Normally, we interview our travelers after they have completed a Zoom Vacations Tour. This time, we decided to take a different approach, interviewing a traveler before the tour. Rick joined Zoom Vacations in China over a year ago, and now he is about to take our tour to southern Africa. What follows is his pre southern Africa trip interview. Next month we hear from him again, to share his experiences on the trip and we will find out how the tour played out. Will it live up to his expectations?
Zoom: Why are you choosing to go to southern Africa with Zoom vacations?
Rick: A trip to South Africa and experiencing a safari have been on the bucket list for a while. When I spoke with Joel last year about this trip, he happened to mention the lodge for the safari portion of the trip was being changed in 2016 to Singita Lebombo - a 5-star lodge. Further, the 2016 itinerary included an additional day in Kruegar National Park. That kind of sealed the decision for me to go, and not put it off any longer.
Zoom: What are you hoping to get out of this trip?
Rick: I'm hoping to have an incredible and unforgettable cultural experience, and appreciation for the miracle that is the animal kingdom and nature. I know I'll be traveling with a great group of people, and hope to make new, and lasting friendships beyond this vacation, as I did on my last trip with Zoom.
Zoom: What do you think is going to be your highlight?
Rick: I think it will be the safari when we are at Krueger National Park. I have only seen wildlife in zoos. To have the opportunity to be among them in a natural setting is very exciting and thrilling. I don't think I can fully appreciate the roar of a lion (if lucky enough to hear it), the enormous size of an elephant, or a herd of buffalo until I experience it in front of me. I know I will return from this trip with an even greater respect and humility for these beautiful beasts.
Zoom: What are some of the benefits of going with Zoom that you think people wouldn't really realize until taking the trip?
Rick: There are a few things. With a Zoom escort traveling with you, any unforeseen glitches that arise in the middle of a trip can be quickly addressed. In locations where little to no English is spoken, this can be particularly important. I saw the benefits of this first hand in China last year where a potentially stressful situation was resolved, but it involved having to communicate in mandarin (which no one in the group could speak).
Additionally, through its local contacts, Zoom arranges for visits and access to certain attractions or locations that the average tourist simply would not have access to, or even know about. These unique experiences can very often be the highlight of a trip, as was the case for me with the VIP encounter of the Terra Cotta warriors in China. The Zoom travelers were the only tourists in the cordoned off area.
I also think the value Zoom offers is a good one, and really recognized once the trip is over and you've had a chance to look back and think about the entire vacation: the planning, organization, accommodations at 5-star hotels, daily professionally guided tours, most meals included, Zoom escort accompanying the group to assist and answer questions at all times. I couldn't replicate this experience on the same budget if I were traveling alone.
Zoom: What do you think the accommodations will be like?
Rick: With the benefit of having traveled with Zoom previously, I know Zoom selects first rate accommodations which are among the best the locale/city has to offer. This is one of the many attractions for me of traveling with Zoom. I don't have to search out top-tier accommodations because it has already been done for me, and the accommodations have to meet Zoom standards.
Zoom: Are you anticipating making new friends, or do you think that for this trip you will be keeping more to yourself?
Rick: Part of the vacation experience for me is having the opportunity to interact with locals when possible, and also getting to know a little about my fellow travelers over the course of our vacation together. I think the Zoom Facebook group for the trip is a great start because it already sets the stage for some interaction. A few of us who live nearby are already planning a pre-trip meet and greet having connected on the Zoom Facebook group.
Zoom: Your first Zoom experience was in China, what about that trip made you want to take another trip with Zoom Vacations?
Rick: I was very impressed with how seamless and coordinated every aspect of that trip was. It relieved me of all the planning, booking, and organization such a trip would have required. The accommodations were top-notch, the restaurants for our meals were excellent, the cuisine was carefully selected so that we had regional specialties, and the local tour guides were great. After that experience, I knew I wanted to travel with Zoom again. South Africa will be my second trip; however, I am looking forward to others, as well.
Zoom: Are you planning on doing much shopping while in South Africa?
Rick: Yes, shop till I drop. I will only be limited by the weight restriction on luggage, and maxing out credit card limits. Not sure which will come first.
Zoom: When you tell people you’re vacationing in Southern Africa, how do they react?
Rick: Pretty much everyone shares the excitement. It is one of those vacations many people think about. Friends who have visited are particularly excited. They know how special this trip is, and what I'm about to experience. I can’t wait!