If there’s one continent that still offers the possibility of wild, wonderful, classic travel experiences, it’s Africa. For many experienced international travelers, Africa represents adventure in its purest form; for travel beginners, it represents the ultimate bucket-list destination.
Traveling to Africa can give your groups numerous experiences they’ll never have anywhere else. The wildlife is world-class, and many tours also highlight African culture and history, which can include the stories of apartheid in South Africa or visits with tribal warriors on the plains of Kenya.
To help you wrap your head around the prospect of taking a group to Africa, we asked three tour operators that specialize in the continent for their insights.
Aaron Cleveland, eastern sales director
Christian Wolders, deputy general manager & VP of marketing
Jim Holden, president
What are some of your top-selling tours in Africa?
Cleveland: The tops are Botswana, Tanzania and South Africa. Botswana is usually 10 to 12 days. Tanzania is about the same, as is South Africa, although those can be made longer. They’re all safari focused.
Wolders: One of our top itineraries is an epic, quintessential trip called Gorillas, Games, Parks and Beaches. It’s a 16-day adventure. You start in Nairobi, make your way through Kenya and visit a park called Lake Nakuru. You make your way into Uganda, then cross into Rwanda, where you go on an incredible gorilla trek. You hike into the jungle and witness gorillas in the wild.
Holden: We have a number of packages in east Africa — Kenya and Tanzania — as well as South Africa. East Africa is all about the wildlife, while South Africa is a very developed nation. That includes not just wildlife but visiting a very sophisticated city like Cape Town, which has fabulous restaurants and different activities.
What is the best time of year for groups to travel to Africa?
Cleveland: If you want to see the Great Migration, you need to hit Tanzania. The migration travels through portions of the Serengeti at different times, so that determines when you should go over there. I like November. May is usually pretty good, too, when they’re beginning to move on the migration.
Botswana is the best safari experience in the world. High time over there, June through August, is very expensive. Off-peak, the wildlife is still incredible, but it’s less expensive.
Wolders: We recommend the dry season if you’re looking for wildlife. It’s easier to find animals because they’re congregating around the watering holes. South Africa is dry from May to June and September to October. In west Africa, it’s October to November and April to May.
Holden: That’s dictated by when they can get away. The high season is the summertime in North America, which happens to be a great time to be doing wildlife safaris in Africa because it’s wintertime there. The bush is not as thick, so you can see the wildlife easier. There are no rains, and the ground is not as muddy. Winter is every bit as warm as the summer.