Safaris offer more than scenery | ParkRecord.com

Safaris offer more than scenery

Dan Bischoff, Of the Record staff

Africa, the outback in Australia, New Zealand, the Estancias in Argentina, Patagonia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Galapagos and Park City all have one thing in common Tim Lapage.

Lapage, a resident since the early 1990s, has been guiding people on safaris and exotic vacations for 20 years.

It’s as if he was born to do it.

His family moved from Australia to Kenya where Lapage was born. There he was surrounded by people in the safari world.

"I’ve always been involved in the safari business since I was a kid, it was the norm," Lapage said.

Growing up, he became a bush pilot and then a commercial airline pilot. The merger of experience and piloting skills seemed to fulfill his safari-guide destiny.

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He traveled the world, building contacts and finding adventures for potential clients. Now, along with Gail Reed, he is able to customize a trip for, it seems, any adventure possible in those regions.

"I basically hear what they want to do and I use different ground operations," Lapage said. "I spend three months of the year in Africa learning what’s good and what’s not good."

Lapage doesn’t consider himself a ruthless businessman, but someone who can make dreams come true.

"It’s not a business," Lapage said. "We are consultants; we hear what people’s dreams are. There’s something for everyone in matching their dreams."

For many he makes those dreams happen.

Jane Campbell, a wife of a Delta Airlines’ pilot, has traveled to many locations across the world and says her experiences with Lapage have been unique.

"I’ve never experienced a vacation that was anything close than the one I took with Tim and Gail."

Jane has experienced a Kenya safari and a South Africa safari. Both trips, though vastly different, provided Campbell a way to quench her thirst for travel.

"Gail and Tim really listen to their clients and provide an experience unlike any other you’ll ever have," Campbell said. "They understand their clientele, they listen to people and they really know their product so they make sure they send the people to the right place, and you can trust their judgment explicitly.

"The properties, they’ve been to them, they know what they are, they know what’s there and what to expect. Everything is top-notch.

Visiting third-world countries can have a large impression on first-time visitors. Lapage is impressed with Ethiopia.

"Nothing has changed since 400 A.D., it’s just like going back to the New Testament," Lapage said. "I’m lucky to have the chance to show people time unchanged."

Lapage says many clients experience something more than just observing wildlife and scenery. He says there is a spiritual feeling when seeing Africa. He says it is a "personalized and emotional experience."

"People think it’s a pitch, but it’s very life-changing. It’s different to what they’ve ever experienced. It’s the cradle of mankind, it’s where your ancestors walked," Lapage said. "There may be such a thing as genetic memory."

Campbell is felt it as she visited Kenya.

"You want to have an amazing experience? The experience is truly life-changing," Campbell said. "You realize how you can truly see the circle of life."

What may define a person’s experience there is the observation of the human cultures that still exists.

"Most people are attracted to seeing the game, they think it’s only a game drive. But, they end up loving the people and the culture," Reed said.

"It’s the people that you meet and learn from that shift your world view," Campbell said. "The animals and are cool and fun but it’s the whole experience."

To see the cultures and animals such as gorillas, chimpanzees, lions, giraffes and herds of zebras and water buffalo, now is the time to go.

"Can you still go and see the real thing? The answer is ‘yes,’ but not much longer," Lapage said. "If you dream of Africa, do it now. Don’t wait, it’s disappearing."

Lapage said he is "involved passionately" with numerous conservationists in trying to save the land he loves. But, the rapid population growth and the need for resources in the area seem to be winning the battle. Lapage’s clients also help with the conservation of the rain forests and wildlife. With the money he earns, he is able to give more.

"Their visits contribute so much," Lapage said. "There is a crisis and crossroads on all fronts.

On safaris, as with many products, you get what you pay for.

"Africa isn’t a place that you want to do on the cheap," Campbell said.

Prices range from around $450 to $1,000 per day one of Lapage’s trips. The low end is experiencing the regular tourist route on a tour bus. The upper end includes personalized guiding and stays in luxurious five-star hotels.

The prices vary between what the customer wants to do, whether hiking among gorillas, flying the Skeleton Coast, riding horses among wild game or staying in lavish tents.

"You can have an amazing experience when you are looking at ants or lions," Campbell said. "They put you in a position to be there with those guides."

Campbell recommends putting out a little extra money for personalized guide services.

"There’s one guide and there’s your family," Campbell said. "You’re not in a bus with your head out the window. That’s not what you want to do when you go to Africa. There’s not much difference in the cost between what Tim and Gail do and sticking your head out the bus, and it’s worth it."

Lapage recommends people schedule at least two weeks to experience a safari.

"What do you really want to do? You want the real thing," Lapage said. "If people really want to go, they save their money. It’s worth paying a little bit more for that experience.

"It takes someone with a travel bug and a desire to do it," Lapage said.

For more information, log on to http://www.safariexperts.com.