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Seeking Feedback on Honeymoon Safari

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I am currently in the process of planning a 3 week vacation to Africa for our honeymoon in late August and early to mid September. After 5 days or so in Egypt, we are planning to fly down to East and South Africa for approximately 12 days of safari and a few days in Cape Town before flying home.

I'd appreciate your tips and honest feedback on the East and South portions of our trip.

Here is the current itinerary:
+Day 1 - Arrive early morning Nairobi and fly to Masai Mara - Stay at "Kichwa Tembo" for 4 nights in an upgraded luxury tent - Hot air balloon ride over the Mara
+Day 5 - Fly to Ngorongoro Crater (via Nairobi) - Stay 2 nights at Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
+Day 7 - Afternoon flight to Nairobi and evening flight to Lusaka (en route to Victoria Falls) - Stay at Taj Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka
+Day 8 - Fly from Lusaka to Livingstone and transfer to Chobe. Stay 2 nights at "Chobe Under Canvas".
+Day 10 - Transfer from Chobe to Matetsi Private Reserve (Zimbabwe) between game drives, includes private tour of Victoria Falls. Stay 2 nights at Matetsi (includes land and boat tours)
+Day 12 - Afternoon flight from Victoria Falls to Cape Town (via Johannesburg) - Stay 3 nights in Cape Town (undecided on hotels) with private tour of city on Day 13 and private tour of winelands on Day 14.
+Day 15 - Connect to Johannesburg for flight back to the US

As you can see, we're currently leaning towards andBeyond (and their properties). We've been extremely impressed by their staff, have only heard wonderful things about their camps and lodges, and they're able to provide a great experience in all of our countries. We like the stability of a big, well-respected company, and they're running great specials right now. We looked into several other options including Kensington Tours, but their sales rep has failed to respond to emails promptly, doesn't seem to know the areas as well, and I don't have the same great feel about their camps or guides - even though we love the private tour concept. Any thoughts on these two or others that can provide the entire trip (we're not interested in the "1 Country Only" tour operators even if they are great for that area)?

Our questions for the group:
- Any overall feedback on the tour, lodges, schedule, or destinations?
- Based on our travel dates (which are not flexible), are we going to the right areas of Africa?
- Any drawbacks to going with andBeyond?
- How much of a difference does it make to have a "private guide/driver" compared to the andBeyond experience?

Thanks for your thoughts. We're very excited about this once-in-a-lifetime trip.

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    "chobe under canvas" is a great product. And YES &Beyond is a wonderful company which is driven by customer satisfaction which can be felt as soon as one arrives. I bet you won't regret your choices!

    Crater lodge is very posh but the right place for a Honeymoon!

    Kichwa Tembo is excellent but Bateleur is more intimate. Duration of stay is wonderful and you most probably observe the wildebeest migration including a crossing!

    For Cape town I would either stay at the Cape Grace or Ellerman House. The latter is intimate and just "out of this world". But I am biased because it's one of my favourite places.
    If you are budget conscious you might consider an up-market guest houses like this
    http://www.bayreflections.com/apartments_d.htm

    Matetsi is excellent (value for money by the way!) and diversity is very good being river based AND in a private concession stretching into Chobe.

    I think your travel consultant did a good job here.

    SV

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    The standard wisdom here would be to either choose East or Southern Africa, but not both. Especially for only 3 weeks. We spent 6 weeks in South Africa/Zambia/Bots/Vic Falls alone and felt it wasn't enough time.
    With an itinerary like this, as exciting as it is, you're trading precious safari/city days for too much transit time and higher cost. It will be tiring. It's a most common mistake for travelers to do: You get so excited by a trip that you try to cram in too much. Especially on a honeymoon and especially since you are trveling so far for a "trip of a lifetime"! (If you're like most of us, you'll be back sooner than you think.) Cape Town/Winelands alone is worth 5 days. The Cape Grace is top notch and an ideal location if your budget is plump.
    I can vouch for &Beyond, though. But many here will probably suggest you spend more time at each place (3 days is the usual suggestion for each camp). If you decide you want to stick to Southern Africa you might consider Phinda game reserve in KwaZulu Natal, which they operate. Or one of their camps in the Sabi Sands game area.
    Or choose East Africa and come back later to southern Africa.

  • Report Abuse

    You are doing the continental tour for sure!

    - Any overall feedback on the tour, lodges, schedule, or destinations?

    Tour & Schedule: It is a lot of flying around. Have &Beyond include the approximate times of when you’d need to be at airports and the lengths of flights so you know how much time you are committing to transportation. The order is logical.

    The only flaw I see is what appears to be Vic Falls from the Zambian side when later you have Vic Fall on the Zim side. You are committing a couple of days to this. Is it for the Taj accommodation? I know nothing about it, but it seems to be a lot of effort when you'll see the falls at Matetsi.

    It is more traveling around than I’d do, but if your goal is to cover a variety of areas and see some highlights, this trip certainly does it. It will be more whirlwind than relaxation, except for the Mara, but that may be just what you were looking for. Those of us who like to stay at one place for a long time are usually interested in observing animal behavior in depth, getting into the rhythm of life at particular camps and taking full advantage of the guiding talent, or waiting for the best photo ops.

    Lodges: Top of the line, extremely luxurious, nice variety.

    Destinations: You are hitting some highlights of the various countries and the destinations are great wildlife areas.

    Mara-excellent overall game and migration

    Crater-excellent overall game and concentration of animals is phenomenal

    Chobe--great overall game, especially elephants and you must do the afternoon/sunset wildlife cruise on the Chobe River

    Matetsi--see the falls (which are impressive late in the season. I've only seen them then) and some wildlife. I have no personal experience here.

    - Based on our travel dates (which are not flexible), are we going to the right areas of Africa?

    Timing is perfect. You are well into the dry season. Check this chart of best wildlife viewing times.
    http://www.africa-adventure.com/dsp_besttime.html

    - Any drawbacks to going with andBeyond?
    Price. You are getting discounts to help with that. I thought the &Beyond property I spent a week at was outstanding. My focus was not amenities, food, or the accommodation itself, which won awards and was exquisite. It was good guiding, wildlife, and culture--and those area got high marks as well from my perspective.

    Another drawback:
    I would recommend the very nice and comfortable Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge, with beautiful views and local wildlife, because of its own access road. To me that is a tangible, trip enhancing benefit. Sopa also costs less than the very high priced Crater Lodge with butlers and rose petals in the bath. Everybody goes into the same crater, but Sopa has a less crowded, better road. I have never stayed at Crater Lodge for a true comparison. Don’t know if &Beyond can book something else at the crater. Or you may prefer to stay at the renowned Crater Lodge over any other accommodation at Ngorongoro for this special trip of yours.

    - How much of a difference does it make to have a "private guide/driver" compared to the andBeyond experience?
    &Beyond could certainly provide you with a private vehicle at each of your destinations for an added cost. I’m sure they’d be happy to provide those costs.

    The good guiding quality I have experienced at &Beyond will help make your shared vehicle experience a positive one, I believe. However, you cannot pick your vehicle-mates and even at I had a family of four that was a good match for me at an &Beyond location. Most of my shared vehicle-mates have been ok to really enjoyable.

    Generally the “private guide/driver” you refer to occurs when you do a good deal of driving. Your trip does not do that. Instead you are flying from place to place.

    You could also contact different agents who could design an itinerary that takes you to these same parks and destinations, but with different accommodations. You could have a private vehicle at each location. Since you want to deal with sizable, established companies who know the whole of Africa you could contact A&K, Africa Adventure, Wilderness Travel (in CA), or Natural Habitat to name a few. They might even include some &Beyond properties in their itineraries. It can't hurt to get at least a second opinion on your itinerary, get some alternative costs, and be provided with another opnion. If nothing else, it confirms your original itinerary.

    No matter what you decide, you have one heck of a honeymoon!

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