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Travel to Botswana

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Hi, I am a mid-forties woman with a bucket list with only one item - go on an Africa safari. I have decided to do this in 2018 and am looking for any advice, suggestions, ideas, recommendations, or any other feedback one may have.
I have determined I want to go to Botswana, and am overwhelmed with the information and options available. I will be traveling alone, and want a minimum of 10 days on safari.
Tour operator or safari company? Any recommendations?
Where should I visit? On my list-Morami, Okavango delta, Linyanti, Salinda, Kwando, Victoria falls?
Any one from America have experience with flights to Botswana? Suggestions on airlines? Booking?
Has anyone worked with Wild About Africa or Expert Africa? Thoughts?
Any experience or advice you may have is EXTREMELY helpful and welcome.
Thank you,
Goingtoafrica

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    Botswana is extremely expensive and going as a solo will make it more pricey. It's by design - high quality, low density travel. Botswana has no (well, very, very few) rhino so I'd recommend seeing them in S Africa while you can.

    Pick any two regions and stay around three nights each. Then head to Kruger - easy to combine - for three nights. I did Linyanti and the Delta. Then to Kruger to a private lodge. It was almost perfect - just not long enough. Season matters - when in 2018?

    Maybe Footsteps in Africa? They do a good job at more reasonable prices. There are also some excellent mobile safaris. Some are lodge based, some camping, some full service camping. If budget is not an issue, Wilderness Safaris and/or Great Plains might be my choices.

    Safari was on my bucket list too. Since I went the first time around your age, I just can't get enough and have returned again and again. Be prepared!!

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    There are 2 main options open to you as a solo traveler- either do a tailor made "fly in" safari, where you will fly from camp to camp in light aircraft doing an itinerary of your choice, or join a group mobile safari, traveling overland and camping (although some can be really very comfortable camping). Given you are looking at Expert Africa and Wild about Africa I assume you may already be considering both. Expert Africa do the tailor made travel, Wild About Africa is their sister company offering small group travel. I have used both in the past and would recommend them (although in fact I have mainly used Expert Africa for other countries in Africa not Botswana).

    For a fly in safari, this is a great option for a solo traveler, as safari camps are small, sociable places and many have communal dining and you will join others for game drives. So it has the advantages of the social aspect of a group trip but without being stuck with the same people for your whole trip- other guests will come and go at different times and you will meet different people at different camps.

    If considering a fly in safari, I would strongly recommend not traveling in peak season. It will be expensive anyway in peak season but with single supplements even more so. However, there are some camps which don't charge a single supplement in shoulder season and even more that don't charge in low season. The game viewing may not be quite as good as peak season, and in low season (Nov to March) you might have a bit of rain but, taking into account the single supplement, you can pay 3 times as much in high season vs low season, and even in shoulder season (eg May or June) the savings can be really substantial with very little compromise at all on the game viewing. A good agent should be able to help you pick the best camps and the best times of year for avoiding single supplements. But just for example, Kwando safaris have very good single supplement free pricing in mid Nov to end of March (maybe into April). Ker Downey and Great Plains are two companies which don't charge single supplements in low and shoulder seasons (Ker Downey Nov until the end of June, Great Plains Nov until mid June).

    If you want to travel in peak season, I think a mobile safari is your best bet. I did one in Oct 2009 which I booked through Wild About Africa, although the operator on the ground was Letaka Safaris. The camping was really very comfortable, with en suite "bush bathrooms" for every tent, private camp sites (ie no other groups around), and fantastic meals on tables set out under the stars. Our group was only 6 and we had a game viewing vehicle very similar to the ones used by lodges (complete with fridge for cold drinks, very important in October!), and a separate vehicle for all the camping gear which traveled ahead so the camps were always set up when we arrived. The main disadvantage of the mobile safaris is they use mainly the national park areas which will have more traffic, and no off roading, compared to fly in safaris where you can stay in private concessions with very limited vehicle numbers and off road driving allowed. There are also other restrictions in the national parks like no night driving and no walking.

    For low season, I think the best month is probably November, as early as you can to get the optimum pricing (some of the specials don't start until mid November). For shoulder, I would go as late as you can within the shoulder period which varies from camp to camp, but will be around May/June. If you go with a mobile I would probably go later in the dry season as July can be very cold- so I would go with late August through September. October can be very hot- I enjoyed my mobile in October but if you don't like extreme heat, go earlier.

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    Hi GoingtoAfrica,

    I did not see any mention of budget in your post and the first reply brings up the specter of high costs. The second post has lots of useful info but also mentions peak season rates and single supplements etc. "Expensive" is a subjective word so maybe worth some quantification. For all I know, you may have been saving $1,000+ a year for the last 20 and have some serious loot to spend.

    Why don't you lay-out your preliminary budget and then I can give you some very focused advice? I have been to Botswana many times and in ever season of the year. I am not into group travel nor do I enjoy things too rustic plus you and I are the same age and I am American. With some more parameters, I might be able to offer some good advice.

    Using permanent accommodations, here is a nice nine day safari:
    Day 1,2,3 Mashatu Safari Lodge
    Day 4 Fly Angel Gabriel from Mashatu to Maun. Then transfer to Kanana Camp owned by Ker & Downey (Stokeygirl endorsed them as well).
    Day 4,5,6 Kanana
    Day 7,8,9 Fly to Shinde
    Day 10 Fly home via Maun and Jo'burg.

    The above trip would be under $6,000 for a single traveler in November or March.

    The most expensive 10 day trip you could do as a single would be a nine night combo of Chiefs, Zarafa and Duba Plains or Mombo + Vumbura Plains + Kings Pool. That would be something like $36,000-$40,000 with the single supplements in June-October.

    Some uber luxury camps like Chief's have NO single supplement in Nov and Jan-Mar and the single person rates are then $1180 per night in 2017. The same camp is $4,926 per night for a single in July & August. At a place like this, you will not see 5x more animals in July & August and it has AC so, if you want to save, go in November or March.

    I know many great safari agents in the US that work directly with the properties. I have an extremely high regard for Expert Africa. They are UK based but their US based employee Justin Huff "knows his stuff". Perhaps contact him direct and I can give you his details if you wish.

    Craig Beal

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    Thank you everyone for your replies and advice. I realize Botswana is expensive and that I as a solo traveler it will be even more, and that currently I am looking at going during peak season (mid-September). I do not have the most robust budget, but I want to do it right and have in mind $6000-$8000 for the safari (not including international travel). I want to see animals (and birds). I don't mind 'rustic' accommodations but do not wish to participate in the chores. I don't want to be on safari with a bunch of young kids (or too many adults for that matter). Are my expectations too high?

    I don't exactly understand the vast difference in pricing between a fly-in and a mobile safari. For example a 13 day mobile safari is around $6000, and a 9 day fly-in is $9500. Granted I understand the lodging differences, but aren't there other cheaper concessions available to fly-in safari tour operators? I have read that it is best to go with a tour operator because they offer the best locales and are not restricted to company owned locations as a safari company would be, does this really matter? Is it worth paying more for a shorter trip through a tour operator? Are the animal sightings really better on the fly-in safaris? Are the animal sightings really better during the dry season.

    Ugh!

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    We just got back in July from a trip to Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We traveled with Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) company and couldn't have been more pleased. I would recommend checking their offerings.

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    I suggested Footsteps in Africa above. Sun Safaris also has some interesting affordable options. Eyes on Africa has a good list of scheduled small group safaris. I wouldn't do one that does more than 8 guests per vehicle. There are many non particapatory options.

    Read above - Botswana is expensive for a reason.

    I don't know where you're getting those prices. Prices vary wildly on both mobile and fly in safaris, depending on camps, service, destinations, etc.

    You can't go wrong with a Botswana safari. You can't do it wrong. Maybe spend too much but you'll see great wildlife no matter how you choose to do it. Going solo or on a tour is entirely your choice. But a very small group tour.

    Again, combine Botswana with Kruger! Honest, you don't want to miss rhinos.

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    To be entirely honest, I am surprised a fly in safari for one person in September is ONLY $9500 for 9 days. Typically pppn prices in private concessions are $1000+pppn in high season, and that is sharing. Add a single supplement at 30-40% (sometimes more), and I suspect that $9500 price must have some cheaper days in there (eg Chobe or other non private concessions).

    If your budget is $6000-$8000, for 10 nights then I think you are going to have to forget private concessions or forget September.

    As I said, look at May-June (shoulder) or Nov to March if you want fly in.

    I go on safari 3 times a year, almost always solo and I rarely pay a single supplement. But I would never attempt to do a fly in safari in Botswana in September. Your budget of $600-800 per night is about what I usually budget for, and in the last 3 years I have done fly in private concession trips within that in April, May and June.

    To answer a couple of your questions-
    Are the animal sightings really better on the fly-in safaris?
    It's not really about fly in vs mobile- it's more private concessions vs national parks. In private concessions you can drive off road and there will be far fewer vehicles. But do note that there are also fly in camps in the national parks, so not all fly in safaris are using private concessions, but all private concessions will be fly in.

    Are the animal sightings really better during the dry season?
    It is high season for a reason, but I have never been disappointed by shoulder season and mostly not in low season (some areas are more seasonal than others). A better question is- is high season so much better that it's worth the extra cost? For a solo traveller single supplements (which are avoidable in low/shoulder season) make the gap between peak season and non peak season so much wider, that I would say no it is definitely not worth it.


    Another alternative would be to consider another country. $600-800 a night will go a lot further in Zambia or Kenya.

    Although I go on safari to Botswana quite often, and it's one of my favourites, my number one choice would be Zambia.

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    Hi there

    I have to concur with much that Stokeygirl posted in this thread. I think there is exceptional value to be found during the green season with portfolios like Ker & Downey. However during peak season, you should check Desert & Delta safaris, they have camps in all the national parks and at a very palatable nightly rate. Their level of service and guiding is also very good!

    Alternatively Sunway Safaris does offer a few wonderful options of which the 9 day Botswana Baobabs would be a good fit for you, however all their trips are adventure overland departures, meaning you would get involved with small tasks along the way, I know you said you didn’t want to do a participation style trip – although participation is minimal, you do partake in small tasks but it’s really such a small sacrifice for the price you pay. These trips run with a maximum of 8 people, and are very affordable. In short this is the outline:

    Day 1 - 3:MOREMI
    Day 4 - 5:SAVUTI or ZWEI ZWEI
    Day 6 - 7:CHOBE NATIONAL PARK
    Day 8:VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE
    Day 9:VICTORIA FALLS - TOUR ENDS

    You could always think about doing something like this for under $5000 and adding a few nights in a permanent luxury camp on the back end. By doing it this way, you get the best of both worlds without breaking the bank.

    I know you have decided on Botswana, however don’t overlook Zambia. The country is much more affordable during peak season. Robin Pope Safaris for example does not charge a single supplement. In Zambia camp sizing is much smaller and more intimate, many camps have 4 - 6 tents at most. This means you would never have more than 12 people at a specific camp. Most camps take 4 people per vehicle and you can combine game drives with exceptional walking, canoeing and boating.

    You could combine the Lower Zambezi with the South Luangwa National Park for a much lower overall package price and many of the same species can be found in both countries. Zambia is statistically home to the highest density of Leopard in Africa and the South Luangwa has strong Lion prides. Guiding is exceptionally good in Zambia and you can combine a bush camp experience with a tented experience, which offers a much more authentic game viewing experience overall.

    Regarding your question on flights – depending on where you are flying from in the US, the direct flight on Delta out of Atlanta to Johannesburg remains my favorite. It’s a night flight and in my opinion the best for jetlag. South African Airways also offer direct flights out of NY and DC, although the latter stops in Dakar or Accra for refueling. There are many other routings via Europe but I prefer getting there as quickly as possible.

    It’s very exciting that you are thinking of making your dream trip become a reality. I am from Africa myself, but lived in the US (Chicago) for 19 years… I know how special Africa is! No matter what you choose, you will have a memorable time on the continent. Best of luck with your planning process!

    Marguerite Smit

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    Just a comment on Desert and Delta, and I have been to all their camps except Chobe Game Lodge. Although they are "fly in" camps, they are in the national parks, so you lose all of the benefits of a private concession (low vehicle numbers, off roading). Yes, they are cheaper than private concession camps (although still $1000+ pppn including the single supplement) but for me the thing worth paying for at the private concessions is the exclusivity. Otherwise, you are just paying for the extra comfort of a fixed camp/lodge compared to a mobile, and a mobile would work out considerably less expensive. And I loved the mobile experience. The one I did with Letaka/Wild about Africa was extremely comfortable, and I enjoyed the wild feeling of camping in the exclusive campsites.

    So for me, I would always go for a mobile over fly in camps in the public areas. If paying extra for a "fly in" safari I would stick to private concessions.

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    In Maun get in touch with any of these mentioned below.They do budget mobile camping safaris from Maun to the Delta,Moremi,
    Savuti,Nxai Pan, Central Kgalagadi and Chobe.

    Audi Safari Camp
    http://www.audisafaris.com/audi-camps/#nav_overview

    The Crocodile Camp
    http://www.crocodilecamp.com/

    Camping is a fantastic experience.Initially one would feel apprehensive but will soon start loving it.

    Goodluck

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