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Help with last minute planning VFalls/Kruger/CapeTown

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My husband and I will be traveling from Southern CA and our daughter will be meeting us for a vacation from her Peace Corps service in Malawi. She will be in Lilongwe and completing a Peace Corps training on May 27th. She would like to fly out from there on Saturday or Sunday to meet us and avoid another trip from village to airport. We had a lot of emergencies recently, so we know we are way behind on planning.

We've already looked into flights between JNB, CPT, and LVI and Malawi. From that we discovered, she can fly from Lilongwe to Livingstone on M,W, SA and SU. But getting from Livingstone back to Malawi would be a 2 day trip.

Our plan is 4-6 days Livingstone/VFalls; Safari in Kruger area or elsewhere?(2-4 days) and end in Cape Town for a few days sightseeing.

From Cape Town, we will be flying to Blantyre and staying another 5-8 days in Southern Malawi with our daughter. In Southern Malawi we will see the Tea Estates, Zomba Plateau, and visit her village and home and meet some of her friends We will also definitely be visiting Liwonde National Park as it is right by her village and is part of her service area, and this is an option for a luxury safari camp stay for the 2 of us that will help spend our travel $$ in the community that has welcomed her. If we find a good budget safari in S. Africa, we will probably opt to stay in the MVUU Safari Camp. But if we end up doing a more expensive luxury camp experience in S. Africa, we probably will just do day trips in via boat or 4WD.

We need advice on the 10-14 days we travel elsewhere. It's her vacation to enjoy running water & electricity and a ONE TIME Bucket List trip for us. We want to go places to see the wildlife diversity that we won’t find in Liwonde—big cats, giraffes, zebra, big 5. Our plan is meet in Livingstone and see Victoria Falls, do guided day trips to Chobe, Zambezi, Hwange, and/or Okavanga Delta. We want to not repeat treks to areas that will mostly be lots of hippos and crocodiles since we can observe those in Malawi whether we stay at MVUU Camp or just take day trips.
We are all pretty fit and do hikes of up to 8-10 miles at a photographers pace. So if it is worth doing, we could and would do a one day drive in or hiking safari in Okavanga Delta if such a thing is possible from the falls area because we sure can’t afford the luxury tents and flights into that area. And we are not luxury oriented travelers interested in high thread count. In fact, we would prefer to stay in modest cabins/cottages where we could share a 1 bedroom with a small kitchen since we are all vegan/vegetarians.
While saying that, we will still want to do 1 modest/standard/or even luxury safari for 2 nights as a minimum (3-5 if we can find the $$ and availability) with the focus on quality of game watching vs. accommodations— and a lot depends on our air fare costs. We are thinking that we should consider doing it in South Africa given the exchange rate, probably around Kruger, but up for other suggestions. Not sure if we can find availability in modest bungalows for 3 in the Park, or if any triple accommodations exist in the Private Reserve camps, but would appreciate feedback on whether we would be talking two different levels of actual wildlife viewing, and we'll regret not going the luxury route for fewer nights for better viewing. And/or adding another day trip out of VF besides Chobe?

Thanks for any guidance you can provide on whether to stay more/less anywhere, and lodging options throughout.

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    Given that you plan to end up in Malawi, and also that you are interested in walking safari, I'd suggest incorporating South Luangwa in Zambia, where walking safaris are a big thing. And from South Luangwa you can arrange a road transfer to Lilongwe at the end.

    So I'd suggest starting with a few days in Cape Town, then go up to the Falls and then fly to South Luangwa (Proflight Zambia is the airline you need), then go by road to end up in Lilongwe.

    In South Luangwa, I'd look at Robin Pope camps, or Norman Carr or Remote Africa. For example, with Norman Carr you can do a nice 7 day trail along the Luwi River staying at Kakuli, Nsolo and Luwi. Or with Remote Africa spend a few nights at Tafika, then 2 nights each at Crocodile and Chikoko camps.

    June is shoulder season in Zambia, and you should be able to get away without paying a single supplement for your daughter- for sure Norman Carr don't charge a single supplement in June and Robin Pope don't charge all year round.

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    Thank you sooo much for this suggestion. Robin Pope camps are clearly not available for 3, and I've emailed Norman Carr. They have an advertised special of 3 days Remote Africa combined with 3 days at Flatdogs Camp so we are hoping there will be 3 spaces available on one of his trips that works with our timing.

    I'll keep you posted. Love all your other posts and advice on these forums.

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    Flatdogs have a couple of 2 bedroom houses that would be nice for your family- the Jackalberry Treehouse and the Crocs Nest. Flatdogs also do a nice package with the treehouse and Lion Camp, which would be worth considering.

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    Even more good advice. Thank you sooo much. I also found this special on Flatdogs website which seems to have walking safari as an option but with 4WD rides also. It is more expensive and covers a different region for 4 days--Lower Zambezi which sounds interesting.

    http://www.flatdogscamp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Kasaka-package-2016.pdf

    More expensive and 2 days longer, but right now I'm thrilled with the different direction and off the beaten path. I was discouraged at the high prices in Botswana, high traffic in Chobe and iffy about Kruger where I was overwhelmed with info.

    Thanks again. Wish it wasn't middle of the night there. I'm going to have to get up at 1 am PST to see what kind of options I get back. :-)

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    For more affordable options in Botswana, see http://www.footsteps-in-africa.com. They also do mobile safaris if interested. Highly regarded and more affordable than most.

    In Kruger, you can do self drive in Kruger Park. If you'd like that, see www.SanParks.org for availability for days you will be there. I prefer BD(3) bungalows as they have ensuite bathrooms and a kitchenette. The accommodations are surprisingly nice. The rest camps in the south of the park are in excellent game viewing areas, I also like Satara. Book camps with restaurants if you don't want to cook.

    I love to combine self drive with private reserves - nDzuti - the owner/manager is a locally famous conservationist, Africa on Foot - they do walking safaris and game drives daily with very highly regarded rangers. Shindzela is a nice small lodge I liked a lot. Another nice lodge is nThambo. Arathusa is nice with the waterhole in camp. There are other affordable options. S Africa us a bargain right now because the Rand is very favorable against the dollar. Your biggest issue will be availability at this late date. Kruger is spectacular.

    Contact Wild-Wings for help with planning. They are local and will be able to book at the same or lower rates than you can and find specials we don't know about. They can help with transfers so they make sense. Sometimes with last minute and the overwhelming options it can help to have someone who can work within your budget and timeframe and know which lodges can accommodate three.

    Have fun. No matter what you choose will be great. Just try not to do too much in a short time - sometimes less is better so you experience more, travel less.

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    Personally, I think with the time you have, I wouldn't try and do Lower Zambezi as well. South Luangwa is huge, and although Flatdogs has some great accommodation and it is good value, it is also just outside the main gate and therefore in the busiest area of the park. I think one of the combinations of Flatdogs with one of the camps deep into the park will give you a better experience. I haven't stayed at Kasaka but I know it's outside Lower Zambezi too. My feeling is that the option of both parks is more expensive but will be a decrease in the quality of the experience, because the extra money is just spent on transport. Even at Flatdogs, the package with Kasaka has you in the safari tents whereas the package with Lion Camp uses the treehouse which would be much nicer for your group.

    Also, I think Lower Zambezi and the water experience there is going to be more similar to what you will experience in Malawi.

    I think I would look at the Flatdogs/Lion Camp combo, or the Flatdogs/Chikoko (which would have more of a walking focus as Chikoko is a walking only camp). Or the Norman Carr option I was talking about is this-
    http://www.normancarrsafaris.com/safari/week-on-the-wildside

    Another camp which is not too expensive is Kafunta River Lodge- they do nice packages with their walking only bush camp Island Camp. They also have a new camp, 3 Rivers, that is supposed to open this June. If that is on schedule I think that would definitely be worth a try.

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    Great feedback and additional thoughts. Your posts have had wonderful advice.

    However, when we put the budget together and factor in all the extras not included, gratuities for staff and guides, ground transportation in Cape Town etc., the per day costs are still big compared to Kruger with the Rand vs. $$ exchange. We've completely reversed our sequence based upon this idea of a road transfer back to Malawi, and that has helped. I think our plan is much better than the first one (2 nights in Kruger and day trips from Livingstone). Instead, we can now afford 3 nights in Kruger and 4 nights in South Luangwa, plus our TBD adventure in Liwonde NP in Malawi.

    Any advise on too much/too little time, or thoughts about the Kruger Camp would be welcomed.

    We now think we will meet in Cape Town for a few days and my daughter can come a day late so we can rest/get over jet lag, and thus add some cushion to keep the stress down if any of our flights is delayed/missed/re-routed. If we miss the trip to Table Mountain, it's not so expensive as the domino effect if we can't start our expensive safari.
    We will fly nonstop to Hoedspruit and do a 3 night safari at Umlani Bush Lodge. We have a family hut on hold there, and that safari is 1/3 of the cost per day at Flatdog. It is eco-friendly for our tree-hugging family, and reviews look good. This will give us the game drive experience and 2 different areas.

    Then we will fly out of Nelspruit direct to Livingstone and spend 2 nights by the Falls. From there, it looks like our best bet is the Walking Camps at Remote Africa. The 6 day with Flatdog Camp puts us about $2,000 over our budget, so we are thinking about doing 4 nights at the higher rate at Crocodile River Camp--would prefer the Tree Camp, but I don't think they have 2 rooms available that coincide with the rest of our pieces.

    We will then have the walking safari experience without even the option to go by 4WD or have them used by others in camp. Sounds lovely.

    After that its back to Malawi with 7 days of safari in 2 countries under our belts. The plan feels pretty firm, but its now the weekend, so I just hope availability holds until we get all the answers back.

    Stop me if I've done something you think I'll regret. Again, I love this forum, and I'll be sure to stay tuned to these wise posts.

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    So many options we are evaluating. Almost forgot--The Week on the Wildside you suggested looks great, but again, we are short on time and $$ and would have to eliminate Kruger, and my husband is leaning toward 7 nights maximum in 2 different countries vs. 6 nights in 2 camps/one Park in Zambia. I am still awaiting a reply from Norman Carr Safaris availability and quote.I've made an inquiry about possibly 4 days at whatever camps they have available at the nightly rate they use on the 7 night special, and if that comes through, that would be another great option within the budget. They don't do the road exchanges so they referred me to their group handler in Malawi who can book at the same rates as they can but do the extras.

    Some of their other safaris skip past the first night in the lodge and in fact so does the Luwi River Trail safari. I think we would enjoy that even if we only stay at 1-2 camps. And putting our 4 nights in there would allow us to do night drives, and morning walks, and afternoon/sunset drives that aren't available at Crocodile River Camp. But if we cut back to 4 nights in one camp and we're paying the higher nightly rate, 3 nights would be plenty to explore the area and then maybe we should add a 4th night on the Umlani Bush Lodge. Any thoughts???

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    Any thoughts on Pafuri Walking Trail as an option? With the currency savings, it is definitely a cheaper option than the Luangwa safaris. And the $$ are definitely the factor now. At first we were time limited. Now we are $$ limited.

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    OK, some thoughts-
    I do feel you are still trying to squeeze in a bit too much and not taking into account transit times. One thing you are not taking into account is how far some of these camps in SOuth Luangwa are from Mfuwe airstrip.

    Crocodile camp is one of the most remote camps. It's 2.5 hours drive from Mfuwe to Tafika (Remote Africa's main camp), then to get to Crocodile from Tafika you need to drive to the river (15 mins), take a canoe across the river and then walk 45 mins to the camp. Clearly this last bit would not be possible in the dark. Total time from the airport, probably about 4 hours.

    So to fly from Livingstone and get all the way to Crocodile in one day is not practical (not without arriving in the dark). Same thing coming out and getting a road transfer to Lilongwe. It might be possible but it would be a hell of a long day.

    I stayed at Crocodile and Chikoko in June 2014, and that was one of the only parts of the park where I found high grass to be a real problem- so I wouldn't pick it as your only camp in June. Also, from those camps there is only walking, and you cannot even drive to different areas to walk. So 4 nights there is too long.

    If you are only going to pick one camp in the park, I think due to transit times it will have to be one in the more central area of the park, and I would pick one which offers a mix of activities. Given your budget I'd consider Flatdogs or Kafunta. You could go further afield to Lion Camp, which is only about a 2 hour drive from Mfuwe. It would be a shame to be limited to the central area of the park. If you can make Lion Camp work with the timings, I would pick that.

    I'm aware of the Pafuri walking trail and to be honest, this might be a better plan than trying to rush through South Luangwa.

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    Also, have you looked at the Proflight schedule? To fly LVI-MFW you need to change in Lusaka, so you leave about 12:30 but don't arrive until 17:00. So there is no way you could get to Crocodile that night.

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    Still trying to squeeze in a bit too much? Spot on, stokeygirl.

    So we are moving toward flying to either, LVI, VFA or CPT and meeting our daughter.
    Spend 2-3 nights at Falls,
    4-5 nights at Cape Town,
    and allow 6-8 nights for a combination of 2 Safari experiences. Options that look workable for us from various advice so far:

    Umlani in a 3 person family (like the no electricity, eco-feel, and no single supplement this way, and they seem able to work with our vegan diets)

    Shindzela appears more our style and would have separate tents for the same cost as Umlani, and workable with our diet. Also, solar power and wifi and charging a convenience w/out impacting environment. We might actually afford to stay an extra day in either Pafuri or Shindzela if they are a good contrast combo of geography. And for 1 night we could all 3 stay in the sleep out hide for $100. Or at least my camera hugging husband would be interested, and it is only 200R/person.


    Pafuri sounds like a very good substitute for the Luangwa ones that so appealed to us, and it looks like it would be in a different part of Kruger for contrast. It has space but you must start on certain days so the combo needs to be built around a fixed 3 days at Pafuri. As it is if it works out, we would spend our last 3 days there before flying to Malawi and it would be the plusher one.

    We saw a special that paired Northern Tuli with a Kruger area camp and arranged the flight connections and from posts on this FORUM, I was enthralled with Mashatu. But, your caution about "not taking into account transit times" was what I needed to hear, I have lived waaaaaay too long in LA, and I am looking at the google maps like I do my local GPS, assuming that T4 through Zambia is like my local freeway. Hmmm.

    When we keep our options in and around Kruger, the budget looks much healthier, AND we can afford the privacy that will probably be better since she has been living away a year and we've had an empty nest. And over 14 days plus our time in Malawi, more separate sleeping arrangements is going to be a wise investment, I think.

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    There are a couple of options with Pafuri. Pafuri just reopened in October, so it's brand new. There is a great special with Tuli Safari Lodge, pay 4 get 6 nights and Serolo might be nice for you, too. A few years ago we did Mashatu Tented, Pafuri and Arathusa, we are looking to do Tuli SL, Pafuri and nDzuti soon. Great combo. Getting from Pont Drift to Pafuri is less than 4 hours, the drive to southern Kruger is about 6 hours, not through the park. You can drive to Pont Drift - not quite sure why you want to fly - it only takes 6 hours and it's easy. Then you can drive to Pafuri and southern Kruger.

    We loved Shindzela - very casual but a very small area for game drives. If you look at nDzuti, it's a good combo.

    If $$ is your issue, spend time in Kruger. It is spectacular and the accommodations are better than expected. See www.SanParks.org for info and make reservations.

    Vegan is common in S Africa. Everyone can deal with it - it shouldn't be a limiting factor. They just need to know a few days before you arrive so they can plan meals. I have weird dietary issues, and all the lodges we've visited have been wonderful.

    Our last trip, with a combo of private reserves and national park accommodations for over two weeks cost us less than $5000 for EVERYTHING for two weeks. No need to spend a fortune to have a great experience in S Africa.

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    Belated thanks for all your help. As often occurs when more than 2 travel, things keep getting changed, mostly related to travel parts outside of Kruger plans, but it affects dates. And rather than lose a deposit, I keep trying to rearrange. nDzuti is sold out, and it looks like it would be a good combo. As of now, there is still space at nThambo Tree Camp and Africa on Foot as of now. Would either of those be a good combo?

    We are awaiting a reply on details about a Return Africa FULL MOON Special out of Pafuri Camp for a 7 night walking trail in the Makuleke Concession with specialist guide Johna Turner that looks quite affordable and remote, but maybe too much (although we've rafted the Grand Canyon and slept on rocks). Obviously, if we go for it, we cancel Shindzela and we have all our eggs in one basket, timewise and $$ wise. But it would save the long trek to combine two 3 night safaris and the logistics. Does anyone know anything about this guide or concession?

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    Seven nights walking in the Pafuri region is too much. It's not a game dense region (unfortunately due to poaching from the Zimbabwe side) and walking doesn't allow the distances/speed to see a lot of creatures. I would either do the Pafuri Lodge or the shorter walking trail. Three nights in that region is plenty. It's beautiful, but less game than further south.

    Africa on Foot and nThambo are great options. They have a very good reputation for excellent guides. If you are doing a walking safari at Pafuri, I'd choose nThambo, if the tented lodge, I'd choose Africa on Foot (they do a bush walk every morning).

    If you don't want the long drive (it's only 5-6 hours) between Klaserie and Pafuri, you could split it up with a night in Kruger. We are considering it, but we are driving between Pafuri and the very southern part of Sabi Sand which will add at least two hours. It really isn't necessary, but an option if you don't want to rush and want to enjoy game drives through the park. Don't drive through the park if you don't stay - it will take WAY too long. Drive out on the main roads.

    I know - when we first start to plan we think it will be easier, less expensive, forget travel times. When it comes down to making plans, it is much more involved! No worries. We've all been through it. Hopefully it all works out. Remember - you can't make mistakes. Southern Africa is spectacular. You're going to love every bit.

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    Thanks for the suggestion about an overnight in the park. But where do you suggest? Is it too late to get good reservations for 1 night for 3?

    We are definitely leaning toward the 3 day walk at Pafuri vs. 7. We can do Pafuri M-Th & start 3-4 nights at Shindzela on Th or Friday, depending on whether we take the short route or the longer overnight.

    Right now there is space for us to do 3 nights at nThambo either combined with Pafuri OR skip Pafuri and skip the car rental and fly in/out of Hoedspruit to Capetown and Nelspruit to Livingstone. This would be the easier way and give us the vacation we wanted from Southern CA driving. But we really wanted to see Crook’s Corner, Lanner Gorge, and the Limpopo fever tree forest once we read about it.

    Not sure if I posted this earlier, but we are hikers--PCT, Yosemite, backbone trail. Of course we are excited about seeing game, but we enjoy wilderness without needing to be entertained with 6 days of sightings. In fact, that's why I wanted to do 2 separate camps--I guess some travelers stay 4-6 days and enjoy that they see lots of different game in the same area. We would rather see different areas when we hike, knowing that sighting wildlife is a huge bonus.

    Knowing that about us and the choices here, what would you do?

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    I enjoy hiking and scenery as much as anyone else (Grand Canyon, the Utah parks, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Oregon/Washington, California coast, Colorado, all multiple times, plus many more) but you have never experienced the absolute thrill of seeing your first elephant, chetetah or rhino. You can hike and see pretty things anywhere - nowhere else will you see lions in the wild! I can't stress enough - see wildlife while you are there.

    I don't like to stay in one area either. Our last two trips were Waterberg (north of JNB), Kruger, KwaZulu Natal. Three different ecosystems and all beautiful. I would do Pafuri and Klaserie - I'm actually currently looking at another Kruger-KZN trip or Kruger-Pafuri-Tuli Block trip. You can fly to an airstrip near Pafuri and down to Phalaborwa and get road transfers instead of driving (see the Seasons in Africa website and check out the Kings-The Outpost trip for non driving ideas. Don't tell them I suggested that!). The problem with flying everywhere is you don't get to see the country to fly over - I love driving through such different places than at home.

    If Lanner Gorge, Crooks Corner and the fever trees are important, you'll miss them on the walking trails. I don't see how they can do them all walking. If you stay at the lodge, you might be able to request a Lanner Gorge hike - ask them before you go. They would have to arrange a special ranger for you. If not, definitely do Lanner Gorge on an AM drive - we got there as it was getting dark. Bummer. You are traveling when days are shortest (June 21 is the shortest day), so take that into consideration.

    Just check the www.SanParks.org website for availability. Satara, Oliphants, Mopani and Letombo might be your best options in between. they all have restaurants so you don't need to bother making dinner. Check the other rest camps on the way for places to buy food and snacks. The bungalows are surprisingly nice - just get an ensuite bathroom. :) Driving in the park is such a hoot! I can't believe they let us drive around with lions, elephants and rhinos (my passion).

    I've been to Vic Falls. It's fine. I'd rather go look for wild dogs and hippos. It's far and expensive,

    Malawi, Cape Town, VF, Kruger.... Too much travel for me on top of the very long flight from the west coast (I wouldn't do it from NYC, either). I'd skip VF and do Pafuri 3 night walking or lodge and Africa on Foot or nThambo as suggested above. Shindzela is an ok option, but very small traversing. Since you've never been before, I'd do as much wildlife as possible with a few walking days so you feel you did it well.

    When you go back, do the best walking trails in S Africa in Hluhluwe-iMfolozi. They get incredible reviews and the few people I know who've done them have been WOWED!! These are people who either live in S Africa or visit at least yearly. Next time. You'll go back. Promise.

    Please tell your daughter I am very jealous. My husband and I have been planning for a very long time to join the Peace Corps. I even went back to grad school for some training. While I was finalizing my thesis, I got sick and now I am not eligible to join. We've decided to relocate to KZN instead and do some good there instead. I'm happy to hear so many young people do it. It changes their lives. Good for her, and kudos to you for supporting her decision.

    I know, too much info! Sorry.

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    There is a slim chance we can work out 3 nights in a family chalet at Africa on foot in combination with Shindzela, but the dates with Pafuri don't line up. And I'm glad I rechecked nDzuti because it could work with Pafuri now although it's the nDzuti first at least for now.

    But if I understood your suggestion, christabir, you were suggesting Africa on foot if we didn't do the walking safari at Pafuri and nThambo if we did. So, if they were all still available, what would be your 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th choice of these combo/camps?

    Or are any of them so close and similar in terrain it would be just as well to stay put for another 1-2 days?

    Pafuri Tent Camp walking safari/nDzuti

    Pafuri Tent Camp walking safari/Shindzela

    Shindzela/nThambo (I think my daughter would love both the Hide & the Treehouse, and my husband would enjoy avoiding the long drive, even though we all got jazzed about Crook’s Corner, Lanner Gorge, and the Limpopo fever tree forest)

    Shindzela/nDzuti (I think you had mentioned this as a good combo, but then I wasn't sure whether you were referring to nDzuti as a replacement for Shindzela.

    nThambo/nDzuti

    Africa on foot/Shindzela

    I'm getting punchy trying to make the puzzle piece fit, while the rest of the family is busy trying to clear their decks for the vacation time. Sooo many choices, and it seems I still have time and choices if I keep at it and act soon.

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    Nope. I wouldn't combine two lodges in Klaserie and/or Timbavati. They are too close to get a varied ecosystem. Go with Pafuri with one of those lodges. And if you want to see all the beauty in Pafuri, you'll probably have to do the lodge, not the trails. Bush walks at all lodges should be requested well before arrival because they require rangers with higher training and need to make sure they are available.

    The drive isn't so bad. It's not like at home where you see the same things over and over and over.... Or fly to Phalaborwa from JNB and rent a car there. Cuts half the drive and one way car rentals aren't silly expensive like here so you could drop the car off at HDS and fly to JNB after one of your Klaserie/Timbavati options at the end. Confused? JNB - fly Phalaborwa - Pafuri - Kruger - nDzuti - HDS - fly JNB. No long drives.

    Did you check that website I suggested for flight options? It's The Outpost (near Pafuri) and Kings Camp (Timbavati) website. I think it's Seasons in Africa, but I get them all confused. There's a charter to a mine just west of Kruger and other options, with some prices included.

    My options, in this order, would be:

    Pafuri Tented/nDzuti - request as many bush walks as possible and Lanner Gorge hike. Best of all worlds.

    Pafuri Tented/Africa on Foot - very close second.

    Pafuri Trails/nThambo - I don't think you can see all the pretty stuff at Pafuri.

    Pafuri Trails/Shindzela - I would find this just a little too rustic for too long.

    If you drive through/stay in Kruger, do an am bush walk with them - they do a really great job. Very highly recommended.




    Sorry, but I have to do this. Pafuri Tented has an unbelievable special with Tuli Safari Lodge. It's so good, I'm considering going even though I'll have to put it all on a credit card. They can even arrange flights for you - Tuli Safari Lodge has the ridiculous prices on their website. The only problem, and I think it's a MAJOR problem, is you are not likely to see rhino. I am doing, hopefully, TSL, Pafuri Tented and nDzuti (or something in Sabi Sand if my mom comes) all for three nights. TSL is in a spectacular game viewing reserve (shared with Mashatu), but I haven't been able to find any reviews. I'm looking/asking for feedback from everyone, but because both were destroyed in the 2013 floods, they rebuilt but few reviews. Grrrr. It's a really excellent deal and you can check for availability on both websites. Don't take my dates, please. :)

    I'm very sorry to add this option to make things more difficult and I'm REALLY not ok with you not seeing rhino. Consider it carefully.

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    Here is my link to the Pafuri walking trails we have found space on- http://www.returnafrica.com/activities/pafuri-walking-trails/
    From their calendar, they only book people for 3 nights in the tent camp starting on either Monday or Friday. And folks can come early (or stay late) for the 7th (Thursday) night or move up to the Lodge after the 3 days sequence. That is their process from April to October and they don't do the trails in the rainy season. I think that is different than being able to go tented in other camps for 2 days starting whenever. Lanner Gorge and Crooks Corner are both on the itinerary, and it seems a given that their population came for bush trails, I hope.

    With your advice, I did reserve 3 nights at nDzuti back to back after Pafuri which means a long drive straight through or outside the park. We can do Shindzela with a layover night at Phalaborwa that I found, but I would have to cut back to 2 nights at nDzuti if we decide to drive through Kruger and take our time staying over, which might be worth it to taste all and not rush.

    I like your suggestions about flying in and out without driving back to JNB. So I'll tackle those details tomorrow. Too tired at PST and with DST change still shaking me up.

    And as I get this budget finalized, I will consider the TSL special again, especially if we aren't going to be paying for road transfers galore, and we cut back a day at nDzuti and save a day at Parfuri.

    The Rhino issue should not be a problem. When we go back to Malawi with our daughter, we will go to Liwonde, and we have a good chance to see Rhino. Here's from the Mvuu Camp website--

    "The Rhino Tracking Experience is a unique opportunity to join the rhino Protection Team scouts and your guide in tracking rare black rhino on foot; learn about their conservation - and end with a delicious bush breakfast or dinner."

    And from a traveler review 3 weeks ago--"Up at 6am following the tracker as quietly as we can as he tracks the radio signals transmitted from the rhinos horn. And yes, we were luck enough to be there when we found our rhino."

    From what I can see, both the Lodge and the Camp at Liwonde look and are well rated luxury camps and at affordable $$. Hence our willingness to go more rustic outdoorsy and stretch our budget@GKNP. We will finish off at a nice lodge and leave some $$ in our daughter's country too. We will definitely see hippo and crocs and elephants and birds there. And probably pay for the 6 am Rhino Experience.

    So now, I'll sleep on it and consider whether we will add in a 4th safari in another country with your encouragement! Maybe skip Cape Town? I did check flights out for my daughter and found that if she needed to return to Blantyre early from Kruger, she would have to lay over 1 night in JNB. But then I checked and it was $1 more to fly from CPT to Blantyre and do a quick sightseeing tour to the Cape and Table Mountain and layover there with us. Just longer in flight time, but hey since its their off season, Maybe we all 3 skip CPT or only do 2 days if we feel the pull of TSL.

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    Don't know if you are still considering Zambia and the South Luangwa NP, and the above discussion about Lower Zambezi NP.I loved Zambia for its unique wildlife experience.Its not as 'commercial' as yet( rather,hope not).There are still some regions which are not accessible for large part of the year,as in climate & distances wise.The most memorable being South Luangwa and the walking safari,a leopard on a tree 20 ft up and baring his fangs at us! Up close and mesmerising!!
    Next on the list min Zambia is Kafue NP and the Busanga Plains.

    I stayed at Gwabi River Lodge,on the banks of the Kafue River and down stream is the Zambezi River and the Lower Zambezi NP.They have canoe safaris ( motorized and paddle) along the Zambezi,across which is the Mana Pools NP.Some great sightings of elephants and hippos. Nile crocs aplenty.Fishing is their USP.Stay was decent and so was food.A good place to unwind.

    The highlight was the sundowner on a sand bar in the middle of the river and a large bull elephant munching away on the opposite bank.

    http://www.gwabiriverlodge.com/about-us.html

    Just under 150 kms from Lusaka,a couple of hrs comfortable drive.They have an office in Lusaka.A short detour,on the way back to Lusaka,stop over for an overnight at Lake Kariba. Worth it.The Manchinchi Bay lodge is a wonderful place.

    Have a wonderful holiday.

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    Considering 10-14 days(am I correct or am I 'lost in conversation',
    if so forgive me ) and a minimum of 3 nights at a selected camp/lodge and travel time,you would probably left with 3-4 places only.This is to maximize your chances of game viewing.

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    Proflight connects,Lilongwe,Lusaka,Livingstone and Mfuwe (South Luangwa).

    I'm sure you are aware that travelling to a country takes up a whole day considering to & from the airport,immigration checks,security and waiting time and boarding,not to mention a minimum of 2-3 hrs of travel time and delays if any.Factoring all this,its advisable to do one other country apart from Malawi.

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    Thanks for the wonderful endorsement of options in Zambia, which truly appealed to me, inquest. Just found that currency exchange with Rand plus the year round season in Kruger keeps the costs much lower than the small, beautiful remote and seasonal camps in Luangwa, especially considering we are arriving from very different places and for us it's our vacation to get away from civilization, and for our daughter it's a vacation away from her remote location in Malawi nearby. So Kruger area is our best choice. I am hopeful that after the time limited vacation for my daughter and husband, I will be able to stay on for a 2 week volunteer vacation at Chimfunshi if there is still space available. I'll consider that my travel agent's commission for doing all the family planning and logistics research ! :-)

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    I just saw the walking safaris have 20% off in May. Probably not combinable (is that a word?) with the TSL special. The walks also take you to all the beauty - I changed my mind (I hope this doesn't mess you up too much) to do the Pafuri walking/nDzuti combo. TSL can wait - your daughter might want to have some city time. 2 days doesn't give enough time. Don't miss the Penguins at Boulder Beach (or other) and I am glad I did Robben Island. Just be aware that there has been some harassment of tourists hiking Table Mtn. Ask while you're in CT about it.

    TSL is only a 3 hour drive from Pafuri, plus a short drive to camp. Better than a flight to Maun or VF for another country. :). Definitely check on those flights since your husband doesn't want those long drives. Ask nDzuti and Pafuri if the drive between them will work out between game drives.

    That rhino thing looks fantastic! I love that kind of thing, even in the smaller reserves. You'll see them at nDzuti, too (no guarantees of anything!).

    Good luck with your planning.

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    Christabir, I'll be glad when I get consensus, buy trip insurance an hit send on the airfare. Each day something else comes up with daughter or husband as a problem with the dates, and right now its overcast so she has no solar charge so we can't talk. I am back to an earlier date and if we could start in Pafuri on May 30 there is 20% off, but more likely June 3.
    And with that, nDzuti or nThambo could be more open so we will fly to Hoedspruit, rent a car and drive over to Phalaborwa and spend one night. Then leave early to drive through Park to Pafuri. Then we can drive back south outside the Park. So google says its 5 1/2 hr days straight through. We will make lots of stops and start early to return the car & be in camp by sundown.

    The last day we can transfer back to Hoedspruit and fly direct to CapeTown. Thanks for the suggestions/cautions on CT. I'm focusing on safaris first, flights 2nd, and then off season details at CT when I've finished the rest as I know there will be availability there.

    We've concluded that if our daughter needs to reduce days, CT is where to do it. She can fly back to Malawi and we'll go on. We can gift her the airfare and lodging costs, and she can go with other friends from PC in season. But that's up to her. She might also want to do just nDzuti or nThambo, and that could work too.

    This will be our shot at CT and we plan to ride the cable vs. hike it at Table Mountain. After all our walking, time is of the essence in seeing things there. Penguins, Robben Island, Cape Point, any other suggestions?

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    Before life with a preexisting condition, I never bought insurance for the travel part, just bought lots of medical/evac insurance - $500000/$1 million. I use www.insuremytrip.com and put in the dates, etc, but entered zero in the trip cost box. It spit out some excellent options. I figure if I can afford the vacation, I can afford to lose that much - med/evac I can't afford. We also tend to not travel expensively anymore and prepay for very little. Now I have to insure everything to be covered which makes things much more expensive.

    I understand your daughter is in a very rural spot, but it is still awful, horrifying, sad, disgraceful - whatever the word - that in 2016 significant numbers of people around the world don't have electricity. One of my grad school projects was about this in Zambia, but it's the same in too many places. Ok, back to regularly scheduled programming....

    Anyway, don't be cautious in CT. It's a beautiful city - I just heard a lot of concern, probably from the typical fear mangers out there, about hiking up Table Mtn. If you have time, hike it but ask around if it's "safe". Like everywhere, use common sense and the country is as safe as anywhere. It gets a bad rap, but we've driven all over and only had one iffy experience - and that was my fault. The Cape of Good Hope, Seal Rock (where the seals swim the shark gauntlet) and the penguins can be one day. If you choose to, visit a township with a local guide. We used the HopOn HopOff bus to see a lot of the city with running dialogue. That way you can stop when you see something interesting and not have to drive in the city center. If you're into flowers, Kirstenbosch Garden is excellent. CT is in a bio-important area. We took one of the last ferries to Robben Island and watched the sunset over the city on our ride back. Beautiful. But it and Table Mtn are weather dependent - do them when the weather is good.

    Instead of staying in Phalaborwa, stay in the park. Letaba is where we will be stopping for a night - they have many three person bungalows and generally good availability. Driving through the park is really great. Klaserie is very close to the Orpen Gate and you can make it to Letaba by late afternoon. They have restaurants and take out. Leave early and it won't be a problem getting to Pafuri on time. Just don't spend a lot of time at wildlife sightings, but don't speed. You'll enjoy the freedom and be blown away that they let us drive there!!

    It sounds like your plan is coming together. I've been looking at flights and just a day one way or another changes prices drastically.

    Just remember, you can't do it wrong. S Africa is wonderful and you'll love everything you do and see.

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    Happy Easter. Our daughter got to town and got her batteries charged, and we could talk. Now more changes, which I understand. Although Pafuri sounded wonderful, she spends so much of her time being transported on Malawi roads, the LESS driving the more vacation. So Pafuri is off the table. And we're cutting back to 4 or 5 days in the area so that she can get back as needed. I found another walking safari location that looks good. I know you suggest more geographic contrast, but given her desire to spend less time in a car, and given that it near the Sabi Sands area, this is where we are leaning.

    We could fly into & out of SKZ to JNB for less driving.

    2 nights at Rhino Walking Trails Plains Camp/2 nights at the Rhino Post Safari Lodge.

    In order to stay at the Walking Trails, we need to stay 1 night at the Lodge the day before. The 4 day package with 2 nights each makes it the more affordable comfort/adventure combo and there is literally no driving--staff will move our luggage and we walk back to the Lodge from camp. There are game drives at night but the emphasis, obviously is on walking, which interests us. (day and night drives during the Lodge stay)

    My concern is that I think it is inside the park and the game drives will not be off road. And the game drives are going to be our best chance to see the Big Cats. We will surely see elephants and hopefully Rhino in Malawi. So we are looking for the broader diversity and the big cats--lion, leopard et al. These we won't see on walking safari and will rely on the drives to see them.

    Our other option is their 3 night package 1 at lodge and 2 at Walking Camp and then 1-2 nights at Umkumbe which is very close by, if the off-road Private Reserve experience is our best chance at seeing the big cats. I hope there is little likelihood that we will go 4 days without seeing a Lion, but I am thinking we may not see leopard either way. I hate to stay just one night anywhere that is a true destination. I have to do that enough when the connections aren't right. But if we stay 2 days, it comes from the Cape Town leg of the trip which is already tight. Hence, if we can stay 2/2 at the same spot and get our walks and our luxury lodge in a package, that would be best.

    This seems like the best of what all of us want, but I welcome feedback from this team. I'm relying on wonderful Trip Advisor reviews, but some of those may be novices who don't have the expertise and comparative knowledge I read here.

    Thanks for all the input thus far, I've avoided so many mismatches to our budget and preferences thanks to these posts.

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    Have you considered Africa on Foot? Might be a good middle ground. (Fly in/out HDS). Bush walks (real ones) daily in the morning, game drives in the afternoon, excellent guides, excellent reputation, good wildlife area, private reserve. I recently met a ranger who had previously been at AOF and he loved "his" leopards - really missed seeing them at his new lodge in a different area of S Africa where the leopards were not yet habituated to the vehicles. AOF would be my first choice if they have availability.

    Umkumbe is on a tiny area. I'm not sure you'd be happy there. Rhino Post is fine - you'll likely see lions and maybe leopard on a night drive. Cheetah are very rare in/around Kruger. They can go off road but only for very special sightings. It's a good policy - it's on public land. At private reserve lodges, they drive on roads 99% of the time. They only go off road - destroying flora and habitat - to follow a good sighting. In the current horrible drought they should be very careful.

    Too bad about Pafuri. It's all tar roads to get there, but it is pretty far. Next time look into Serolo - they arrange the Mashatu walking safaris and have a tented camp, too - and Pafuri. Only three hours between them and excellent wildlife opportunities at both.

    I'm not sure what you mean about no driving - every lodge will arrange a pickup at the nearest airport - and no handling luggage. Service is ridiculous at all of them. Rhino Post is not at the airport - you still need a transfer on tar and dirt roads. No driving required at any of them. I didn't drive in S Africa until my third time - transfers are readily available.

    My first choice would be Africa on Foot, second would be all nights at Rhino Post/Walking. No need to move around in such a short time. Both will give you the walking and drives, plus unexpected luxury and great service. Both will exceed your expectations.

    Happy Easter. I'm glad to hear your daughter got a charge and you got her input.

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    We are also considering driving back to Johannesburg since we will arrive too late to catch the one flight to Blantyre. Another option is to rent a car at Skukuza and drive to Nelspruit (where we would spend the night) via parts of the Panorama Route--God's Window, Mac Mac Falls, Horse Shoe Falls, Sudwala Caves.

    By luck, if we fly from Nelspruit we can connect with the JNB flight the same day (not possible from HDS or SZK). And I think I'd rather do a full day of scenic driving and stay one night at Nelspruit instead of near O R Tambo. I don't want to pay an extra night and skip breakfast and early am game drive to leave at 6 am to catch a 10:05 flight. So, does this seem a good plan? What's worth a stop and whats not, along the Panorama Trail in that vicinity?

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    Thanks so much, Christabir. What I meant about driving was--the shorter the better. We know that we will need the pick up transfers, but even 1 hr. by road to a second camp and another 1 hr. by road back to the airport plus 1-2 hrs. more on our drive back to Johannesburg is what we were comparing. Less driving vs. more. So although I agree that Africa on Foot is on our "return list", we all like the look and openness of Rhino Walking Safari tents and the possibility of doing the "sleep out" in the raised platforms. Even in the cold of winter, they seem to get rave reviews for the experience. Probably need to be flexible on the vegan cuisine for that night, but I think that's the way we will go with Africa on Foot as our backup. Especially knowing that we will have 6 nights overall--4 here and 2 more in Malawi at Liwonde.

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    Now I'm really confused. No driving wanted, but now you're going to drive for two days Nelspruit, Panorama Route, JNB. Don't miss game drives unless you have no other option - makes for a very expensive stay.

    If you stay near JNB you could do the Cradle of Humankind, Africa Museum or the Apartheid Museum. All are good, but CoH is a bit far and requires a car to do the museum and caves. We stayed there at the attached boutique hotel - might have been the best shower we've ever had. Anywhere! Great food, too.

    I'm not sure about those sleep outs. I need a bathroom nearby - not sure how they handle that. We considered one at Shindzela but no bathroom (at the time before the major renovation) - not sure how Rhino Post does that. Don't worry about the cold. Tents don't have heat either and they supply hot water bottles. I sleep with the next day's clothes in my bed so they are warmish when I put them on and request a second hwb for my feet.

    Your concerns were about game viewing - not the accommodations. If game viewing is your primary concern along with bush walks then AOF is a better choice IMO. If game viewing, bush walks AND accommodations, then I'm not the best one to help. I am always happy with a comfy bed, flush toilet, hot shower - inside or outside - and a wake up call (or knock). Even when in camp we are rarely in our rooms, and in June the days are very short so not a lot of time between game drives with all the time spent eating!

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    As you said "If game viewing is your primary concern along with bush walks", I think much like you. That would be my priority as a solo or couple traveling. What has evolved in the last 11 days since I started this post is that other family members are getting clearer about their needs, and preferences. This seems the best compromise from my priorities, and actually when I factor in that my highest priority is to see my daughter, and have her relaxed and comfortable, then game viewing and bush walks come in second. She doesn't want to spend a full day or an overnight through KNP, as you suggested and I would have liked. She would prefer to stay 3 or 4 days in one place. We would like 2 different experiences and walking safari for 2 and lodge for 2 with game drives even right up the road is preferable to 3 or 4 days in one location for us. And a 4 day walking safari without anywhere else pretty much leaves out the opportunity to track big cats.

    Hubby would like to drive and see a little more vs. being a back seat passenger for everything on his vacation--hence the loop of scenic spots near Nelspruit, but not the full drive to Johannesburg.

    If we fly out after 4 days, we can't enjoy the final morning game viewing, and if we drive straight to JNB I'll feel rushed to catch the shuttle to the airport to pick up the car anyway, I make sure everyone's packed and ready. (In my next life I'm going to be a Father not a Mother.) And that's still the situation only worse if we add on another day at the lodge because now we are catching a shuttle for Nelspruit which is 3 hrs and we're leaving as the game drive starts. If we fly out of anywhere but Nelspruit, we have to lay over for 1 night in JNB.

    But staying 1 night in Nelspruit after driving to a few spots on the Panorama Escarpment area on the one day is preferable to all. We're still up in Greater Kruger, and sort of makes up for the compromise to cut back to 4 days and one area.

    This seemed like it would give us more of the outdoor beauty. I had looked up the Apartheid Museum but we couldn't make it there by air or car in time to get there before closing. And right now there is building construction and the Mandela exhibit is closed. Likewise, the 1 flight to Blantyre in the morning that we have to catch doesn't allow us to do anything but eat dinner in Johannesburg. Lastly, there is a long shot that our son may be able to join us for 2 nights in Cape Town and the first 2 nights in the Rhino Post Safari Lodge. Since we already have a separate tent/room for her both places, going this route keeps our options open for a full family partial vacation with no need to change anything at the last minute if he joins us. Just won't work out of Hoedspruit.

    What we are considering doing is Sudwala Caves (almost as old as Cradle of Humankind) which is 35 minutes from Nelspruit, and 1 or 2 waterfalls along that route if we have time and its a clear day. What I often find when I plan a trip, is I overplan and over-schedule, but I can tell it's too much and needs to be pruned. When I cut something out to be realistic, I often find myself looking at the detour and finding things to do nearby I didn't know existed when I started planning. That's what happened here. Sure didn't plan to do the panorama drive under ANY circumstances, and only decided to drive the main route vs. flying when we saw the price and inflexibility of the flight. But when the opportunity to fly direct from Nelspruit to Blantyre in one day presented itself, we had either an extra night in Malawi or an extra night near Kruger. Now we're back to pruning because that Escarpment route is a long full day if you try to do everything, and we won't have but a 1/2 day at most as we want to get back to Nelspruit by sundown and avoid driving in the dark. I think maybe I'll leave this planning until I've got all the big pieces in place, and then post a new forum to get feedback on which 1-2 places on that Escarpment trail are the best sees if we only have 1/2 day.

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    The pieces are coming together. As for the bathroom situation, Christabir, the sleepout is on elevated platforms and they have 2 bathrooms in the (shall we say, condo complex?), and even 2 showers.
    http://www.isibindi.co.za/rhino-walking/sleep-outs.htm I asked after you raised the ? because it isn't on that webpage.

    Since we aren't leaving early, we are driving in the afternoon to Nelspruit and we may or may not go to Sudwala Caves. A lot will depend on how well we sleep on the last night on those platforms. But we're game.

    I'll eventually post a trip report on the experience. Now I am on to focusing on the packing, and so grateful for all the forum advice on what I will or won't need.

    Thanks again, Christabir and everyone else for all the good advice.

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    My only advice is pack less. Take layers as it will be colder than you think. I would spend a night in Kruger at a rest camp instead of Nelspruit/panoramic route. Driving yourself around the Park with rhinos and lions (and so much more) is so cool.

    Our trip came together, too. I can't believe we get to go back. Last week (on tax day) I found flights for $820 on BA with the BA credit card discount. Then we got availability everywhere we want to go! So we have 11 nights of wildlife viewing, our favorite lodge and Kruger. We are starting in Marakele NP on the way to Serolo in northern Tuli in SE Botswana. So excited. We are hoping to find the rhino we tagged a couple of years ago at Rhino River Lodge, also hoping the wild dogs are doing well. We have a few days for exploring retirement neighborhoods in KZN too.

    Have fun! You're going to have a great time.

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    So glad your trip has come together as you had hoped. And again thanks for the advice on my post and on so many more on the packing. I've seen that you have been consistent on the packing advice and the layering so I am now whittling down what I need/don't need/as I am making a stop on my return. Layers with double duty in mind is my new mantra.

    After I get closer, I may need more advice, but for now, I'm glad to get past phase I and the big decisions/budget. But so much to still do to keep things going here while we are away as well as packing and banking etc.

    Definitely grateful to be able to do it. Again, thanks, danke, gracias for this wonderful forum and the wise ones who share.

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    I started my packing list yesterday. We've always been able to do a couple of weeks with carry on only. Unfortunately they changed the rules and carry on is much more strict as of late last year. Due to a medical condition I've been able to take an extra personal bag which I used for real food and my med supplies - no more! I only get 1 personal bag and much smaller. Ugh. I hate to check as our bags have gotten lost so often. I have to rethink...

    Pretty scarves, light costume jewelry if you need to "look great". Make sure everything matches everything. I don't do beige, so I take greys and drab greens, Slippers and a neck pillow for the hellish flight. I take gloves and earmuffs for those cold game drives. My husband takes a Pepto pill every morning and night to fight off tummy issues (he's sensitive to water changes - even just the next state over!). It's dry this year so I will take eye lubricant drops - the single use ones. Shorts or a casual skirt for hot day times. Swimsuit? For comfort on the bumpy game drives, a sports bra can be helpful for some of us.

    Check with the airline about your carry on allowances. Don't check electronics, valuables or anything you'll need on the flight. So many flights now are chock full, so make sure you don't need anything in your carry on for the flight in case they need to gate check your bag. It used to be fun to fly.

    Please thank your daughter for me. Her work is so important.

    My pleasure.

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