Though Africa’s tourism still lies behind in terms of numbers of tourists received, African safaris are undeniably a growing and flourishing niche for United States and UK travel agents. Today experiential Safaris are becoming a buzzword among travelers looking for safaris in Africa.
Today travelers are increasingly looking for once-in-a-lifetime moment. Tourists look for destinations and safari options where they can connect with an indigenous culture, taste local food and explore exotic landscapes. The African safari experience ticks all these “experiential” boxes for most travelers. Several African countries have developed ecotourism, a tourism segment that readily cater for such options for adventure in Africa.
Herbert of Great Safaris add on that: “Travelers want to have a unique and personalized experience during their holiday in Africa. They often see a trip to Africa as the penultimate journey that will meet their needs and aspirations. Travelers want it to be very special and full of personal memories, something that a one-size-fits-all group tour cannot provide.”
Are experiential safaris part of ecotourism? Tour operators say that experiential safaris are integral to the once-in-a-lifetime safari experiences. The concept is part of exclusivity. Unlike in mass tourism where you can find over 10 vehicles sorrounding one lion, all trying to catch a “unique” photo shot of the animal, experiential safaris involve tours in small groups that visit less visited and at times number restricted safari parks. Elizabeth Gordon, from Extraordinary Journeys, a tour company taking travelers to Africa explains that the increased need for exclusivity is one of the reasons as to why private mobile camps have grown in popularity.
However, as more tour operators are marketing experiential tourism, there is one more important thing left for travel agents to scrutinize the different adventures included in the tour itineraries and weed out the “fake experiences”. Tour operators need to offer a true experience that is not detrimental to the environment, the wildlife or the local culture. Kathleen Garrigan, communications and marketing officer for the African Wildlife Foundation, explains that where countries have unique natural resources and wildlife there is a desire not only from the tourism industry to preserve those resources through their own operations but for tourists to want to contribute something toward protecting those resources.
“I would urge travelers to support businesses that benefit local communities because these communities have to live day to day with the wildlife and are the first line of defense when it comes to protecting wildlife. If they are benefiting from wildlife tourism, then they are more likely to want to participate in conserving wildlife. Ultimately, conservation begins and ends with people. When people benefit from a conservation-based enterprise, wildlife ultimately benefits,” says Garrigan.
Some of the destinations that are marketed for experiential safaris include Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Gabon, Malawi, Zambia, Congo (not to be confused with DR Congo), Ghana, and more. Top things to do that have been included in trip itineraries include gorilla safaris in Uganda and Rwanda, game viewing, cultural tours and more.