“It’s really beautiful! It feels like God visits everywhere else, but lives in Africa” – Will Smith
There are two types of people in this world: those who use travel agents and those who ‘wing’ it. Granted, both methods have their own sets of merits and demerits. For instance, if you decide to wing it, you can pretty much make up the itinerary as you go. Which means that you are free as a bird to sleep through that dreadful morning hike up the Aberdare Ranges just so you can see the sunrise. You also do not have to sleep in that ‘suspiciously NOT the 5-Star hotel you were promised in the brochure’. Good time all around!
The problem is that you might not get to see all the cool stuff that only travel agents know about. You know, things like how you can drive up to Lake Ellis on Mt.Kenya and spend the night gazing at the stars not worried about game wardens breaking up the party. Or getting driven around on a scenic game drive while you nurse that nasty East African hangover. Aren’t safaris fun?
Now, choosing between these two options will depend on a couple of things:
- How adventurous you are
- How much you do not like ‘the hassle’
- How much money you have to spend on your safari
Okay, so maybe more than just a couple of things! The point is whether you choose to travel through an agent or to go it solo, there are several things you need to know before visiting Kenya. Things that travel agents won’t necessarily tell you.
Things travel agents won’t tell you about visiting Kenya
You probably already know things like:
- We are crazy about our Football, rugby and athletics
- We absolutely love our beer and nyama choma
- The nightlife never stops (if you know where to go)
The women are pretty like you won’t believe, the food is excellent, the men are friendly and the weather is better than all of them combined. These are all things you can Google and confirm about Kenya. But did you know that:
Your travel agent can’t book or price every airline
Kenya has about 20 international air carriers operating in and out of its skies, with another 50 or so flying local and regional. The point is, there are a lot of airlines operating in our skies and as much as this number presents you with a lot of options, your travel agent might not be able to book you on all of them. Agents often push the airlines that give them the most commission. You can, however, book your own flights on your preferred airline online.
Low-season travel is cheaper
In Kenya, the high travel seasons falls in mid-June through October and then mid-December to February which covers the dry season and encompasses the perfect time to view the wildebeest migration in the Maasai Mara. This is when your safari will cost you both arms and maybe a kidney depending on where you choose to stay. However, if you travel between April and June, you could get accommodation and safari rates at 40% less. Imagine that?!!!
The ‘total cost’ advertised might not really be the ‘total cost’
As unfortunate as this might be, travel agents the world over advertise attractive looking tour packages with even better-sounding prices. The problem is that in some cases, these advertised prices do not include taxes, airport costs and other fees that could very well double the whole thing. You are advised to ask for the absolute total cost of the package you choose before booking.
So much planning goes into making your safari a success
The best part about using a travel agent as opposed to going solo is that you have someone else worrying about all the associated logistics. You will not believe the sheer amount of work that goes into making your safari a success. The right agent will move Heaven and Earth to make your stay as comfortable as possible. So tip well, huh?
Your travel agent will be your personal concierge service
Another wonderful reason to use an agent is the fact that they will be your personal concierge service during your stay. As much as Johnny from the helpdesk might not be in the tour van with you, he will ensure that everything goes smoothly and he will be in constant contact with his team on the ground to make sure that you are having a blast of a time when in Kenya.
Your travel agent earns a commission
You probably already knew this, otherwise, why would your travel agent be in business? Did you know just how much they earn? The truth is, every agent has a different commission structure negotiated with respective establishments. So if you find that your agent is doing a heck of a job promoting one establishment over another, just know that they have a better deal with that establishment than they do with the rest. The problem with this is that the establishment your agent likes will not be necessarily the one you like. So there might be a bit of compromising here!
Your agent knows all the best spots
Your agent will create an itinerary that covers all the ‘popular’ destinations by international tourists’ standards. They do that because their research and experience has told them that it is what a majority of travellers like. However, if you are one to colour outside the lines (all the cool travellers are!) then you might want to ask your agent for ‘off the menu’ locations that only they and maybe a few locals know about! You will be surprised at how much beauty Kenya is hiding within her borders.
You might want to figure out the travel insurance part of things by yourself
While travel agents will recommend the most popular travel insurance packages to get, they don’t necessarily ‘major’ in that sort of thing. Often, it is up to you to carry out your own research and find the best travel insurance for the region you intend to visit.
Travel agents are perfect for specialized packages
Are you looking for the best honeymoon destinations? Maybe you want to experience ‘extreme sports travel‘ or just want to go somewhere to be left alone? Your travel agent will know just the right package and destination. You might have to sift through a few agencies though because, as much as most will tell you that they cover everything, every single travel agency has a speciality. That is the kind of package you want to book with them; one they know everything about.
Your travel agent might not have been to the destination they are recommending
Granted, most travel agents have things called ‘familiarization trips’. This is where they are taken on a tour of different facilities so they know exactly what they are promoting. However, to be honest, huge travel agencies promote a whole lot of places across the country and even the globe. While they may very well intend to visit all the destinations they promote so they have the same kind of experience their clients will have when they visit, there is a good chance that they promote many of these destinations even before they have had a chance to visit them.
Which is not necessarily a bad thing considering the fact that online reviews and ratings are keeping people honest nowadays. Although, if you are going to pay all that money to visit some-place at your agent’s recommendation, you probably want it to be some-place they have experienced themselves.
All in all, using a travel agent is a much easier, hassle-free and comprehensive way to enjoy your Kenyan safari.
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