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Kruger/sabi sands reserve Vs. Botswana

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Hi there!
I was hoping to get some advice on a decision I am having some difficulty finding an answer to! My soon-to-be husband and I will be going to Africa for our honeymoon sometime in May or June 2017. We will be spending 3-4 nights in Cape Town and was hoping to spend another 3 nights sometime during our trip in Mozambique/ Barazuto Archipelago. I have been on safari in Kenya and Tanzania a few years ago so I am eager to try somewhere new and am trying to decide between the private reserves near Kruger National Park and between Okavango Delta and/or Chobe National Park.

From my research so far (correct me If I am wrong, please!) I have gathered that Botswana has a more "wild" and untouched Africa feel to it. I have also read that there may be a higher density of animals in the private reserves near Kruger because they are reserves. We will probably spend about 5-6 nights on safari possibly split between two camps. I saw quite a bit on my safari in the Masai Mara but my future husband has never been and I would love to be able to see many animals.

I know Botswana can be more expensive, which isn't ideal but won't keep us from going if its really worth it. Ideally I would like to spend no more than 600-950 pp a night but would be willing to go a bit higher for part of it- if the camp is superb. Also I think we have the time of year in our favor in that the prices will be a bit lower. Which is another question I have- will the game viewing be good in may or june? Before planning the trip we were hoping to go earlier in the year when things at work are slow for us both but based on articles I have read I realized if we were going to spend all this money to go better to go when the viewing is good!

Ideally I would love to go to Botswana I am just wondering if its worth the trouble in making our itinerary a bit hectic to get there. I am worried the Kruger area is going to be too touristy, or not feel as natural. Will we be seeing other safari jeeps everywhere? In Botswana is it worth splitting the 5-6 nights between the delta and chobe? Any experiences/advice would be very welcomed!

Lastly, we are going to Mozambique for some change of scenery and to swim with whale sharks hopefully. Is it going to be nice beach weather, is the Barazuto Archipelago worth seeing(if all we are looking for is nice beaches and some down time) and are we likely to see a whale shark.

I know I am squeezing in quite a bit for 14 days but my partner and I are very active and typically like to stay in one place only for a few days before we get antsy to see something new!

Thanks in advance- this forum has helped me immensely in the past.

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    Hi There,

    Sounds like a good plan in the works. My first bit of advice has to do with timing. If you are flexible in your timing, I would go as early in May as possible to optimize weather especially in Cape Town and somewhat at the beach. Although it does not get too cold in Mozambique, June is the coldest month of the year in the Bazaruto Archipelago.

    Also, rates in Botswana are generally more seasonal than the rates in most other Africa countries. There are over 9 lodge chains in Botswana and most of them enter their peak season rate period on June 1, June 15, or July 1. So, May is still shoulder season for many of the lodge chains. The price difference between May and peak season can be dramatic!

    I have been to Botswana many times and in every season including three trips in May and one in June. I have been to the majority of the upscale safari lodges there. I have also been to many private game reserves in the Kruger ecosystem of South Africa along with Mashatu, Madikwe, and Phinda. I have been to the Kruger area in May and June as well. I was at Phinda in May 2010. You can have a fantastic experience in Botswana or South Africa that time of year. The weather should be stunning with almost no chance of rain and cool mornings and warm, dry afternoons. The only real environmental factor to consider in Botswana is the flood waters which reach an annual high about 2-3 months after the rains end in March. The seasonal flood plains in northern Botswana will be flooded and this makes choosing the right mix of lodges important to get an optimal mix of dry land game drives vs water activities.

    Based on your trip plans could also do a safari in both places if you don’t mind a bit of moving around (3 nights Botswana and 3 nights Kruger, Cape Town in the middle and Mozambique at the end).

    If you wanted to do a complete Botswana circuit for the safari, I feel the Wilderness Safari camps will come out over your price point. They will be over $1500 per person per night after June 1. You should consider either Ker & Down (Shinde and Okuti perhaps) or &Beyond and go in the month of May. &Beyond goes into peak season rates on June 1, but their May rates are quite attractive and we always utilize the bride special when booking our honeymoon clients so you get 50% off YOUR accommodations (not his). This would apply across the board at all their camps including their brand new island resort in Mozambique called Benguerra Island.

    If you do the entire safari experience in Botswana then perhaps consider three nights each at Shinde and Okuti or three nights each at Nxabega and Sandibe (owned by &Beyond). Keep in mind the water will be really high at Nxabega and you will have to cross through water 7 times in each direction to get from Sandibe to the game drive area near camp each time you come and go from a game drive (28 times per day). This slows you down a little but I don’t think it is a big deal.

    After Botswana, you can fly non-stop to Cape Town (MUB-CPT) and spend your time there. After four days in the Cape you can fly CPT-Jo’burg/JNB and connect JNB-Vilanculos/VNX from there. If you visit the &Beyond properties in Botswana you would most likely want to consider Benguerra Island for financial reasons (long stay discounts/bride discounts). If you use the Ker & Downey camps in Botswana perhaps consider Villa Santorini on stay4pay3.

    If you did a South Africa only safari, you could do an &Beyond circuit there combining Ngala Tented Camp with Phinda for three days each. Although you can fly from the Kruger to Mozambique a few times per week (MQP-VNX) I would put Cape Town in the middle and end at the beach.

    Another viable option would be a MORE Hotel circuit using one of their four lodges in the Kruger paired with one of their Madikwe lodges. ABC filmed the final episode of the Bachelor at Lion Sands Narina in 2011. I use the lodge all the time for honeymooners and it has private plunge pools and is great value for money. Based on several factors, including the proximity of Narina to MQP airport, I would order this particular trip like this:
    Day 1 Jo’bnurg overnight.
    Day 2,3,4 Safari # 1 at Madikwe Dithaba which is adults only.
    Day 5,6,7,8 Fly Fedair to JNB and onward to Cape Town for four nights.
    Day 9,10,11 Fly non-stop CPT-Skukuza/SZK and spend three nights at Narina.
    Day 12,13,14 Road transfer 2 hours to MQP and fly MQP-VNX. Spend four nights at Villa Santorini on Stay4pay3.
    Day 15 Fly home via JNB.

    All options outlined above should be within your budget in May. June will be harder for the Botswana option.

    I hope this helps get you started!

    Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

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    Combining Chobe and the Okavango Delta doesn't make sense to me. Combine the Okavango Delta with a dry camp. Botswana will be double the pppn rate you stated. Right now you can stay in some of the most luxurious lodges in Sabi Sand for a very reasonable price (comparatively) because the S African Rand has almost collapsed against the US$. Botswana quotes in US$, so you don't get the excellent exchange. See for lodge locations, general pricing and some interesting safari options - though I would arrange a private tour, not a group. Lots of good agents I can recommend to help you who will be fair and work in your budget.

    You can look into Sabi Sand lodges. See for all of your options in all price ranges. I prefer the lodges in the eastern part of the reserve as they are closer to Kruger Park. I love Kruger and go every time I visit S Africa. There are also very nice options in Timbavati with very good game viewing, too. I visited Botswana and it's great, but not sure it's three times better for three times the price. You could try something more adventurous and do a mobile safari. There are very few rhino in Botswana, so even if you choose Botswana I would still encourage you to also include a Kruger extension. Rhino are amazing and I am concerned about their long term survival.

    If you are really adventurous, there are overnight walking safaris available in Kruger, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi and many private reserves. Highly recommended if you're into that type of travel.

    Instead of Mozambique, you could visit northern KwaZulu Natal in S Africa. Kosi Bay and Sodwana Bay have some of the best scuba/snorkel opportunities on the planet. You are going when it's coldest, but the Indian Ocean is always warm. Rocktail and Thonga are exclusive beach lodges and Kosi Bay has some interesting options. You'll have to research what you can swim with/see at different seasons. It's a very beautiful and ecologically diverse area of S Africa - I love it.

    I'm similar - three nights per place and move on. But don't try to do too much, you'll spend too much time traveling, not enough time enjoying.

    If you go to Kruger, you are in driving distance to Mozambique. I have friends who drove to Maputo (?) and continued their adventure from there. I don't know if I'd recommend it, but it's close.

    Enjoy your planning. I know, too many options. You can't go wrong. Southern Africa is spectacular.

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    To give an idea of prices, with the bride special, Sandibe Safari Lodge is $941 per person per night in May 2016. Nxabega is $705 pppn (less than Mala Mala) in May 2016. Shinde is $760 and Okuti is $695. These prices should compare pretty well with the Sabi Sands eastern sector. I think, if the Rand does not strengthen, the lodges in South Africa will greatly increase 2017 rates to offset.

    Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond

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    Craig, you know Mala Mala quotes in USD. It's a terrible value right now (but excellent game viewing!). Kirkmans is less than $500 at rack rate - they have a bride special, too - and Londolozi Varty (Londolozi is one of the most luxurious lodges in S Africa) is about $650 rack rate! They are almost half price from when I went just a few years back when the exchange rate was 8:1 compared to today's 15:1. And those two are high end, lots are less expensive. I've heard they are all increasing their prices by about 15% for 2017. I lost my crystal ball - who know what the Rand/USD will do. Lodges are currently taking bookings for 2017. It's never been a better time to visit S Africa.

    Don't forget the charter flights to/between lodges in Botswana. They add up.

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    Wow- blown away with the wonderful tips.

    Craig- I have seen your posts in other forums and appreciate the detailed recommendations. I have been looking at both the Sandibe and &Beyond property on Benguerra Island. With Sandibe would it be similar with having to cross the water that many times? Thank you also for the tip on putting cape town in the middle- I would have never thought to do that and I am going to see if it makes things any easier. Will the high flood waters in Botswana during this time effect animal sightings? My friend used Wilderness safaris and they look wonderful but agree slightly over budget. I am going to check out the other options. Thanks again for all your helpful info.

    Christbir- Thank you! Thats the exact advice I need about the two wet camps- something that I didn't even realize. I would prefer to do a dry camp as well. Are there many in Botswana? Also thanks for the heads up about the private tours- I think this is something that is quite important especially considering its our honeymoon. Do most camps mix groups on drives or do you usually get the vehicle to yourself? I read about the Rhino being mostly absent in Botswana before which is one reason I am still trying to make both countries work! I share your fears :( Interesting note about the overnight walking safari, I will certainly look into that. I am also going to check out your recommendations as an alternative to Mozambique. On the note about not jamming to much in- I know I was a bit worried about that. I really want to be able to find a balance of still being on the move, seeing a lot of different areas without overdoing it. I have spent most of my time traveling constantly on the go but after doing a very grueling 16 days in japan this past year, I am realizing some countries require a bit more travel to get from one place to another and how important it is to account for that.

    So much research to do! Luckily, I enjoy it!

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    Hi Jeandiament!

    Just a couple comments to add here.. Sandibe is incredible! Great area for game and less money than the Wilderness Safari option. Their renovation a couple years ago is stunning as they have architecturally simulated a pangolin in the design.

    The Honeymoon Bride Special is great but it can't be combined with other AndBeyond offers or their long stay rates if you were to combine with another AndBeyond property, such as Benguerra in the archipelago or in the Greater Kruger area such as Kirkmans in Sabi Sand or Ngala in Timbavati. I'm a big fan of the AndBeyond properties. They deliver a lot of value for the money. I think you will need to run the numbers with a planner/operator and see how your options work for you.

    I agree that Cape Town in the middle and end on the beach is the ideal itinerary.

    Happy to help!

    Africa Direct USA

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    This thread is so amazingly helpful! Adding on as opposed to starting a new thread since my question is fairly close (and might help the original poster):

    We're planning a trip for August 17 (things book up early!) and want to do the Okavango Delta + dry safari + Mozambique. We're after top luxury (15th wedding anniversary). Suggestions for the 'dry safari' lodge that wouldn't' have us constantly on a plane?

    Many thanks from a balmy NYC.

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    We visited the Sabi Sand area this summer, staying at both Londolozi and Mala Mala.

    Both lodges were excellent. For us, Mala Mala certainly gets the nod for animal viewing. It was absolutely unbelievable. The lodging and dining were fine, just not as over-the-top as Londolozi.

    Londolozi gets the nod for luxury, dining, spa services, etc. Good game viewing, but not like Mala Mala.

    Both lodges were very uncrowded. Never more than two vehicles at any sighting at a time (by design).

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    Hi MeghanInNYC!

    Couple questions...

    When you say "Okavango Delta + dry safari", do you mean a wet and dry camp in OD? Or do you mean a safari elsewhere, such as in South Africa?

    Also are you open to places on coastal Mozambique or on some of the beautiful islands in the archipelago off the coast?

    Happy to help!

    Africa Direct USA

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    Hi Meghan,

    After the floods peak out in the Okavango Delta in early June the water rapidly recedes and many camps that may have very limited dry land for game drives will have a lot by late August. The Jao flats come to mind. This area is VERY wet in May and early June but has a good amount of dry land in August so you can do land rover, boat and canoe safaris. The same would apply for any of the camps on the northern fringes of the Okavango Delta. You could choose Duba Plains, Vumbura Plains, Shinde, Kwando Kwara and a few others and have a mix of water and land activities.

    I have been to the vast majority of the upscale safari lodges in the Okavango ecosystem and the areas north of it like theChobe/Linyanti/Kwando/Selinda ecosystem. In my experience and opinion, the following camps within the Okavango Delta ecosystem would meet the definition of luxury if you are referring to hotel services: Mombo, Jao, Vumbura Plains North and South, Duba Plains, Chief’s Camp, Sandibe, Karana. Arguably the new Shinde. This is not an all-inclusive list.

    I think when you say dry safari you are thinking of places like Kings Pool, Zarafa, and Selinda since they are not technically in the Okavango Delta. In fact, you can have a dry safari at many places in the Delta in late August that I mentioned before and then go to one of the places to the north. It is best to stick within a brand family to get good value for money.

    I think this particular safari would be quite "over the top":
    Day 1,2,3 Duba Plains
    Day 4,5,6 Zarafa
    Day 7 Overnight in Jo’burg
    Day 8,9,10 Singita Boulders
    Day 11 Azura Benguerra Island or &Beyond Benguerra Island

    Day 11 needs to be a day when there is a non-stop flight from the Kruger (MQP) to Vilanculos, Mozambique (VNX).

    Good luck!

    Craig Beal – owner – Travel Beyond

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    Thank you!

    And, yes, I was thinking dry & wet. Or dry and not-so-wet. We're after variety, but not so much that we're flying every other day. Understand about needing to sick with one 'brand family, and we've started with &Beyond properties.

    Does this look like enough variety/luxury?

    Arrive Jo'burg
    -Xaranna or Nxabega (4 nights)
    -Sandibe (3 nights)
    -Saxon Boutique Hotel (1 night)
    -Benguerra Island Lodge (5 nights)

    I wanted to expand to Chobe or Linyanti, but maybe it's too much travel? And I think Chobe Under Canvas (&Beyond) might feel too much like camping for the husband.

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    Hi Meghan,

    What you just posted is a good itinerary and it will make for a very memorable anniversary trip. I have been to all the places you are considering except for Benguerra Island which just opened last year. We had seven people from our office visit every &Beyond property in Botswana in March and April of this year. The consensus was Nxabega over Xaranna especially since the camp will be new but do either one before Sandibe. Sandibe will be the icing on the cake.

    If you want a side-by-side comparison, you would probably save quite a bit and not compromise on the luxury in Botswana to look at Kanana and Shinde vs. Nxabega and Sandibe. Sandibe has AC which is not needed in August. Shinde and Kanana have four passengers per vehicle which is a huge bonus and their rates are 45% less than Sandibe. Normally &Beyond has good package discounts but they are suspended in Botswana in Jul-Sep.

    I suspect you are working directly with &Beyond on the above itinerary since they own every property you are going to. It might save you hassle and cost you no more money to book &Beyond through an independent safari agent in New York like Extraordinary Journeys or perhaps Immersion Journeys. You would also then have an advocate that can look out for your interests only. If you are booking a safari with a lodge chain, you should have them name the camps they own on the proposals they send you. The independent agent will also be happy to give you multiple options accross a wide spectrum of brands.

    Good luck! You are on the right track.

    A good comparison in Mozambique for Benguerra Island would be Azura Benguerra Island.

    Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond

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    Thanks so much, Craig. I haven't yet been to Africa and I already know I'll be going back. I think I'll have you help me when I do!

    We're not actually working with &Beyond. I just had my heart set on the Mozambique property so all other locations flowed from that. I'm loosening up a bit though, and your suggestions are great. And Azura is also on the radar :)

    Thanks again!

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    A final question:! We've been to many beautiful beaches around the world, so I'm inclined to just do 4 nights at Mozambique and extend a safari night. Is 4 nights at Sandibe, for example, "too much" –and by that I mean will boredom set in? :)

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    Hi Meghan,


    This is a very personal choice but I do think 4 nights at any safari lodge is too much in the context of an 8-10 night, 2-3 lodge safari. The only reason I ever recommend four nights is if the lodge has a stay4pay3 offer or some other compelling reasons.

    If you are looking for a little more diversity, perhaps take a day from the beach and Sandibe and spend 2-3 nights north of the Delta at Selinda, Zarafa ($$$$$$), Duba Plains or Vumbura Plains.

    The flying distances are really short in Botswana and all the flights to the places I have mentioned are 15-45 minutes tops except perhaps the one from Zarafa-Maun might be closer to an hour. All flights take place between the morning and afternoon game drive so you don't miss anything.

    I hope this helps!

    Craig Beal - owner - Travel Beyond

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