What are Our Benchmarks for the Very Best Luxury African Safari Lodges? John has recently returned from a “Quality Assurance” trip to some South African lodges. This trip was to continue our rigorous testing, first hand and through direct experience, the quality of the locations and lodges we recommend to our clients. We’d like to share some of our benchmarks with you. The Geographical and Physical Location of our Destinations It is essential to possess a thorough understanding of every place we choose for our destinations. First, we need to have a solid grasp of the geography and topography, as well as the accessibility and means of travel required in order to get there. Managing Your Expectations It’s absolutely essential that we have an acute understanding of your wishes. We make it our job to find out the why’s and wherefore’s of where you want to go, what you want to see, how long you want to stay and how much you would like to spend. Our itineraries are then created to meet these specific wishes. We’ll talk to you at length to be certain your expectations are met and to your budget. It’s very important to be clear about costs, of course, as most people, naturally, don’t know what it costs to visit Africa and view the wildlife and many other attractions. For example, if you want to see gorillas the park entry fees are very high! We include as much as we possibly can in our travel quotes so that clients are NOT constantly dipping into their pockets to pay for “extras”. We do not send clients to lodges or places that we have not personally approved as a result of staying there first. All of our team members visit Africa frequently for this purpose. We look for the following before adding a lodge to our approved list: The safari guide quality must be exemplary. See a short video of one of our guides. Lodge staff must make you feel totally welcome, comfortable and “at home”. Wildlife viewing must live up to what is promised. For instance, you wouldn’t expect to find leopards in the middle of the sand dunes of Sossusvlei, but you will expect to see them in the Sabi Sands game reserve. Game drive vehicles should be perfectly maintained and clean for each drive. Vehicles should have on board water, a blanket for cold mornings, a poncho for wet weather, a place to store cameras and other things and tiered seats so that everyone gets an unobstructed view. We do not like game drives where the guide is locked in to specific return times back to the lodge – especially when a guide has to return just as some very exciting action is taking place! Check out our recent blogs about the amazing wildlife you can see on your African safari experience with us. We prefer that every client has an outside seat. We do not like middle row seats as all guests pay the same! But some less expensive lodges cannot afford this. See the vehicles we like (and much more) in this explanation video of one of our favourite safari lodges in South Africa. Accommodation must meet our exacting standards. At the very least, lodges and resorts must be clean, comfortable, cool/warm, have hot water, power for charging, enough room, not noisy, wi-fi in rooms (not only in public areas!) and a great ambience. They must be a place of total relaxation; where you can enjoy good company, delicious food and beverages and a fire to chat around and make memories! That brings us back to food – ahhh! Always a topic of conversation. We do not expect lobster at a game lodge but we do expect wholesome, fresh, well cooked and presented meals with a wide choice and able to cater to most dietary requirements. Read our blog about some of the culinary experiences you can expect on an African safari with us and watch our video of clients enjoying a bush breakfast. Drinks: some lodges include alcoholic drinks and some don’t. We don’t really mind either way as you pay for them one way or another. However, a good selection is important as people have many and varied tastes and we like a lodge that can cater for all if possible. Accessibility: a road transfer is always good if the lodges can be reached on reasonably good roads (like those in South Africa). A nearby airstrip is useful if the lodge is remotely located. We tend to use light aircraft in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Kenya and a mixture in Zimbabwe and Tanzania. If you want to experience a Balloon Safari check out this video footage. Complimentary laundry is always very welcome as many guest travel light (especially if light aircraft flights are included) and do not have a never ending supply of clean clothes. Some guests like a gym, others a massage and so on. These services all add up to a better stay! Make your African safari worthwhile and don’t get disappointed Once we have assessed a lodge on these criteria, we make the all important decision whether to recommend it to our clients. It may surprise you to know that some 80 percent of lodges do not make our recommended list. This is usually based on staff and guides not meeting our exacting standards. Although all facets of accommodation are important, the fact that guides and staff meet our standards is absolutely non negotiable. We feel it is the people that make or break a stay at a game lodge – not the buildings! To turn your African bucket list dreams into a stunning reality, take a look at some of the sample itineraries and delve into the destinations to do a bit of research and then request a no obligation itinerary based on exactly what you want to experience.