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How much for a good time in Zimbabwe?

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I've just discovered this great message board. Thanks for all the insight.

My wife and I are going to South Africa in August. We have a proposal from a safari company who has been very helpful, but we really have no baseline to judge whether the cost is reasonable or not. you folks seem to really know what's going on over there and little peace of mind goes a long way.

So here's the rundown:

1 night Joburg – Holiday Inn
1 night Vic Falls- Ilala Lodge
1 night Ruckomechi Camp
3 nights Mana Canoe Trail
3 nights Makalolo Plains
3 nights Vic Falls -Zambezi Sun (including rafting one day and taking an elephant back safari one day)

The cost is $5000 per person. This includes local air and ground transfers. But not airfare to SA, we are using frequent flier points to get to Joburg.

What do you guys think? Does this seem like a reasonable package? Any suggestions for tweaking the itinerary? Any thoughts on having a similar experience for less money?

All thoughts are welcome.


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    Funny title for your post. I really like your itinerary and can speak from personal experience that the safari part will be fabulous. I wouldn't change it too much. August is a great time and the month I've gone.

    Three consecutive days in Vic Falls is quite a bit, especially with one day there at the outset at Ilala. But with one day devoted to rafting and one day to an elephant safari, you need that many days. I assume you specifically want the rafting trip and elephant safari. If it is the rapids rafting trip, it is quite scary I've been told.

    Is this a custom safari for just you two?

    For comparison sake, here are two other itineraries and prices.

    Eyes on Africa offers the canoe part of the safari for $900 per person in high season. They could customize the rest of your trip to go along with the canoeing.

    Africa Adventure has a similar safari with a few less days for under $3000 per person in high season. Like EOA, they could alter the safari to match your current one.

    Finally, Wilderness offers the "Rhino" group safari to Zimbabwe and it includes Mana Pools and Hwange as well as Matusadona. This safari is under $4000 per person, I think, and is sold through most agents who sell Wilderness camps. But I like your itinerary better.

    Have a wonderful time.

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    As far as tweaking the itinerary goes, it seems that you are doing all you want to do. Since you have planned activities in Victoria Falls, the 3 nights at the end seems appropriate, and I am figuring that the one night at Ilala Lodge is so that you are able to see the Falls from the Zim side without later having to cross the border back into Zim once you are already on the Zam side at the Zambezi Sun.

    As a consumer, I used to have a real problem with tour operators that did not provide a cost as if they are hiding something...not cool.

    Well, here is a breakdown for you on the safari portion:

    Ruckomechi and Makalolo Plains each have a rack rate price of $405 per person. Your four nights, therefore, have a rack rate of $1,620 per person. Total is $3,240.

    The 3 night Mana Canoe Trail has a rack rate of $900 per person. Total is $1,800.

    A reasonable price for the Zambezi Sun is, let's say, $266.67 per night, so call it $800 for these 3 nights.

    Not sure about the Ilala Lodge, let's call it $260 just so I can round out the above numbers well.

    Joburg Holiday Inn, let's call it $250.

    You are up to $6,350 for your accomodations.

    Cost of a flight from Joburg to Victoria Falls? Depends on the airline, but assuming SAA, then let's say it is $375 pp for a total of $750.

    Transfers to Mana Pools? If I were on the Zambian side of the falls and going to the adjacent Lower Zambezi, it would cost about $225 per person, so let's say it should be about $450 to get up to Mana Pools from Vic Falls.
    Throw in another $450 to get back to Hwange and another $400, including road transfers to get over to Livingstone. That is $1,300 worth of air transfers.

    Don't know the exact pricing, but throw in another $300 per day for your activities, and that bumps it up another $600.

    Grand Total by my math is $9,000. A reputable tour operator should be content with rack rates.

    One major thing to consider...if you are using frequent flier miles to get to Joburg, chances are that if you are flying on SAA, you should be able to get a free add-on flight to Victoria Falls. This would shave perhaps $750 worth of flying costs.

    Finally, there is no reason why a tour operator should not provide a cost breakdown. The operator has this information right at his/her fingertips.

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    Why don't you fly from Joburg to Lusaka(about $135) and then transfer to Mana pools the same day(about $225-$250 for 2).
    There is a flight that leaves Joburg at 8:30 and arrives Lusaka at 10.30AM.
    Maybe 4 hours(high side) all total from there to Mana Pools. After Canoeing go to Hwange and VF. It would save on time and expense.

    You might consider then dropping a nite in VF and spending 2 more nites in another camp in Hwange or Chobe or Matetsi.Just options. You can also split your stay between Illaha(VF) and Zambezi Sun(Livingstone).

    For the best rafting experience you start on the Zam side, which can be accessed on a day pass. You can go on your own another day for a few hours and see the Zam side of the falls.

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