Leslie on African Travel

Traveling in Africa and going on safari has always been at the top of Leslie Wahlgren’s bucket list. Now that she’s spent two weeks in three African countries? It’s still at the top of her bucket list. “It’s never the same experience,” she explains.

Where She Went

Botswana: 7 days. Go for “diversity, game viewing, incredible ecosystems from desert to delta, life-changing experience, vast wilderness, openness, isolation, great people.”

Leslie Kalahari Desert
Kalahari Desert, Botswana
Leslie Kings Pool Camp
In Botswana looking across the river at Namibia – at King’s Pool Camp

South Africa: 4 days (Cape Town) “Sophisticated, chic, modern, great wineries, shopping, history.”

Leslie Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope, South Africa
Leslie Top of Cape Point
Top of Cape Point

Zambia: 1 day (Victoria Falls) “It wasn’t high on my radar, but when I went, it was fullest the falls have been. It’s humbling to be there and experience the roar of the falls.” Go to see the rhinos; it’s also a great way to see river wildlife.

Leslie Rhino Zambia
Southern White Rhino – walking among the giants. Zambia
Leslie Victoria Falls
Aerial view, taken while flying over Victoria Falls – her group got special permission to fly over.

Leslie’s Guides

The guides with whom Leslie went on safari were employees of African Travel. She describes African Travel as a “fantastic company” that has been in the business for 20+ years. They use unique, boutique-sized camps, from moderate budget to luxury. The guides are “awesome, passionate people” who challenge and educate themselves by rotating between different camps. Leslie says, “They know the ins and outs; they can tell you what to take and what not to take; they make transitions easy; they greet and guide you; and they are held accountable, which is incredibly important.”

The Experience

Africa is a personal experience that affects people in different ways. Leslie has traveled a lot – these countries were #32-35 for her – but this is the first time she’s felt like she was home, an indescribable feeling. Leslie says, “It’s spiritual: you reconnect with loved ones, disconnect from the outside world, and family members can really interact with one another. It brings back connection, a basic human need.”

Leslie went “on safari” – as is the norm, she had two game-viewing experiences every day. A typical day:

Wake up 5:00am

Breakfast 5:30am

Game drive 6:00am

Return to camp 12:00pm for lunch

Siesta for 4ish hours (until 4:30pm)

High tea, game drive 5:00pm

“Sundowner” in the bush for about 45 minutes

Back to camp for dinner 8:30pm

Bed by 10:30-11:00pm

Potential Travelers to Africa: Points to Consider

Physical Guidelines

Leslie explains that travelers to Africa need to be mobile, and it’s best for people who are able-bodied, but it depends on the country. South Africa allows more for physical challenges, and Leslie saw someone in Botswana in a wheelchair. When you’re on safari, there are no paved roads. You’re getting in and out of jeeps, and in the jeep, you’re constantly getting jostled – the “African massage.” There’s lots of sitting.

Budgeting Guidelines

There are a lot of factors here: “You can do Africa on a budget or luxury, but it depends on what time of year you want to go, for how long, which countries you visit, and what you want to see. You could get away with $6000-$8000 per person for land only (not including air), and you can bring down costs by traveling with a group.” Leslie would recommend 8 days as a minimum amount of time. Location has a significant effect on budget: Botswana is more isolated, which makes it more expensive.

One thing Leslie really treasured in her experience was the feeling isolation in Botswana, particularly on game drives. She experienced what’s called a “private concession”: fewer people, vastness, no other cars around on game drives, and they could follow a leopard for the better part of a day. In contrast, in a national park (Kruger, for example), there are good camps and game viewing, but it’s on the beaten path; there are other vehicles in the immediate area and it’s more crowded, which can affect not just the presence of wildlife, but the whole experience.

Leslie Leopard Botswana
Taken in Okavango Delta – Botswana – mama leopard hunting for herself and her cub – followed her around for about 4.5 hours

When to go

“Low season” is not so named because of weather, but because of the volume of tourists. Leslie traveled in low season.  Fewer tourists are optimal for game-viewing; the weather was, in her words, “fantastic.”

So will she be returning to Africa? Absolutely: “It’s not goodbye—it’s just ‘See you soon.’”

To learn more about African Travel, or to contact Leslie with questions, please reach out to her at leslie@kahalatravel.com. All photos in this article were taken by Leslie during her travels.


Spotlight: Leslie Wahlgren

Meet Leslie Wahlgren.

Leslie Lion Botswana
The lion sleeps tonight! Kalahari Desert, Botswana

Leslie Wahlgren is a Travel Consultant for Kahala Travel. She has been a Travel Consultant for ten years, going on 11 in May. She is an Aussie Specialist, a Luxury Specialist, and an Adventure Travel Expert, and has been selected as both a participant and Ambassador to Global Trade Marketplace, an Elite Travel Agent event, for the past 2 years.

TDI: What kind of travel do you prefer for your own travels?

LW: I love adventure travel with a “softer landing”. I’ll still go camping, but I’ve come to appreciate nice, boutique-style hotels. I love any destination off the beaten path.

Leslie Victoria Falls Zambia
Dancing in the falls – Victoria Falls, Zambia

TDI: What are some of your favorite destinations to send your clients?

LW: It’s hard to say, because it really depends on the client. I get the most excited about sending clients somewhere with an element of adventure. I love Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, and Africa. I was super stoked when I was able to arrange for a client to spend a night in Skylodge—a small, transparent capsule on the side of a cliff in the Sacred Valley, Peru! I tacked it onto the end of her trip.

TDI: What sort of travel do you find yourself arranging most frequently? What do your clients gravitate towards?

LW: My clients gravitate towards luxury adventure travel. I get to sell my passion. People gravitate toward something when you’re passionate about it, because you can paint that picture for your clients to see.

TDI: In this day and age, why do you believe people should use a travel consultant?

LW: Travel consultants offer their experience, meaning they can provide a perspective a client may not have considered. We know what questions to ask to ensure that clients can have the trip they envisioned. We have contacts all over the world, and so we can arrange travel to suit a client’s preferences in any given destination. We think outside the box. With more travel options available than ever before, we can help clients narrow down options. We don’t just put a trip together, we provide a service.

Leslie Leopard Botswana
Okavango Delta – Leslie’s group followed this leopard around for about 4.5 hours

Leslie can be reached at leslie@kahalatravel.com. All photos in this article were taken and supplied by Leslie.