My Fave Partners, Three-Peat : Big Five Tours

Over the last little while, I’ve been sharing who my 6 favourite travel partners are. I’ve told you about Tauck Tours, Lindblad Expeditions, Big Five Tours, Backroads, Southern World, and Crystal Cruises.  Two weeks ago, I went into some depth to tell you what I love sending clients on trips with Tauck Tours. Last week, I told you what makes Lindblad special. This week, I’ll share some insights into Big Five Tours. And kindly note that while Backroads, Southern World, and Crystal are also terrific, I’ll reference them in trips and client reviews. (But please contact me if you’d like to learn more.)
I love working with Big Five Tours. We work together to do customized trips for clients who want a special experience. I’ve sent clients to many parts of Africa with them, in addition to Myanmar, Vietnam, Peru, Costa Rica, and more besides. I love working with them, because it’s a true partnership. President, Ashish Sanghrajka, and his team work with me and my clients on every trip. And we get to the heart of what is important to a client when they travel, and how best to deliver an exceptional experience for them.
Ashish and I have been working together for years on my special clients trips. And I know that when I’m partnering with he and his team, my clients are going to be exceptionally well cared for.
Ashish and his team rely on the relationship I’ve built with a client, and the details I know about how the clients like to travel, what they like to do, how they will interact with those they are traveling with at destination, what activities they like to engage in, and most importantly, what memories they want to bring home.
Intrigued? Lemme know if you’d like a hard copy of this fantastic coffee book (pictured below) on the potential trips we can work on together with Big Five Tours.

Get lost with…
Navigator Series® Edition III 

Front cover arrivedFocus – what we focus on expands, and that applies to everything from politics to adventure travel. When Sheila works with Big Five, we focus on the space between – between what is expected and what is unknown; between where tourism is and where we want to travel. Each of us needs to explore the space in between all the noise in the world today to find what is most important to us while we also strive to meet the challenge to use travel to better the world, to change others’ lives and redefine preservation and conservation in ways philanthropy alone simply cannot. (Contact Sheila to get your copy!)
If you’d like an example of some of the unique things that Big Five Tours does, let’s look at family clients. With Big Five Tours, we get into organizing trips that will keep the kids engaged and learning. No ABC tours (another bloody cathedral) here.  Big Five Tours focuses on Precious Journeys for kids. See . Want to know about Ashish’ commitment to kids, and their understanding of the importance of travel being key to the survival of the planet? When he came to Ottawa to do some presentations for my clients, I got him in front of the kids at my daughter’s school. He gave them a tremendous presentation about sustainability, and why it matters.
Big Five Tours is also creating a Kids’ Kouncil, to find out what is important to kids when they travel, why and how they want to see the world, what difference they want to make when they travel. And, Ashish has invited my daughter, Ceili, join the council. More to come on this, but you can see a report here
And you can see about Ashish’ recent trip to Ottawa to spend time with my clients. I also contacted Daytime Ottawa, and got Ashish and I on daytime TV to talk about sustainability too when he was in town too. Watch.
Learning about sustainable tourism and adventure travel
Learning about sustainable tourism and adventure travel
And here’s an example of something special we did for a client’s 16th birthday.
Fostering An Orphan Elephant - With Big Five Tours
Fostering An Orphan Elephant – With Big Five Tours
And, we can do some pretty special things for adult travelers too – including partnering with Lindblad Expeditions to build a fantastic land tour to go with Lindblad’s ocean cruise.
A Chat with Lesa Bain of Lindblad Expeditions, and Ashish Sanghrajka of Big Five Tours
A Chat with Lesa Bain of Lindblad Expeditions, and Ashish Sanghrajka of Big Five Tours
When I partner with Big Five Tours, I generally get a sketch out of the customized trip is looking to undertake, and then start to work with Big Five to build a proposal. Early on, we arrange a gotowebinar or skype conference call with the client, me, and Big Five to go over options, and suggestions; and point out ways we can really add some magic to a client’s trip. We tweak the proposal, and build the trip, ensuring we are curating the client’s travel dreams. And then we generally have another gotowebinar or skype call to go over all the details of the trip we’ve put together, and then send the documents to the client for review.
I can’t tell you how many times clients have come back raving about their experiences with Big Five Tours, and sharing all the special things that happened on their holiday. From walking the steps of Mandela in South Africa to a foodie tour of Soweto to kayaking at the southern tip of the world. I’ve had clients tour temples in Vietnam, and laugh as they share their encounters with monkeys. I’ve also had clients sleep in a hotel in a jungle in the middle of Costa Rica (after arriving by whitewater raft), and going from feeling totally out of their comfort zone, to then relaxing and having the trip of their lifetime. Of course, when I partner with Big Five Tours, we always manage to sneak in some special things too – one example I remember was surprising clients with a private flight over a rain forest. We partner together to orchestra my clients dreams. And, of course, I’m in touch with the clients and with Big Five Tours the whole time the clients are travelling.
But of course, discovering what’s important to the client, collaborating on the trip design, and then building/ reserving/ and putting everything together is an important part, but it’s not the only part. I also work with Big Five Tours to check on the clients’ trip as they are at destination, and work with their White Glove Service concierge team to mitigate any issues, or celebrate any fantastic experiences. When travel goes well, everything is easy – but the true hallmark of a great travel partner is how they respond when things go wrong, and how they work to resolve the issues.
I had a client in Costa Rica, a solo lady, who felt really uncomfortable with the male guide we had arranged with Big Five Tours. While Big Five and I had every confidence in the guide, the client’s comfort came first. We replaced the guide for the client, no questions asked – we wanted to make sure she had a stellar experience.
I had another client at the One and Only in Cape Town, South Africa have a small incident with one of her two rooms. Again, I worked with my partners at Big Five Tours, and Ashish called in a huge favour with his personal friend, the GM, of that hotel to get the client upgraded to a 2 bedroom presidential suite for the night.
And here’s a very recent example. I had a client arrive in Santiago this week, and mis-connect with her private car and driver. Someone wearing an airport badge saw my client not being able to call the driver on her Canadian cell phone, and that “helper” offered assistance. But the “helper” quickly became a schemer. The “helper” offered to call the Big Five driver on his local phone (the “helper” didn’t actually make the call, nor try to put the client in touch with the Big Five driver who was at the airport), and then the “helper” told the client her driver had misread her flight arrival, and asked this “helper” to get the client to her hotel. Accepting the offered help, the client then got robbed at the ATM, which she didn’t realize until they were in the taxi to the hotel. When I learned what had happened, I immediately got on the phone with Ashish and his team; and we rolled into action. Ashish’s Latin America lead, Gisela, got on the phone with the Spanish-speaking cab driver, and ensured the driver was not in on the scam. Then Ashish got on the phone with the hotel GM, and arranged for the GM to greet, the clients. Once the clients finally settled in their room, we arranged for massages for the stressed clients.  The clients went on to have a magical vacation after this hiccup, and Big Five and I upgraded them to a master suite on the next hotel, plus arranged for a welcome bottle of wine, and an anniversary lunch. Here’s a picture of their master suite at Vik Chile.
So, if you would like to work with me on a customized trip with my partners at Big Five Tours, let me know. We’ll work with you to ensure you have a true bucket list trip, and leverage the feet-on-the-ground experts and relationships that Big Five Tours has built up in their 40 years of business. Oh – I forgot to mention – they’ve won awards for their family programming, client service, unique itineraries, tremendous experiences, and focus on sustainability tourism over an over again.
You know that your travel dreams will be in good hands! Please let me know if I can help you get away!
Best regards ,