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affordable 2n vic falls & 4n safari

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We would appreciate your help to plan an affordable honeymoon in June 2005. We're Africa first-timers, so game-viewing is most important. Singita etc is way out of our budget. We've heard good things about Tanda Tula and Savanna, so any comments appreciated, especially with regard to guides, and also have some specific questions:

1: Where do you have the best chance of animal sightings over 4 nights - Zambia, Bots or SA?
2: When it comes to the affordable places, which is cheaper, Zambia, Bots or SA? (note we are coming from Europe, maybe we can avoid the problems of the weak dollar?)
3: How do you choose between private reserves like Timbavati/Sabi Sands?
4: Is it possible to fly from Vic Falls direct to Kruger? Would be nice to avoid the overnight in Jo'burg if possible. Alternatively could we go to Vic Falls then 2 night Zambia or Bots and then 2 nights Kruger?

All tips and comments welcome. Many thanks!

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    Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!

    1) With only 4 nights in safari territory your choice will probably be more influenced by travel options and costs than by "best sightings" opinions. Where are you spending the rest of the honeymoon i.e. where will you be coming from/ going to before and after the safari?

    2) All can be done on higher and lower budgets but Zambia is probably still the best value. But the advice really depends on exactly what kind of budget you're talking. We recently spend a couple of weeks self-driving around South Africa's various game parks and reserves and that was an incredibly low-budget option that still allowed us to see lots of great wildlife. Following that we spent a few weeks in private camps in Botswana, at the other end of the budget scale. There are in betweens as well. It would also help to know which currency you are coming from - I'm guessing Euro or Sterling?

    3) With much agonising and lots of doubts - but generally speaking if you've put in some research and sought some feedback from other travellers to narrow down your list you'll probably have a great time whichever choice you make.

    4) Not sure, but someone will know re the flights. When you say Kruger are you referring to the private reserves and camps adjacent to Kruger or the rest camps within the park itself?

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    In June, I would strongly recommend Kaingo's honeymoon suite for your entire four night stay. I would guess that you would not pay more than about 200 Euros per person per night if you were to book direct. I just completed four nights at Kaingo, and I enjoyed it very much.

    Another option would be to stay at Kafunta for about the same price. They have a very nice 5 night package that includes three nights at their main lodge, and 2 nights at their bush camp, about a 3 hour drive away on a very beautifully located island in the middle of the Luangwa River. Chances are that you will be the only couple, or possibly have only one other couple at the camp with you, along with your guide, of course, yet you will likely have a staff of 10 people looking after you.

    Kafunta River Lodge (the main lodge) has a swimming pool and a heated jacuzzi (really a natural hot spring that is the perfect temperature for June, the beginning of their winter).

    The choice between Kafunta and Kaingo all depends on whether you want more emphasis on quality gameviewing or you want more emphasis on the facilities that the camp has to offer. While Kaingo definitely is better for gameviewing, with three gameviewing activities daily, Kafunta is definitely better for their facilities with their wonderful swimming pool overlooking a large plain and their natural hot spring jacuzzi.

    Coming from Europe, it is very easy to get to Zambia, with a direct flight from London to Lusaka, probably a flight worth about 500 Euros per person if you are lucky. From there, it is about an 80 minute flight from Lusaka to Mfuwe, for about 300 euros per person return flight, and once back in Lusaka, another 300 euros per person return flight to Victoria Falls.

    I am not the expert on Victoria Falls lodging, but I would imagine that you can find a nice place for about 125 euros per person per night, for a 500 euro total.

    So, for about 2,400 euro per person, you should be able to get a really high quality Zambian safari w/ Victoria Falls.

    You may save a little bit by substituting places like Wilderness Camp or Flatdogs in South Luangwa, but it probably won't save you more than about a total of 250 Euros by the time you add it all up.

    Good luck.

    So, for under 2,000

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    There are a whole bunch of HOWEVERs in the answers to your questions!

    Roccco's recommended two very nice and quite affordable options for a June honeymoon in Zambia. I like both of these places VERY much. (And there are other excellent options in Zambia for those whose tastes, preferences and wallet are not exactly like Roccco's....)

    HOWEVER if you only have 2 days for Vic Falls and 4 days for safari, I don't know that you want to spend one of those days is getting from the Vic Falls/Livingstone area to South Luangwa, and another half day getting back to Lusaka for your flight out. Now you have 1.5 days of travel for 2.5 days of safari time! (Because once you add transfer times, airport waiting time and connection time it will take most of the day to do it, even if you do it by air, which does get expensive when you spread that cost over 4 days of safari.) And you don't want to make your honeymoon a forced march to farflung destinations on a 6 day trip!!!!

    Are you really really committed to Vic Falls? Because there is one set of answers if really want Vic Falls...

    Another set of answers if you are willing to forgo Vic Falls on this trip and concentrate on South Africa (where you can see great game on a self-drive, as Kavey did)

    And there is another set of answers if you are interested in skipping Vic Falls and just concentrating on the affordable and wonderful south Luangwa in Zambia.

    There ARE wildlife destinations near Vic Falls--Chobe is an easy drive! And Chobe has the biggest herds of elephants in Africa and lots of lion, etc. You will get close to these two in Chobe. Also buffalo, assorted antelopes, hyena and jackals. We saw only a few giraffe, in the distance, on my visit. You will probably see alot, but it is not ideal for a honeymoon. There are lots of tourists, it is not a pretty park (the elephants population has taken out so many trees) and you won't see the diversity of wildlife that you might get in other parks. Its a good serviceable option if you must be in Vic Falls, and should be affordable.

    A more expensive option in the area would be a safari camp like Savuti-- just west of Chobe-- if this fits in your budget. This would be much more enjoyable than Chobe proper. Perhaps others here can tell you about the Savuti camps and area..

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    I agree with Tashak. Your time would be much better served entirely in South Luangwa. 3 nights at Kaingo and 3 nights at Kafunta would be perfect, as they are in two different areas. This would save you tremendously in airfare and would really let you have an excellent game experience and a chance to relax.

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    Hi and thank you all very much for your suggestions! It's good to be able to benefit from others' experience and views. This forum is so great!

    Zambia sounds really wonderful. If only we had already set our hearts on seeing the Falls as well on our first visit to Africa! The reality of the travelling between the Falls and the Kaingo area is something of a disadvantage. We are very keen on going to the Falls for 2 nights and then a 4 night safari. A taste of Africa, if you like.

    If Chobe as you say isn't ideal for a honeymoon, do you think it's easy enough to get to the Mpumalanga area from the Falls? Are there camps like Kaingo in South Africa - i.e. good guides and reasonable prices? (Neither of us can drive, by the way.) As for currency, we can choose between euro and sterling, whichever is best.

    Looking forward to your thoughts!

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    Hopefully Kavey or someone else can answer about the Mpumalanga camps and lodges-- the only one I know is Kirkman's Camp, which used to be part of MalaMala, but since has been sold. This might still be an option for the Kruger area IF you can get some feedback from recent visitors about the wildlife they see there now that they no longer get to drive the whole Mala Mala area. Hopefully others have suggestions for this area too.

    BUT, I wouln't rule out the Chobe area. It is superb for elephants, great for lions,and you will see a variety of other animals and lots of birds. Ideally, if a camp in the Savuti (sometimes spelled Savute) area is within your budget, it might fit the ticket beautifully. (This area is less visited, more wild, and probably more diverse.) You could probably do a land transfer from Vic Falls, which would be somewhat like a game drive. (These prices are still well below Singita, so maybe this would work for you...

    And while Chobe gets more tourists than the rest of Botswana, there are not alot of vehicles there by the standards of either Kruger or the East African parks.

    While I would ALWAYS choose to take more time so travel time was not such a big factor in choice, going to Chobe is still much much better than not going on Safari!!

    I'd suggest looking at the camps listed on www.e-gnu.com, and see if the Savuti/Savute camps are in your price range. Then, repost this message asking for reports from people who have been June visitors to the camps that fit your budget and travel preferences.

    Also-- South African Airways (www.flysaa.com) is good for exploring the current schedules and connections between Vic Fall- Joburg and the Kruger area airports (e.g. Skukuza, possibly others). Then you'll begin to see what kind of travel times are involved to the Mpumalanga/Kruger camps.

    Good luck with your research, and let us know what you find...

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