Friday, December 11, 2015

Personalized African photo safaris with John Lasater

Leopards are elusive to view -- A leopard in a tree is an extremely rare sighting  (John Lasater)
CHARLOTTE -- When it comes to photo safaris in Africa, John Lasater is one of the best. Over the past quarter century Lasater has visited the “dark continent” nearly 60 times. Africa is his passion.

For more than 14 years Lasater has been personally customizing tours to Africa. Best of all, Safaris by John Lasater offers prices that are frequently comparable to what most people pay for a trip to Europe. Many tours, which include accommodations, game viewing, tours, guides, meals and air, can be done for less than $5,000.

White rhino and her offspring  (John Lasater)
As a consultant for South African Airways for more than a decade, Lasater developed a passion for Africa that carries over to the detailed personalized attention he incorporates in each of his itineraries. Our tours are “customized to your requirements,” he says while adding the caveat, “If you come back unhappy it’s your own fault.”

For the most part, Lasater’s travel programs concentrate on Kenya and South Africa, but he also creates itineraries to Uganda and Rwanda for travelers with a particular interest in viewing chimps and gorillas.
The "King of Beasts" relaxes in the warm South African sun  (John Lasater)
Kenya and South Africa are completely different regions,” says Lasater. “It all depends on what your interests are. Kenya is better for viewing the great migration from June to October to witness the vast herds of animals. One problem, though, is the number of vehicles that converge on a particular area when there is a sighting. South Africa is a more cultural region with great roads and overall infrastructure that offers greater diversity. Either way, people are almost guaranteed to see the “big five” meaning African elephants, lions, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinos.”

"Tiered" jeep for maximum viewing  (Taylor)
According to Lasater, there is an unwritten rule in South Africa about having too many vehicles arrive in one place at one time which can ruin a viewing experience.

Lasater’s guides are independent contractors who speak up to seven languages. He has a pool of eight in South Africa and six in Kenya with whom he negotiates regularly. That way he is assured of maintaining the highest level of quality possible. In many cases, the guides and facilities Lasater uses are the same as those of larger, better known outfitters who charge considerably more for their services.

Many travelers have safety concerns about African travel to which Lasater answers, “There are places you won’t go at night at home. It’s no different in Africa. You just gotta use common sense. Our guides are experts and they keep travelers informed about where to go and where not to go.”
Jumbo out for a stroll in the wilds of Africa  (John Lasater)
Part of John’s traveling philosophy is that he never sends visitors to places with which he is unfamiliar. “If we haven’t been there, we don’t recommend it,” he says.

Cape Buffalo are easy to find, but considered the most dangerous of the animals  (Taylor)
Three other considerations for travelers planning visits to Africa are documents, shots and the friendliness of the people. Safaris by John Lasater provides all the details necessary for each destination. One surprising aspect is the number of required inoculations which are actually fewer than most people think.

Photo safaris are great for all ages  (Taylor)
When it comes to visas and fees Lasater says many African countries to not charge Americans for things that citizens of other countries are required to pay. In the case of South Africa, a visa can be obtained upon arrival which is a great travel convenience.

One of the magnetic factors that draws Lasater to the African region is the friendliness of the people. “They have a love for animals as well as a high regard for Americans,” he says. “In fact, one of their most endearing qualities is that they do not begrudge you for having more than they have.”

Safaris by John Lasater puts itineraries together for as many as 15 to 18 people, but they will also make arrangements for one or two couples who just want to explore Africa on their own.
A cheetah takes a break before getting ready for the afternoon hunt  (Taylor)
Lasater says one of the best books about Africa, regardless of whether you are planning to travel there or not, is Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown by well-known adventurer Paul Theroux. The book details Theroux’s experiences while traveling the length of the continent from north to south on the N1 highway.

South African sunset and the end of a perfect day in paradise  (John Lasater)
For travelers seeking a customized, well documented and detailed travel opportunity to Africa at a reasonable price, Safaris by John Lasater may be the best kept secret in the business.

John Lasater knows Africa