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first Safari, help!

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This is my first trip to Africa and am not sure how soon I will be back. I am taking my two very adventurous teenage boys and am looking for adventure mixed with luxury. We would love some recommendations from those of you who have done this. Everyone we ask has something different to recommend. Here are two trips we are looking at. 1: Kenya with Tim Melesi of Ker and Downey Safaris, Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Rusinga Island Camp, lake Victoria, Amboseli National Park, Ol Donyo Wuas Lodge,Chyulu Hills. 2: Zambia:
Luangwa Valley, Livingston:Royal Livingstone Hotel, then Singita, then to Cape Town. I am worried about Singita being too too. I don't need a massage while I am there. More interested in the animals and the adventure. (with luxury mixed in) Any thoughts, must do's, have to avoid's?

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    freda,

    If you are doing Zambia with "two very adventurous teenage boys", then I see no reason why you would include Singita in the same package. It doesn't make sense.

    Instead, increase your time in Zambia, and make a stopover in Lower Zambezi National Park at a place like Kasaka River Lodge (www.kasakariverlodge.com), Sausage Tree Camps (www.sausagetreecamp.com) or Chiawa Camp (www.chiawacamp.com). This will allow your sons the opportunity to do some canoeing and fishing in the Zambezi River, while also enjoying night game drives.

    I would recommend between 4 - 6 nights in South Luangwa. There are two distinct areas in South Luangwa divided between the northern part of the park, known as the Nsefu Sector and the central part of the park, known as the Mfuwe Sector. Each area is beautiful and is worth seeing.

    The Nsefu Sector, in my limited experience, seems to offer better birding, more hippos, more crocodiles and more elephants.

    The Mfuwe Sector, on the other hand, seems to offer more giraffes, antelope, and more predators.

    For the Nsefu Sector, I recommend either Kaingo (www.kaingo.com) or Tafika (www.remoteafrica.com). Tafika, to the best of my knowledge is the only game lodge in all of Africa that offers microlighting as an activity. A microlight is like a hang-glider with an engine, where it is possible for a single passenger to take short flights with the pilot, flying low over the area.

    In the Mfuwe area, there are quite a few reputable game lodges, such as Chichele Presidential Lodge and Puku Ridge, both operated by the same company (www.star-of-africa.com), Luangwa River Lodge (www.luangwariverlodge.com) and Nkwali (www.robinpopesafaris.net).

    A suggested itinerary would be as follows, possibly allowing for a night or two in Joburg if you are flying all the way from the United States, but jumping right into the safari if you are only flying from Europe:

    Tafika, Nsefu Sector, South Luangwa (3)
    $400 per person per night sharing (pppns)

    Luangwa River Lodge, Mfuwe Sector, South Luangwa (3) ($350 pppns)

    Kasaka River Lodge, Lower Zambezi (3)
    ($300 pppns)

    Sussi Lodge (www.star-of-africa.com),
    Victoria Falls, Zambia (2)
    $300 pppns

    You may want to expand this to a third night if you want your sons to have more time to do such activities as white water rafting, bungee jumping and going on elephant back rides.

    Cape Town, South Africa (5). About $1,750 for a five night rental of a luxury apartment. Rather than getting two hotel rooms in Cape Town, I suggest that you look into staying at a self-catering luxury apartment right on the "Waterfront." For less than the price of a single room at a 5* hotel such as the Table Bay Hotel or the Cape Grace, you will literally be right next door in a 1,500 sq. ft. luxury apartment.

    Singita is totally unnecessary and will just take away from your Zambian experience. Plus, it is nearly triple the price of the fine Zambian lodges that I have recommended. You may trust that you will not be "roughing it" at any of the lodges that I have recommended, and you may even reward yourself with a massage at some of the places I have recommended.

    The best time to take the above itinerary would be late August to early September. This will also allow for some whale watching, if so desired, in the Western Cape, once you are in Cape Town, as September may be the best month for such activity.

    You seem to have an agent for Kenya, but have not yet mentioned one for Zambia. I highly recommend Taga Safaris (www.tagasafaris.co.za). Taga was able to help me get very good pricing and really is an expert on all of Southern Africa.

    I will just conclude by saying that Zambia is an amazing country. I will be visiting for the third consecutive year next year, taking my mom and sister along with my wife and I next time to share in the magic of Zambia.

    Best of luck. :)

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    Hi Roccco,

    Thank you much for the info. After reviewing yours and others experience in Zambia, Zambia it is. Here is our tentative itineary. I would greatly appreciate your candid response. We are going the end of August, beginning of Sept.

    Robin's House: Robin Pope Safaris, South Luangwa (3 nights)

    Kutandala, North luangwa (4 nights)

    Sausage Tree Camp or Chiawa Camp, Lower Zambezi (3 nights)

    Tongabezi, Victoria Falls, (2 nights)

    then to Cape Town (?)

    We love adventure, intimacy, some luxury thrown in but I am not into waisting money. Let me know what you think and thanks again for taking your time to help.

    Freda

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    Did I mention how incredibly excited I am to be doing this with my kids. After reading through the forum, I have such a better feeling for how incredible this trip will be.

    freda

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    Hello Freda,

    If you decide to include Cape Town, shark diving is an activity that may appeal to your sons. A popular location for shark diving is Gansbaai, east of Cape Town. One can arrange to be picked up from one's accommodations in Cape Town for a shark diving day trip, but it also is quite pleasant to transfer to the seaside town of Hermanus for this activity. I think you would enjoy an ocean view room at the Marine Hotel. You may see whales from your window. Fernkloof Nature Reserve on the hillside behind Hermanus will be in its spring glory with proteas and other species that grow in the Fynbos vegetation that is unique to the southern Cape region.

    Much has been written here at Fodors about what there is to see and do in and around Cape Town, so I'll keep this part brief. I think the absolute must see places are Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve (essentially a full day trip from Cape Town), Table Mountain if weather permits, a drive along the Atlantic Seaboard, especially Chapmans Peak Drive, and a day trip to the winelands in the vicinity of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

    I feel the activities I've mentioned require 4 days in the Cape, not counting days on which you travel to and from the area. If you were able to spare 5 - 6 days, that would be even better.

    Early spring weather in the SW Cape is unstable, so take gear that will cut out wind and rain.

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    Freda,

    That looks like a great itinerary.

    For your information, however, Luangwa River Lodge is building a 2 bedroom house that will be their equivalent of Robin's House. Robin's House is roughy $1,000 per night for the first two guests, and then, I believe, $400 per night for each extra guest. I believe Luangwa River Lodge will be slightly less expensive, and will also include your own private vehicle and guide.

    Although Luangwa River Lodge is the new kid on the block, and Robin Pope has an excellent reputation, I have heard wonderful things about LRL, and it has been a pleasure dealing with Barry, who owns LRL with his wife Tara.

    Although they are both located right outside the park, I believe it will be about 10 minutes faster each way to access the park from LRL compared to Nkwali (Robins House). And some have reported that when Robin Pope or his wife Jo Pope are not in camp, that the standards go down.

    LRL is small enough, and with only a single location so that the owners will always be onsite. Robin Pope has 3 camps (Nkwali, Tena Tena & Nsefu).

    Regarding the Lower Zambezi, both Sausage Tree Camp and Chiawaa appear to excellent choices. However, I have heard mixed reports on Chiawa.

    I expect that each Sausage Tree Camp and Chiawa will be roughly $400 pp per night sharing, and possibly $600 per night for a single (assuming you are going to have your own room). On the other hand, Kasaka River Lodge is a beautiful camp and is a major bargain at $285 pppns (and I would expect no more than about $425 per single per night).

    Tongabezi appears to be an excellent choice, and probably a safer one than Sussi Lodge. I have never seen a single negative word mentioned about Tongabezi, but it had just slipped my mind momentarily.

    I am happy to see Kutandala in your itinerary and I hope that it stays firmly in your plans. You are doing a great service for the elephants of North Luangwa with your visit, as they were nearly poached to extinction just 15 years ago, but now thanks to Kutandala, Mwaleshi and Buffalo Camp, the park is rebounding strongly, and remains very strong in lions, buffalo and other wildlife.

    You may want to look into chartering your own flights, as it will provide easier access. For example, if you do the scheduled light air transfers, you may have to stop in Lusaka on the way from North Luangwa to Lower Zambezi. However, with a charter, you will likely fly direct. With three people, it may cost about the same as the scheduled flights (I am actually saving about 25% by chartering flights, but there are four of us).

    Are you buying your international air or are you using frequent flier miles? If you are using ff miles and using Delta/SAA, you should be able to get a free add-on flight from Johannesburg to Lusaka.

    I am sure that if you stick to your itinerary, you will have an incredible time. I do think, however, that by switching to Luangwa River Lodge and Kasaka River Lodge in the Lower Zambezi that you will save possibly enough money to pay for your accomodations in Cape Town.

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    thank you all for you very helpful information. I think my kids will love the shark diving. I am also checking availability at the Luangwa River Lodge new house. There are actually four of us traveling (my boyfriend is going too) so the charter flight idea is a great one. So glad I found this site.
    thanks again, Freda

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    Ok, just to confuse matters more, I just received an e-mail from Tim and Di Melesi who do private tent safaris on the Maasai Mara in Kenya and have been highly recommended to me by a good source. Tim who has guided all over east africa suggest that the amount and diversity of animals in Kenya is the best and the migration that will be occurring while we are there in August is a "must see". Does it make any sense at all the spend 4 days tent camping in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, then flying to Zambia , then to Cape Town? Would love to put this question to rest as soon as possible. (I have a feeling this won't be my last trip to Africa, so many countries, so little time)

    thanks for responding, Freda

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    Two other places to consider (have stayed at both and loved them):

    1) Victoria Falls Safari Lodge in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (wasn't crazy about the town but loved the lodge. Be sure to take the village tour - your boys will come back with an incredible appreciation for their gameboys and ipods, or just electricity for that matter!)

    2) Xigera Camp in the Okavango Delta, Botswana (Wilderness Safaris). Rustic yet fairly posh (tented cabins connected by raised walkways). Lots to see and do. Accessible only by little bush plane but so worth it!

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    Freda,

    I believe that you should choose either Eastern Africa or Southern Africa, but by mixing them, you are adding unnecessary expense while not giving yourself enough time to visit some amazing places.

    Although I have not yet been to the Masai Mara, once I do get there, you better believe that places such as the Ngorongoro Crater, Tarangire and the Serengeti will also be included in the same holiday.

    I do think that with teenage sons, that they would be missing out on some nice action in Victoria Falls and Cape Town if you were to select Eastern Africa. Southern Africa just seems like a more hospitable introduction, but that is just my opinion.

    For a newcomer, you have a Southern African itinerary that has taken me years to perfect. I would take that itinerary and run, not messing with it one bit. It is an incredible itinerary (South Luangwa, North Luangwa, Lower Zambezi, Victoria Falls & Cape Town). The only thing that would rival it, I imagine, would be a Botswanan safari, but then you are easily adding 50% to the price of your safari.

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    to hightide: I will look into both, thank you.

    to Roccco: Thank you so much for spending so much time giving me sound advice. I am very excited about the trip we put together (with much help from your threads). I will come back and do Kenya another day. I would love to know if travel is what you do for a living or a passion or both? in other words, what is your story?

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    Your most welcome.

    Regarding "my story", I am just a guy that loves travel, especially to Africa. I mean I really have a passion for Africa.

    My wife and I are each business owners, which allows a certain amount of freedom, but also keeps us on the satellite phone back home once we are at the game lodges. Plus, with no children, we have that much more freedom.

    Anyway, I have made three visits thus far:

    1. March 2002 - Singita, Matetsi in Victoria Falls, Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town and Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town.

    2. June 2003 - Kafunta Island Bush Camp in the southern Luamfwa sector of South Luangwa NP, Kafunta River Lodge in the Mfuwe sector of SLNP, the perfectly located Michelangelo Hotel in Joburg, the wonderful Twelve Apostles Hotel in Cape Town and the Lanzerac Manor in the Cape Winelands.

    3. June 2004 (following an 11 day tour of Italy) - Kulefu Tented Camp in Lower Zambezi NP, Kaingo in the Nsefu sector of South Luangwa and Chichele Presidential Lodge (did not have time to spend a single night in South Africa, as I wanted to mazimize my time in Zambia).

    It has taken me this long, however, to really take an interest beyond the animals, and really want to absorb all I can about Southern (and Central) Africa, picking up every book that I can to learn more about the history of the area, from the colonial era to the present.

    I really have little interest in sports, cars, politics, or some of the other things to which many people devote their time. My passion is Africa, especially Southern Africa.

    While I still intend to take the occasional visit to other parts of the world, as long as I can afford to do so, I would like to visit Southern Africa on an annual basis. It is such an amazing place, and I have yet to wish that I was back home whenever I am in Southern Africa.

    One day I will get to Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi, but I have a few more visits to Southern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and parts of South Africa) before I get my fill of it.

    With the human population pressures, the time is NOW to visit Southern and Eastern Africa, as in 15 - 20 years or so, there may only be small pockets of wildlife remaining. Hopefully that is not the case, but, unfortunately, that is the current direction.

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