Heading back to Africa

I will be leading another "Life Changing" safari in 2 weeks for a wonderful multigenerational family client of mine.  I will have 12 people ranging in age from their 60's down to teenagers.  We will be in Tanzania for the Great Migration of Wildebeest who are heading towards the greener plains in Northern Tanzania and the Maasai Mara.  We will spend a week exploring the Ngorongoro Crater, Central Serengeti and finish in the far North of the Serengeti for 3 nights.  Really lloking forward to getting back to Africa as I have miss her greatly.    

Getting the job done: Travel agency owner Mark Gerling

Published: Sunday, May 26, 2013 at 5:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 25, 2013 at 3:26 p.m.


FLAGLER BEACH — Mark Gerling, owner of Gerling Travel Group in Flagler Beach, has been in the travel industry since 1995, but travel has been in his blood a lot longer than that.

"My father was a pilot so I grew up in a traveling family," said Gerling, who is also chairman of the Flagler Beach Chamber of Commerce. "Ultimately my love of traveling to Africa spurred my initial decision to open a travel business and run a full-service travel agency."

Gerling said having a brick-and-mortar business, as opposed to an online or home-based company, allows him to offer a higher level of customer service to his clients.

"It's a little bit more out in the open and to me, it gives the client a commitment that this guy is in it for the long run," he said.

Gerling said his extensive travels in his younger years help him with questions from clients about itineraries and destinations.

"Obviously to go to Africa you travel a long way, and I became a little more knowledgeable about the other locations and moved that into the business," he said.

Gerling recently sat down with The Daytona Beach News-Journal to talk about the travel industry and balancing business and community interests.

Flagler County's tourism development effort has made substantial progress over the past few years. But are county residents doing a lot of traveling to other places?

Yes. My main focus is to take people out of the county to international destinations around the world. I have seen an influx the last two years of customers coming to me for my travel consulting services where they can come in and look me in the eye and have a face-to-face conversation.

You do have the key cruising industry which is obviously big in this market because we have ports close. But I tend to focus my efforts more on Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, kind of a little more exotic locations.

In a recent report, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta sees a bright outlook for travel in the region. What is your take on the future of the travel and tourism market?

I think the growth pattern is trending back northward, where we were pre-9/11.

The travel industry literally stopped in its tracks then and a lot of people went out of business.

If you look at the stock market right now it is fairly consistent and rising and people are spending money.

As a travel agent we also fear the natural disasters that can happen, like the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma or tsunamis or volcanoes. And obviously in the world we live in with terrorism, that is also a big factor for us. If those acts of violence erupt, you'll see a spike in business declining.

In addition to running your business, you are also serving as chairman of the Flagler Beach Chamber of Commerce. How difficult is it to balance those obligations?

It's difficult. We run full steam here, not just the business, but a family with little kids. My wife and I are business partners side by side every day. And my civic duties don't stop at the chairmanship of the Flagler Beach Chamber. I am also on the board of Flagler Beach Rotary.

I am trying to reach out to more of the business owners in Flagler Beach and slowly bringing on new chamber members and showing them the value of being a member and being involved.

I'd rather be on the rail of the fast-moving circle with the friendships and relationships you establish.

It can be busy, but it's a lot of communication with my spouse and we try to make sure we do what we can to keep the business, but also be in the community and do other things because that is vital to the success of your business.

In this age of online travel sites and smartphone apps, why do people still need a travel agent?

Assurance. Really self-assurance. Having that face-to-face conversation and having someone to hand-hold through the process. A lot of clients don't have access to a computer or are not computer savvy. Also, it's a relationship business. Most of my clients come back trip after trip and we consider them our extended family here. They don't necessarily need me, but they enjoy the relationship and know there is somebody to call if something does come up instead of a website that may or may not be as helpful.

Welcome to Zambia!

I currently have several clients in Africa this month on Safari for various reasons.  One of them happens to be a lovely young couple from Palm Coast that was recently married and chose to spend their Honeymoon on a adventurous African Safari.  They spent a few nights in Victoria Falls and are now in Zambia along the Lower Zambezi River.  Upon their arrival at the remote airstrip they were graciously met by their guide from Old Mondoro Lodge where they will be staying for the next 3 nights.  To the guides dismay after only a few minutes drive from the airstrip they were greeted with a stunning sight of a female Leopard resting in a Sausage Tree as if she were there to welcome this first time couple to Africa.  The Leopard stood up in the perfect sunlight gave them a big yawn and posed for them long enough to get a picture and then slithered down the tree as Leopards do and walked into the bush.  For those of you that know how hard it can be to see any Leopards on a safari I would say this newlywed couple was given their greatest gift of all by this amazing animal.  I look forward to seeing their picture and hearing from them about how it made them feel to witness such beauty in the purest form of God's creation.  This couple went on to the Lodge and enjoyed a romantic dinner under the African Sky bursting with stars and the night sounds the bush provides.  I Love My Job and am very happy for this Husband & Wife.

Fishing in Africa, A giant Nile Perch experience

I just had a few clients return from a fishing safari in Uganda, East Africa where their goal was to catch a giant nile perch.

I guess you can see by their smiles they accomplished the goal.  The fish weighed 134 pounds and was released back into the fiery waters of the Falls.  This took place in the Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda.  About a 6 hours drive from the Lake Victoria town of Entebbe the Falls is best known for the massive cut in the rift valley where the Nile River gushes down a hundred foot plus drop with only a 28 foot wide trench.  Bill and his son Jason came to me last year  as they heard I was the "African Guy" who could help them achieve their goal.  Having been to Africa many times including Uganda I knew exactly where to send them for Nile Perch.  

Murchison FallsI have a great relationship with a local outfitter in Uganda who happens to be one of the top fishing guides in Uganda.  I specifically requested Paul Goldring (who is pictured in the first photo in the middle) who is married to Jane who runs the outfit based in Entebbe.  I really wanted to make sure these guys had the time of their lives and would come to love Africa as I have.

Most people are most familar with the Mountain Gorillas of Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the southern part of the Country.  I have been there myself and seen the gret apes of Africa and they are worth every mile traveled and every nickel spent.  With only 700 or so of these beautiful human like animals left in the world seeing them in the wild is simply "Life Changing" and Life Lasting.  

Silverback Mountain GorillaOn this trip my clients went specifically to fish and take in the sights of the Park.  They did a few game drives in between fishing times and saw lots of wildlife.  They stayed in a very nice lodge which supplied them with wonderful rooms, meals and great company of the locals.  They caught several fish over the week they visited Uganda and missed another giant estimated to be larger than the one landed in the picture.  At the end of the day this Father and Son, strangers of an unknown place yet trusting in Gerling Safaris to keep them safe can now say this was a "Life Changing" safari. 


East African Luxury Sky Safari

Having recently returned from Kenya where I led 12 amazing clients on a 12 day safari I wanted to share some of the highlights with my readers.

Firstly I want my readers to know this safari consisted of 6 adults and their respected 6 children.  Each family has 2 kids with the ages being from 10-20 years in age.  The Sky Safari I lead is SO KID FRIENDLY, SAFE and FULL OF FUN you have to experience to believe it.   This group of close friends was very trusting with me and after a few days on safari they admitted they were not sure what to expect but the expectations had already been met.

We visit specific areas in Kenya where we frequent often and have established tenured relations with the Park Wardens, Lodge owners and animals.  The average retail safari does not and will never have this kind of in depth knowledge and longevity as we do.  This is due to our guide Mark C. Ross who has been guiding these areas for more than 30 years.  Our stops will include, Samburu Elephant Bedroom, Lewa Wilderness, Maasai Mara Private Camp, Rusinga Island Lodge or Lamu Island and Peponi Hotel, Ngorongoro Crater (Sopa Lodge or Crater Lodge) and the Serengeti National Park (usually a private mobile camp)

Here are a few images from our last safari I'd like to share with my readers.  

These are some of my favorite pictures and just a tiny glimpse of how exciting life on safari is with Gerling Safaris.  We will have two Sky Safaris in September of next year that will each feature the World Famous Great Migration of Wildebeest.  We will camp right on the Mara River and be in perfect position to witness a River Crossing.  We will take a maximum of 12 people.  Stay tuned for more details and pricing in the coming months.

Regards to everyone and thanks for visiting Gerling Safaris.

Mark Gerling