Electricity in east and southern Africa (Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe) is 220/240 volts. Most safari lodges and camps are not connected to a mains electrical supply. Solar lighting (backed up by batteries) is common, with many lodges having a generator which runs part of the day (morning and late evening while guests are partaking in activities). Lanterns also provide light at night. In most areas you will not be able to use a hairdryer or electric shaver.
Will I be able to recharge my camera and video camera batteries? Yes – at nearly all hotels, lodges, and permanent tented camps you will be able to recharge your camera and video batteries either in room or in the main area. Many camps and lodges have the correct adapter plugs however we recommend that you bring your own plugs – plugs C and H for east and southern Africa. Please make sure your electronic equipment switches automatically from 110 to 220 electricity (most do - it will say on the plug or in the manual). If they do not switch automatically a converter will be needed.
Is there internet access while on safari? Internet access is available at most large city hotels, typically for a small fee. The majority of safari lodges and camps do not have internet access (but some do).
Do cell phones work on safari? What about satellite phones? Tri-band and quad-band cell phones work in most major African cities and towns however you must check to ensure your service provider has an agreement with the local provider. Also check rates as these can be up to US $3 per minute. Cell phones do not work at most safari lodges and camps in Africa as there are no cell phone towers. There are some exceptions such as Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Masai Mara in Kenya where there are cell phone towers. Satellite phones may be rented and are a great option for travelers who must stay connected. Keep in mind most lodges and camps require guests to keep satellite phones turned off and use them only for outgoing calls so as not to disturb other guests. Also keep in the high per minute call rates.
What if a family member has to get hold of us about an emergency back home? The vast majority of hotels in Africa have telephones and can be easily reached. Smaller safari lodges and tented camps are able to send and receive messages via radio. In an emergency we suggest client's friends and family contact our office so we may assist.
ENVIRONMENTAL SUPPORT / WILDLIFE CONSERVATION
Does your company support African environmental and wildlife conservation groups?
Absolutely! And by booking a safari through Ultimate Africa Safaris you are helping to conserve Africa's environment and wildlife. Ultimate Africa Safaris actively supports local conservation efforts. Our latest endeavor is the sponsorship of the “Children in the Wilderness” bike ride in South Africa.
GETTING TO AFRICA
Do you handle air tickets? Where should I purchase my air tickets? We are able to handle all of your air ticket arrangements. We have great contract rates with several airlines and are able to access most flight specials that are offered.
By purchasing tickets through our office, not only do you receive reduced rates, we are able to be of assistance in the event that changes need to be made to your flights. As an example recent Ultimate Africa clients Jon and Barbara Sheffield were on safari in Botswana when South African Airways cancelled their mid day flight from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg. As we had booked the clients air tickets we noticed the change on our system and were able to rebook the guests onto the afternoon flight and notify the guests of this change. When the guests arrived at the Victoria Falls Airport several days later they noticed a large crowd of stranded travelers who had arrived for the mid day flight (which was cancelled) and were desperately trying to get onto the afternoon flight (which of course was now fully booked)! Our clients checked in and departed on the afternoon flight without incident. In our opinion good planning is the basis for a great travel experience and in this instance the Sheffield’s were very happy to know we were looking out for them.
What airlines fly to Africa? Many of the major world airlines such as Delta, KLM, British Airways, Virgin, Air France, Lufthansa, Qantas, South African Airways, and Swissair fly into Africa several times a week.
We are able to arrange flights from most major cities in the United States via either Europe (London, Frankfurt, or Amsterdam) or via South Africa to the starting point of your safari.
Flying via Europe we have great rates for flights aboard Northwest / KLM / Air France, British Airways and others.
Flying from the USA via South Africa you would fly aboard a combination of United to either New York or Washington DC and then to South Africa aboard South African Airways. From South Africa you would continue aboard South African Airways or another airline to your final destination for the start of your safari. Delta also flies direct to South Africa from Atlanta.
We also handle internal flight arrangements within Africa. Both international and internal flights should be booked together to receive reduced rates.
When do I have to pay for the air tickets? Air tickets typically need to be purchased within 30 days of making a reservation. Otherwise the computer will auto-cancel the reservation. Air tickets are best paid by credit card as airfares and taxes can fluctuate.
Can we earn mileage for our flights? Flying aboard South African Airways you can earn mileage on United’s mileage program. Flying aboard other airlines you will earn mileage on their programs.
Can we use our mileage to fly to Africa and have you book the inter-Africa flights only? If you plan to use mileage to fly to Africa we are happy to arrange only the inter-Africa flights and land portion of your safari. Please coordinate your mileage flights directly with the airlines concerned. Inter-Africa flights (on scheduled airlines) are not included in most itineraries and the fares vary. Light aircraft flights between lodges and camps are typically included in trip costs.
HEALTH AND SAFETY CONCERNS
Is it safe to visit Africa? At Ultimate Africa our number one concern is your safety. If we felt that traveling to Africa was unsafe we would not arrange African safaris. Certain country's are generally considered safe while others are not. We actively discourage travel to destinations that we consider unsafe for any reason (visit our "Where to go and When" page to view country by country safari comparisons and ratings).
In general petty theft is common in Africa's major cities and towns. Visitors should take the same care as they would normally take in any other destination worldwide. Keep a close watch on handbags, wallets, and cameras when walking in crowded places. Avoid walking at night and place valuables in safe deposit boxes at hotels.
While at safari lodges and tented camps you are typically far removed from human settlement and crime is virtually non existent. We still advise that valuables be locked away in a room safe or kept under the supervision of the camp or lodge manager while on safari.
Importantly, travel safety concerns arising from a negative event in one African country do not apply to Africa in total just as travel safety concerns in Florida do not apply to a trip to Lake Tahoe. On our website at "Where to go and When" we rate each country by its ability to offer a safe, quality safari experience.
When planning an African safari, it is best to work with a company that has intimate knowledge of each country – not just its wildlife and attractions but also its unique cultures, economy and government as safety issues often stem from these areas. All of Ultimate Africa’s consultants are from Africa or have lived for many years in Africa. We are not travel agents reading from a catalog of tours. We return to Africa each year to refresh and expand our knowledge.
Aren't wild animals dangerous? While viewing wildlife there is a degree of danger as the behavior of wild animals cannot be guaranteed. However most animals are frightened by the sight / smell of humans and rather than attack, will flee (unless cornered or provoked). Attacks on humans are rare.
While on safari you will be accompanied by licensed guides who are well trained and armed with an amazing understanding of the wildlife with which they share their lives on a daily basis. In addition many guides carry firearms for your safety (mostly in southern Africa).
At your tented camp or lodge it is not uncommon for wildlife to wander through as camps and lodges are typically not fenced. An attack on a sleeping traveler would be highly unusual. Never venture outside your accommodations at night without your guide. Always consult with your guide/s when in doubt.
What shots or medicines do we need before traveling? For most travelers a safari to Africa raises a number of red flags regarding health issues. For southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe) there are no required inoculations and health concerns are the same as those for travel to eastern Europe or the Caribbean (in fact more travelers become sick traveling to Australia than South Africa). For east Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) health concerns and inoculations are the same as those for travel to South America or East Asia. The vast majority of traveler’s to Africa return from their safaris happy and healthy!
No matter where you travel in Africa (excepting parts of South Africa) a course of anti malaria tablets is essential and many doctors advise a dose of Hepatitis A vaccine. All childhood vaccinations should be up to date. We recommend that you visit with a local travel health specialist in your home town for further details.
What foods should we avoid? What about drinking water? In the vast majority of cases it is safe to eat ALL of the foods offered by lodges and camps as they take great care to ensure that food is prepared in a healthy manner. If you are really worried about contracting a "stomach bug" don’t eat salads, avoid ice cubes in drinks (many places use purified water for ice cubes – simply ask if you are concerned), and eat only fruits that have thick skins which are peeled (oranges, bananas).
Although water in many cities and small towns is purified and safe to drink, it is wise to drink only bottled drinks which are readily available (ask that water is opened in front of you as they may try to reuse the container at some of the larger, lower quality, hotels). In addition don’t swallow water during a shower and use purified water for brushing teeth. Don't worry - bottled water is readily available.
Are there a lot of insects? Generally no. As an example the peak wildlife viewing months of May through October in southern Africa occur during the dry winter when insects are not a problem. Most travelers never see more than 4 or 5 mosquitoes a day. For those of you traveling at other times there will be more insects however for most travelers the positive aspects of their safari experience far outweigh any annoyance caused by insects.
Do people speak English in Africa? English is spoken widely throughout east and southern Africa (with the exception of Mozambique). South Africa has eleven national languages. In Botswana, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, English is actually the national language.
Can we have our clothes washed while on safari? The majority of safari lodges and camps offer complimentary laundry service (some charge a small fee) weather permitting, however please note that undergarments are often excluded. You may wish to bring a small supply of liquid laundry soap (a small plastic travel bottle filled with Woolite works well for hand washing).
MEALS / DRINKS / SPECIAL DIETS
What types of food are served on safari? The food served at most up-market safari lodges and tented camps is of the highest quality. Gourmet cooks bake fresh breads, and produce soups, salads, and entrees that could easily grace tables at top restaurants around the world.
Meals are international in flavor with soups, salads, cold meats, pasta dishes, meat and fish dishes, and breads. Your day normally starts with tea and biscuits before your morning activity. Returning to your lodge or camp late morning, brunch is enjoyed - cereals, fruit, bacon, eggs, sausage, and toast are on offer as are salads, quiches and cold meats. Before your afternoon activity tea and light snacks are served. Dinner consists of an appetizer followed by meat, fish and pasta dishes served with assorted vegetables and sauces. Dinner is followed by coffee (or tea), cheeses, and gorgeous desserts.
What about special dietary needs (vegetarian, diabetic, no spicy foods)? Special diets are not a problem as long we know your needs in advance.
What drinks are available on safari? On most safaris drinks are included in the all inclusive daily rate. This includes unlimited bottled water, soft drinks, local beers, wines and spirits (except in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa where drinks are often separate). Certain high end imported drinks i.e. Scotch whiskey, Champagne, certain wines, if available, are typically for your own account.
Please note that if you are staying on a bed and breakfast basis drinks are for your account. These are typically inexpensive in US dollar terms.
What type of baggage / luggage should we take? Luggage should be kept to a minimum. Most southern African safaris limit you to 20 kg’s / 44 pounds per person packed in a soft duffel bag. In east Africa the limit is typically 15 kg's / 33 pounds per person. The number of bags is not as important as the total weight of your bags. It is OK to have a duffel and a small carry on bag. Hard sided suitcases and soft-sided internal frame carry on luggage (the type with a handle and wheels) are not acceptable as they will not fit in the baggage compartment on small aircraft which are often used for transfers between lodges and camps. On safaris that have no small aircraft transfers the weight and size allowance is not as important however you should still strive to bring as little as possible. Remember - a complimentary laundry service is offered at most safari camps and lodges.
What types of clothes should we take on safari? When on safari it is best to wear grey, brown or khaki colored clothing during the months June through October, and green clothing during the months November through May so as not to alert wildlife of your presence. White (which gets dirty very fast) and other bright colors are definitely not recommended (blue actually attracts tetse flies – but not enough to worry about). Camouflage clothing is not allowed.
Bring comfortable clothes that are cool, but that can layer to keep you warm at night or on game drives. During winter months (May through August in southern Africa) bring a pair of gloves and a warm hat as temperatures can drop to below freezing on occasion! It is also advisable to bring a pair of sandals, comfortable walking shoes (tennis shoes), a swimsuit, and a hat to block the sun. There is no need for heavy boots.
We provide all clients with comprehensive trip information including a travel checklist upon booking.
Do I need to bring a sleeping bag on a camping safari? No you do not… all camping equipment will be provided for you.
Are park fee's included on my safari? Park fees are almost always included in the overall trip cost. Your consultant will advise you if any park's fees that must be paid direct.
PASSPORT AND ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Do I need a passport? Yes! Most African countries require that you are in possession of a valid passport with an expiration date no less than six months after your return to the United States.
US citizens require entry visas for Kenya (purchase before travel US $50 per person), Mozambique (purchase before travel US $40 per person), Tanzania (purchase before travel US $100 per person), Zambia (purchase at border US $50 per person), and Zimbabwe (purchase at border US $30 per person). Entry visas are not required for Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, or South Africa.
RESERVATIONS AND TRIP PAYMENT
How far in advance should we plan and book our safari? Most of the safari lodges and camps we recommend are small, exclusive and dearly sought after. To ensure availability we suggest planning and booking your travel arrangements at least 12 months in advance.
How do we book a safari with you? First you need to contact our Seattle office. We are in between 10AM and 6PM weekdays. We may be reached by phone toll free 1 800 461 0682 within the USA or 425 793 8877 from outside the USA. Additionally you may email or fax (425 793 8878) our office and let us know when you would like to travel, how many people will be traveling, and the trip you are interested in. If you would like to arrange a tailor-made trip simply let us know your requirements and we will gladly make suggestions. With your input we can easily design a safari that suits your needs.
We will then check availability (this takes 24-48 hours as we check with the lodges and camps), and if space is available, we will make a provisional booking in your name. There is no obligation on your part at this stage.
Normally we can hold a provisional booking for 2 weeks within which time we will provide air ticket quotes and allow you to decide if you wish to confirm your bookings.
Reservations are confirmed on receipt by Ultimate Africa of a 20% of the land cost non-refundable deposit per person (minimum US $500 per person / the deposit amount will be noted on each personalized itinerary). Some overseas tour operators have deposit / payment schedules that differ from the above. Should they differ you will be advised at time of booking.
Initial trip deposit / payment must be accompanied by completed terms and conditions / reservation form, liability release / assumption of risk agreement and insurance acceptance forms. Each traveler must complete separate copies. Please contact our office for a copy of our reservation forms.
Your trip deposit and / or final trip payment may be made by credit card (MasterCard, Visa or American Express). Alternatively payments may be made by personal, business or certified check made out to Ultimate Africa Safaris and posted to our office. Check payments result in a 2.5% deduction off your total land costs. The 2.5% deduction does not apply to travel insurance and air ticket payments.
Upon receipt of your deposit we will mail you a confirmation letter, invoice, and trip details including a travel checklist.
Your final trip payment is due 75 days prior to departure. If a reservation is made within 75 days of the trip departure the entire cost of the trip must be paid at the time of confirmation.
Upon receipt of final payment your paid invoice will be posted to your mailing address.
What if we have to cancel our safari plans? All cancellations must be made in writing, signed by the client, to Ultimate Africa Safaris and all trips may be subject to the following, per person, cancellation charges based on the number of days before trip departure that we receive your written cancellation request:
More than 60 days: Loss of deposit
Between 30 and 60 days: 50% of trip cost per person
Less than 30 days: No refund of trip cost
Some of our overseas operators have cancellation fees that differ from the above. Should they differ you will be advised at time of booking and the higher fees prevail.
We require all travelers to purchase comprehensive travel insurance including trip cancellation and interruption coverage at the time of deposit.
How do we get around in Africa? While on safari you will be transferred between lodges, camps, hotels, and different national parks by road, boat and air.
Air travel is the most convenient and preferred method of moving between destinations. Depending upon your choice of safari you may travel by scheduled flights. The majority of commercial airlines use modern jet or turbo prop aircraft. Alternatively guests may fly aboard smaller single, or twin, engine charter aircraft seating 6 to 12 people.
What types of vehicles are used on safari for wildlife viewing? In east Africa most safaris are conducted in closed Land Rovers seating 5 passengers (all with window seats) with a guide and roof hatches for game viewing. A small number of east African safari lodges / camps offer open sided 4x4 vehicles for game viewing.
The majority of lodges and camps in southern Africa use open 4x4 Land Cruisers and Land Rovers seating 6 guests total (in 3 rows) for wildlife viewing drives.
Wildlife may also be viewed from power boat (ski boat), river boat, canoe (2 man Canadian canoe or mekoro), or pontoon boat (great for sundowners) depending upon the lodge or camp.
SHOPPING IN AFRICA
What is there to buy in Africa? Shopping while on safari is limited. Often lodges and camps have small curio shops where you may purchase postcards, local goods such as carvings or books, clothing (hats, shirts), and film. At airports and in larger towns you will find African curio markets where you may buy all sorts of carvings, masks, drums, jewelry etc...In general souvenirs and curios are inexpensive (in US dollar terms). Fun spirited bartering is the norm.
In most cities there are up-market jewelers and art galleries where you can easily spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on African art. Most reputable shops offer shipping of your purchase at extra cost.
How much money should I bring? Cash or travelers checks? Are credit cards accepted? You will need very little spending money on most safaris as the majority of meals and activities are included in your package cost.
You will need to pay for lunch, dinner, and drinks when you are staying on a bed and breakfast basis as is the case at most city hotels. Bills may be settled by US cash, by travelers check, or by credit card (by far the easiest method as major credit cards are accepted at nearly all lodges, camps, hotels).
Credit cards may also be used in large towns at restaurants and shops with MasterCard and Visa being most accepted. However, use may be restricted in small towns and country areas and non-existent in small retail shops. Please note that American Express is not commonly accepted in Africa. Please note that in east Africa hotels, lodges, camps, restaurants and shops often charge a small fee for the use of a credit card.
Automatic teller machines (ATM’s) are situated outside most banks in towns and cities in southern Africa, and international credit cards often can be used to withdraw currency. However, as Africa is unpredictable, please do not rely on ATM machines for your currency needs.
Should we purchase local currency? Most travelers do not need to change money into local currency as US dollars and credit cards are widely accepted. Small bills (US $1, US $5, US $10, and US $20) are best.
How much should we tip? Who do we tip? How do we tip? Tipping at restaurants (at your discretion) is 10%. Tipping at lodges and camps is always welcomed but the amount varies greatly. It is often best to tip the lodge manager who will distribute your tip amongst the lodge or camp staff. As a rough estimate you can tip US $15 (US $10 for your guide and US $5 for camp staff) for each traveler per day at each lodge / camp. The majority of lodges and camps are able to accept credit cards for tipping (MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted while American Express is not).
Do I need travel insurance? Do you offer travel insurance? All Ultimate Africa clients are required to purchase a comprehensive travel insurance plan upon booking. This should cover you for events that may occur before, or during travel, such as tour operator bankruptcy / financial default, trip cancellation, trip delay or interruption, terrorism, lost stolen or delayed baggage, emergency accident (before or during travel), sickness and evacuation of at least US $200,000 per person, 24 hour medical assistance, traveler's assistance, and emergency cash transfer. Please contact our office for an insurance application / brochure.
What is the weather like in Africa? In general east Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) experiences dry weather during the months June through October. There are two rainy seasons - the long rains which fall mid March through May and the short rains which arrive in mid October and continue until mid December.
Temperatures are moderate throughout the year with average daytime temperatures around 70 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit. June us the coolest month as it is mid winter. Evenings and mornings are often chilly, with cold nighttime temperatures at Ngorongoro Crater due to altitude.
In general the climate in southern Africa (Botswana and Zimbabwe being good examples) is as near perfect as you can get with dry season temperatures similar to those of the Mediterranean, but without the humidity. Daytime temperatures average 70 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit. During the winter period May through August nighttime temperatures in some areas can drop to freezing or below - don't let this dissuade you from a safari as by mid morning temperatures are warm enough for shorts and a short sleeved shirt.
The rains occur each year during the period November through March with the dry season stretching from April through October.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
When is the best time to travel to Africa to view wildlife? In southern Africa (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe) the best wildlife viewing is during the dry season period April through October each year with July, August, and September being the most desirable months.
Wildlife viewing is, in part, predicated on the amount of surface water available. During the rains (November through March) wildlife is scattered as there is abundant surface water (puddles, perennial rivers) to drink. Once the rains end (mid March) wildlife congregates around remaining surface water supplies (pools, lakes, and large rivers).
Please note that travel during southern Africa's "green season", November through April, does have some advantages. The bush will be lush and green and many wildlife species will have newborn in tow. Dust, which can be a nuisance during the dry season, is greatly reduced and nighttime temperatures are milder than during the dry winter months. Some camps such as Mombo in Botswana provide incredible wildlife viewing year round...another Botswana camp, Duba Plains (which is noted as having the highest density of lion in Africa), actually offers the better wildlife viewing during the months October through May as the Okavango Delta flood waters are lower. The Victoria Falls are in full spate (heaviest flow) during the period February through June. Lastly, during the "green season" many northern migratory birds call southern Africa home making the region an ornithologist's paradise!
In east Africa safaris are best enjoyed during the periods mid December through the beginning of March and during the period June through mid October each year.
Why should I go on safari in Africa? Africa remains one the last outposts of raw adventure; a refuge from the modern world. From the splendor of the Serengeti teeming with herds of a million wildebeest, to the pristine primordial beauty of the Ngorongoro Crater; from Botswana's tranquil Okavango Delta filled with birdsong to the raging Zambezi River as it crashes untamed over Victoria Falls into the Batoka Gorge - this ancient land and its people offer a travel experience truly unlike any other.
Southern Africa in particular, in our opinion, provides travelers with the highest quality African wildlife and wilderness experience available in a land that is both clean and comfortable. Southern Africa is home a tremendous wealth of wildlife including Africa's Big 5 wildlife species (buffalo, elephant, lion, leopard, and rhino - both black and white). Zimbabwe has the highest concentration of leopard in the world! Botswana is home to the highest density of lion in Africa, and the continent’s largest elephant herds (over 60,000 elephant in Botswana's Chobe National Park alone!). Zimbabwean guides are considered the most highly trained and qualified guides in Africa. Professionally licensed Zimbabwean guides are able to take you walking / tracking within national parks unlike in Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania where you may not walk within national parks. In these countries walks are conducted outside parks, often on private land adjoining national parks and reserves.
In southern Africa you will enjoy off road wildlife viewing drives from open safari vehicles - great for photography - unlike in east Africa where closed safari vehicles with roof hatches are the norm. Night time wildlife viewing drives are also possible from certain camps and lodges. This gives you the opportunity to view nocturnal wildlife species such leopard, civet, and genet.
Wildlife may also be viewed by boat and canoe where you may encounter hippo, crocodile, and other species as they come to drink and bath.
How is the wildlife? Wildlife viewing in Africa is tremendous if you travel to the right destination at the right time! Many safari companies tell travelers that any and every month is great for a safari. Often their clients are disappointed when they arrive at their destination and find the weather uncomfortable or that the wildlife has dispersed because of the rains. We tell our clients the truth, often times discouraging out of season travel to safari destinations. Each country has a safari season and during these months you will be able to travel comfortably and see tremendous amounts of wildlife.
Unlike in east Africa, while viewing wildlife in southern Africa you rarely see other tourists or vehicles.
How is the birding? Birding in Africa is spectacular, especially during the northern hemisphere winter when the northern migratory birds are present. From the flightless ostrich to tiny bee eaters, Africa is an ornithologist's paradise!