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Safari, thinking South Africa

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My first time on this forum. We are well traveled in the US and Europe, have also been on a tour to Australia. A safari is still on the bucket list, even though being interrupted by the Nairobi affair a couple of years ago when we were actively looking at an African trip.

We are 68 and 72, still working, in fairly good condition. This is not a trip I want to plan on my own. I need a good tour operator. Modest accommodations, nothing extravagant. Is South Africa inclusive all that we want in terms of game sighting? Victoria Falls would be a good addition. I have researched Tanzania and would love to include Ngorongoro. So you see I am in need of assistance.

I know that there is no guarantee when it comes to safety, that we make choices. Would like to be about 14 days or so not counting travel. Thinking 8000/pp or so, and this would be pretty much all inclusive.

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    What Nairobi affair?

    "No guarantee when it comes to safety" - what are your concerns?

    South Africa is very easy to arrange a tour on your own. I don't recommend a group tour - they generally don't stay in the national parks or private reserves and you wind up sitting on a bus a lot.

    Do you want to visit Cape Town? Or just Vic Falls and a safari? Will you want to drive yourself between locations or do you need private transfers? What else besides safari? Everything is possible in S Africa, but we need to know your interests to help.

    I've done S Africa trips for much more and much less than your budget. Does it include international air?

    For safari, I highly recommend the area around Kruger. There are excellent private reserves where everything is provided for, plus some. Start by looking at nDzuti, nThambo, Arathusa and Shindzela. Let us know which ones appeal to you so we know a little about your needs. Kirkmans might work, too, but it's a bit more pricy.

    My favorite area of S Africa is KwaZulu Natal. It is a bit more difficult to arrange if you are not comfortable driving, but it is so beautiful, such diverse ecosystems, warm people and affordable that I like to mention it. Zululand Rhino Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park are great values and have excellent game viewing and service. It's easy to combine with other areas.

    If you are planning on S Africa, Tanzania is very far and impractical to do together. Either do East Africa or Southern Africa - not both.

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    mcheryl, I don't think you'll regret the trip. My wife and I went on safari in 2013 to South Africa, Vic Falls and Botswana, and it's one of our favs, no question about it. My wife was a little concerned about safety beforehand, but that evaporated pretty quick once we were there. Safariing is a well oiled machine.

    That was the first trip where I used a travel agent, based largely on the advice here and elsewhere. And that was excellent advice. Planning a safari is quite different than planning a trip to Europe. Unfortunately, it's a lot more labor intensive. But oh so worth it.

    After doing some pretty heavy duty preliminary research, which I strongly recommend, I consulted 3 or 4 travel agents, all based in South Africa. They don't charge for their services, which doesn't seem fair. I got lots of good ideas, combined the best of them, and picked the agent we liked best and who had the best pricing. For us, it was Sun Safaris. I'd recommend them. But there are lots of others that are highly regarded, too.

    You have probably already discovered the trip advisor forums where there are lots of super helpful posters, too.

    I think your budget is reasonable for mid-level accommodations. And the time allotted is reasonable, too.

    Our itinerary (we were gone a total of 17 days, flights included): We flew 15 hours nonstop (yay!!!) from Atlanta to J'berg on Delta, and spent the night there; then flew to Vic Falls the next morning where we stayed 1 night (plenty); then we were driven via private transfer to Botswana and stayed 2 nights inside Chobe National Park at the Chobe Game Lodge, the only in-park lodging (great place); we then flew to the Okavango Delta deeper in Botswana and stayed 3 nights at Little Vumbura Camp (highlight of the trip--so remote and beautiful with lots of wildlife); then we flew to Cape Town for 4 nights to break up the safariing; then we flew to Kruger where we spent 3 nights in Sabi Sands at Nottens Bush Camp (great place); and then flew to J'berg and home all on the same day.

    All places were in the mid-level price range. Wife insisted on a bathroom in the tents/rooms at all times.

    Something to keep in mind about getting bids from several agents. Once an agent thinks they have your business, or might have your business, they will book and hold rooms in the various camps. If the agents happen to want a room in the same camps either because you've told them that's where you want to stay or because that's where they recommend, they are essentially competing against one another to book a tent/room. If there should be lots of openings, they may end up holding half the rooms for you, although the slowest to book may find no vacancy cuz the other agents are holding the last room(s). I hope that makes sense.

    One of the main planning issues is how long to stay in each camp. From the advice here and elsewhere, folks generally recommended 2 or 3 nights in each place. You will be doing 2 safari excursions per day for 2-3 hours per excursion, which means you will likely cover most of the available sightseeing areas in that amount of time. More than that, the scenery and wildlife can get a bit repetitive.

    Here's a link to the best of my pics from that marvelous trip, in case you might be interested.

    https://davidcdavis.smugmug.com/Travel/Best-of-Africa-May-2013/n-qjRKz/

    Good luck planning!

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    as dcd suggests, be careful to be sure that you're going to like safaris before you commit yourself to spending too much of your time on them. We found that though a few days were ok, spending long periods of time in a jeep jolting around was not an optimal way of spending our time.

    You may find that you love it, but for a first time safari, a mix of activities may suit you better.

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    I strongly recommend South Africa. You want a trip that combines safari and Cape Town, which is one of the most terrific cities you can imagine, and maybe the winelands surrounding it (Franschoek is simply extraordinary, Stellenbosch used to be but on our last visit it seems to have turned into a very high end suburb of Cape Town!)

    Do get quotes from two to three different tour companies. With your budget, you should start with "andBeyond, " Zambezi are two companies we've used. Actually, I found this site www.safaribookings.com was a good place to shop for ideas. This is one I considered modifying for my brother-in-law and his wife: https://www.safaribookings.com/tours/t5190

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    You may not to self-drive if you are uncomfortable driving on the left side of the road, but when you work with these tour providers, you can customize your trip to include local guides/tours that may or may not include others and you don't have to do any driving yourself.

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    Hi mcheryl!

    With 14 days and your budget, there are certainly plenty of options!

    As other posters have pointed out, combining East Africa and South Africa is logistically difficult and, as a result, is not recommended. I would go with one or the other. Who knows, you may want to return and try the other! So many of us go again and again because we love it so much!!

    South Africa really will stretch your travel dollars than visiting East Africa. The Rand is still at a historic low and it can really transform a trip to include more days or more destinations or more activities or more luxury or any combo!

    I'd suggest flying into JNB then onward to Cape Town. Depending upon your interests, a fairly typical amount of time would range from 3-5 nights. There is a lot to see and experience and you could certainly do longer if you wanted. For example, there's a visit to the top of Table Mtn, a day trip to see Boulder's Town and the Penguin Colony along with the Cape of Good Hope, a visit to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his imprisoned years, a visit to Kirstenbosch Gardens and its sculpture park along with a walk of their Tree Canopy Walk, and in whale season, you could visit Hermanus for either whale watching by land or boat cruise. You could add on 1-2 nights in the Winelands region of Franschoek and Stellenbosch if that's of interest. It's only an hour away and you could visit amazing vineyards, eat in incredible restaurants for not much money actually, and be in awe of the landscape! Magnificent..

    In Cape Town, there are many different options for hotels/guest houses. You can stay on the waterfront or in one of the neighborhoods for some local flavor.

    So this is just a sampling, and again, your interests, budget and style of travel will determine how long you will spend in this incredibly vibrant, beautiful and colorful city and where you choose to stay.

    From Cape Town, I'd fly into one of the 3 Reserve airports serving the Greater Kruger area for your safari. I'd recommend you stay in one of Private Game Reserves that share an unfenced border with Kruger, such as Sabi Sand, Timbavati or Manyeleti. There's plenty of game and it's one of the best places in all of Africa for leopard sightings (plentiful actually). There are many lodge/camps to choose from. It's really more about your travel style and budget. For example, some are larger and are more family-friendly with perhaps more children while others may be quieter and more intimate camps. Some have cottages/suites while others have tents, even luxury tents! Some control the number of guests in the jeeps to no more than 6 or 8 while others fill the jeep at 10 guests if necessary. Bottom line is that there plenty to choose from with a moderate budget.

    I'd suggest 3 nights in one lodge then an easy road transfer to another lodge for another 3 nights. This is a great way to experience different styles of lodging, different dining, staff and more. It's also fun to have a different ranger guiding you in your jeep. It's just a nice switch-up and keeps it ''fresh" and fun!

    At the end of safari, you would then fly from the closest reserve airport of your second lodge stay and back to JNB with a flight onward home that evening.

    Some add-on ideas to this itinerary:

    You could do a 2 night stay in Victoria Falls on the front end of the trip. Yes, it's an adrenalin-junkie epicenter but there's some wonderful history there. The VIctoria Falls Bridge was architecturally way ahead of its time. It was the work of Cecil John Rhodes whose vision was to travel from "Cape to Cairo" and the bridge was a part of that plan. You can also tour the falls, enjoy a beautiful sunset cruise on the Zambezi and possibly even do a Chobe day cruise.

    Second idea would be to have a privately guided tour from your second safari lodge back to Jo'burg via the beautiful Panorama Route. Along this route are spectacular sights such as God's Window, Blyde River Canyon, and the Three Rondavels, just to name a few of the highlights. You could stay one night along the way in a lovely guest house.

    So these are all just ideas and again, independent of one another or in combination thereof. Again, depending upon your interests, style of travel, and budget, you would have a wonderful itinerary for the 2 of you. In fact, I just finished up the final details for a lovely trip for a pair of sisters of similar ages. They are very excited about their upcoming travels this August to Vic Falls, Zambia, and South Africa's Sabi Sand and Timbavati Reserves.

    When working with a Safari Planner, here's some things to keep in mind. They should be very good listeners and they should ask you lots of questions to understand your vision for the trip, who you are, how you like to travel, whether you have any special interests or needs, etc. Only then can they make the appropriate recommendations and find the right balance for your itinerary by targeting the approriate places for you to visit and lodges. It's ideal to work with a Safari Planner who has seen the lodges or has a team that collectively has toured lodges to insure the quality and can vet what you are getting. A Planner also helps streamline the logistics of transfers, guides and more. I am personally not a fan of group tours or "canned" itineraries. People are unique and so should their itineraries be.

    The planning process is an exciting time, second though to the actual experience! Happy to help!

    Best
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA

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    Hi There,
    Yes, South Africa is definitely all inclusive of all you could ask for on a safari.
    Although iconic, and as others have said on this thread, my recommendation would be, not to combine East Africa with South Africa ... as this 'side trip' would eat up a good deal of your 14 proposed days in travel time alone.
    You can always do Tanzania/Kenya on your next trip :)

    If I were you I would split the two weeks between Cape Town (and environs, and the very many activities and sights it has to offer), and a wildlife safari with game-viewing in the Kruger National Park area.
    Cape Town never disappoints, and I do feel that a visit to South Africa is incomplete without a trip to Cape Town, for first time visitors to the country at least.

    I previously advised on a similar query as follows -
    http://www.fodors.com/community/africa-the-middle-east/first-time-in-southafrica-suggested-itinerary.cfm

    In my previous post as per the link above, I know I included a luxury train trip, this could very easily be circumvented and replaced with an air transfer to take you directly to the Greater Kruger National Park area, from where it is a 'hop, skip and a jump' to your lodge of choice.
    There are lodges to suit every taste and budget, each offers something special and different, I advise experiencing at least two. Transfers between the lodges are pre-arranged (and can be considered a game-viewing drive on their own), and you will be very well taken care of.

    I do urge you to possibly approach two or three experienced African travel agents for sample itineraries, this will give you a good taste and feel of your possibilities.

    Happy planning,
    Debbi - Travel Guru, Southern Destinations

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