Why use a tour operator or specialist safari company when you can so easily book everything online, either via an online booking platform or directly on the hotel or lodge website? Won't you save money by going direct?

The short answer is no, you won't save any money by booking direct. In fact, it may cost you more. Let me explain why, and unpack some of the other benefits of using a reputable tour operator like Wild Wings Safaris. Below, we have listed 10 tangible benefits of booking through us. But first, let me explain how we work and how that is relevant to this topic.

How we work

The way we work stands in such contrast to automated booking platforms that one can hardly compare the two. For starters, an online platform or booking engine provides no customised advice or personalised recommendations for your trip. You're not dealing with a human. By contrast, we assign your enquiry to an experienced human consultant. We listen to your requirements, provide helpful advice and make specific recommendations for your trip, without charging anything extra for that. We'll send you a detailed quote or proposal with accommodation recommendations, pictures, descriptions, day by day itinerary, and a full breakdown of costs, includes and excludes. No surprises and no hidden fees. Best of all, this is all done before you make any payment, and there is no obligation to book with us.

If our advice and proposals are free of charge, what stops you from using all the advice and suggested itinerary we have given you and booking everything yourself?

The answer is – nothing stops you. Are there people who milk us for advice and information and abuse our willingness to offer free proposals with no obligation to book with us? Absolutely. It happens regularly. We often put in hours of work with no guarantee that it will result in a booking. Just like a helpful assistant in a camera shop may spend an hour showing someone all the benefits and functions of a particular camera, only to have that person walk out and go and order it online. It sucks, but it happens.

Donkey Cart

Booking cheaper often ends up being more costly.

Of course, our hope is that you will be so impressed with our service, advice and proposed itinerary that you decide to book with us anyway. Most people who are serious about their trip do end up booking with us, because there are tangible benefits in letting us arrange your trip of a lifetime, and it costs less than booking direct. Here are some of the key benefits of booking through us:

10 Benefits of booking through Wild Wings Safaris

1. Expert advice

You get accurate, unbiased advice. We live here, we know Africa and pride ourselves on being the African safari experts. We travel regularly to all the destinations we sell, and between us, we have visited all of the lodges and properties we recommend. We will never recommend a lodge we know to be substandard or questionable. We can make comparisons based on our own first hand travel experience.

4 Why use a tour operator Expert advice

We regularly travel to the destinations we sell to update our hands-on expertise.

(Image: Wild Wings Safaris)

We know what works, we know how long it takes to get somewhere, what the local conditions are like, what weather you can expect, how different game reserves or lodges compare to each other, which areas or lodges or roads you should avoid, which order of destinations or combination of lodges will work well, etc.

2. A dedicated consultant

Our expertise is in putting together an itinerary that runs smoothly from start to finish and is perfectly suited to your requirements and budget. You will deal with one dedicated consultant who is friendly and responsive and will take time to listen to your requirements and discuss various options with you. Dealing with a real person and not some automated call centre is becoming less and less common these days. If you have a problem with your booking made via one of the big booking engines, you can't even reach a human being to talk to.

3. Complete independence

Unlike many operators we compete with, we are completely independent and have no affiliation with any particular lodge or hotel group. This means we can offer unbiased advice and don't push you towards "our" lodges. We will help you compare different options, based on our own personal, first-hand experiences.

4. You save money

Yes, believe it or not, it costs less to book through us. We do not add any additional booking fees, so even just booking your hotel or game lodge through us will cost the same or less than if you book it directly with the supplier, or via an online booking agent. Because of the volumes we book, we are able to negotiate deep trade discounts with all suppliers we work with, which are not available to individuals booking directly.

2 Why use a tour operator Hassle free

We take the hassle out of planning your trip.

We pass on some of that discount to you, and the rest is how we earn our income. Our quote will include our tour arrangement fee and local support fee, without costing you more. So the rate you pay with us is usually cheaper than booking everything online. Direct customers often end up paying too much. And making a mistake like misjudging distances, travel times or road conditions can prove to be very expensive. We know who the most affordable and reliable suppliers are and will ensure you are not overcharged.

5. Only one payment to make

Instead of booking directly with multiple suppliers and having to make multiple different international payments, you can now book and pay for everything in one go and pay less than if you booked everything directly, on your own. We take all the hassle out of planning a trip to Africa, to ensure everything runs smoothly so that you end up with the best possible experience at the best possible price.

6. No hidden fees or surprises

With us, there are no hidden fees and no unexpected extra charges. We accept most major credit cards and do not add an extra surcharge for credit card payments. When you book everything yourself, there are often some unexpected surprises or additional costs you were not made aware of. Some lodges we know of add 5% to the quoted price if you want to pay by credit card. We absorb the credit card fees ourselves. And we will always explain exactly what is included and what is excluded.

7. You have someone in your corner

You have peace of mind knowing that your trip is in the best possible hands and you always have someone you can turn to. In the unlikely event that anything should go wrong during your trip, we are a phone call or email away to sort things out. This is why every quote already includes a small local support fee. As a client of Wild Wings Safaris, you will always receive the best possible treatment from the lodges where we book you and, if it should happen that you have a problem or complaint, or require a refund from a lodge or hotel for whatever reason, we will take up the matter on your behalf, using our influence with the lodge to your advantage. This is a major benefit compared to booking online, in which case you have no recourse.

3 Why use a tour operator Someones in your corner

You want someone on your side when the going gets tough.

(Image: Gaspar Zaldo I Unsplash)
8. Financial protection

As a longstanding member of ABTA in the UK and SATSA in South Africa, we are fully bonded and covered by financial failure insurance, which means you cannot lose any money paid upfront. In the very unlikely event that our company should close down or become insolvent, you will get your money back. This benefit should not be overlooked – many clients have been left stranded after booking directly, only to find on arrival that the hotel has closed down.

9. Award-winning service

With a ten-year track record, hundreds of excellent reviews on multiple platforms - including two Tripadvisor Hall of Fame awards for winning a Certificate of Excellence five years in a row, our reputation speaks for itself. This means you know your trip is in expert hands and will run smoothly. You benefit from the high standard of excellence we set in everything we do. We pay attention to detail and leave nothing to chance. We understand that this is your trip of a lifetime and that you want everything to be perfect and we are committed to making sure it is just so. We will never spoil your trip by cutting corners, and neither should you.

1 Why use a tour operator Dedicated consultant

Using a reliable operator can prevent nasty shocks.

(Image: Wild Wings Safaris)
10. Simply the best

Of course, everyone believes they are simply unbeatable, so don't take our word for it. Beating our own chest and bragging doesn't mean much. Rather go and read our reviews on Tripadvisor or SafariBookings to see for yourself what our previous clients have to say. That said, we do believe it is natural and good to compare products and operators. But when you do so, be sure to compare apples with apples. If you find an operator that appears to be offering a similar product for less, it is probably cheaper for good reason. Have a look at this handy guide we created about comparing safaris, in particular, safaris to the Kruger Park.

We want to hear from you! Please share your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

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About the author

Onne
Onne

Onne Vegter is the managing director of Wild Wings Safaris. He has a deep love for Africa's people, wildlife and natural heritage. Onne has travelled to most of Africa's top safari destinations and his writing is based on years of personal experience in the safari industry. Follow him on Twitter at @OnneVegter.