Wildlife safari: Group Tour or Join a group?
When doing your research for the bucket list Tanzanian wildlife safari you might’ve come across “join a group” safaris. What exactly is a “join-a-group”-safari? What is the difference with an organized group tour? Which one is the cheapest and which one requires a greater budget? Find out everything you need to know about these different tour types here.
What are they?
A group tour is a pre-planned trip with a fixed itinerary that will start on a fixed date. Different people can subscribe and join the trip. The main goal is to share a social experience.
Join a group
A join-a-group safari is a tour that can start on any date, with a semi-flexible itinerary (there are different options to pick from on any date). The main goal here is to cut costs. People going on the same trip on the same day are just joined together in 1 vehicle.
What are the differences?
The biggest difference lies in the price. A ‘join-a-group’-safari is the cheapest possible option to go on a safari. This doesn’t come without a sacrifice though, as you’ll see below. Group tours are more comprehensive and have a higher service level, and thus they come at a higher price.
Group tours depart on a certain date. There are some departure dates you can choose from, but these options are predefined.’ Join-a-group’-safaris can start on any given date of your choosing.
Besides some optional excursions, group tours have a pretty fixed itinerary. Everything is planned out according to popular travel routes and sights. You don’t have to worry about transportation, meals, accommodation, or anything else. A ‘join-a-group’-safari only covers the safari-part of the trip. The nights before and after the safari are not handled, nor are visits to any other part of the country (e.g. Zanzibar, hot springs, Kilimanjaro,…). When going on a ‘join-a-group’-safari, the options to choose from are limited as well, since only the most popular budget trips are offered using this formula. There is for example no ‘join-a-group’-safari that stays in Serengeti long enough to see the great migration. It’s also harder with ‘join-a-group’-safaris to add on a certain excursion (e.g. maasai village visit, Olduvai Gorge visit), since these are only possible if the whole group agrees to add on a certain excursion.
Group tours are organized and often target a certain group of people (according to age, interests, etc). There will be around 12+ people. People that join a group are out to make new friends and share experiences. In a group tour, there will only be clients of the same company you’ve booked with, and everyone will stay at the same accommodation.
In ‘join-a-group’-safari the main goal is to keep the cost low, and they’ll do that by filling up the car. This means that anyone can join (different ages, interests,…). There will be 6-7 people in a group, and they might not all have booked through the same tour operator. To keep start dates flexible, tour operators often join clients together so that they can ensure departure. You might go on a safari with a driver working for a different company than the one you’ve booked with. The people that join a group might also not sleep at the same location, as different accommodation levels (budget camping, tented lodge, luxury lodge) are joined together. Some members of the group might not be there during the whole trip yet only for the first few days, while other members join later.
When you book a group tour you will have 24/7 support during your trip. There will always be someone around from the company you’ve booked with. You’ll have a trustee you can go to and that can help you should you have any problems/
The service level with a ‘join-a-group’-safari is more limited, as it’s possible that you’ll be on the trip with a driver/guide from another company. Your tour operator will usually check in regularly with your driver/guide over the phone though, to see if everything is running smoothly. Nevertheless you'll have your driver/guide with your in case you need any support.
Which one is for you?
To know which tour is the best options for you, ask yourself “What is the most important for me?”. If fitting a wildlife safari into your budget is your worry, the price might be the most important. When you’re pretty easy-going on top of that, then the ‘join-a-group’-safari is probably the best option for you.
If on the other hand you want do that that wildlife experience but social contact and sharing experiences is also very high on your list, then you might opt for a group tour. You’ll make new friends you can share your adventures with. You wouldn’t have to worry about being alone at any time.
It’s possible that none of these options are for you. If not, then a private safari is probably what you’re looking for. The complete itinerary is up to you!