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African Safari

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Looking to do an African Safari in southern Africa - Botswana, South Africa. Anyone taken an organized tour. We have looked at Lonely Planet tours and Overseas Adventure Tours. Any other recommendations or any thoughts on the two we are looking at. Best time to go weather wise? Not too hot or not too rainy....Thanks for any help

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    If you post a link to the packages you are considering, you might get more responses. I can't find any Botswana trips at Friendly Planet and didn't check OAT.

    There is no reason to book a group tour for a safari. Usually they spend too much time on buses, don't stay in the game reserves and the "hotels" aren't the best values. All safari camps include all meals and game drives. You can arrange a tour of your own that you can customize and have as much flexibility as you want. I am going to suggest a trip that is probably more expensive than any you've seen because the accommodations and game viewing are likely significantly better.

    The best wildlife viewing is May/June-September. It gets cold at night and on game drives and pleasantly warm during the day. I know, we think of Africa being hot - hot water bottles, gloves, hats and jackets are normal in the winter.

    Are you planning on time in Cape Town? That will keep your costs down. You can arrange for a private car/driver for tours and there is a nice hop-on/hop-off bus that we used.

    Botswana is the most expensive country to go on safari. We went ten years ago and it has just about doubled in price since then and it was ridiculously expensive! The only way we could go to Northern Botswana would be through this group:

    http://www.footsteps-in-africa.com

    We would even consider their mobile safaris - basic but well serviced. Just email them and they can arrange the entire Botswana portion from flights to getting to and from each lodge. So much better than a tour group and perfectly safe. I know - those prices are high, but the most reasonable in Botswana. One of the camps we stayed at is now well over $2000 per person per night now.

    In South Africa, you can visit the private reserves around Kruger National Park. There are MANY lodges in all price ranges. Check www.sabisand.co.za for all of the camps in the Sabi Sand reserve. You can also consider Africa on Foot, nDzuti, Gomo Gomo and Shindzela in Timbavati reserve. There are so many, but these are on the affordable side. You can arrange everything through the camps or use an agent - Wild Wings and Sun Safaris are two good local ones - when you decide what you want to do.

    Give us more details and we can be more help. But I would not do a group tour - I just think you get such better value on your own. Your budget will be very tight, if not impossible, for Botswana, but pretty doable for S Africa.

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    I also wouldn't do a group tour. At the upper end, for 15 nights your budget works out $600pppn. As mentioned, Botswana is pretty much the most expensive country to safari in, and especially so in high season. You can reduce costs by going in low or shoulder season. I'd say your budget would happily cover you in low season, and even in shoulder season assuming you are not going to spend all 15 days in safari camps. If you add in some non safari portions eg Cape Town or Victoria Falls, this will bring your costs down a bit and allow you to spend a bit more on safari sections. I would try May or November, although November is more likely to be hot and have some rain. But, at least in mid-end of November you will be getting low season pricing whereas May will be shoulder season and a bit more expensive.

    If you want to do Botswana in high season, I'd say a mobile safari would be the way to go.

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    thanks for all the tips. Normally we do not do tours as we prefer being independent but in some cases we think it is advisable to book tours and this appears to be one of them in our opinion as we know nothing about safari travel,etc Mobile would not work for us - not our type of travel. I think we have scaled down our desires to be more toward just South Africa with an excursion to Victoria Falls since we are in Africa and who knows when we will be back. Appreciate the months that you suggested as to the best to visit. All of our time will not be on Safari as we do want to spend time in Jo'burg and Cape Town as well.

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    We have been to Africa three times. The first was on an organized tour. The other two we did independently. The last one to Botswana. I guarantee you do not need a tour to do this trip. You will get much more bang for your buck using a good agent to book an independent trip.

    Step by step: we arrived in Johannsburg and we were met by a representative of the Intercontinental hotel to walk us to the hotel. It's just across the access road at the airport. The next morning he walked us back to find our flight to Maun.

    Once we arrived in Maun, we were collected by the representative of Wilderness Safaris and we never had to think again. We used all WS camps.

    We traveled during the "green season" for us that was Nov/Dec. the savings over the standard rate is about 40%. Our cost was approximately $500 pd/pp.

    My point is....you don't need a "tour". You can be hand held without the cost of the middleman.

    Click on my name to find my trip report on our trip to Tanzania. (I haven't posted Botswana yet). It has cost comparisons for our tour vs independent travel.

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    Hi Shar!

    I agree with others that you don't need a tour.

    I would recommend the following:

    Arrival JNB and fly onward to Vic Falls.
    2 nights at the most in Vic Falls (3 nights if you really love adventure activities because there are plenty to choose from).
    Fly to Botswana.
    3 nights in Botswana and I would recommend Wilderness Safari Camps or AndBeyond (slightly less $). Kwando camps are an option too.
    Fly to Cape Town via Johannesburg.
    3-4 nights in Cape Town (all different styles of hotels - boutique & large). You can hire a guide to take you to places that interest you. There are a lot of things to do there between Robben Island, Table Mountain, Penguin colony/Cape of Good Hope as well as to the Wine Lands and so much more! There's also a Hop On/Hop Off bus as well to get yourself around.
    Fly to the Sabi Sand for your last safari piece.
    6 nights but I'd split that between 2 lodges as it's always fun to see different lodges etc. I would keep the transfers simple though. Lodges to consider include Ngala (Timbavati Reserve - easy transfer), Kirkmans, Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge, Arathusa, Elephant Plains. That's a wide range of cost but just to name a few. There are MANY others too.

    Private reserves offer you off-road game viewing and night drives (things you can't do in National Parks), and very good rangers. Rangers consult with one another as to sightings so you do get to see A LOT!

    I have incredible photos from Sabi Sand! If you're interested, message me via my profile and I'll send you the link.

    If you use AndBeyond lodges, you can get a long stay discount which will help you further with your budget. Ngala and Kirkmans are two of their lodges in the Sabi Sand/Timbavati area that would work well with your budget. AndBeyond also has lodges in Botswana including a few of my favorite Okavango Delta lodges, Sandibe, Xudum and Xaranna.

    That would be a total of 15 nights or so. It's nice to break up the safari piece if you do more than one area for example. In this sample itinerary, Cape Town is in between Botswana and Sabi Sand. It happens that the flight legs work well for that route but it also makes for a nice break in the trip. My clients have always found that for longer trips, it does keep it diversified, exciting and fresh.

    Your trip will be amazing! And you can certainly customize it just the way you want according to your interests, style of travel and budget.

    Happy to help!
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA, Owner

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    Hi Shar!


    There isn't really a 'best time to travel' as each season has its own pros and cons. It all depends on what your interests are.

    Have a look at www.africansky.com. They offer a variety of personal safari itineraries, combining countries like South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, etc. Custom packages as well, both guided and non-guided.

    Hope this helps!

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