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Best time to visit and tour companies

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We are planning a trip to Africa, but the more I try to plan, the more confused I get! We are looking at Tauck Tours for their So Africa, elegant adventure. It takes us from CT to Krueger and Sabin Sabin and Victoria Falls. It's a 10day escorted tour. We have traveled with them before, they are excellent and especially in Egypt last year, we felt safe. Our other thoughts are with SITA. They arrange everything, guides for tours, hotels, flights, but we could be alone. with so many flights to catch I fear we are losing time traveling and have read bad reviews of lost luggage in the airports. This would be there Splendors of So Africa with Kenya. We can add a full day or touring in Johannesburg and 2days in Amboselli as well. We are a bit afraid to be on our own . There is comfort with an escorted tour. Anyone have experience with SITA or doing a trip as they offer? Best time for So Africa? Thanks

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    Won't comment on which tour operator, but if you have an issue with being the 'only' participants, no need to be.

    Both South Africa and even Kenya are perfectly safe and if you read the many trip reports and/or comments found here on Fodor's or Trip Advisor... most do 'private' rather than overpriced 'group' tours. Regardless the fact the 'group' tours plan well, you never know who your group mates are, whether have the same interests, how long/short they wish to spend on game drives and often 'decision by committee.'

    My 2-cents.

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    Agree with Sandi, 100%. Travelling in South Africa is almost like travelling in Europe (but better wildlife;-).

    If you like travelling with a group of fellow Americans, there is no reason you shouldn't do that. But you are missing one of the best parts of traveling: meeting people from South Africa (or Kenya) and other travellers from all over the world.

    When you are at safari lodges, you will meet fellow travellers, and will be going on game drives and having meals with them, so you won't really be alone. You can join in on group activities, or keep to yourself: your choice.

    Travelling solo doesn't waste time, it saves time and allows you to spend the time on exactly what you want to do. Group activiities by nature require compromises and generally come down to the lowest common denominator. I've travelled both ways, and in my experience the wasted time was all on the group tours.

    If you decide to do a group tour again, I'd recommend that you add on some days on your own, sans tour group, at the end of the trip. You might find that the joys of travelling alone, on customized itineraries appeal to you and could change your plans for your next trip.

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    Hello Francesca. I will give you my take on the biggest difference between our packaged tour and our independent tour. It is in response to a question posed on my Trip Report of our last safari to Tanzania. Maybe it will help. I am happy to answer any questions you have. I do understand your feelings. We chose a packaged or small group tour the first time for the reasons you state. We weren't sure if we would be comfortable getting around on our own. We quickly found that worry was unfounded which is why we chose an independent safari the second time. The second trip we wanted as much time as possible in the bush and the best value for our dollars spent.
    On our first trip we spent about 3 weeks doing the typical Northern circuit - Tarangire, Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Samburu, Mt. Kenya, Masa Mara. We flew in and out of Nairobi, traveling via car to Arusha. This was a packaged tour with a reputable company. I'm sure you can still find my post on this board. I think its the first one in the Africa Index post. We stayed at Olivers Camp, Kirawira, Larsens Camp, Serena Lodge Crater, Little Governors Camp, Mt. Kenya Lodge and the Norfolk in Nairobi.

    What I loved were the animals and some of the camps, what I didn't love was that we stayed only 2 nights in each place before moving on. In this way, we never really had the opportunity to take advantage of the camps, get to know anyone, or wait patiently for things to happen in a natural way. The cost of land only for that trip was $7200 per person for 17 days - of which, Day 1, "Depart U.S.", Day 2 "Arrive AMS", Day 3 "Arrive Nairobi settle in", Day 15 "Back to Nairobi", Day 16 "Depart for AMS", Day 17 "Arrive US". So of the 18 days, 6 were just travel to and from and I paid for the International air on my own. That was the worst of what a package tour offered. Having said that, I adored Africa and could not wait to return.

    Ten years later, we start to plan our return. I did lots of reading and began to fall in love with Southern Tanzania. We ultimately spent 22 days in 5 camps in Ruaha and Selous and Mafia Island.

    That safari gave me just what I wanted, time in each place to enjoy all the area had to offer at a leasurely pace. I did a cost analysis between this trip and our last. Our last was a total of 17 days for about $15,000, of which we spent only 5 or 6 full days on game drives. The rest was all moving from one place to the other. Making the cost per game drive day nearly $3000 each. Compared to our current itinerary of 22 full days for $18,000. Making those game drive days cost a little over $800 each. Definitely more bang for the buck.....and that is what I wanted.

    Hope this helps with your planning. You can read my full trip report by clicking on my name above.

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