Enjoying the Benefits of a Bespoke Safari Planner

South Africa is a wonderfully diverse nation, from blue ocean to green bushlands and red desert. Equally, without a bespoke safari planner and with so much to choose from, there is so much that can be missed.

When Amy Lewis and John Leone first approached us with their bespoke safari wishes, South Africa was their choice of destination, but their choice of what to do there they confidently left in the hands of our travel designers.

However, with varied perspectives – Amy an avid adventurer and John more akin to the finer things in life – there were contrasting aspects to be considered. Though this is not uncommon, it required both finesse and expert knowledge to fulfil their wishes.Bespoke Safari Planner 16

While South Africa would be more than capable of providing for each perspective, how to combine these could only be accomplished by an expert travel planner.

This is their story, as shared by Amy Lewis:

Planning Their Trip

“I’ve always been an adventure traveler and I think a family put that on hold for a while. So I think our previous trips were a little bit more pedestrian. I was definitely looking for something that was a little bit more outside the box than what we usually do.

“My husband is also not the traveler that I am. I mean, I’ve been known to throw some stuff in a backpack and just go off for a month. So it needed to be a little bit more sophisticated for him. He needs a roof over his head and he needs ground transportation rather than just winging it, figuring it out as he goes. 

“We’ve both always really enjoyed learning about being around animals and being outdoors and being in nature. So South Africa seemed like a good fit.”

With their wishes in mind, Amy and John contacted Rothschild Safaris, who took the time to both hear these desires and understand their personal preferences, from Amy’s adventurousness and love of photography to John’s desire for luxury, comfort and – unlike his wife’s dietary predilections – to sample some of Africa’s more carnivorous cuisine.

“Our travel designer was easy to talk to and for me to explain what I needed. She made it easy to put the trip together, she heard what we said and what experiences we should undertake. Our client manager then filled in the rest, from car hire to restaurant bookings. With the food tour initially, I was worried about being a non-meat eater, but our travel designer told me this wasn’t a problem at all which was very true.”

Expert Advice from Their Bespoke Safari Planner

Clarifying these stipulations, our travel designer was then able to collect the most appropriate of South African offerings into one handcrafted bespoke safari itinerary. Selecting premier properties on the Southern Cape, luxurious lodges in Sabi Sand and ensuring that restaurants were booked and connecting transfers were aligned, the adventure was set. 

But a bespoke safari planner reaches far beyond the obvious, refining every nuance of a luxury safari vacation:

“It was even more specific than that, because going to South Africa and thinking that maybe this would be the only time I would be there, I wanted to see as much as possible in the short amount of time that we had. So they were great about incorporating the urban piece, which I love. We love good wine, so we got a little bit of the winelands, and we also had some time just to relax and decompress there on a working farm.

“Cape Town is so urban and cosmopolitan and thriving that there was absolutely every sort of cuisine imaginable. Our safari planner really helped us find some great restaurants once we talked about food preferences and what we wanted to do. And then we took a day-long food tour with a local chef, and she, too, was just great about customizing everything to what we wanted.

“We spent an evening having dinner in one of the Muslim quarters in town in Bo-Kaap. So that way, of course, there was no meat to be eaten there. And then in the morning, she took us to an absolutely fantastic, huge local farmer’s market. And so we had all kinds of things to choose from there.”

The Cape Winelands

From the heart of Cape Town, the couple traveled eastwards along the coast to the verdant Cape Winelands, and here they would find more of the benefits of consulting a bespoke safari planner. With a week of safari adventures ahead, it was important to refresh from their long-haul flight and ease into their South African experience.

Staying at the luxurious Babylonstoren, they could sample the award-winning wines, expertly paired with impeccable culinary creations, enjoy spa treatments and take in the more contemporary aspects of South Africa before wandering into the wild.

“We wished we’d stayed longer [at Babylonstoren]! It’s so peaceful and not close to anything which is good to know for others. We wanted to relax a bit so this was a good choice. The wine pairing and the garden tour were super. It was a little chilly so in nicer weather maybe we would’ve gone fishing and kayaking.”

Photos: © Babylonstoren

Onwards to Safari

Though it was tantalizingly appealing to continue enjoying the pampering hospitality of Babylonstoren, the bush beckoned, and Londolozi‘s luxury Varty Camp awaited:

“And then, of course, the safari. The team did a really good job of helping me sort out what to do and what’s best at that time of year, because the other thing we had also talked about was maybe a marine safari on the Southern Cape. After talking with them, they were quite straightforward about saying this is probably not the best time of year to do this, so maybe we should put our time elsewhere. They were really good about helping me figure out where I would find the best experiences for our time of travel.”

There are certain aspects of Africa that, while widely renowned, simply can’t be combined by even the most talented safari planner, such as taking a vacation in August and wishing to see Victoria Falls in full flood (which takes place between November and February). While a marine safari may not have been the best use of Amy and John’s time, it was more than compensated for by what they would find as they ventured into the north:

“The safari was definitely the highlight and not just because we got to see the Big Five, but because it exceeded our expectations so much. So beautiful the lodge and grounds were, we were so pampered and everyone was so friendly and receptive to our needs and we felt relaxed and safe. That whole experience was so amazing.”

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The term ‘camp’ can often be misconstrued. It conjures notions of crouching on all fours to crawl into claustrophobic interiors, twigs jabbing your back as you wriggle to find a comfortable position for a broken night’s sleep. But a safari camp is a different experience altogether. A modicum of trepidation was held by Amy and John, wondering whether Varty Camp would fulfil John’s discerning accommodation desires, but this needn’t have been the case.

“We were definitely expecting and ready to embrace something far more rugged than what we encountered. But I mean, we took a jet from Cape Town into Nelspruit, and then a tiny Cessna from there into the runway right at the lodge. There was a safari vehicle there to pick us up and take us from the airstrip to the lodge, and a beautiful outdoor lunch was waiting. So there really wasn’t anything particularly rugged about this adventure, other than maybe getting up at 4:30 in the morning for game drives!

“We couldn’t have asked for more. The tracker and guide were so knowledgeable and excellent. We were well paired up with other guests and they did well in that respect. The food also catered to my diet perfectly.”

Photos: © Londolozi Varty Camp

Finding Photography

An avid photographer though she is, Amy was reluctant to take her own camera equipment. However, she had shared this desire in early discussions and our bespoke safari planner was able to arrange a hire camera for her safari. Though not available at all camps, Varty is equipped with a suite of camera equipment and editing tools, allowing guests to take images on high-quality cameras, and download, edit and save their images after each game drive.

Photos: © Londolozi’s Creative Suite

Not only is this incredibly convenient, it also provides peace of mind when not having to travel internationally with several thousand dollars’ worth of gear:

“The ability to rent nice camera equipment and have someone to sit with me and go through it is a huge plus. 

“I had my cell phone for backup, so the first couple of days I was shooting on my cell phone, too, because I wasn’t really sure how this stuff was going to turn out, it was equipment I’d never worked with before. 

“We had come back from our safari drive and downloaded the images with the guide. He would say, ‘oh, that’s a good one; that’s a great one’. And so we’d send them back home to the family.

“I’m pretty good about the creative side with framing photos and light and that sort of thing, but I’m not good with the technical aspects of the camera itself. And with it being one I’ve never used before, too, it was really, really nice to have that help from the guide.

“I’d recommend renting equipment to anybody because, quite frankly, if they didn’t have it available to rent, I probably would not have brought my own camera and everything would have been on my cell phone. Some of the cell phone stuff isn’t bad, but it was a game-changer having that telephoto lens.”

The Bespoke Safari Planner Difference

A bespoke safari planner accounts for far more than the experiential aspects of your journey, and it is often the moments in between that make the most resounding impression. You can book a flight to Africa, hire a car and make your own way to one of the many game reserves on a self-driving safari vacation. But luxury doesn’t live behind the wheel, and it is in the finer details that a truly expert travel planner defines themselves.

“I think I probably had more of an image of safari being, oh, I guess, a little less sophisticated than what it ended up being.

“I love the fact that this was just seamless. I mean, everything from boarding the plane to going out to dinner; we didn’t have to think about a thing once we got there. The team did such a good job with working with us before our trip to identify what we wanted and distill it down so it would be perfect. Looking it all and spelling it all out for us on a beautiful itinerary with all the names, numbers, contact information… everything was absolutely seamless. 

“I’ve never had an experience that’s been just so seamless where nothing’s gone wrong and I didn’t have to worry about anything. It was great. And having the reassurance that we do have staff members over there, we do have an agent or a staff member in Cape Town and we do have direct contact with the lodges and that sort of thing.

“Most of the times I’ve traveled I have used an agent; they will say that we’ve got a person on the ground wherever, and they do. But in this particular case, the agent was waiting for us at eight o’clock at night when we arrived late to the hotel. So we got to see a living, breathing human who was right there to answer questions and make sure we were settled in, which was so reassuring.”

With next year’s travel plans already booked, 2025’s adventures are beckoning. Our expanding and extensive portfolio has a wealth of inspiration – the only problem is choosing your next destination:

“We’d love to see New Zealand. We’d love another Africa trip such as Seychelles and Madagascar… the great migration would be fun. Machu Picchu and Galápagos are something we’d also like to do.”

Why Use a Bespoke Safari Planner?

A travel agent can book your flights and accommodation without a problem, and for some this is enough. But when embarking on a multi-stage itinerary, one with diverse preferences, numerous transfers and a million moving parts, only a bespoke safari planner will do.

From the very first call, we take the time to discover every aspect of your wishes, from choice of accommodation to personal interests, and physical and dietary requirements.

When planning your trip, it may seem excessive when compared to booking a pre-designed package online, but as Amy and John discovered, when your feet touch down, the difference is illuminated, a contrast that is quite simply incomparable.

Contact our Travel Designers to begin planning your once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

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All Images: © Amy Lewis, unless otherwise stated.