Unforgettable adventures happen in Africa. This is an unavoidable consequence for a continent with such diversity of wildlife and vegetation, landscape, and culture. Africa foams with vibrance and sound, colour, and texture. It is a sensuous smorgasbord of activities and opportunity and when adventure beckons from every direction the weathered traveller and the newcomer alike, can find themselves paralysed and unable to decide which direction to go.
It explains how, in every great tale involving Africa, whether the hero is Alan Quartermaine or Tarzan, there is always a guide to lead them. To help navigate them to the right path to meet their destiny. Nowhere defines this better than the Zambezi. The Zambezi’s beauty comes from its age and its fierce nature, translated from the language of the Tonga to “Great River”, it has diligently carved Victoria Falls, one of the world’s great natural wonders. Even in the river’s quieter areas, it humbles those who dare to challenge its waters, reminding us that these currents have no master. Only those brave enough to ride them.
Based in Livingstone, on the waters of the Zambezi about three kilometres (1.86 miles) from the Victoria Falls, Safari Par Excellence are intimately acquainted with the waters and the surrounding land. Considering that the river and the falls have attracted people and wildlife for centuries, it’s unsurprising that a company specialising in adventures would continually expand their horizons. Offering game drives, cultural tours, culinary experiences, river tours and white-water rafting, this team of passionate guides and tour creators have made it their business to know this slice of Africa.
After speaking with Cara Egan, sales, and marketing head for the company, it is apparent that what makes Safari Par Excellence unique is not entirely down to the enviable location, but mostly with the people in the team.
“Apart from the location, the team involved create a sense of uniqueness that has always made us stand out in the ever more populated safari market,” Cara explains, “They are efficient and dedicated which is great for business but furthermore they are a deeply committed, friendly family of people working together with a love for what we do. This translates directly into the customer experience.”
WHAT MAKES A GREAT SAFARI?
A good safari can be made from a good location. And there is no doubt that Livingstone offers a spectacular one filled not only with the life-giving waters of the Zambezi, but the wildlife that fringe its waters along the banks. However, a great safari comes from knowing how to find those unique once-in-a-lifetime chances to see or experience something special. This can only come from a passion and a willingness to be surprised and go with the flow.
“The only time safaris look alike is when they’re on paper,” Cara reveals, “So flexibility is important, and our guides are always on their toes and alert to any opportunities for something exciting. Which often finds them before they find it.”
The team currently includes over 150 people from office, lodge, and restaurant staff to guides and drivers and the attitude people bring to the job is as important as the work they do. This has been the case since the company was founded in 1988 by Steve McCormick & Graham Nel who are both still involved. Steve is a graduate from Wits university with a passion for adventure and wildlife and started leading canoeing safaris on the Lower Zambezi in 1988. Graham joined the Waterfront in 1999 and then as MD to oversee the accommodation operation as well as all activities provided by Safari Par Excellence in the mid 2000’s. Over the years they have continued to expand the business into new areas, widening the range of opportunities to open Africa to a wider selection of the international community.
Guests and visitors are in good hands, Cara assures us, pointing out that the staff training is coordinated and regularly updated. Every two years, the raft guides, who handle the white-water rafting, complete their International Rafting Federation Accreditation. While all guides and Lodge Staff also update their First Aid training on the same timeframe. In the lodge and restaurant, the staff chefs and servers go through periodic refreshers on cooking and wine to make sure they are up to date with culinary trends.
VICTORIA FALLS WATERFRONT
Convenience and flexibility are high value attributes in tourism and Victoria Falls Waterfront, which is owned and operated by Safari Par Excellence, offers guests an ideal base from which to depart and return from the various activities around Livingstone. The lodge boasts two sparkling swimming pools (a ‘must have’ for anyone visiting the region), free Wi-Fi, sunset cruises, a vibrant river-side bar and restaurant, secure parking and is the launching point for many of the river experiences.
THE ELEPHANT CAFÉ
A signature experience at The Victoria Falls that never fails to excite, The Elephant Café Experience has three important-to-mention tiers that would make all travellers to Africa a little giddy. A jetboat, an elephant interaction and an all-inclusive dining experience.
Authenticity is important to the team and has been part of Safari Par Excellence since ‘88. Over the years, the business has witnessed and navigated many changes and this commodity of being real has always been one of their guiding lights. Especially in today’s market where there have been noticeable changes in booking behaviours and expectations.
Cara says that these trends fall into two main categories for her. Booking culture and activities. Firstly, there are greater expectations from guests. Lodge guests expect and demand strong, reliable Wi-Fi, generous breakfasts and beds that are, as a base line standard, more comfortable than the ones they have at home. They also want it all sooner.
“A last-minute booking culture has become prevalent,” she reveals, “With many platforms supporting this, where travellers wait until the last possible minute to make bookings. It’s a sign of how fast technology is moving, and we must adapt to keep up. But this is Africa, we know how to adapt.”
As for the activities, there is a greater appreciation for immersion into a location and a dwindling interest in commercial experiences. Clients want to feel involved and engaged and are more interested in the sorts of places that locals visit where they can seek out local culture and flavour.
“Zambia likes to surprise you every year and we’ve been at this for three and a half decades,” Cara says, “Each year there is something else that happens that we weren’t expecting, so there are many opportunities for client engagement and immersion into all that makes this country wild.”
TELEPHONE NUMBER: +27 82 735 7698
POINT OF INTEREST:
The Zambian government has recently issued an UpToDate list of countries exempted from requiring a Visa. Visa-exempt nationals are allowed to remain in the country up to 30 days with an option to extend up to 90 days.
The following countries are exempt from visa requirements:
Australia, Canada, Norway, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, US, UK, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and China.
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