Wildlife safaris are one of the most popular bucket list travel items, and more travelers are considering it for their next trip.
Travel Market Report asked Gys Oosthuizen, operations manager at Bush Whisper Expeditions in Johannesburg, South Africa, to describe what he sees from his guests, to help travel agents better sell the experience to their clients.
For a travel agent who has a client considering a safari, how would you describe the experience of the typical guest?
If you are a safari first timer, welcome to the magical world of the African bush! It is an enticing, relaxing, exhilarating and sometimes overwhelming experience. All your senses will be awakened by the sights, sounds and experiences you will have. The African bush is a new and exciting world filled with magnificent and wild African animals.
People who have been on an African safari will tell you that it is life-changing; that is why, despite the costs, those who have reveled in the experience invariably come back for more. They always go back to Africa. You may be lucky enough to see a group of African elephants on your safari, since these animals tend to travel in packs. You're most likely to spot elephants in forested areas. Zebras, giraffes and wild horses also roam free in some safari lands. You may also spot some big cats, such as cheetahs and lions.
What advice do you have for a travel agent whose client might hold some fear about going on safari?
It’s all about the guides, helping them feel safe. Being a safari guide sounds like the best job in the world, but there’s a lot of pressure that falls on these bush-loving people. Guides play a huge role in ensuring their guests enjoy the ultimate African safari holiday, made complete with exceptional wildlife sightings, fascinating information about the surroundings, animals and great guiding in general. Safaris just wouldn’t be the same without the best guides in the business.
When a safari is about to end, what do guests tell you was the most incredible part of their experience?
It depends from group to group. It will depend on what they did and were they went. But almost every time it’s about the people they met, the sunshine and of course, all the animals they saw. The African landscape is also a winner every time.
If you had the chance to educate a travel agent about how to sell a safari to a client who has never taken one, what would you tell them to help them convince someone they absolutely had to do this?
The continent of Africa has been touched by cultures from around the world, and South Africa is one of the few places on Earth where you can have a truly wholesome experience. For as long as possible, to ensure that when guests from all over the world visit our country, our Africa, and for when we introduce them to this land, they will find what they came searching for, become one with it, and then realize that one can never leave Africa behind.
The continent excels as a modern destination while sustaining the wilderness experience of Africa’s pristine outback. The thundering beauty of the Victoria Falls in Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Big 5 of Kruger and Sabi Sand in South Africa, the striking Namibian deserts of Sossusvlei and Kalahari, the ever-changing Botswana ecology of the Okavango Delta.
Gys Oosthuizen, a safari guide for nearly 20 years, is operations manager with Bush Whisper Expeditions in Johannesburg, South Africa. He started as a field guide for an overland operator in Southern and East Africa. (South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Swaziland, Lesotho and Mozambique). Oosthuizen co-founded Bush Whisper in 2007. He has led more than 580 safaris in Africa, and says “I love the African bush and every small living thing in it.”