Planning: Checking references

I had asked Grant Craig of Papadi Safaris for references I could check. He gave me three, and what a combination they were.

The first was a real estate broker from Colorado. His take: “Grant came highly recommended by a longtime friend of mine with whom I worked while in South Africa, in the wild life field. He knew Grant from the Game Rangers Association of Southern Africa. … I would say my experience with him has been that of a knowledgeable bush expert of impeccable integrity and a new found friend. I would entrust all my closest friends into his care. … Having spent a lot of time in the African bush, I was gratefully surprised at the pristine nature of Botswana’s wildlife. And the people are a delight. I envy you your trip. I recommend Grant to you without reservation.”

Good. Very good. But not quite enough. His trip had been a self-drive trip, which Grant helped him plan. Not the same sort of trip we’re talking about.

The second was from Meredith Smith of Maryland. If that name sounds familiar, then you’re probably a fan of the Amazing Race television show. Meredith and his wife Gretchen were participants in the seventh season. The show’s production company hired Grant to shepherd them on the African leg of the journey. His take: “Grant, in the estimation of my wife Gretchen and I, is first class in every respect….a fine and thoughtful man and a very knowledgeable and committed guide and wild life conservationist. His love of the out back and in roads to nature is wonderful and his ability to explain Africa from the stand point of safari even better. … we could not feel more secure and informed about what we saw and the wild life encountered. Bottom-line…if we ever return to Africa, Grant Craig will be our first choice of guides. Incidentally, our successful race through Botswana was critical to our remaining in the competition. We were 70 and 67 years of age at the time and placed 4th competing against 10 other teams of men and women 40 years or more our junior.”

Good again. Very very good indeed. But again, not exactly the same sort of trip. (I don’t expect to be accompanied and filmed by a camera crew 24 hours a day, seven days a week!)

So it came down to the third reference. This man, from Illinois, had been on almost exactly the same kind of trip Fred and I want to take. The only difference is that there were four on that trip and will be two on this one. His take: “I went on safari with Grant with 3 friends in 2005. We went to the Okavango Delta, Moremi and Chobe National Parks in Botswana and the experience was stunning. It was my second safari to Botswana…. Grant is like an african “Crocodile Dundee”…by that I mean he is very comfortable in the bush! If you are interested in upscale/luxury accommodations, this would not be the trip for you. Unless Grant has changed his safaris, you will sleep in 2 person tents, on the ground and it can be hot and dusty! However, the food is good, although not gourmet, clean and you will see LOTS of wildlife! Because you are in small tents and there is no enclosure around you, the animals will walk through the camp at night. The parks in Botswana are not very developed, but that allows you to see lots of animals close up, without lots of crowds. Grant is very good at spotting the animals, knowing where they are and getting you close to them. I never felt in danger…. Grant is a great guy, warm, funny and very competent…. He has years of experience, can tell you story after story about the behavior of the animals and how they interact in the wild. He’s lived it and it is obvious that he was born to be in the bush. He loves the wildlife and the land and it shows. You will have a great experience!!”

Sigh… okay… I’m sold. Where do I sign on the dotted line?

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