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Guided tours in South Africa: Is it worth it?

Traveling can be stressful when you have to plan all the details over a short period, particularly in a diverse country like South Africa with so much to offer. But questions such as “Will I find group tours enlightening, fun, or frustrating” often get raised. In this article, we highlight the benefits of using a tour guide and interview an expert tour operator from South Africa to give you insights into group tours.

What is a guided tour?

A guided tour is usually a knowledgeable and local person who guides visitors around places of interest. A travel company employs a tour guide to provide support and guidance to travelers on vacation to ensure they make the most of their holiday by giving them peace of mind and eliminating some of the unpleasantness of being on holiday, such as making reservations at restaurants and experiences, etc. and ensuring clients get special treatment once they reach their locations (such as having suitable rooms, avoiding long queues, not having to worry about luggage storage, suitable transport from one location to the next, etc.).

What are the benefits of group tours?

Planning a trip can be daunting, from visas and flights to accommodation, sightseeing, and experiences. However, several options are available for traveling, such as solo, with a friend, or in a group. Even group travel has many options, such as guided, private group tours or custom-designed private group tours. The options are endless depending on your personality and the experiences you are after. For example, if you’re excited to meet new friends and want to experience new adventures and see as much as possible of the local culture, a group tour might be just the thing for you. If you’re still undecided on how to get the best out of your trip to South Africa, this article is for you, as we tell you everything you need to know about guided tours and the benefits of joining one.  

7 reasons to use a tour guide

#1 Gain understanding of the local culture through a local expert 

Local guides are passionate about the country and region and eager to give you insights into the culture, traditions, and celebrations you will not find anywhere else. They will show you the hidden gems and give you fun facts about nature, the area you are visiting, the local culture, and folklore. Having a local guide is very helpful, particularly if you don’t speak the local language. Moreover, tour guides know local customs and environmental regulations to ensure you follow the correct protocols.

#2 Build new friendships 

Tour guides know how to make people laugh and get them engaged. They know how to make good trips great! If you join an age-appropriate tour, you will likely make friends fast and enjoy the experience with people who share your interest.

#3 Allows you to focus on having the best experience without worrying about the details. 

It is the tour guide’s responsibility to get you to your next destination in time while you only have to focus on enjoying every experience.

#4 Optimum experiences

Tour guides are experts in their field and therefore know when to visit a particular place. They also have experience in all weather conditions to ensure you enjoy the maximum benefit of your trip. Because the tours are time-limited, they know how to pick the most enjoyable and valuable excursions.

#5 Added support and guidance

Tour guides work hard behind the scenes to ensure your trip runs smoothly and lives up to your expectations. Custom-designed itineraries further ensure you can tick off all the expectations from your bucket list. They will always put your safety first, but should something go wrong; they are experienced in finding the best solution. Bonus, you also have a handy photographer on hand.

#6 The ultimate convenience and access to more destinations

No more worrying if your transport will arrive on time or if you will get lost on route. The best part about a group tour is that you can leave all the planning in the capable hands of your tour guide, whose responsibility is to ensure that you have comfortable accommodation (as per your stipulations), delicious meals, and exciting activities. Because the tour guide controls logistics, you often have the benefit of experiencing more destinations.

#7 More inclusions and VIP treatment

Tour guides hand-pick accommodations that provide good value for money and guests with friendly, welcoming services and amenities, and activities to last a lifetime. The inclusiveness of tour groups allows you to enjoy some flexibility (with custom-created tours) and the added benefit of saving costs.

We caught up with Evan Dunstone of Nala Africa, who organises group tours, to give us some insights:

10 Questions to a tour operator

Q. Please give us some background on your company. What is your vision and mission, and why did you start it?

A. Nala Africa was born out of our love for the bush! We’re a family-owned and run company passionate about offering people an authentic safari experience worldwide. We work with eco-conscious and wildlife-focused lodges predominantly in the Greater Kruger National Park and Kwa-Zulu Natal Province. We thoroughly enjoy planning safaris for our guests as it lets us use our professional knowledge of the industry to give each guest the best possible safari experience. 

Q. What are the key benefits of joining a group tour? 

A. We offer private tours for couples or groups. The benefits are the peace of mind that everything is organised for you and that you can enjoy a safe and unforgettable experience.

Q. What are the top destinations for your group tours?

A. The Greater Kruger National Parks private reserves such as The Sabi Sands, The Manyeleti, and The Timbavati reserves (the three best and most well-known game reserves in South Africa).

Q. What are the accommodation arrangements like when joining a group tour?

A. The lodges we work with range from rustic to ultra-luxury, offering a clean, beautiful, and very comfortable experience with the warmest hospitality. You can request a single room with a supplement.

Q. What type of activities or add-ons do you offer on your tours?

A. As our tours are customisable, we can add on and recommend activities for our guests ranging from hot air balloon rides to ethical wildlife interactions.

Q. What is the duration of your group tours?

This is up to our guests, but we usually recommend spending at least three nights on safari, if not a week (or two or three). We believe it will be the highlight of your trip to South Africa, and you will leave longing for more! As Brian Jackman said: “Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all!”

Q. Can I design my group tour, or do you only offer standard packages?

A. We have standard packages to give our guests some ideas. Still, all our tours are customisable to ensure our guests have the best possible safari experience which meets their expectations.  

Q. What type of transport do you make use of?

A. We use private and reliable Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and minibusses for all our transfers.

Q.When is the best time to go on tour?

A. Winter (June, July, August) is our favourite time for a safari, but honestly, but you can’t go wrong all year round. In Winter, viewing the wildlife, with the shorter grass, is easier, and the daytime temperatures are lovely. Summer is beautiful and creates brilliant birding and photo opportunities, but you’ll have to deal with a few more bugs and extremely hot temperatures. Luckily, nothing a refreshing swimming pool can’t solve.

Q. Why do travelers pick your company over other touring companies?

A. Our guests love booking through us because they receive personal attention, reliable advice, and valuable recommendations about their trip. This is owed to being a family-run business that emphasises “what’s best for the guest” in every situation. We have a personal and professional approach to planning each guest’s safari, and we LOVE our job!    

To find out more about their tours and safaris, visit their website. 

You may contact them at +27 71 635 8491 or email them info@nalaafrica.com

Conclusion

Tour groups are a great way to explore an unknown destination with a tour guide who knows and understands the local culture. It is often much safer, and you are less likely to be scammed by locals or fall into tourist traps. A good tour guide will ensure everything is well-organised and all precautionary measures are in place should you need assistance. No more sleepless nights about researching accommodation, transfer connections, safety concerns, or figuring out how to manage your budget. Having a tour guide takes the stress away from traveling. It sounds like the perfect recipe for the most enjoyable trip to South Africa.

Guided Tours South Africa

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About Author

As a freelance travel journalist and seasoned business professional, Bernie van der Linde has made it her mission to explore the world's most unique and luxurious destinations. With a PhD in business studies from the University of South Africa, Bernie has channeled her passion for travel, web design, and writing into founding the travel blog Travel Buddies Lifestyle. Here, she shares her adventures alongside her best friend and travel business partner, Petra, who seamlessly translate and compile articles relevant to their German and European audience.

Bernie's love for exploring new places has taken her to some of the world's most exotic locations. Whether gazing out at the glittering skyline of Dubai or enjoying the tranquillity of a private beach in Mauritius, Bernie is always looking for unique experiences that will inspire and entice her readers to travel.

Through her thoughtful writing and unparalleled passion for travel, Bernie van der Linde has made a name for herself in the world of travel writing. Her knack for uncovering hidden gems and sharing her experiences with her readers has made her a trusted source of inspiration for those looking to explore the world in style.

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