Life goal accomplished: Long have I dreamed of basking in the glory of Africa’s megafauna, me basking in their existence and them realizing that I was their long lost monkey-overlord. Going on a safari delivered on that dream big time! Well, not the monkey-overlord part, sadly. This is part 1 of how I conceived, executed, and lived that dream.
A lot of people are safari-interested, and monkey-overlord interested, so I am hear to spin a tale of my experience. I realize that no two safari experiences are the same, but maybe this blog will help if anyone is on the fence about going. I think you should go, but then again I have a nature blog – naturally, my opinion would lean that way. If you have questions about anything related to this experience then definitely ask.
Tour Operator: Gamewatchers Safari
Safari Country: Kenya (I went to Zanzibar too, but not on a safari – that was for relaxing)
Disclaimer: This series of blogs on the safari experience is going to come off as glowing for Gamewatchers Safari. This is not intended to be a shill piece for them. I am simply stating my opinion, which is very high, of their operation. If anyone at Gamewatchers Safari is reading this and wants to have me come over on another adventure to write about your operation…I AM IN!
My Criteria In Selecting A Safari
My absolute prime goal for a safari was that I wanted maximum wildlife. In order to see maximum wildlife, you have to get out to where the wildlife lives, sleeps, eats, poops in ample volume, and occasionally murders man and beast alike. That means living in tents in the middle of nowhere. I like to think that if the adventure doesn’t require signing some form of waiver than it is not worth doing.
Next, the operator needs to be eco-friendly. Ultimately, you cannot have incredible wildlife without incredible ecosystems. That means conservation has to be key. The greater the attention is to being eco-friendly and minimally impacting the wildlife the better. And no trophy hunting! I just can’t with that.
Lastly, they had to have good reviews in considerable volume. I was looking for reviews on the quality of the wildlife, what the tent experience was like (I want to be close to the wildlife, but I don’t want them eating my gorgeous face at night while I am dreaming of ruling a monkey kingdom), and whether people felt like the adventure was worth the time, money, and effort put into having it. There was just no way that I was going to squander my megafauna dream to some shoddy operator…No, not on my watch. I needed a vetted top-notch organization to hitch my dream-wagon to.
As for price, I was willing to pay what needed to be paid. As I’ve never been to Africa before, I simply couldn’t build a plan based on a budget that I felt would satisfy my goal of seeing maximum wildlife. So, I was okay with paying a premium price for a premium experience. I understand that might not be possible for everyone, but that was my philosophy going into this.
How Did I Arrive At Gamewatchers Safari?
I went through every “best African safari” site that I could find (Fodor’s has a good one). I emailed the ones that looked like they fit my criteria. Then, I waited.
The quickest to get back to me was Gamewatchers Safari. They have a lady in the US named Julie Roggow (firstname.lastname@example.org) that was super responsive. To me, having someone on the other end of this transaction that was quick to answer my questions goes a long way in selling me on the company that they represent. Her being in the US, and they have reps in other countries, made the communication exchanges as close to real-time as possible. Trust me, I peppered Julie with a billion questions!
I told Julie what I wanted out of my safari experience (see above). She asked that I give her a day and then she would send me a draft itinerary of what she felt like I wanted to experience. When she sent over the draft itinerary she absolutely captured everything that I wanted. Her country recommendation was on point (Kenya) for maximum wildlife, the deep-widlife experience was exactly what I wanted (tents on conservancies), and the eco-friendly stuff was sound (the tent camps have no permanent structures and can be moved when needed, showers were done via bucket-shower to conserve water, no electric grid electricity, etc.).
Okay, this was sounding like real deal Holyfield territory. That was when I went into heavy duty research mode on Gamewatcher Safari’s reviews, people’s opinions on Julie as a credible source, and what their reputation was as a steward of conservation – basically, anything I could find on them to validate that they were the real deal. They crushed that too.
I had learned everything that I needed to in order to believe that these guys were the megafauna dream-makers. I pulled the trigger on paying my deposits and booked my flights. This was really happening!
More on the camps in Part 2