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help with safari tour

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6 of us would like to find a safari tour that is affordable. Ideally, we would like to spend some time in Cape Town, Victoria Falls, and a safari. Some of the group is hesitant to spend a lot of nights in tents (maybe 2), so lodges would be best. I don't want to spend the entire trip in hotels, either. Our time limit is about 12 days. Any recommendations?
I have looked at the Smart Tours safari which is very affordable but all of the accommadations are hotels (one lodge).

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    Nancy – with six people you have the most economical number to ensure yourself private vehicles at the camps and make surface transfers very affordable and even private air charters relatively affordable.

    I have been to Zimbabwe many times and I am going back next month. The cheapest place to have an excellent safari in Zimbabwe is the Hwange National Park. It is cheap because it is accessible by road from Victoria Falls as opposed to other parks like Matusadona and Mana Pools which almost have to be reached by air. You could do a nice three day safari at places like the Hide, Somalisa, or Little Makalolo with road transfers from Victoria Falls. These lodges are 4, 4, and 6 hours respectively from Vic Falls by road. I have been to all three lodges and they are great. I even took my teenage daughters on safari to Zimbabwe last year. You can expect to see plenty of animals at all three places especially in the dry season from June-October. Hwange is the most animal diverse park in Africa with 108 unique mammal species.

    If you want a longer safari and don’t want to fly (to save money) consider adding three days in the Chobe National Park area of Botswana at Ngoma or Muchenje. They are also accessible by road from Victoria Falls but the distances between Hwange and Chobe will require an overnight at a hotel in Victoria Falls in-between.

    If you have the additional funds, I suggest you fly to Mana Pools and add three days there to your itinerary. As of now and for 2013 only two companies operate scheduled air service between Vic Falls, Hwange, and Mana Pools. One company is African Bush Camps/ABC using flights under the brand Safari Logistics. The other is Wilderness Safaris using the brand Wilderness Air for flights. Wilderness Air operates daily and Safari Logistic operates several times per week. In order to use either flight you need to book your entire safari with the respective owning company. Since neither Wilderness Safaris nor ABC take direct bookings from the traveler (you) you will need to work with an agent to book this. There are several agencies around the world with deep knowledge on Zimbabwe and the best rates. Note: Wilderness will not transport you into or out of the Hwange on their flights unless you are booked into their camps (Little Makalolo or Davisons) UNLESS their camps are full. If their camps are full, the agent will need to book you into another lodge via Wilderness and then you can use their scheduled (not private) air. ABC owns Somalisa in the Hwange but will take bookings (via an agent) for any camp in Hwange or Mana Pools.

    Scheduled air simply means you pay for a seat on a charter flight that operates no matter what (as long as 2 or more people pay). The price is the same. A charter flight operates on YOUR schedule usually at a relatively high cost for 2 people but may be ok with 6.

    Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond
    2011 Travel & Leisure A-List agent for Zimbabwe.

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