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Namibia, Botswana & beach

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We are looking at visiting Namibia and Botswana next spring and would appreciate your advise on where to stay and what the absolute must do adventures are. In 2007 we switched to visit Zambia and S. Africa after receiving great advise from you. We really enjoyed walking safaris, hiking, tiger fishing, a little scared to do canoeing in great populations of hippos after having one go under our canoe but don't mind being in a boat if it's safer. We enjoyed the ultra light ride over Vic Falls so the hot air balloon trip sounds fun (although can someone recommend a provider other than the one Robin dealt with on her trip). The one thing we said we would do this time is tack on a few days on a beach relaxing and recouperating after a pretty intense safari schedule. We have 2 1/2 weeks on the ground in Africa so we really must choose wisely. Could you please give us suggestions for the camps - we can rough a few days in each place but its nice to have a nicer place at least for a few days in each location. Also, can you please advise where we can go for a few restful beach days or is the weather too iffy in May? Is May the best time to visit for animal viewing, weather, etc.? We used Island Safari to book our last trip, are there others that you recommend that specialize in Bots & Namib? Sorry so many questions. Thanks for your help.

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    Spring is a great time to visit both Namibia and Botswana. Technically, it is the shoulder season so the rates are low. It is also early winter/very late summer so the weather is perfect. No rain, not too hot, and cool evenings. My last trip to Namibia was in May and my last trip to Botswana was in December and April of 2008. I preferred April for Botswana to December. I have also been in March, June, and May during various visits.

    The Delta will be nearing peak flood in Botswana in April. There still will be some temporary water left over from the rainy season so the animal density will be lower (they will be spread out). This will make game viewing a little more challenging, but not much. Certainly the better rates make up for it. Namibia does not have huge animal populations and game viewing is good year round and best in July through October in the Etosha.

    Taking a guess you are from Colorado, here is what I suggest:

    Fly United from Denver to Dulles (IAD) and take the afternoon flight to Johannesburg on SAA. SAA is start alliance so you earn United miles the whole way. Overnight in Johannesburg and fly to Windhoek the next morning. From there, fly to Sossusvlei. I recommend Little Kulala or Kulala Wilderness Camp. Spend three days hiking and exploring the dunes. After this, go to Damaraland for three days and visit Desert Rhino Camp or Damaraland Camp. From here, fly back to Windhoek then Johannesburg for a brief overnight. I do not recommend flying Windhoek to Maun direct (WDH-MUB) as the flight is unreliable and often gets cancelled.

    From Johannesburg, fly to Richards Bay and road transfer to Rocktail Bay Beach Lodge for three nights on the beach in South Africa. This is the most remote beach lodge in South Africa.. I was there two months ago and walked for miles without seeing a human being. Only my footprints in the sand… After three days, proceed back to Johannesburg for the night.

    After that, fly to Maun and go to 3 or 4 Wilderness Safari lodges for 2 or three days each. In the shoulder season I recommend Chitabe for three nights, Duba Plains for three, and make Kwetsani or Little Vumbura for two nights. I have been to all these places and some more than once. They are awesome. You could replace Duba Plains with Duma Tau if you wanted to go to the Linyanti and leave the Delta for a few nights.

    I have heard of Island Safaris. All of the lodges I mentioned above are owned by Wilderness Safaris or their wholly owned subsidiary the Safari & Adventure Company. Wilderness Safaris does not work directly with their guests and instead use a network of destination specialists in the USA who know their products really well. Most of us also have contracts with SAA/United. In Colorado, I can recommend a competitor of mine named Cherri Briggs in Steamboat. She has a company called Explore. She will do good work and also works directly with Wilderness.

    Craig Beal

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    Hi,

    for Botswana I suggest a full service mobile safari. Last year we travelled with Massons and had a great time, http://massonsafaris.com/. The guiding was exceptional, the tents comfortable and camp life was enjoyable.

    I'd also recommend Okonjima in Namibia for close-up views of cheetahs and other game, www.okonjima.com.

    Happy planning,


    Pol

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    Thanks so much for the information. Since I only have 3 weeks, is there any way to spend less time in Jo-burg overnighting?

    Sounds like November or May may not be the best time to do all 3 activities - is there a better month?

    Is it warm on the beach during that time?

    Have you done the elephant safari in Botswana? It was listed in one of my travel books - I just wanted to see if it was worth it.

    You're right I am from Colo :) we traveled British Air to UK (direct flight) and then to Capetown (direct flight) - 2 VERY LONG overnight flights with a 12 hr. layover in UK. I'm trying to minimize the overnight time in places where we aren't at our destination. What we learned the last trip was that we need some down time (the beach) and we loved the adventure part - especially walking safaris, fishing on the Zambezi, ultra flight over Vic Falls - the game driving in a vehicle wasn't very exciting since we did it our first safari in Tanzania. Thanks so much for the recommendation of the Wilderness safari company I'll check out their website. I'd like to use camps that are comfortable, have small groups and we can pick what we want to do (we spoke with folks that went to a camp and weren't able to do any walking safaris because the group was "full" for the days they were there), and we like camps that give back to the local area (schools, employment). Sorry so many questions.

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    i think November and May are both good times. i was in durban and on the north east coast of south africa at thonga and rocktail two months ago. every day was about 85 and the nights were about 65. if you wanted to go to namibia and botswana in high season (jun-aug) then the beach may be a bit cold and you could consider a beach resort in mozambique. these are easily accessible with daily flights from johannesburg but they do cost more than south africa beach resorts.

    elephant safaris in botswana can be done at stanley's camps which is run by sanctuary lodge. they can also be done at abu camp on 3 and 4 day programs. this cammp is owned by wilderness safaris. there are no other places than these two as far as i know. i like to think i know a lot about botswana...

    the game drives in botswana will be much better than tanzania as there will be no crowds whatsoever. you will do more walking in namibia vs botswana. you can walk all you want at the beach. the best tiger fishing in botswana is in september and october.

    johannesburg is not avoidable unless you want to book riskier charter flights or unstable commercial flights like windhoek to maun. you COULD get to rocktail bay in one day from windhoek but you would have to spend the night in windoek the night before and take an early morning flight to johannesburg. by unstable commercial flight i mean commercial flights that are often cancelled for "mechanical reasons" or simply cancel before you travel. then you are forced to change plans. i prefer to have clients fly through johaneesburg when they are spending this much money becuase it is much higher guarantee of a reliable experience.

    craig beal

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    For best wildlife viewing, month by month check out this chart
    http://www.africa-adventure.com/dsp_besttime.html

    Re: ele safaris in Botswana, Abu's is ultra expensive whereas Stanley's and Baines (where you can stay and do the ele activity at Stanley's) are more in line costwise with other Botswana camps.

    A company I have only seen recommended and corresponded with for Namibia is Cardboard Box. They were very responsive, prompt, and professional to a load of customizing questions from me.

    Sorry no beach info.

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    Thanks everyone for your help. I'm going to check out the camps everyone has recommended and the flight connections. I appreciate, Craig, knowing the unreliability of the flights. When we were in Zambia, we found out that there were charter flights from 1 destination to another that were around the price of us flying back to a major airport, have you heard of any reliable/reasonable/safe charters in Bots & Namibia? I'm wondering why I buy books on the destinations anymore because they certainly don't tell you the helpful hints I learn here...

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    well - the editor of the south africa fodors travel book is a guy named julian harrison. he is a friend and competitor of my company. he has a company called premier tours in philadelphia. great operation but i don't think he ever uses fodors.com!

    there is a flight approximately every other day from WDH-MUB (Maun), but it DOES get cancelled frequently. in fact, i have had several clients get stranded and have to fly through johannesburg losing one day of safari. they had all insisted on this flight against my advice so there weren't really mad at me.

    craig

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