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Best African Safari

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I always wanted to go on an African Safari. I want to experience the real deal ,not the fancy resort ones . i have information with Thompson Safari which looks awesome to me! Has anyone ever went through them, or any suggestions would be great
Thanks, Sandy

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    We had a fabulous time with EASY TRAVEL. They were a pleasure to deal with at every step of the process and I recommend them most highly. We always felt that their primary goal was to give us a wonderful experience, which they did.
    We also contacted Thomson, but they were much more expensive and not very responsive to our preferences.

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    As Africa is a huge continent with many countries blessed with wildlife and a variety of habitat you probably are going to focus on one country for the first safari unless you are with plenty of time and "deep" pockets. You might consider a general safari guide book such as the Fodors one on complete guide to safari planning. The last edition I read covered 5 major countries offerring safaris. Did not go into great detail give the subject matter but a great introduction to wildlife safaris. Major parks, lots of lodging, and many companies but certainly not the definitive work country specific books cover.

    Then, focus on a country or two and get more specific. Read trip reports provided on this and other forums (Trip Advisor as an example) and even lodge/camp reviews. We have focused on East Africa and have visited Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Each has its own special features but we tend to lean towards Tanzania maybe a case of "first love". But it is a great choice for one's first safari.

    The northern circuit (parks and areas in the northern portion of the county) is a great way to enjoy a safari. A wonderful mix of habitats and wildlife. For some the focus is the wildebeest migration (mostly the Serengeti NP and adjacent Ndutu area). Great mention is of seeing the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, cape buffalo and elephant) often a goal of some safari goers. But there is a lot more to see than the migration or even the big five.

    Of our several trips to East Africa of the last 5 we visited Tanznaia with Roy Safaris based in Arusha. And, would use them again. However, for one's first trip even for just peace of mind, I would provide say 5 or 6 companies you thoughts for a trip including time of year, number of nights, special interests, maybe parks/areas of interest, even specific lodging if known, etc and then screen the proposals you get back. Inbetween read trip reports and lodge/camp reviews and consult a country-specific guide book. I determine cost per person per night (excluding international airfare) as one means to rank proposals but not necessarily the bottom line. Some travelers also post say the top two itineraries on safari forums for reader feedback.

    Good luck planing the trip.

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    I've been going to S Africa as often as possible for the past decade. It has good infrastructure (airports and roads) between safari destinations and the cities. The wildlife viewing in the private lodges adjacent to Kruger and in KwaZulu Natal us fantastic. Cape Town is a beautiful city, the beaches of KZN are gorgeous and warm and Johannesburg is fascinating. It's also just an easy flight to Victoria Falls and the river-based wildlife viewing in Chobe. Tours are unnecessary as S Africa is easy to plan independent travel.

    You could:
    Fly to Joberg, fly to Victoria Falls, spend a couple of days in Chobe.

    Fly to Cape Town, spend a few days exploring this beautiful European feeling city. If wine is your thing, spend a night or two in the winelands.

    Fly to Durban. Visit a KZN reserve - Phinda and Zululand Rhino Reserves are excellent choices in wildly different budgets. Enjoy a few days at the beach at Rocktail or Thonga for exclusivity, or in Balito for more action.

    Fly to Kruger (there is a direct flight Durban to Nelspruit, connections to Skukuza and Hoedspruit). Stay in one of the fantastic private lodges adjacent to Kruger. Prices range from about $150 per person per night to over $1000 pppn with all game drives, walks, meals, etc, included. You can visit one or more, or even rent a car and add some time self driving in Kruger National Park. It's kind of like visiting Yellowstone, only with lions and elephants instead of bears and bison. It's very fun (but not for everyone!!). Game viewing is outstanding, Kruger and the unfenced reserves are about 20,000,000 hectares (the size of Scotland) and the wildlife roams freely.

    Pick and choose depending on interests, budget and time. For S Africa, May to September is best for game viewing. Early in that timeframe best for VF and CT. KZN is always nice but the warm Indian Ocean will be warmest in May.

    I usually combine public and private reserves to keep our budget low so we can return so often. But on a first trip, private lodges are likely best for you. You can do it pretty affordably if you stay in nice but affordable lodges. No driving required - everything can be done with transfers, flights, day trips (in CT for the penguins). A good agent can arrange a trip for a better value than a group tour.

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