Tag: Affordable African vacations

Botswana Safari – How to pick the right safari tour

Earlier this year, Mike and I made out first trip to Sub-Saharan Africa. We narrowed down the calendar for our big holiday of the year. Then we began researching options. The top of our lists were tours of Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Because I had such a great experience touring India with G Adventures, we started by reviewing their offerings. Considering all of our preferences, all signs pointed to G Adventures Africa. After we reviewed those choices, we finally picked one that checked all of our boxes. Soon we were off for 2 weeks of camping, safari and adventure activities in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Here’s why we chose G Adventures Botswana & Falls Adventure tour (click link for tour details on G Adventures website). See if this Botswana safari is the right choice of affordable African vacations for you.

Selecting the proper Botswana Safari tour

A lot went into our decision to embark on the Botswana & Falls Adventure tour. From past experiences, budget considerations and travel preferences – we weighed every factor. Here is how we selected this Botswana Safari and ultimately took off with G Adventures Africa.

Elephant grazing on our Botswana Safari
Friendly elephant on our Botswana Safari

Why we chose G Adventures Africa

As I mentioned, I loved my G Adventures tour of India (click for tour details). This tour group runs specials year-round on destinations around the world. We had a few places in mind that we wanted to explore. We figured we would check out their travel deals to begin our search. G Adventures offers an insane amount of options to visit different destinations and they focus on responsible tourism.

They also lead with service and go out of their way to make sure that participants needs are met. This includes extensive personal assistance from their guides or as they call them, CEOs (Chief Experience Officers). These guides help you with everything! I witnessed my guide in India find vegan restaurants for my tour-mates and set up a SIM card in my iPhone. He even organized airport transfers for me after my tour ended and I explored Varanasi on my own. In India, I felt like we were just floating through the country, which can be difficult to navigate for travelers of any experience level. 

Why we chose South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe

We have always wanted to holiday in Africa. We are so fortunate to have visited a lot of Europe. Therefore, we knew our major trip for this year would be on another continent. Africa seemed like a great choice because it would be Fall during the time of our tour. Fall in this region means that the Okavango Delta of Botswana is teeming with wildlife. This area sees seasonal flooding which creates a lush environment that plays a major role in animal migration. When is the best time to visit Africa? I think we found it.

With the bulk of this tour in the Delta, we were most interested in the Botswana & Falls Adventure. What fully tipped the scales for us was the starting and ending locations. Because we began the tour in Johannesburg, we were able to visit an old friend of mine and explore that great city. We finished the tour in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. That meant we got to see a natural wonder of the world. Vic Falls is known worldwide for its extreme adventure sports which we were eager to partake in.

See our full tour review with a lot more pictures and stories HERE

Why we chose a “Shoestring Tour” for our Botswana Safari

The G Adventures Africa tour we chose was a “shoestring tour.” This tour is designed specifically for the 18-39 demographic. Since we are grasping to stay in this demographic, we chose a shoestring tour. Shoestring tours are cheaper than the “classic” and “National Geographic” G Adventure tours.

Botswana Safari Chobe River Cruise
Elephants cooling off in the Chobe RIver in Botswana

Besides a lower cost, these tours move at a faster rate. This tour, for example, did not spend more than one night in any single location – not a lot of downtime. This was still the best of the affordable African vacations we researched. The price, the timing and touring Africa with young professionals our age made this the best Botswana safari for us.

Is G Adventures Africa right for your Botswana Safari?

No matter what your looking for, you should begin your tour search with G Adventures. Not only do they have a tremendous amount of options – they simply create the best tours. G Adventures is an extremely professional, service-minded company. You can also trust their experience because they have been in the business for decades. There is a reason why they partner with companies you already know and trust like National Geographic and Lonely Planet.

The customer service team at G Adventures make the process simple and help you with ensuring you have the proper passport and visa requirements for your trip. They require travel insurance and help you with the process of finding it. G Adventures can assist you with airport transfers and extending your travels beyond the tour you select. Put simply – they cover it all so you can travel with ease.

Which type of tour is right for you?

This is where things get tricky. With so many South African safari holidays, which is right for you? There are three main categories of G Adventures tours: Shoestring, Classic and National Geographic. Each tour is designed for a different price tag, pace and age demographic.

Shoestring Tours

A Shoestring tour is what it sounds like; cheaper, fast-paced and for the younger demographic. As mentioned, it’s designed for 18-39 year old travelers. On our shoestring Botswana safari, we were happy with the price of under $1000 for 8 days. We were comfortable with the fast pace, and covered a lot of ground in the time allotted. Most importantly, we enjoyed the chance to travel with people in out age range.

After the tour, Mike and I decided this was our last shoestring tour. The tour was as advertised. However, we overestimated our ability to travel with no frills. Yes, I admit it – we are old. In our late 30s, we felt the back aches from camping and would have preferred occasional hotels.

Botswana Camping Kalahari Desert
Camping in the Kalahari Desert – we took turns cooking meals, this was Mike’s dinner shift

We also know that classic tours move at a slower pace, so there is more time to relax while on safari. Mostly, this would have meant fewer early morning and long drives in the all-terrain vehicle. To boot, we were always more hungover than our tour-mates who were younger than us. We could keep up, but barely.

In retrospect, we were better suited for a classic tour. If you’re young and enjoy camping then Shoestring tours are right for you. The price is also comfortable for someone in the early part of their career and the companionship of young adults is ideal.

Classic Tours

The classic tours have a everything that a shoestring tour includes, but a slower pace. There are more nights in hotels, but most of the Botswana safari options still include camping. The main difference is that the classic tours move at a slower pace and avoid some of the longer drives. Several days, we spent 6+ hours in the all-terrain vehicle.

Our guide also told us that classic tours doesn’t mean it’s a group of retirees. She explained that many classic tours are the 30-40 age range. We would still enjoy an older tour group, and when we repeat a G Adventures tour this will be how. The prices for classic tours reflect the upgraded amenities, but are still very affordable.

National Geographic Tours

The best of the best G Adventures tours are the National Geographic tours. If you want a luxury African safari, this is it! On one of these Botswana safari tours, you have more time in each location with additional downtime to explore on your own or relax. These tours come with upgraded quality accommodations and additional inclusions like airport transfers and activities. On our shoestring tour, we paid an additional fee for some activities.

These tours are suited for anyone looking to spend a little more for an upgraded experience. These are tours for travelers aged 12+ with other family tours that cater to travelers with younger children.

The prices for these tours are of course more expensive. The itineraries are different, so it’s tricky to compare, but they’re about two times what we paid for the shoestring tour with some even pricier.

Outside of Africa, there are National Geographic tours all over the world. G Adventures uses NatGeo to provide access to some extreme locations like Patagonia to Antarctica. The reviews are incredible, and I talked to one person who did the Antarctic tour and was blown away. They arranged activities with scientists and experts that really went the extra mile for travelers. For our budget preferences, this would be a very special occasion, but one day we will try this level.

Other G Adventures Tours

There are other types of tours offered by G Adventures. These include “active tours” and in Africa they usually involve climbing. For example, there is an active tour to Mt. Kilimanjaro. This is one we may decide to go back for.

In addition, there are marine tours which involve boating. There are wellness and lifestyle tours which incorporate yoga and other activities. They have rail tours, like the Norway Winter Northern Lights railway tour. There are also local living tours, where you only unpack one time and live locally in one destination and travel the region for day-trips. For example, spending a week in Quito, Ecuador and venturing into the Amazon for day-trips. This is the local living Ecuador tour and seems ideal for avoiding the break-neck pace of the shoestring tours.

No matter what you’re after there is usually something that will fit your preferences with G Adventures.

The amazing Victoria Falls, where we finished our Botswana Safari
The amazing Victoria Falls, where we finished our Botswana Safari

How to book a G Adventures Tour

If you’re interested in booking a tour, the easiest way is to check out their listings online. When you know where you want to go, search their website HERE. If you need some inspiration, I’d recommend to check out their travel deals HERE. There you can find a discounted tour and there are ALWAYS great deals if you’re flexible with where and when you travel. We found our Botswana safari tour for 30% off!

Their site makes it super simple to select. They let you know how many spots are available for each start date of that tour. Then you can reserve your place on the tour of your choice with no money down. When you want to fully book, you can make a deposit, or pay in full. Unfortunately, there is no discount for paying in full, but you can pay in installments to help with your cash flow.

Some nervous zebra spied on our Botswana Safari in the Kalahari Desert
Some nervous zebra spied on our Botswana Safari in the Kalahari Desert

Once you reserve a spot and pay the deposit, G Adventures can even help you book airfare. For India, they were able to find be better prices than I had access to myself. When we flew to Africa, I found a better price on Skyscanner. They are there to help, but don’t require for you to use them for airfare.

Their service team also assists you with booking airport transfers if you need them. They will also help if you are looking to arrive early and spend a day in your departure city. I recommend this because you won’t have much time there as part of your tour. You can do the same thing in your final tour destination. G Adventures can assist with extra hotel nights or helping you continue your flights to another location.

Final thoughts on our Botswana Safari

I am so happy we did this Botswana safari tour. There were some things I would change in retrospect, but it was unbelievable. If we were to book this again, we would have chosen a classic tour. We would have also booked more time in Victoria Falls to enjoy the adventure activities there. We ended up spending more time than expected there, but it was a fortuitous mistake. Read about how we got “stuck” in Victoria Falls HERE.

Botswana Safari Chobe River Elephant
Elephant taking a sunset dip in the Chobe River in Botswana as we cruise by

It was truly amazing to be so close to these animals and immersed in this ecosystem. The people of Africa were such a delight. They were so friendly, warm, welcoming and just beautiful people. I loved how G Adventures invests in the community. For example, when we arrived in Zimbabwe, there were women from the community who run a catering service that prepared our lunch. They also offered to launder our clothes and G Adventures supplied them with the funding to begin their catering and laundry business.

You should definitely consider G Adventures for any destination, but as affordable African vacations go – they can’t be beat!

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