Beautiful and Friendly. Activity bargain hunting

by Fayaaz
(South Africa)

Venus Safaris

Venus Safaris

We visited Victoria Falls in December 2009.
We didn't plan any activities before the time the only things that we did was book our flights and our hotel (The Kingdom Hotel) knowing that it was walking distance from the falls.

Taxi from Airport
I did not take airport transfers as part of my package cause I read somewhere that it is cheaper to get a taxi there. I expected to pay $5 pp to the hotel. The lowest I got was $10 pp one way, but this was lower than the initial $15 requested.

The hotel was very nice and the staff extremely friendly. After checking in we visited their activity centre to see if we could book maybe a helicopter ride or a game drive. The prices we found was incredibly high for all activities.

We decided to venture into town to find the actual activity operators to see if we could bargain, we had no luck with them. They have standardised their prices in order to eliminate competition. The only way you could save some money was to take a packaged deal. This to me was not acceptable.

While walking through town you will be swarmed by locals trying to sell you items but some of them will try and sell you activities. These guys are known as agents. They try and offer you activities for both Shearwater and Wild Horizons offer at cheaper rates. It is worthwhile to listen to them. We followed this one agent, Mischal, to a place called Venus Safaris which was located close to craft market (see attached Google map, red circle indicates Venus Safaris).

A local business women, Letiwe, offered us packages at 15 -25% below the standard asking price. This saved us quite a bit of money especially on the one day Chobe trip to Botswana which I would definitely recommend to all.
There was another place called Getaway Safaris on the main road that also offered us better deals.
My suggestion is that you don't book at the hotel or at the operator but at the smaller agents around town.

Craft market
The seller in the craft market has some ridiculous prices but they are willing to negotiate to less that 50% of their initial asking price which is still high in my opinion. You do get annoyed with them after awhile as they continually hound you to buy their wares. They are even willing to negotiate for T-shirts, shampoo, shoes, socks, food, pants etc.
This helps with the bargaining but doesn't bring the prices drastically down.
After a while you just buy cause you end up feeling sorry for some of them.

The falls
The falls is beautiful and the entrance is $15. You get sprayed by the wet mist which is very welcoming in the 38deg heat.
Take water and snacks with as you can spend 2 - 3 hours inside the site depending on how long wish to stare at the great amounts of water failing 100m to the ground.

Day trip to Chobe
We didn’t do much activities but this was definitely worth it. We saw lots of elephants swimming in the river, eating and even fighting. Other animals worth mentioning are Hippos, giraffe, buck and crocodiles.
The trip included a morning cruise and an afternoon drive.
During the drive we were mock charged by a bachelor elephant. This was scary and exciting at the same time.

Sunset Cruise
This was calming and serene. Not much to do and you definitely need some company and conversation to make it enjoyable. You can drink as much as you like and they serve you with a light supper.
Please make sure you specify Halaal or vegetarian before you book the cruise, they are very accommodating.

They only work in USD and Rands and in this they only work in notes and no coins. So a coke is either $1 or $2 but not $1.50. So keep a lot of $1 notes or R10 notes.

Overall we really enjoyed our trip. The activities and prices of items are very expensive compared to what we are use to in South Africa but we made the best of our trip.

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Dec 30, 2009
Discounted activity prices
by: Tony

Hi Fayaaz

Thanks so much for the informative account of your recent trip to Vic Falls, lots of useful info for fellow travellers.

Just wanted to add to you recommendations regarding booking activities. As you have correctly stated the operators have agreed to keep to their prices non negotiable to avoid a price war which would be catastrophic for their already fragile businesses.

However the operators need agents both locally and internationally to market their businesses, that's how the travel industry works. Agents are normally offered a standard commission of 20% for any booking they bring in. If the agent wants to pass on some of this commission to his/her customer to clinch the sale then they are entitled to do so, hence this is obviously how Letiwe was able to offer you a discount, 25% however was likely to see her dishing out of her own pocket.

For instance the prices we quote on this site are exactly the same as the operator charges but as agents we are also open to negotiation. I think the misconception is that agents add on to the prices, like a middleman, when in fact its the operator who pays them. Agents can at their discretion actually be cheaper than dealing direct with the operator.

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