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The Game Plan: A Safari Without All That Roughing-It Business

May 30, 1999|CONNIE KOENENN

It's Memorial Day weekend, and if you haven't made vacation plans yet, you'd better get started. For the final summer vacation of the millennium, many people are shopping for something really special, and Explore Inc. is one travel company that fits the bill.

Based in Steamboat Springs, Colo., Explore is a tour operator specializing in upscale customized tours to Africa. Think African safari and the Ritz Hotel. Founder Cherri Briggs is a psychological anthropologist who understands the compatibility of a day in the bush and a candlelight dinner.

"We can tailor any kind of tour--from backpacking and pitching your own tent to fine linens and silver and china," Explore staffer Jennie Silage said. "Mostly we cater to a higher-end clientele."

With bookings in more than 10 African countries, the company's most exclusive destination is Abu's Camp in north-central Botswana's Okavango Delta. Big-game sightings are made from atop elephants rather than from inside Land Cruisers. And guests come home to stretched-canvas and log tents (dubbed "bush mansions") that feature four-poster beds, flush toilets, claw-foot tubs and gourmet cuisine.

The luxury is enough to raise Ernest Hemingway's eyebrows, and so is the price. "Abu is $6,000 per person for five days," Silage said. "Our usual level is about $4,000. We have lots of older people, but we also send young couples on honeymoons."

Explore is also devoted to education and conservation--part of some trips' price is earmarked for preserving wildlife and indigenous culture.

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Information: (888) 596-6377.

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