I know Kensington Tours quite well. They are a competitor or my company and they are based in Toronto Canada. They have a VERY good reputation in the industry and I would highly recommend them from a reliability and ethical standpoint. I have obviously never worked with them as a client.
As you can see on their web site, they are better known for selling packages through travel agents and they are not only an Africa expert as they sell tours world-wide. You may want to reach out to a second company that has a division of dedicated Africa-only experts. I believe Kensington has some people dedicated to their Africa product to compare this second company with.
As I mentioned, Kensington Tour is also a major player in the wholesale market in the USA. This means a lot of their sales are done through travel agents. As a consumer, this also means there is a layer of cost added to ensure they can pay the agents a liveable commission. Just this week Kensington is advertising in Travel Weekly for an East Coast sales rep to service their East Coast agent clients. This is one reason I always suggest getting a competitive quote from another agency on a similar safari to make sure you are getting a fair price. The second agency can be one with a leaner more consumer direct business model. A safari is a huge financial investment and you should always shop around a little as prices really do vary from one company to another. Many safari lodges do not take direct bookings so you will need to shop around.
Usually traveling on a custom designed itinerary on your own is cheaper that going with a group. This way, you don’t have to pay the costs of an escort that sits in the back of the land rover with you (escorts are not guides). Also, you are not subjected to the whims of a group of strangers (the drunk, the loud talker, the late person, etc).
There are many companies world-wide that can organize a private safari. From an execution standpoint it is quite simple as they consult with you (budget, time period, what you want to do, etc) then book the appropriate lodges, charter flights, guides, hotels and transfers to suit your exact requirements. You can have a private safari or if you want to be in the same price position as a “brochure tour operator’s” safari (like Kensington’s web offerings) you book on a game drive package.
A game drive package is when you use a safari lodge employed guide and a lodge owned vehicle at each safari lodge. The other metod is a private vehicle and guide that stays with you throughout. On a game drive package you share the vehicle with other guests that happen to be there at the same time. The good thing is, if you don’t like them, you never see them again when you leave the camp. On a group tour, you never get away from a person you don’t like.
Anyway – hope this helps. Bottom line – Kensington is a great company. If you would rather meet someone face-to-face, let me know where you live and I can suggest an expert in your area possibly. I know at least 100 companies in the USA that can put together private safaris. Some are only specialists in Southern Africa so you have to be careful who you work with.
Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond