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Need help planning trip to Capetown, safari and Victoria Falls

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Hi all,

My husband and I want to take a trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe for our 5 year anniversary. We are thinking of going for 2 weeks in May/June. I have started doing some research and am completely overwhelmed. Can someone please help me answer the following questions? We are in our early 30's and like to sightsee, love the outdoors and want to try to get in some culture while we're there.

- Is May/June a good time to go to Zimbabwe and South Africa?
- We ideally want to do a few days in Cape town, stay in one or 2 towns along the garden route, go on a safari for 2-3 days and see Victoria Falls. Can someone please give me an idea if this itinerary is doable or if it's too much to fit into 2 weeks?
- Are there any recommendations for where to stay (less than $150 US/night) along the garden route and what safari is best in South Africa (for safari we can do up to $200 US/night)
- In Capetown we are thinking of staying at the Sheraton because we have hotel points so it would be free
- What is the best way to map out my flights? Right now I found a decent rate from Newark to Capetown. However, does it make sense to fly into Capetown and fly out of somewhere near Victoria Falls (or vice versa) and take a one way flight in between? Or should I book a round trip to Capetown and then another roundtrip from Capetown to somewhere near Victoria Falls?
- Do I have to fly to get to a safari? Is Kruger the best place for a safari? What are some good websites to book a safari?
- Lastly, does anyone have any good travel agents they recommend? I've found for other locations (such as India) it was cheaper to book flights through a travel agent vs. online..not sure if South Africa/Zimbabwe are the same.

Any help/advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated!

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    Tough to do a safari anywhere in SA for $200 a night (for both of you?) except Kruger. You can fly or drive from Johannesburg. Not sure where you are flying from, but Joburg is usually to fly-to spot for anywhere in southern Africa, much closer to Kruger and easier to fly to and from Vic Falls. You can do this itinerary in 2 weeks but you're in for a lot of moving around. It wouldn't be for me, buts you have to decide if that suits you. Start at www.sanparks.org for Kruger info.
    Suggest you start researching on Fodors by searching place names you're interested in. Lots of info on these boards. There are many Africa specialist travel agents recommended here as well: Eyes on Africa, Premier, African Adventure Company, and many many more. Do a search for "Africa travel agent" hre. But these are mostly safari specialists. However they can arrange the entire trip. I've used Premier in Philadelphia, and they often have good airfares. I book all my international flights on line, but recommend you let the travel agents book in inter-Africa flights.
    May/June is winter in the southern hemisphere and it can get chilly. Cape Town (I went for 5 days and it wasn't enough) and other tourist spots would be cold, but game viewing would be fine. Vic Falls would be roaring.

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    Hi lilladki,

    We did a similar journey two years ago and it was the trip of a lifetime! Here's a link to the trip report.

    http://www.fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/trip-report---vic-falls-capetown-and-ssgr.cfm

    We visted Victoria Falls from the Zambia side, spent a week in Capetown with day trips to the wine regions and down the coast, and finished up with a safari in Sabi Sands, west of Kruger.

    I'm usually an independent travel planner, but given that I'd never been to Africa, and the number of things we wanted to accomplish, we did use a travel agent and it was a wise decision. We used go2africa (www.go2africa.com) and they were great to work with. There are also a number of other Africa travel specialists regularly recommended on these forums. Given the time and money you're investing in the trip, it makes sense to talk to a professional.

    We arranged our own air US to/from Jburg. The agent arranged all internal S. Africa/Zambia flights, accomodations and car rental/transfers. As I recall, the rates they secured for accomodation were as good or better than what I could have achieved via direct internet booking.

    You will be doing a bit of flying. For the last part of our trip, we flew from Capetown to Jburg to Nelspruit to the lodge, each journey on a smaller plane. We were on a 4 seater from Nelspruit to Arathusa Lodge that landed on a dirt runway crowded with zebras for the last leg of that trip. One of the nice things about having a travel agent involved is that, in case of missed connections, you aren't stranded on your own trying to sort things out.

    Good luck with your trip planning - you are going to have an amazing time!

    Ellie





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    Zimbabwe is a good place to look for inexpensive safaris. Matusadona, Mana Pools. There is a couple people like Steve Pope Safaris that does canoeing on the Zambezi and does a great camping safari with lots of wildlife. You can get a house boat or sailing on Lake Kariba if you are into that. There is a bush camp that has access by banana boat from Kariba. Track lions and rhino on foot.

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    May and June is an awesome time to go on safari and to Victoria Falls. I highly recommend you focus on May instead of June. The reason I say this is for price. All airlines increase their fares to South Africa by at least $350 per person for flights from United States starting on June 1. You can check this out on any of the major websites including South African Airways own website. Since you are coming from the Northeast, I recommend you fly on the new South African Airways flight from JFK. I say new because they have changed the time effective May 1, which has always been late afternoon, to a late morning flight. The new flight leaves at 11:25 AM and makes no stops. You land and change planes and will be in Cape Town by lunch. Two posters on this forum have already mentioned companies that have South African Airways contract. There are at least 20 of us based in the US. Eyes on Africa and Premier Tours are both competitors of mine and they both have South African Airways contracts. I also recommend Discover Africa (based in Cleveland). I have never seen a case in which purchasing tickets from a safari specialist was more expensive.

    Your budget for safari is too low. You are spending at least $2,000 per person on air and I don't recommend you spend so little on your safari. The only private game reserves in the Sabi Sands in the price range of $200/night would be Elephant Plains, Atathusa, and a few more. Someone above has already mentioned South Africa National Parks. If this is something you are seriously considering, make sure you visit their official web site which was correctly identified above. There are many “poser” sites with very similar domain names. All the tour operators mentioned above should have SAN Park contracts and can also sell you park accommodations for the same price as booking direct. Anyway – I have been through the entire Kurger National Park many times and as recently as two month ago. On this same trip two months ago I also visited 13 private safari lodges in the Sabi Sands, Timbavati, and private concessions inside the park. The private reserves are well worth the extra money.

    So – based on your limited budget, here are my recommendations:
    -Book in May for flight costs.
    -Use the Sheraton for two nights in Cape Town with points. For your other two nights stay at the Cape Cadogan. This small hotel is well located and owned by the same people that own Lion Sands. Lion Sands is a great private safari lodge directly bordering the Kruger (ranked #19 in the world by Conde Nast in 2008). The price in May at Lion Sands is ZAR 4,200 per night (about $420 per person). This is a bit high for your budget, but from May 1-August 31, if you stay at Lion Sands for three nights, you get two free nights at the Cape Cadogan. This will be a good value. I visited Lion Sands twice in 2008 (March and December). You will love it. Since you are going in the dry season (and cool) you can sleep in the tree house one night. A great honeymoon experience!
    -I have been to Victoria Falls on both sides (Zim and Zam). My last four visits were in March, April, May, and June. I can tell you it is amazing in May. The water volume is at the annual peak. You will have to tour in a swimsuit only or get soaked! Either side of the falls are fine. You may choose to base this decision on which side you can fly to on the tour operator fares. This assumes you choose to buy your airline ticket from a US based SAA tour operator contract holder. There are a few flights each day to/from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls and Livingstone. These “cheap seats” can only be bought on a contract and sell for about $125 versus $270 (each way) for published fares. This has to be bought in conjunction with a trans-Atlantic ticket on SAA.

    Day by day:
    Day 1 Depart USA
    Day 2 Arrive Cape Town. Rent car, drive to Sheraton. Spend four days exploring.
    Day 4 Switch to Cape Cadogan
    Day 6 Drive to Hermanus
    Day 7 Drive to Knysna for two nights
    Day 9 Drop car at George early morning and fly to Johannesburg or Nelspruit. Begin safari by flying to Lion Sands or being transferred from Nelspruit by car.
    Day 12 Fly to Johannesburg and overnight (if you are really brave you can try the new icon Africa charter to Victoria Falls).
    Day 13 Fly to Vic Falls.
    Day 15 Fly home.

    Craig

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    Congratulations on your upcoming anniversary.

    Sadly, up to $200 a night (is that per person?) doesn't get you very far in the safari world in many places.

    Others have mentioned self-touring Kruger, and I highly recommend that. I've done 2 self-drive trips and have thoroughly enjoyed it each time--so much so that I have a hard time considering paying more for the private places outside the park.

    However, I think a trip to Kruger (plus Cape Town & Garden Route and Zimbabwe) would just add more expense due to the extra costs of getting to a third location. Perhaps luangwablonde's comments regarding Zimbabwe parks would work for you.

    Alternatively, you could go to Addo Elephant National Park, which is on or very near the Garden Route--it is run by SANParks and you can find information on it and Kruger at the same website. I haven't been there yet, but it might fit your time and budget well. From the pictures and documentaries I've seen of Addo, it's much different than Kruger but seems unique in its own way.

    I think we'd all be curious to hear how your trip went once you come back.

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    hi, lilladki,

    for a great honeymoon experience, I'd recommend a country lodge near plettenberg bay called hog hollow. here's the link:

    http://www.hog-hollow.com/reservations.html

    I can't work out if it's in your price -bracket, [it was the cheapest place we stayed, I think] but it would be well worth stretching a bit to stay here - terrific situation, wonderful warm welcome [hot water bottles in the beds plus good-night story on your pillow] your own little cabin with a wood-burning stove and hammock, and fabulous food. I recommended it to friends when we got home, and they reported back that it was the BEST place they'd EVER stayed, anywhere.

    have a great trip,

    regards, ann

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