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Botswana safari recs

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Hi all – like many I have been dreaming of going to Africa for years and have finally been able to convince my husband to do it. I had previously posted under Zambia/Namibia as we were thinking of trying that combination, but instead have switched to South Africa/Vic Falls/Botswana. Before I ask my questions, here are our basics – planning approx Sept 2017, party of 4 – middle aged, experienced global travelers (though not to Africa!!). I have done a lot of looking around (thank you Fodorites!) on the web. Trying to balance cost with being reasonable with amount of time we can take off from work. We have gone back and forth about the Vic Falls part, but my husband really wants to see it (though I worry about how much water there will be by Sept- I know you can’t predict). I am hopeful that this will be the first of multiple trips but just in case (you never know what curves life will throw at you)…

So before I hit up the travel agents I wanted to get an opinion about the Botswana part with some additional explanations:
-will probably only stay 1 night at Vic Falls (if possible as we just want to see it and NOT do all of the thrill stuff – though I would love doing the microlite)
-While I would love to stay at Chief’s Camp or Jao Camp – there is just no way we can bring ourselves to pay >$2000pp for this
-Do want to try 2 different areas of Botswana with one having more water based activities
-While I know that I could get more discounts if I stay within one company I can’t seem to find a combo that I like

What do you think of 2-3 night at Selinda Explorers (like the idea of a small, intimate place) and then 2-3 nights at Shinde Camp (seems to be well rounded with good water activities)? Is that enough variety and does it even make sense? The cost of both camps seems closer to start at a reasonable price point for us. I am open to other suggestions if anyone has them. I hope this post makes some sense as this is my first stab at actually trying to nail down what I even want to ask for.

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    As close as you are to what you want, I suggest you talk to a Travel Agent who specializes in Africa. They see different prices than you see on the Internet. Victoria Falls is worth the visit. We were there in September several years ago and took the helicopter flight, which we loved. I believe our camps were Wilderness Safaris.

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    We did the same 3 places in Sept 2015.

    Arathusa in Sabi Sands; Kingdom Hotel in Zimbabwe and The Garden Lodge in Kasane. We were really pleased with all of them.

    The water wasn't roaring over VF but it was still well worth seeing!
    When you are that "close" it only makes sense!

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    Hello 61luv2travel,

    September is such a lovely time of year to travel to southern Africa. If you are planning on staying in Victoria Falls for only 1 night, I suggest you take a look at Victoria Falls Hotel or Ilala Lodge on the Zimbabwean side. Both are within a few minute walking distance from the entrance to the Falls as well as some great shopping at the Elephant Walk nearby. Ilala Lodge also has The Palms restaurant which is my favorite pick in town. In September, it’s beneficial to stay on the Zimbabwean side over the Zambian side as the ZIM side collects more water (the ZIM side sits slightly lower in elevation compared to the Zambian side). Devil’s Cataract to the western side of the falls should still be quite spectacular.

    In addition, you may wish to consider saving Victoria Falls for the very end of the trip. Reason being: the routing from Botswana to Zimbabwe will allow for you to stop in Chobe National Park en route and enjoy a spectacular Chobe River Cruise. September is arguably one of the best months to be on the Chobe River with big numbers of elephants and cape buffalo coming down to the river for a drink. You also have spectacular birding, hippos, crocs etc. Granted, the safari experience is not as “authentic” as Selinda Explorers or Shinde, but still quite remarkable. The Chobe River Cruise cannot be conducted if the routing is Victoria Falls to Botswana without a forced overnight. It’s worth a consideration.

    Selinda Explorers and Shinde remain some of my all-time favorite camps in Botswana and a stunning. Great picks! Water levels permitting, Selinda Explorers is the only permanent camp in the Selinda concession which offers canoeing safaris. You’ve got exceptional game viewing coupled with a good mix of activities (game drives, canoeing and walking). One thing to consider: the camp is very much a “bush-camp” in feel. Although lovely, it’s also very basic in terms of creature comforts. For some, it’s perfectly sufficient. For others, it may take easing into and may work better after Shinde (Shinde will be a soft landing). Another camp that you may wish to consider would be Lebala or Lagoon by Kwando. Lagoon, water levels permitting, will also have water activities. Both Lebala and Lagoon are permanent camps/lodges, but still fairly rustic/basic. They probably have a slightly more serious approach to safari and utilize trackers to assist with game viewing. Cost here is a bit higher than Selinda Explorers (just below $1300/person/night). If it were me, I’d still pick Selinda Explorers.

    Shinde will be perfect for your family of 4 as all of their vehicles are 4 seaters (meaning you will have exclusive use). They also have “specialist guides” called Opie and Moses. The camp based guides are exceptional, but having Opie or Moses privately guiding you will raise the bar. Their costs are very seasonable at roughly $200/day or $50/person. Shinde is located right on the Maunachira River which is one of the main arteries of the Okavango. This means that you will have water activities all year in addition to exceptional game drives and walking. Great pick. My favorite Delta Camp.

    One more though on Shinde. If you are comfortable with the notion of a rustic “bush-camp” / “mobile-style” camp, you may want to consider Footsteps. It’s even a notch more basic than Selinda Explores with bucket showers, but there are only 3 tents (Selinda Explorers has 4). Super intimate. Footsteps is in the same concession as Shinde, but focuses a bit more on walking. The benefit to Footsteps is that 1) rates are lower (Footsteps is $710/person/night, Shinde is $1075/person/night) and 2) Specialist Guiding (Opie or Moses) is included. As there is no “single supplement” for any K&D camp, you can book all three rooms and have the camp for exclusive use for just the 4 of you. This means you have total control over your experience.

    If you book Footsteps over Shinde, you can take a part of the savings and perhaps allocate it to a scenic helicopter transfer from Footsteps to Selinda Explorers (or visa versa). I believe that the scenic helicopter transfer is one of the most underrated/undersold services in Botswana.

    Finally, I’d certainly go for 3 nights over 2 at both camps. 2 nights is far too short and you won’t have the opportunity to experience all that a camp has to offer on a 2 night stay.

    Sounds like you are on the right track! Have a lovely trip to Botswana.

    Sincerely,
    Kota Tabuchi – Managing Director: Africa – Travel Beyond

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    I agree with the advise you've been given so far. Contact a couple of Tour Operators and have them give you proposals that cover what you want. Our first safari trip was to Botswana, on a special with what is now & Beyond, and it was extraordinary...but only 2 nights in each of 3 camps. We loved it, but knew that the next trip we wanted to stay at least 3 nights in any given camp, and that's what we've done ever since.

    DO stay 3 nights vs. 2 in safari camps. Now, you may want to do a 2 night Chobe cruise, because that should give you a fantastic experience vs kind of a Disney-esque experience if you stay in Chobe and only do a day trip on the river.

    Have fun planning!

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