Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How to Plan an African Safari.

If I've never done it before, how do I plan to?

Africa. Just hearing the name can bring goose bumps on real hunters. Those who harbor a deep desire to visit the Darkest Continent, be it for a first time or a repeat visit.

To plan a successful hunting trip to Africa requires a lot of work, or luck, or a combination of luck and lots of money to compensate for planning mistakes! You don't have that, so be sure to read carefully this planning guide. To assist would-be African safari goers I have attempted to record some required planning steps on the pages indexed below this one.

How do you plan an African Safari?

In three distinct phases:

1. The preliminary phase: Steps 1 to 7. In these steps you learn about yourself and what you want.
2. The critical decision making: Steps 8 to 17. Learn about what is offered and decide what you want.
3. The execution phase - steps 19 to 21. Get the proverbial ball rolling towards an experience of a lifetime.

Who is this Planning Guide written for?

Without making it into a formal planning step, I believe that the potential client for Andrew McLaren Safaris should know what type of client this website was really written for.
This whole web site is written to help and assist dedicated hunters who want to hunt in Africa. Andrew McLaren Safaris hopes to get some more clients through this web site. But, without trying to be pompous, I don't want just any old client. I want to select my clients to suit my ideal client profile as far as possible. I am after all not in the Hunting Outfitting business to make money, but to enjoy my semi retirement.

I don't want to sell you accommodation and dead animals!
I want to present to you an affordable yet unforgettable African safari adventure!

When I say that my services are reserved for a certain category of client only, this must not be construed as arrogance or lack of awareness of the principles of customer service excellence. On the contrary, within the specialized niche of tailoring a safari itinerary to specific client needs, it makes sense to define the profile of my “ideal client”, in pursuit of better service levels - thus a better chance on satisfying the client.

The alternative would be to take on any type of client on any type of hunt to kill any type of animal in any way he likes, as long as the client pays. This strategy runs the risk of , no more than that, is almost guaranteed to, failing to meet expectations. The result would be a loose-loose situation and two unhappy parties.

For many years I was in the fortunate position to be guiding hunters part time only, with no financial dependence on an income from hunting. My full time day job allowed me only enough vacation days to guide few safaris per year, which is adequate for someone who does it for fun. I have found that choosing the right clients resulted in enjoyable experiences with people who doubled also as fellow hunters and companions. Now that I'm semi-retired I still not all that dependent on income from Hunting Outfitting, and I want to continue to select my clients carefully.

So here is the profile of my “ideal hunting client”:

My ideal client loves the great outdoors. He/she [and for simplicity I will for the rest refer to 'he' only - female huntresses are just as welcome as clients of AMS as their male counterparts] is both hunter and conservationist - a “prefect of the veldt”. He is however a realist too, not hypocritically obsessed with the highly debatable ethics issues of hunting. He understands that for all of these noble intentions there has to be a balance and a compromise.

My ideal client is direct, open and honest in the up-front negotiations phase. He asks frank questions and expects frank answers. It is always better for any supplier of services to exceed expectation, than to raise hopes which can easily be perceived as promises, ending up in disappointment. If, during the safari, some issues are not fully meeting the client's expectations, he will inform me immediately so that we can make right.

My ideal client has probably never been to Africa before. Alternatively he might have hunted here once or twice, but has unlikely taken the "big five" or other elitist game. His has a limited budget, and is therefore quite prepared to jointly plan with me in detail how we can pursue optimal overall value for money. He is keen to explore the vast variety of affordable African game. He will not travel all the way to Africa primarily for gourmet dinners and lavish accommodation. He wants to experience an eventful, but safe, African safari and take back memories of a lifetime.

My ideal client’s name probably does not frequently appear in the Top Ten SCI and other record books of the world. He does prefer a nice trophy over a mediocre specimen, but he does not consider himself a “trophy collector” that chases inches at all cost. In stead, he is content with a variety of affordable species of plains game, of “average to fine” trophy sizes that can be described as “mature animals, good representative specimens of the species”.

My ideal client is not madly obsessed with instant results. If we spent the whole day going after that kudu bull and return empty handed, he will look forward to finding it tomorrow. He understands that elusive animals cannot be guaranteed (unless canned). Having said that, he still expects fair results too. He is prepared to hunt hard and risk failure on certain species, but would be duly disappointed if the accumulative trophy results of the entire safari are below his expectations. Having traveled all the way to Africa, he expects to achieve most of his wish list.

My ideal client might probably also enjoy going out some nights to call small predators. At little or no extra cost or loss of hunting time, he would appreciate taking some of the smaller African animals such as jackal, caracal, squirrel, rock hyrax, rabbit, monkey, baboon and game birds - even fishing. Time and cost permitting, he might consider visiting some game parks and popular tourist attractions.

I realize that the above is somewhat utopian, but the closermy prospective client meets these wishes, the better for both parties.

In the next writeup the three phases of the actual planning process will be described in some more detail.

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