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first time family safari in August 2014

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Planning a first time Safari for our family of two kids ages 10 and 11 years this summer in August. Looking for the best place to go in terms of getting "more for our money", kid- friendly and safe, seeing the most animals and best weather.

We were looking at S. Africa (Kruger,Sabi Sands) Vic Falls and Botswana (Chobe, Okavango) but now we are considering East Africa - Kenya and Tanzania - maybe Zanzibar?

Welcome all advice and suggestions.

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    Priceless memories are made when a family goes on vacation. The challenge is finding a trip that appeals to the whole family.

    I would suggest East Africa which is an immense region with safari opportunities available across thousands of miles, so the best time to travel to Africa will depend on your specific destination. Since safari destinations are in the Southern Hemisphere, their seasons run opposite of North America. Winter is from June to September, and summer is from December to March. Peak seasons for Kenya and Tanzania being July to October and January to March. Low season April to June.

    Each country in Africa is different. We acknowledge that it is impossible to capture the spirit and culture of an entire country in one paragraph, but below is a brief overview of some popular African safari destinations to get you started:

    Kenya: Kenya's most abundant wildlife can be found in the Masai Mara reserve (a part of the vast Greater Serengeti), where massive herds of animals make an annual migration across the plains. But beyond Masai Mara and the Serengeti lie plenty of other quality parks with abundances of wildlife, including the soda lakes of the Great Rift Valley and Lake Bogoria, where thousands of colourful flamingos reside

    Tanzania: Like Kenya, Tanzania houses part of the Serengeti National Park — the best park in which to see great herds of wildlife in Africa. Other noteworthy sites include Mount Kilimanjaro, marine parks off the coast and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, site of the Ngorongoro Crater and Olduvai Gorge (also known as the Cradle of Mankind). The Ngorongoro Crater is one of the largest volcanic craters on earth. Over 30,000 animals live in the crater; it has the densest lion population in the world.

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    You have quite an adventure in store for you and your family. In your original post, you have named some of the iconic safari destinations of Africa. Fortunately for you there will be many choices “on the table” in August because August is the peak season for almost all of Africa’s safari countries. In my discussion below, I will mention a few more countries that you may wish to consider.

    The southern Africa countries typically are considered to include South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Botswana. Although the rainfall and temperatures vary throughout the region, these countries are generally impacted by the same weather patterns. The rains end in February or March, which is when the dry season begins. The animal viewing progressively improves throughout the dry season peaking during the warmer months at the end of winter and beginning of spring (August and September.) October is usually a very good month as well, but many call it suicide month—especially in Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia—because of the heat.

    I have visited Africa more than 30 times on safari. I had the opportunity to take my children on two of these trips. Our first safari with the kids was in March 2008 when they were 10 and 12. The second safari was in July and August of 2011 when they were 13 and 15. I've been to Botswana and Victoria Falls in every season going back to my first trip in 1984. Many of the safari lodges in Zimbabwe and Zambia are only open April through October, so I've only traveled there during the peak seasons. I've only been to East Africa one time in 1976 when I was five years old so I will limit my commentary, but I am actually going on safari in Kenya in March for the first time!

    In general, Botswana is the most expensive safari destination in Africa when you measure it by the average price paid by Western tourists on a per-person per-night basis. This does not mean you get a better safari; you simply get a different safari. The most unique feature in Botswana is the Okavango Delta. Their tourism board has done an excellent job marketing the country, and the government has done an excellent job setting up the safari industry so that most of the lodges you would hear about from your friends or in magazines are on private concessions. A private concession is a private piece of land that a safari lodge owner rents for a period of time and is allowed to conduct off-road game drives and night drives on the property. This obviously drives up the price versus having a lodge located adjacent to a national Park where you drive inside the park to see animals. Another reason the prices are higher is just about every lodge I recommend has no method of access other than on small airplanes. With all this said, there is no other ecosystem like the Okavango Delta, and people pay a premium for that. You'd expect to pay at least $1000 per day per person for your family to go on safari in

    Botswana. There are several safari lodge chains that operate in Botswana and cater to children as opposed to just tolerating them. Wilderness Safaris has several classic camps that have family rooms but I doubt any are available for August, as they would have been booked long ago. Shinde Camp also comes to mind is a good option. If you have some flexibility in your dates, it may be possible to secure a family room. If you visit Botswana I would recommend 6 to 8 days on safari at two or three different safari lodges. The lodges should offer diversity in landscape and animals. A good agent can easily help you select the lodges. There are several safari lodge chains that have enough lodges in their collection to create a nice circuit and get a discount for booking all the lodges with the same lodge company. Very few safari lodges in Botswana deal directly with clients, so you will have to use an agent to plan the trip. If you let me know where you live in the United States, I may be able to recommend a good agent that you could walk in and meet face-to-face.

    South Africa is an excellent year-round safari destination. In my opinion and experience, the animal viewing at the private reserves adjacent to the Kruger National Park (where you can drive off road and at night) offer the best Big Five animal viewing in southern Africa any time of year. Unlike Botswana, many of the lodges have discounts for children, and you could probably have a very good safari priced between $500 and $800 per person per night. In South Africa, I suggest three or four nights in the Kruger National Park ecosystem, followed by another lodge far away in a different part of South Africa. There is even a lodge on the South Africa border, but technically in Botswana, named Mashatu that pairs well with a Greater Kruger National Park ecosystem safari. Some choices far away from this area but within the borders of South Africa are the Madikwe game reserves, Tswalu, and the Eastern Cape game reserves. One place I really like for families in the Eastern Cape is Kwandwe. I actually took my kids to this area when they were really small back in 2001, before I was in the safari industry. At the time, I was on vacation from my job as a submarine officer in the U.S. Navy visiting family in South Africa, and my kids were three and five.

    I really think you should also consider Zambia or Zimbabwe. You mentioned safety is a concern, and along with Botswana, Zambia is probably the safest place in Africa for a safari. It is also closer to the equator and therefore the warmest safari destination in southern Africa, which can still be quite cool, especially in early August. When I was in Zimbabwe on August 1, 2011, it was 31° in the morning two days in a row. It always warm up to about 60 during the day. It would be rare for the morning temperature to be below 45° in Zambia even in June and July which are the coldest months. August is warmer, and by then the days should heat up to about 80 to 85. If you go to Zambia I would consider four nights at a game reserve in South Luangwa National Park. I would combine this with another three or four day safari in Lower Zambezi National Park. If you want more time on safari, there’s a great family room at Shumba in Kafue National Park. This is a gross generalization, but a safari in Zambia of equal quality to a safari in Botswana will be about 20% less money.

    You also mentioned more for your money, and this “screams” Zimbabwe. I’ve said many times on many forums and many times to clients that Zimbabwe is the best value for your money in Africa. It is as safe as any other safari country and offers an excellent safari experience. Your money does not prop-up the government and instead protects wildlife. The only reason it is less money is because some people are afraid to go there, which affects demand. There are several safari lodge companies that operate lodges in Botswana and Zimbabwe. African Bush Camps and Wilderness Safaris come to mind. Their Zimbabwe accommodations are about 50% less than Botswana accommodations in August for the exact same type of room. You will see just as many animals in Zimbabwe—possibly even more diversity of animals. I am obviously in the industry and don't pay full price for my wife and myself to go on safari. But when I had to pay to take my kids, I chose to take them to Zimbabwe in 2011. So I'm putting my money where my mouth is with this recommendation. You can have an excellent safari in Zimbabwe for about 40% to 50% less than Botswana in August. If you only have six days, I recommend three nights in Hwange National Park and three nights in Mana Pools National Park. If you have more time, you could add two or three nights in Matusadona National Park.

    If you want to do a little web research, here are some options at various price points. My prices are gross approximations just to give you an idea. All prices are per person based on a family of four traveling with two kids under 13.

    South Africa
    MalaMala x 3, Mashatu x 3: six night safari roundtrips from Johannesburg for approximately $5,000 per person.

    Botswana
    Duma Tau x 3, Chitabe Ledibe X 3, Tubu Tree x 2: Eight night safari roundtrip from Johannesburg for approximately $12,000 per person.

    Zimbabwe
    Little Makalolo x 3, Ruckomechi x 3: six nights for approximately $5,000 per person round-trip from Victoria Falls.
    The Hide x 3, Changa x 3, Vundu x 3: nine nights for approximately $6,000 per person round-trip from Victoria Falls.

    Zambia
    Lion Camp x 3, Sausage Tree x 3, Shumba x 3: nine nights for approximately $9,000 per person round-trip from Lusaka.

    How much time should you spend on safari with kids the age of your kids? I think if you go less then six nights on safari (three nights each in two camps) you'll wish you had spent more days. I think if you go more than 10 nights, the kids will get bored with it. So, your ideal range is 7 to 9 nights on safari. Obviously this is only my opinion and my experience booking many families with kids on safari and taking my own kids.

    I hope all this helps. Just so you know, the equator runs through the safari destinations in East Africa (Tanzania and Kenya), there really is no winter and summer. There are seasons but not like in southern Africa.

    Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
    2011-2013 Travel and Leisure A-list agent for Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

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    Hi kthompson360

    in order to get good advice, more info is needed:
    a. how many days do you want to spend? (safari/ leisure)
    b. budget?

    Mara is excellent during August
    i think Samburu is a must (on any "best 5 parks" list in Africa)
    Naivasha is a haven for children
    Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage! - let the kids adopt an elephant
    (for a symbolic donation they will be excited for eons)
    http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/

    consider http://www.tamimiea.com/giraffe-manor/index.html

    Nakuru
    Baringo Bogoria

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    My self drive itinerary through KwaZulu Natal is costing, land only, less than $3k per each adult (my wife and I, with our 14 month old daughter sharing a room with us). It is completely 4 star and 5 star accommodations.

    Durban - 3 nights (private furnished apartment on the beach found on www.airbnb.com)
    Isibindi Zulu Lodge - 2 nights
    Leopard Mountain Game Lodge - 3 nights
    Thonga Beach Lodge - 4 nights
    Mkuze Falls Safari Lodge - 3 nights (3 night package purchased on www.luxurylink.com)

    It will be about my 7th visit to South Africa and although my lowest priced trip to date, I am really looking forward to it and I've amazed myself with how far a dollar can stretch if properly planned. In this past, I've spent more for 3 nights at a 5 star Sabi Sand lodge than I've paid for this entire 15 night stay.

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    Hi. I've taken my kids on safari 5 times in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Tanzania. We started at 2 and 4 years of age and we now have three children ages 11, 9 and 5. We have had a fantastic life-changing experience on each trip. We constantly look at pictures and talk about our trips. We will next go to Botswana.

    I think South Africa or Tanzania would be a great option. In South Africa, we loved the Sabi Sand area adjacent to Kruger. The lodges are fantastic, you will see the big 5 and many lodges will go out of their way to make it special for your children also. Phinda Game Reserve in northern KwaZulu-Natal is a great additional stop as well. They are renowned for their children's programs. Adding on Capetown would round out a great trip if you have time.

    The Serengeti in Tanzania is just awe-inspiring. It's hard to describe its vastness and the amount of game and herds. You must plan your location and lodge around the migration. Don't be afraid of mobile tents. We stayed in a luxurious one and saw unimaginable sights. We also did the Ngorongoro Crater which was just fantastic. My advice is to stay at a lodge on the crater rim. Of course adding on the beach is an extra plus if possible.

    You cannot go wrong for your family by planning a safari vacation. Have fun and enjoy all.

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    What a wonderful adventure awaits your family.

    More for money to me says not Bots, unless you do a mobile, which is great, comfortable, safe, etc. I think the only way I'll get back to Bots is another mobile due to pricing. Not sure on ages for kids on mobile and what the rules are.

    More for money also says South Africa self drive to me, if you are up for it.

    More for money could mean Zimbabwe, though that is not in your original list. Though prices have escalated there, still a relative bargain.

    Kid friendly--you may want a private family safari with a guide known to work well with kids. Kenya and Tanz are best for a reasonable priced privately guided safari. There are kid-tailored safaris that would certainly appeal to adults too. I think Thomsons Safaris does one. The Africa Adventure Co has several (not only in E. Africa). See this listing for a variety of itinerary suggestions and pricing ideas.

    http://www.africa-adventure.com/category/family_fun

    Safe--if you would like to avoid malarial areas, then I'd suggest Madikwe in South Africa. Just about every place else requires malaria prophylactics, which are not that big of a deal, but you must decide for your children.

    Best weather--Aug is a good month in all the places you mention and that others mention and generally is peak animal time everywhere except Southern Serengeti. Choices are wide open.

    Seeing most animals--the migration (thousands of wildes plus zebra) is in Kenya and Tanz in August. Seeing the popular animals most easily would be Sabi Sands. But any of the places you mention in Aug would offer outstanding animal viewing.

    Whatever you choose, be sure to mention the ages of your kids right off the bat because some camps and companies have rules and restrictions.

    You are going to turn your kids into safari addicts at a very young age!

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    We went to Botswana and South Africa in late Sept and early Oct two years ago. I'm sure you are aware that their seasons are reversed for many peoplee but just as a reminder, it got rather chilly in the camp in Botswana as it wasn't heated. There were plenty of covers, but at some point we had to get up. ;-) So, that's just a reminder. In the camp in SA, which was heated, but pricey, we were happier with the accommodations. However, both were really great safari's. Since others have detailed those, I'll just leave it at this reminder.

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    Hi, I think Kenya its very good for you and your family.
    I also start here with my kid, she was 10.
    We see a lot of animals. After the years I stay now in Kenya and send Tourist to Camps and Lodgen, I know a lot of wrong thinks from the tourleader and I try make better.
    Send me your mailadress, and I send you some offers, with my driver and only to places I know.
    I wish you the best holiday, here in Kenya

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    Family of 5 here, including kids aged 3-14, traveling to South Africa in July. I've reserved four nights in Kruger restcamps ($600), two nights in private lodge in Timbavati bordering Kruger ($1500) and a minivan for a week with Avis via Costco ($600). So our total, including Kruger entry fees, will be about $3000 for our safari. We obviously will be self driving part of it.

    We are spending an additional 13 days traveling the Western Cape. Our lodging there is approx $2000 plus car hire for a portion of that $500.

    We have an air transfer CPT to SZK for $1200 total.

    I mention the cost breakdown above to offer alternatives to the posts that cite $3000-$5000 per person for safari. It truly can be done at that rate for an entire family if you're willing to research and plan and do some self driving.

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    Depending on how many days you intend to have on safari, I will rule Uganda out and proceed with Kenya and Tanzania. During August, you will introduce your kids to the greatest wildlife spectacle on the planet, The Wildebeest Migration in Maasai Mara. Nothing compares to this in regards to wildlife. Other attractions will be Flamingos in Lake Bogoria, Chimps and Rhinos in Sweetwaters, and not forgetting the culturally rich Samburu National Park. A few day in Tanzania and you visit the magestic Ngorongoro Crater which is now a UNESCO world heritage site. In Kenya, the weather is good throught the year, same to Tanzania. A beach holiday in Zanzibar or Lamu is memorable, once in a lifetime experience. If you choose Lamu, I suggest Peponi Hotel on Shela Island. A visit to the Lamu old town is advisable. In Zanzibar, the stone town is key attraction, Neptune Resorts are great. I have always encouraged responsible travel agents, with appreciate the culture, people and enviroment, www.travelhouse.com, www.autoscopesafaris.com in Kenya and the www.wildlifepartner.com in Tanzania. Both outfitters use have child friendly policies. You can request to use the child friendly lodges/ resorts/ hotels.

    I

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    We are heading to Zimbabwe this August with our 14, 11 & 9 year olds and can't wait...should be something for everyone...animals & adventure a plenty...
    Hope you have a great trip...

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    The BEST for your money is South African private game reserves like Kirkman's Kamp ( cost effective) & the Sabi Sands area has most leopard & animal concentrations. We have traveled there 5 times & love it. Many of the different lodges have kid friendly programs. If you need help with booking recommendation I can help.

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    Hi,
    It sure is fun to travel with family. Africa is a great travel destination and the countries you mentioned are great places. You should definately consider Kenya and Tanzania. There is beautiful weather all year long and lots of places to see many awesome animals. Kenya in particular has many attractions ranging from National parks,sandy beaches and interesting culture.Suggestions made by SAFAUTO2014 above are really commendable for arranging your tour.
    You could also visit Rwanda if you have time as they have gorillas living in their natural habitat which is incredible to see.
    Hope you get back home with the best experience!

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