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Botswana-late Aug.to early Sept. 2014 - Camp help

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Ok; I posted a few days ago and am starting to narrow it down. Talking to 2 recommended operators and would like additional help in choosing lodges please
11 nights Want to stay "buried" in wildlife

TZ a few years ago-bucket list trip-went "over the top" The main thing we didn't like is that our guide couldn't even sit with us unless we asked permission and you could tell mgt. didn't like it.
This trip we're going to downscale-Mombo looks awesome-but no way.
Wild dogs and lots of elephants are key.
Have nixed Little Kwara and Vumburu after reading a ton of reviews
Lagoon is definitely in
"Big" Kwara a possibility
Looking at Tubu Tree camp
And Sango Safari camp intrigued me

Chitabe was suggested, but haven't checked it out yet.
Are these the right mixes of areas and camp styles?
I've put hours in looking on-line, but don't yet have a feel for locations.

You guys are the experts, so thought I'd post a second question :)
Most vacations can be great "winging" it. I don't believe Africa to be one of those, so I like to do my homework.
Did I mention we expect great guides and that we are birders too :))))))))

Any suggestions would be very greatly appreciated

Lisa

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    Hi Lisa, We are headed to Botswana in November this year. I can't answer all your questions. I will say this. One of the things I disliked the most about our first trip (a packaged affair) was moving around too much,...a couple of nights in each camp and then on to the next. The second trip, I planned on my own. We stayed 4 nights in each camp. This time we will do 5. I think it's best to pick 3 or 4 diverse locations and stick around long enough to get to know the people, the animals, the environment. I like to stay in one place long enough to let things unfold.

    We have chosen to work within the Wilderness Safari camps for the best pricing. We will stay in Chitabe Lediba, Tubu Tree, Vumbura Plains, Xigera and Savuti. We feel its a good mix of wet and dry camps in varied terrain with a great opportunity to be "buried in wildlife".

    So while I don't have a lot of advice....the big one is don't move around too much and enjoy!

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    "Buried in wildlife."
    Most Bots camps you are considering (don't know Sango) will do come through, especially Aug-Sept time frame.

    "Wild dogs and lots of elephants are key."

    DOGS
    Wild dogs are tricky. The Kwando camps have had good luck with dog packs. I see Lagoon is in for you. To maximize dog potential a Lagoon/Lebala mix might be good.

    Chitabe is usually good for dogs. You can check if there have been dogs denning recently. I did not see dogs mentioned in their Chitabe updates, but those are brief and don't mention everything. Some of my best wild dog viewing of pups AT the den was Chitabe.

    By Sept usually the pups would be just big enough to start leaving the den and moving with the pack. The normal Bots pattern (What's normal anymore with changing climate? And wild dogs don't read the studies on their habits and behave accordingly.) is denning in June with pups emerging mid to late July and hanging around the den well into August. But I've seen dogs in June and Dec in Southern Africa, so nothing is a firm rule. You're just trying to push the odds a bit in your favor.

    So a little earlier than Sept would give you a slightly better chance seeing the dogs because when they den they are easier to find at a set location. Of course, the dogs can suddenly move the den to a new spot that may take time to discover, which has happened to me more than once.

    As stated, dogs are tricky.

    ELES
    You're going at at good time for them. Lebala should have eles. Or add a different part of Linyanti with a camp like Duma Tau. There is also a reasonable chance for dogs at Duma Tau. Again a Lagoon/Lebala combo might suit you for ele. One of the best places for eles is along the Chobe River, viewed by boat. If a very good chance of seeing herds drinking along the river (front view cuz you're in a boat looking at the eles on the shore) is not a priority then you could nix Chobe.

    Depending on how "key" dogs and eles are, you can stack the odds for them with something like this, choosing from some of the camps you listed:

    Chobe -many lodging options - 2 (for eles, though dogs are seen)
    Lagoon 3 (eles and dogs)
    Kwara 3 (classic delta, also dogs, eles too but not as many as Lagoon/Lebala, I believe, something to check out.)
    Chitabe 3 (dogs, I personally have not seen a lot of eles here but that could be luck)

    TC's comment of "don't move around too much" is good advice. If wild dogs are a priority, though, you might have to hit several areas to increase your chances of seeing them because they may be visible in one area but AWOL in another.

    "This trip we're going to downscale-Mombo looks awesome-but no way."

    In general Botswana in high season is not a downscale, cost-wise, on a per night basis, from Tanzania. But if you've been doing hours of research you are aware of costs. Tanzania lodging is definitely less expensive than Mombo, though.

    "The main thing we didn't like is that our guide couldn't even sit with us unless we asked permission and you could tell mgt. didn't like it."

    From our perspective as visitors we often feel that the polite thing to do is invite the guide to dinner with us. That's what friends do.

    From the guide's perspective dining with clients can be seen as an extension of the work day. The food may be different than what he would choose; the meal may take longer meaning he has less time to clean the vehicle, less time to recharge and renew from very long days, less time to relax or nap, less time to chill with his buddies or get valuable info from them which will ultimately enhance your safari.

    But you are right that in Botswana it is more likely your guide dines with you.

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