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2nd Trip to Africa--1st to Southern Africa

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Thanks to all of the Fodor's recommendations, our trip to East Africa in 2010 was perfect in every way!!!

I am turning to all of you with travel experience in Botswana, South Africa, and Zimbabwe for assistance.

Here is our itinerary:

Day 1 Johannesburg Tour

Day 2 Transfer to Kings Camp, Kruger (Is suggested that we self drive??? From US--never driven on other side of road.)
Day 3 Kings Camp, Kruger
Day 4 Kings Camp, Kruger

Day 5 Transfer to Elephant Plains Camp or Lion Sands, Sabi Sands (also suggested we self drive from Kings Camp to next camp???)
Day 6 Elephant Plains Camp or Lion Sands
Day 7 Elephant Plains Camp or Lion Sands

Day 8 Self drive back to Johannesburg for flight to Cape Town (I think the self driving is crazy, but maybe I am wrong!!!)
Day 9-12 Cape Town (need a private guide for these days)

Day 13 Fly to Camp Moremi, Mapula, or Stanleys Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Day 14 Camp Moremi, Mapula, or Stanleys Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
Day 15 Camp Moremi, Mapula, or Stanleys Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Day 16 Transfer to Chobe Safari Lodge, Chobe, Botswana
Day 17 Chobe Safari Lodge, Chobe, Botswana
Day 18 Chobe Safari Lodge, Chobe, Botswana

Day 19 Transfer to Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe (need a private guide)
Day 20 Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe
Day 21 Victoria Falls Hotel, Zimbabwe

Day 22 Fly to Johannesburg
Day 23 Fly Home

Please let me know your thoughts on the above itinerary.
Your suggestions are greatly appreciated. :)

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    First, minor thing but Kings Camp is not in Kruger but in the Timbavati reserve. Will agree that it is in the Greater Kruger Area. (Same thing for Lion Sands, and Elephant Plains - in Sabi Sand reserve, Greater Kruger Area.

    If you stay one more night at Kings Camp, 4 nights, you get the next night free. That is, 5 nights for price of 4. I think.
    http://kingscamp.com/rates/specials.html
    It is not clear to me if this is only for the "Honeymoon Suite"?? But we have been to Kings Camp four times (last time in 2009) and each time had this rate or the 8 for 6 rate.

    Self driving in South Africa to these camps, Kings Camp and Lion Sands. Other than driving on left side of road, driving is fine, we have done it several times (also from USA). Including driving to Kings Camp. But have not driven into Lion Sands nor Elephant Plains. Anyway, so you then have a rental/hire car. What will the car cost you per day??? For the total of having it 7 days? I'm guessing it would be around $500. Go to the Avis web site for JNB and price one out. What would it cost to -fly- JNB to Kings Camp, transfer to Lion Sands, then fly back to JNB?? Your TA knows, did they tell you??

    More details. What are the driving times, how many hours driving, to/from, between? What did your TA tell you?? How does this work in coordination with morning and afternoon camp game drives? Does flying give you more time in safari camps, more game drives? And, if self driving cause you much worry. Don't do it. You don't have to.

    I have no experience with any of those Botswana camps.

    regards - tom

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    If you think self driving is "crazy" and are not comfortable driving on the left side of the road then I'd either forget it and fly to those locations or do an international driving course at home. I am not comfortable driving on the left side and was glad to have a guide drive me around Cape Town. You don't want to endanger yourself or others by driving with unfamiliar rules.

    Your safari part looks good, whatever options you choose of the ones you listed. Stanley's offers an opportunity at additional cost to walk with habituated elephants that has always looked intriguing to me.

    3 nights in Vic Falls is too many unless you have specific activities you plan on doing.

    Should be a wonderful second trip.

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    I enjoyed our last self drive, but it was our third trip to S Africa. I would consider flight transfers or drivers if it's in your budget. You can get road transfers between camps and the airports. The gravel roads in the parks are fine for a sedan, so you can get a car pretty cheap and the highway driving is easy but a little scary with cattle and goats on the roads. If you don't drive a stick it is more expensive. There is also TONS of construction going on. Many delays. Definitely not crazy, but maybe a little difficult.

    I agree that three days at Vic Falls is too many. One afternoon and morning were plenty for us. Add more nights in Botswana if budget allows. Lots to do in Cape Town, so you can add there, too. Or add in JoBurg and go to the Cradle of Humankind and the Apartheid Museum.

    Sounds like a nice trip.

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    Thank you for all of your responses.

    Dear Tom,
    Thank you for your excellent questions to ask. I have been so focused on where to stay and how long, I didn't think to ask those particular questions. :)
    Yes, good point, we do not have to drive. Why have that added pressure on vacation.

    Dear Braaiseason,
    Thank you for the recommendation for Cape Town.

    Dear Atravelynn,
    Thank you for your assistance again (you helped us with our first trip to Africa). By the way, as I have been researching this trip I came a across a quote you wrote about Chobe Game Lodge in "The Complete African Safari Planner." I didn't see it as I was planning our first trip because I wasn't reading about Botswana. :) You are right, we don't want to put anyone in danger because of our lack of experience with driving in a foreign country. I also read about the elephant experience at Stanleys. It looks very interesting. It will be high season when we visit Botswana and even the elephants reflect upon that time of year. :) Thank you for the tip on Victoria Falls--I wasn't quite sure because the falls seem so incredible, but I can use the day elsewhere.

    Dear Chrisabir,
    Thank you for the road report. Cattle and goats are something that would be new to us on the roads. :) I don't think that getting drivers is in the budget for South Africa as it seems much more expensive than Kenya/Tanzania where we had our own driver and vehicle. Yes, we can drive a stick....but have not in years... Many things to ponder.

    Again, thank you all so much!!! Always wonderful to get others feedback and assistance. Back to planning. Will post itinerary as soon as it gets finalized.

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    I have never priced out the difference between a driver and flights. I don't think one is that much more than the other - assuming two or more of you. We've done all three now - charter flights JoBurg to Sabi Sand camps, drivers between camps (long and short transfers) and self drive. There are plusses and minuses to both, costs are comparable if you figure in that the rental car just sits around for many days. I preferred seeing the country on the drive over flights. If you drive, keep in mind the construction and give yourself extra time. The road getting to Timbavati was one lane in June - traffic was stopped in one direction while the other lane was let through. Added an hour just for that. It also gives the opportunity to see the Blyde River Canyon, if you are interested.

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    Today, I took Tom's advice and did a price comparison on driving versus flying. It is about the same price to drive as it is to fly when factoring in the automatic transmission, cost of fuel, time it takes to drive, etc....

    Dear Christabir,
    I have to email TA about pricing a driver. You are probably correct it won't be that much of a difference.

    Thank you all again :)

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    Your choice of an Okavango Delta camp should be dependent on the time of year you plan to go. A water-based camp such as Mapula would be great for later in the summer (been there in September), but the water levels might be too high in May or June. The last couple of years have seen high water levels in the Delta, so your TA should try to locate you in a camp that is appropriate for the time of year you'll be there.

    I agree that 3 nights at Vic Falls is 1 or 2 nights too many. One alternative I'd suggest for the Chobe Safari Lodge is the Ichobezi safariboats. We did 2 nights on them and wished we had done 3. It was a wonderful experience and we saw so much along the river, both from the safariboat and also from the small speedboats they have. We were on the river overnight and were also above where the dayboats were... much better than being on land from what I could see. Everything comes down to the river to drink. At Elephant Bay where we tied up for the night, we were constantly surrounded by eles.

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    To be honest, your itinerary seems really unbalanced to me. Unless you are purposely trying to have vastly different accommodation experiences the camps you mentioned are quite disparate when it comes to their style and level of comfort. It is apparent (and good) that you are seeking some geographic diversity but this also calls into question why you want to go to camps in the Sabi Sands and Timbavati that are so (relatively) close to each other.

    For example, Kings Camp is less than 50 miles from Elephant Plains. Kings Camp is also a much larger and more luxurious property compared to Elephant Plains. Also, the traversing area at Kings Camp is going to be bigger. If you really want two lodges in the Kruger ecosystem perhaps consider Kings Camp with its sister property Leopard Hills. This will balance the quality and experience. But, in the end, I don’t even recommend you go to two lodges so close together in the Kruger ecosystem. If you must chose one, pick one in the Sabi Sands on a river (Sand or Sabi).

    Please be sure your agent is clear if you are booked into Chobe Game Lodge or Chobe Safari Lodge/CSL. These are totally different properties and both are mentioned on this thread. The former is inside the park and all inclusive. The later is outside the park in the city of Kasane and operates on a B&B basis with all activities ala carte. CSL is totally out of synch with Stanley’s camp IMO. Stanley’s Camp is a moderately luxurious camp on a private concession in the Okavango Delta. It is owned by Sanctuary Lodges which is a subsidiary of Abercrombie & Kent. Stanley’s is not at all like CSL.

    If you want to stick with some of the same family or properties and utilize the ones you already mentioned, consider this:
    Day 1 – skip the Johannesburg tour and go directly to your first safari in the Sabi Sands. Go to Leopard Hills or MalaMala Main or Lion Sands River Lodge.
    Day 2,3 - Safari
    Day 4 – Get a 2 hour scheduled (shared with others vs. private) road transfer to Nelspruit/MQP and fly direct to Cape Town/CPT. Rent a car as your arrive around 3pm. Go to your city hotel or to the wine country for the night.
    Day 5,6,7,8 - Cape Town/Wine Country.
    Day 9,10,11,12,13,14,15 – Early flight to Maun/MUB via JNB. Go to Stanley’s & Chobe Chilwero (Sanctuary - $$$$) or Camp Moremi & Savuti Safari Lodge (Desert & Delta - $$$) or Chitabe & Duma Tau (Wilderness Safaris - $$$$).
    Day 16,17 Victoria Falls
    Day 18,19,20 Mana Pools National Park on the banks of the Zambezi River 300 miles downstream from Vic Falls. I just went here three weeks ago with my wife and kids and saw more animals than I have ever seen anywhere in Africa (29 trips) except Mombo, MalaMala, and Lion Sands. You can enjoy a hiking safari at Goliath, a canoe safari at Vundu or a balanced hiking/Land Rover/canoe/River Boat safari at Ruckomechi. I stayed at Ruckomechi but saw the other ones. With the different landscape and activities, this is a totally different safari experience to the places I mentioned in Botswana and South Africa.
    Day 21 Head home.

    More time/money? Add a water activity camp in the Okavango Delta such as Xigera or Camp Okovango.

    Hope this helps.

    Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

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